Are you looking for the most comfortable, modern and high-quality headphones? The Sony WH-1000XM4 review has shown that this might be your winner.
In a world where we increasingly rely on wireless devices, wireless headphones have also become increasingly important. The real audiophile will undoubtedly swear by wired headphones (also possible with the Sony WH-1000XM4 ). However, the average consumer has more than enough sound experience with headphones that you can connect via Bluetooth. In the luxury headphone market, Bose and Sony have always been the two most dominant players. Time to put Sony’s latest WH-1000XM4 Overhead Headphones to the test in a review .
Sony WH-1000XM4 – Specifications
|Noise Cancelling||Industry-Leading NC|
|Battery Life||30 Hrs|
|Quick Charge Battery||10 Min charge 5 Hrs playback|
|DSEE Extreme with Edge-AI||✔|
|Hands-free calling||Yes, with 5 microphones|
|Ambient Sound Mode||✔|
|Customize Sound with app||✔|
|Multi Device Connection||✔|
The new Sony WH-1000XM4 has minor improvements over its predecessor. However, it is those improvements that make it a fantastic total package. It is smart, still of high quality and an unmistakable Sony product. You can buy the headphones in two colors. Silver, which is reminiscent of the Walkman of the past, and black. Our copy is black. On the one hand, with a black you have that it is less able to distinguish itself from, for example, a Bose QuietComfort. On the other hand, it is nice and anonymous. With dark clothing, the headphones fall away when you wear them around your neck. Because not everyone always wants to stand out with such large headphones.
Reasons why you prefer headphones over small in-ear buds such as AirPods are related to quality. Manufacturers can simply cram more hardware into larger headphones. And you notice that in everything.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 are nice headphones for on the go, but this product can also play an important role at home. With the corona measures, the government calls on to work from home as much as possible. In practice, this is sometimes easier said than done. Neighbors and housemates handyman can be a huge distraction. Sony has incorporated very advanced active noise cancellation in the WH-1000XM4. Your environment fades and you can fully focus on your work.
Sony has added a number of smart gadgets that improve safety and comfort. If you start talking, the headphones will stop your content being played for 30 seconds. You can adjust this to 15 or even 60 seconds via the app . If someone else talks to you, the headphones will continue. But by taking off the headphones, the content will also automatically stop. This is very relaxed and works great in practice. If you don’t want this, you can. You can disable the functions via the app.
Automatic stopping is not the only trick. This way you can adjust the active noise cancellation at different levels. You can see how this works via the Sony Headphones application on your smartphone. For example, ambient noise can be transmitted to a certain level if desired. You then stay in ‘the real world’ and are therefore not completely deaf if, for example, someone is honking or if emergency services with a siren are behind you.
Other smarts are the operation of the WH-1000XM4 via the ear and the fact that you can connect the headphones to multiple devices via Bluetooth. The latter is very nice. You listen to music on your smartphone and you are done. Then you open your laptop and continue with it. The WH-1000XM4 ‘gets’ that and takes care of the switch for you. You must of course have Bluetooth on, otherwise this trick will not work.
On the left is the on / off switch, which is also responsible for pairing (which is now possible with two transmitters). In addition, there is a custom switch with which the noise canceling and the so-called ambient sound control can be switched or the voice assistants Google or Alexa (but not Siri) can be called up.
You have up to 30 hours of wireless listening pleasure with these headphones. You can fast charge the Sony WH-1000XM4. The headphones only need 10 minutes of charging to provide 5 hours of battery power again.
Thanks to the excellent noise canceling, Sony has captured its current market position. The final trick was to use a dedicated chip for this task. The same QN1 chip is also used in the WH-1000XM4, in combination with quite good passive noise insulation and a total of five microphones. There is also still a so-called NC optimizer at the push of a button. The manufacturer recommends starting this function, which is supposed to optimize the noise suppression function, every now and then if the wearing conditions (e.g. no more glasses or a new hairstyle) have changed or if the air pressure has changed between being on the plane and on the ground.
There are no qualitative changes to report, but the system can still be regarded as exemplary due to its effective operation and good adaptability. From the discreet fading out of low-frequency disturbing noises to an intense relaxation room – with or without music – everything is possible. Nevertheless, I still have to say that there is also a slight noise when operating without music.
Static and low-frequency noises are well suppressed, speech and irregular noises in the area are still clear, but not completely. On the other hand, the electronics do not eliminate high-frequency interference such as train brakes beyond the general insulation.
Above all, the WH-1000XM4 is characterized by the configurability of the system: Sony offers four modes that can be configured with regard to the degree of background noise suppression, the intensity of ambient noise and possible center focus for voices: sitting, walking, running and traveling. The center filter makes voice announcements sound less natural, but leads to better general noise suppression while at the same time being able to understand these announcements.
Movement sensors and an air pressure measurement can be used to automatically switch between these modes if necessary. A new addition is the possibility that the app can save certain locations, assign these said modes and call them up automatically.
Basically, however, I would like to continue to congratulate Sony on the implementation of the required noise suppression and the diverse interactions with the environment. No competitor can do better at the moment. A small detail: the WH-1000XM4 offers a separate setting for the typical wind sensitivity that can occur due to the external microphones in the outdoor area, which actually reduces the problem. Also not a matter of course: the test device’s noise canceling also works in active cable mode if necessary – an absolute plus point in the aircraft.
Apart from the codec savings, the new Sony model delivers the usual high quality sound quality. In its class, Sony needn’t fear the competition. At the same time, however, you also have to state: Although the WH-1000XM4 is not cheap over the counter, the product can be classified as headphones that support music enjoyment in modern mobile life and want to implement it in high quality. So it is not an explicitly audiophile device.
The basic sound is clean and tuned for mobile use, so the WH-1000XM4 gives a little more gas in the bass range. You can hear a lot of details, wide panning, good dynamics, lots of pressure and good level reserves. In the bass range, the headphones are equally full-bodied, warm and tight. Deep bass isn’t a problem either. In the middle, voices, solo instruments, but also the pressure for distorted guitars and drums are generated. Here, the headphones show a direct, fresh sound with pop, electronics and rock, and don’t make a slip up with jazz, classical or reduced singer / songwriter genres. After all, the heights are open, well resolved, fast and without annoying hardship. Ultimately, a detailed, coherent and powerful sound emerges from this recipe, in which only the bass range could have been a little less superficial. On the other hand, it is also clear that the detail and dynamic resolution but also the transparency of audiophile specialists is not achieved. There are also restrictions with regard to the spatial representation, but these apply to almost all closed headphones.
With these features, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is cross-genre and scores with listening pleasure. This is especially true if you can create such a sound experience with the help of noise canceling, for example in the ICE. But I can’t see any added value compared to the predecessor.
The combination of noise canceling and sound reproduction is not yet perfect. I noticed an annoying flutter in the sound when traveling on the S-Bahn. This could be due to the air pollution measurement, which is brought out of sync by closing doors, open windows and passing trains and which should also be able to be switched off separately in the future.
Sony has other special functions to offer: These include the switchable, improved sound optimization for compressed audio files DSEE Extreme. As with the predecessor, I honestly have to admit that I couldn’t hear a difference with AAC on an iPhone 8. With the LDAC codec (Sony Xperia 10, Android) the sound quality moved a little bit forward. Incidentally, this switchover is only associated with a small interruption under iOS.
The five-band graphic equalizer with an additional clear bass control is more useful. It offers several presets and two memory locations. If you want to customize the headphones in terms of taste, you will find an effective means here. Incidentally, the respective codec is retained in the test – this was partly not the case in the previous version. Nevertheless, I stumbled upon a bug: If you switch from a neutral custom setting to the deactivated state of the equalizer, there is a jump in volume.
Active operation with a cable sounds identical in principle, but the app can no longer be used. On the other hand, passive operation is quieter and also audibly more colorless. So I would consider this mode a fallback scenario.
Sony has dropped what I believe to be unnecessary options for placing the music playback in a surround field or adding additional space. Instead there is a compatibility to 360 Audio (we reported)– a quite new format with which providers such as Tidal, Deezer and nugs.net inflate selected recordings to a virtual surround format. That sounds exciting. After a few test runs with corresponding titles at Tidal, I come to the conclusion that the sound quality lags far behind a regular stereo recording. It may sound more spacious, definitely, but it sounds less direct and punchy. Last but not least, there is kudos for the high voice quality when making calls: The communication in both directions is exemplary clear and understandable.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 has a fairly classic design. At the bottom are two buttons. That is the on / off button and a custom button. The other operation is done via the touchpad on the side. The cushions are thicker compared to previous generations. They offer enough comfort to provide a few hours of wearing pleasure. Watching a movie of more than two hours is therefore no problem, in my case I have not once suffered from sore ears.
Sony WH-1000XM4 Overhead Headphones – Conclusion
The Sony WH-1000XM4 are impressive for commute and travel. While they aren’t the most portable headphones, their hard carrying case can help protect them while you’re on the go. They have an over 37-hour continuous battery life, and they can be comfortably worn for long listening sessions without a lot of fatigue, too. Also, their ANC feature can block out bass-heavy sounds like engines, as well as sharper sounds like voices, so you can enjoy your music without distraction.
Positives of Sony WH-1000XM4
- Qualitative in each other
- Fantastic sound quality
- Superb active noise cancellation
- Smart features
Negatives of Sony WH-1000XM4
- It requires a financial investment