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The best Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones review

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Sony WH-1000XM4: is it worth your purchase?

Pros

  • Leader in noise cancellation
  • Transparent musical performance 
  • Innovative AI capabilities
  • Comfortable and light

Cons

  • Same sound quality as the XM3
  • Without Bluetooth aptX

 Our Verdict:  Extremely comfortable, with a musicality that suits any genre of music, the Sony WH-1000XM4 with noise cancellation are the wireless headphones to beat this 2020. 

Retail price (RRP)

£ 350

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Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones review

The long-awaited successor to the acclaimed Sony WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling over-ear headphones , inevitably going by the name WH-1000XM4, introduces exciting AI functions and makes small changes to already industry-leading headphones.

In short: the best of the best is now even better …

Design and build quality

From the outside, the WH-1000XM4 are practically the same as its predecessor. The cups appear somewhat larger and now have a visible sensor on the left side of the ear cup that turns them off when you take them off, but the comfort and overall build is the same.

The leatherette ear cushions are still incredibly soft, and the headband is padded, too. It will not be anything heavy to carry them all day in the office or on a long trip.

They are still available in black or silver.

Sony WH-1000XM4

New features

And what about the new AI (artificial intelligence) features? Let’s talk about the new adaptive sound control, the “Speak-to-Chat” mode and the improved DSEE Extreme …

Like the other smart features, the Extreme version of DSEE (Sony’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine technology) uses AI Edge (meaning an AI that can operate on a local device, without the need to connect to the cloud) to compensate for the audio that is lost with digital compression.

This implementation can analyze music in real time, recognize instruments, musical genres and even other individual musical elements, effectively recovering sounds from high ranges.

What makes it particularly interesting is that it has been designed in collaboration with the recording studios Sony Music Studios Tokyo, which serves to explain its sonic integrity. The results are absolutely convincing.

Sony WH-1000XM4

Similarly, Adaptive Sound Control can be adjusted automatically based on the locations you visit most often. You can configure your most visited locations, such as your home or office, with your sound preferences in the Sony Headphones Connect app. The headphones will adjust when going from place to place.

Possibly the most interesting AI function is the “Speak-to-Chat” mode, which has an AI that memorizes your voice to pause the music when you speak, which means you won’t have to remove your headphones.

It is undoubtedly a smart decision, although each one will determine if they use it in their day to day. For one thing, talking with active noise-canceling headphones is rare. Your voice sounds like it’s going through a tube.

Second, it’s a bit rude to keep your headphones on, and even though the music you listen to stops, the other person probably won’t know this feature exists.

Sony WH-1000XM4

Music resumes automatically 30 seconds after you’ve spoken the last time, which isn’t much, although you can adjust it in the app to add an extra 15 seconds.

Among other novelties, there is multipoint connectivity to link them with two Bluetooth devices at the same time, and the detection of whether you are wearing them or not.

 
 

This last feature works perfectly. Using the proximity sensor and two acceleration sensors, the headphones automatically pause the music when you take them off and eventually turn off.

Noise Cancellation

While the WH-1000XM4 have the same dedicated noise-canceling QN1 processor as the WH-1000XM3 , Sony claims to have further improved the cancellation by reducing the high and mid frequencies. This is particularly evident with ambient noise.

The noise cancellation here is surprisingly good. Sony’s ANC really manages to isolate you from the outside world.

Sony WH-1000XM4

It is somewhat controversial, however, that they do not support Bluetooth aptX. Typically this is the codec used for high quality wireless playback.

Nonetheless, Sony has chosen to focus on its Bluetooth LDAC offering, which also offers Hi-Fi streaming . Now that LDAC is a part of Android, it seems like a good decision on Sony’s part. Users will surely not notice the absence of aptX.

Sound quality

The WH-1000XM4 sound like angels in heavenly harmony, that’s angels with the ability to deliver strong, rocky beats when needed. That said, there is no difference in sound compared to its predecessor.

They use the same 40mm liquid crystal polymer drivers found on the WH-1000XM3, recognizable for their crisp highs and perceptible bass. Low frequencies are strong, but not over the top, while middle sounds sound very soft. These headphones are not only good for listening to music, but they are also great for podcasts .

Sony WH-1000XM4

Logically, they have a high resolution of 24 bits at 96 kHz. They can also be used for 360 Reality Audio, offered by Deezer and Tidal HD.

It is worth noting that multipoint connectivity disables LDAC, which means that when using the quality it is a bit lower.

Battery autonomy

The battery life lasts about 30 hours, more than enough for two days of generic use. And that’s when noise cancellation is on. Headphones can last up to 38 hours without ANC on.

If you run out of battery, you can take advantage of the fast charge function to have 5 hours of wireless playback in just 10 minutes through the USB-C port. For a full charge, you will need about 3 hours according to Sony.

Price and availability

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are priced at € 380, which shows that they are high-end. They come with a nice protective case, a travel adapter, an AUX cable, and a USB-C cable.

You can buy the XM4 from the Sony website , as well as from electronics stores such as Amazon , Fnac and El Corte Inglés .

If you don’t need the smart features, then you will find the WH-1000XM3 at a better price. They are pretty much the same and the ANC is excellent. At the time of writing this review, they cost between € 200 and € 300 on Amazon and PCComponentes .

You can also take a look at our selection of the best headphones for Bose, Cambridge Audio or Nura models.

Verdict

Rather than rest on its laurels, Sony has improved the WH-1000XM4 in some rather surprising areas.

The new Edge IA feature is very innovative, and it has also managed to somehow improve an already impressive noise cancellation.

All of this could mean that the headphones didn’t deliver good sound. But they do. With a smooth, crisp and musical sound, the WH-1000XM4 does not fall short.

Still, if all these new features don’t particularly interest you, then the older generation XM3s will suffice.

Specifications list

  • Typology: Circumaural or over-ear headphones
  • Battery life: 38 hours (without noise cancellation) 30 hours (with noise cancellation)
  • Wireless range: 10m
  • Connections: USB-C / Bluetooth 5.0 / NFC 
  • Frequency range: 4 Hz – 40 kHz
  • Active noise cancellation: Yes 
  • Audio codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
  • Drivers Size: 40mm
  • Voice controls: Yes
  • Touch controls: Yes
  • Weight: 254g
  • Colors: Silver | Black 

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