Sony WH-1000XM5 review – IGN


The Sony WH-1000XM5 is finally here. Its predecessor, the WH-1000XM4 has reigned, almost unchallenged, as the best wireless headphones for two years now. This new iteration comes with a long-awaited redesign while beefing up its active noise-canceling smarts, but are those improvements worth the higher $400 price tag?

Sony WH-1000XM5 review

Sony WH-1000XM5 – Design and Features

The looks of Sony’s flagship wireless headphones have remained relatively consistent since the WH-1000XM2 launched in 2017, but that all changes with this latest pair. The first and most drastic update is that the headband no longer folds up.

It’s a major change and one I didn’t like initially, as it makes the headphones less portable, but I got through it. The new design means that the headband is now made of a single, stiffer, thinner piece of plastic, letting it rest on your head like a minimalist headband. This means it’s less likely to mess up your hairstyle and it’s comfortable thanks to the fact that it’s almost completely covered in a soft leather wrap with a wide memory foam cushion that rests on top of your head.

The earcups have also been tweaked with a more seamless sculpted design that makes the microphones less prominent. You’ll still find two physical controls on the left ear cup, including a button for power/pairing and a second that cycles through noise canceling modes. You can also tap and swipe the ear cups, as they act as capacitive touch controls to play, pause or browse tracks, as well as turn up or down the volume. Finally, there’s a 3.5mm jack if you want a wired connection and a USB-C port for charging.

The forks attached to the earcups are now angled slightly outward so they apply a bit more clamping force around your ears and help form a better acoustic seal. They’re not so tight that it’s like putting your head in a vise. Instead, the new forks just help give the helmet a secure fit. I wore it for hours without getting sweaty ears or feeling a sore spot on the top of my head. It also helps that this new design weighs just 250 grams, five grams lighter than the WH-1000XM4.

The soft coated finish of the Sony WH-1000XM5 stains easily.

The soft coated finish of the Sony WH-1000XM5 stains easily.

That said, the WH-1000XM5 seems to be more wear-prone – at least visually – than its predecessor. The new soft-touch finish and smoother leather inside the ear cups seem to pick up oils much easier than previous generations, so keep a microfiber cloth handy.

Sony WH-1000XM5 – Active noise cancellation

Sony has improved the Active Noise Cancellation feature on the WH-1000XM5. The headset now has eight noise-canceling microphones – double its predecessor – to monitor external and internal noise. Plus, instead of having to manually adjust noise cancellation, this latest model uses AI and a new built-in V1 processor – the same found in Sony’s WF-1000XM4 wireless headphones – to automatically optimize it.

According to Sony, the additional microphones, chip and AI help reduce high-frequency noise significantly. In my experience, subway rides around New York sounded a little more muffled, and I was saved from the high-pitched squeals of cars braking as they pulled into a station.

Placing your hand on the right ear cup temporarily disables noise cancellation if you need to hear someone or something more clearly. Alternatively, enabling the Speak-to-Chat feature in the Sony Headphones Connect app puts the headphones on play-pause and temporarily disables NC whenever you start speaking. However, I found this feature a little too sensitive. Even after switching Speak-to-Chat to low sensitivity mode, it still activated when I yawned a little too enthusiastically.

Additionally, the WH-1000XM5 also inherited some of the smart activity and location-based features of Sony’s WF-1000XM4. If you enable action detection and start walking, the WH-1000XM5 will switch from full active noise canceling mode to partial ambient sound mode, which you can further adjust or disable in the settings. Plus, these headphones can learn all the places you frequent, and you can then set your preferred noise-canceling or ambient listening modes for each location.

The ambient sound mode on the WH-1000XM5 feels quite natural, and hearing a car go by or the wind blowing sounds surprisingly similar to what they’d sound like while wearing a pair of open-back headphones. There’s no notification or ping to let you know you’re switching between modes, and the transition between blocking sound and listening to your surroundings is surprisingly imperceptible.

The multipoint feature that debuted on the Sony WH-1000XM4 makes a return here, allowing you to connect to multiple devices at once. You’re still limited to just two simultaneous Bluetooth connections, but hearing audio from two devices is pretty smooth with just half a second of delay. Plus, you can easily switch to any other previously connected device from the Sony Headphones Connect app, meaning you don’t have to dive into Bluetooth settings to reconnect.

The only caveat to multipoint is that you have to ditch the LDAC, so you won’t be able to stream high-quality wireless audio with it enabled. The good news is that it’s pretty quick and easy to disable or enable multipoint in the smartphone app.

Sony WH-1000XM5 – Battery life

The Sony WH-1000XM5 claims 30 hours of battery life and that was more than enough to get me through three full days of use. And when I say full days, I mean 8-10 hours a day of near-constant use listening to podcasts and music on my phone, streaming videos on my tablet, and watching movies on my TV. Even better, charging the headphones for just three minutes with a USB-PD compatible charger gives you three hours of playtime. That said, there’s no charger in the box, so be prepared to grab one if you don’t already have your own.

Software Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony WF-1000XM4 – Software

I’ve already talked a lot about the Sony Headphones Connect app, but it has even more features that you’ll want to access. Namely, adaptive sound control, equalizer, ambient mode, firmware updates, etc. are all controlled from here.

The app is well organized, and the main status page contains all the settings you’ll use most often, including adaptive sound control, multipoint device switching, and playback controls. The sound tab will be your second most used page as it contains the equalizer. There you can jump through a few presets to help brighten, relax, boost vocals, or just go ahead and define your own custom sound.

The sound screen also allows you to prioritize your Bluetooth connection for a stable connection or sound quality. It’s a nice feature, but I left it on sound quality first and never had a connection problem, even if I went to a different room or floor than the device I was looking at. was connected.

You can also configure 360 ​​Reality Audio from this menu tab, which activates a spatial audio mode that makes it feel like you’re sitting in the middle of a recording studio or concert if you’re listening to an audio service supported. Currently, 360 Reality Audio only works with Amazon Music Unlimited, Deezer,, and Tidal.

Sony WH-1000XM5 – Performance

When it comes to audio performance, there’s nothing the Sony WH-1000XM5 can’t sound great.

While watching the start of Guardians of the Galaxy, the headphones do a great job of delivering all the nuance in the understated tones of when Star-Lord lands on Morag before exploding beautifully into the funky guitar and bass of Hooked on a Feeling, then delivering the blasts of explosions when the action starts. And all this without adjusting the equalizer at all.

Overall, you get a well-balanced, warm sound backed by a wide soundstage and powerful bass.

The headphones really show what they can do when playing complex pieces of music like Bach’s Passacaglia and Handel’s Sarabande. Tracks like this really show how clearly and distinctly the Sony WH-1000XM5 can portray every violin strum next to every viola pluck.

The headphones also have a decent level of codec support between Sony’s LDAC and Apple AAC codec – although aptX HD would have been a welcome addition too. There’s also DSEE Extreme, which you need to enable in the smartphone app, which uses AI to help restore detail and clarity to low-quality formats.


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