Sony WF-1000 XM4 vs XM3: Improvements across the board

How do Sony’s new buds stack up against its industry-leading XM3s?
Sony WF-1000 XM4 vs XM3 true wireless earbuds

Sony spent a good few years at the top of the true wireless noise-cancelling market but recently, brands like Bose and Sennheiser have been giving them a real run for their money. Not one to go down without a fight, Sony has pulled back the curtain on the evolution to its crowd-pleasing noise-cancelling buds, the highly anticipated WF-1000 XM4.

Its similarly beloved over-ear range got the XM4 treatment last year and while it improved on a winning formula, it was an incremental upgrade that didn’t feel entirely necessary. That’s not the case with the WF-1000 XM4 true wireless earbuds, at least when it comes to raw specs.

We haven’t had the opportunity to review the new  XM4 buds yet but looking at the wrap sheet, there seem to be improvements made across the board that specifically address some small grievances with the otherwise phenomenal XM3s. Here are the biggest upgrades coming to Sony’s new wireless earbuds when they release July 2021.

Trimmed down design

Maybe the biggest criticism levelled at Sony’s WF-1000 XM3 earbuds was the sheer weight of the earbuds and the size of the charging case. The 8.5g XM3 buds were a heavy set compared to the alternatives and tended to get uncomfortable during long sessions and the huge charging case (77g) was just impractical for a device designed to be pocketed on the go. Sony has slimmed down the XM4 earbuds and case significantly, with the buds weighing 7.3g each and the case trimmed down to a much more compact 41g. The buds are still on the heavy side (compared to the competition) but the charging case is now lighter than Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and Sennheiser Momentum TW 2, Sony’s two biggest noise-cancelling competitors.

New WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Headphones - Silver

IPX4 water resistance

Another big omission from the Sony WF-1000 XM3s was any degree of water resistance. This became more and more of a problem as competitors began rolling out buds with IPX4 water resistance (sometimes more with buds like the Jabra Active Elite 75t). With the XM4 earbuds, Sony has battened down the hatches, adding IPX4 water resistance to the new noise-cancelling buds.

IPX4 won’t guarantee your buds protection if they take a tumble through the washing machine but it will protect them from splashing water from any direction so sweat and rain on your daily run should pose no threat to the XM4s like it would with the XM3 buds.

Higher price at release

One of the more obvious differences between the WF-1000 XM3 and XM4 wireless earbuds is the launch RRP (recommended retail price). The XM3 earbuds launched at $399.95 (but currently sell as low as $188.99 through retailers like Kogan). The Sony WF-1000 XM4 is priced at $449.95RRP here in Australia but already there are some much cheaper pre-order deals available. For example, JB HI-FI is offering Sony WF-1000 XM4 pre-orders at $389 with a 14-day satisfaction guarantee (Sony will refund your money if you’re not 100% happy with the upgrade).

New digital noise-cancelling processor

Sony’s QN1e chip was the brain behind the WF-1000 XM3s market-leading true wireless noise cancelling and the company claims its new Integrated Processor V1 allows the WF-1000 XM4s to cancel more noise than ever while enabling LDAC codec processing and DSEE Extreme (which is found in the WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones) while using less power overall.

The overall quality of the noise-cancelling and sound isn’t something we comment on until we’ve reviewed the WF-1000 XM4 buds but we’re looking forward to seeing how the new processor performs.

New WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Headphones - Black

Better battery life

According to Sony, the other big benefit to Sony’s new Integrated Processor V1 is lower power consumption. With ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) switched on, Sony says the WF-1000 XM4 earbuds will last roughly 8 hours (per bud), which is additional 2 hours of usage over the XM3 buds (6 hours per bud). The overall battery life in the charging case remains the same across generations at 24 hours overall (buds and charging case combined) but that’s an impressive feat itself considering the massively reduced size of the charging case.

New WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Headphones - Silver

Sony WF-1000 XM4 vs XM3 earbuds: Everything else

We’ve covered the most significant upgrades in the Sony WF-1000 XM4 earbuds above but let’s take a look at the key technical specifications of the WF-1000 XM4 and XM3 side by side.

Sony WF-1000 XM4 vs WF-1000 XM3 earbuds
SpecsSony WF-1000 XM4Sony WF-1000 XM3
ReleaseJuly 2021August 2019
Price (at launch)$459.95$399.95
ColoursBlack, SilverBlack, Silver
Weight (per bud)7.3g8.5g
Weight (charging case)41g77g
ChipIntegrated Processor V1QN1e
Driver6mm6mm
MagnetHigh power neodymiumNeodymium
Battery life per bud (ANC on)8 hours6 hours
Battery life per bud (ANC off)12 hours8 hours
Overall battery life (charging case)24 hours24 hours
Charging time (buds)1.5 hours1.5 hours
Charging time (case)3.5 hours3.5 hours
Frequency response20Hz – 20,000Hz (44.1kHz sampling) / 20Hz – 40,000Hz (LDAC 96kHz sampling, 990kbps)20Hz – 20,000Hz (44.1kHz Sampling)
WaterproofIPX4None
Bluetooth5.25
Supported formatsSBC, AAC, LDACSBC, AAC