Following months of expectation and weeks of rumours and product leaks, Sony has unveiled its new WF-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones. These are the next generation of WF (wire-free) earbuds from Sony and will replace the market-leading WF-1000XM3 buds released in 2019.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones
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This might be an unpopular opinion with some, but Sony has been the undisputed king in wireless headphones for travelling with over the last couple of years and the XM4’s, on paper at least, look like they will continue that domination for them.
To be clear, Apple, Bose, Google, Samsung etc., all have excellent headphones at present, but none of them is even in the same league as Sony.
If over-ear headphones are your preference, then the current Sony WH-1000XM4 (WH/wireless headband) headphones are still going strong. They were released in 2020 but could see an upgraded version this year.
In fact, the only thing Sony do seem to be struggling with, still, are better names for these great headphones!
Unlike most upgraded devices, the WF-1000XM4 has notable changes, both inside and out. The thumb-shaped bud is now a circular plastic main body tapering down to a metal cap above the ear tip. Overall both the headphones (10%) and case (40%) are smaller, too.
Inside, the new Sony V1 chip is at the heart of these headphones and promises, as Sony says, better sound quality, reduced distortion and enables LDAC codec processing.
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LDAC is the Sony technology that transmits High-Resolution audio over a Bluetooth connection
To help improve the noise isolation experience on the WF-1000XM4s, Sony has taken a bold step in replacing the silicone ear tips with a newly developed foam alternative.
Surprisingly, the WF-1000XM4 earbuds come with only 6mm drivers. However, Sony is confident in the audio quality thanks to the technology surrounding them.
There is support for High-Resolution Audio Wireless due to the LDAC codec, which provides mode data over a Bluetooth connection to ensure a premium listening experience.
Then the new V1 chip has “System on Chip’ technology that Sony states “deliver’s the industry’s highest level of noise cancelling.” And, to ensure nothing is left out of this new earbud performance and immersive sound Sony has worked on improving the fit.
New polyurethane foam has been created for the tips. This material increases the surface contact within your ear canal due to its adjustable properties. Therefore providing a better seal and further improving the noise-cancelling credentials of the headphones.
Onboard is a sound enhancement engine that will restore sound lost during the compression process. In addition, it has the ability to recognise different genres and instrumentation to give a richer sound overall.
Sony has three modes on the new WF-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones, Quick Attention, Speak to Chat and Adaptive Sound control.
Quick Attention mode is meant for immediate access to your surroundings, to hear a tannoy announcement, for example. To activate Quick Attention, place a finger over the left bud, and the WF-1000XM4 will reduce your volume and let in the sound around you.
One of my favourite features from the overhead WH-1000XM4s has made its way onto the buds. Speak to Chat mode pauses your music when you begin to talk, allowing you to begin and have a conversation without the need to remove your headphones. Once the conversation has finished, your music will resume without the need for you to push play.
Using Adaptive Sound Control, if selected, the WF-1000XM4 headphones will deliver sound based on your surroundings by learning which environments you regularly use them in. As they learn, the ambient sound settings are configured to suit where you and what you’re doing, such as sitting on a plane, walking down the street or running on a treadmill in the gym.
Along with the 4 microphones, Sony has included a bone-conduction sensor in the new WF-1000XM4 headphones for an even better hands-free calling experience. This sensor makes sure the headphones are only picking up your voice and not those of others around you.
Charging Case & Power
At a glance, power would appear to be one area that Sony hasn’t expanded on from the old XM3 headphones, but it has! The headline number of 24 hours use from a full charge is the same as before, but this time around, that same power comes from smaller earbuds and a smaller charging case.
Then there is the speed in which they can be charged. Just a 5 minute quick charge will give 60 minutes of play.
Sony says the headphones battery can give up to 12 hours of play, but only if the Active noise cancelling is turned off, but when you’re spending $280 on headphones, that’s the one feature you really want.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Specifications
|Black | Silver
|A2DP | AVRCP | HFP | HSP
|Supported Audio Formats
|SBC | AAC | LDAC
|8 Hours (ANC on)
12 Hours (ANC off)
|Ambient Sound Mode
Speak to Chat
Supported Content Protection
Digital Sound Enhancement Engine
|In the Box
3 Sizes eartips
USB-C Charing Cable
Sony WF-1000Xm4 Headphones Pricing
I’m looking forward to trying the new Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless headphones soon, both in the office and on a flight. The XM3’s before it set such a high standard, I’m keen to see if the gap between current and new is really that noticeable.
I think there might be a speed bump in the road to success for the XM4’s though. The foam tips.
Foam tips are much better at blocking out external noise over the silicon alternatives. Still, they’re not always as comfortable, and the shape and size of the WF-1000XM4’s, despite being 10% smaller, could be an uncomfortable wear for some users over a period of time. What I don’t dispute is the audio quality is as good, if not better, now.
However, Sony may not have it all its own way. Bowers & Wilkins has recently joined the wireless earbud market with the PI5 and flagship PI7 headphones. Both brands share a similar design and reputation for market-leading audio.
The important question is, are we now at a point where in-ear headphones can be as immersive as over-ear for travellers?