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Sony WH-1000 XM5 vs XM4: New looks, more microphones
How do Sony’s new noise cans stack up against the industry-leading XM4s?
True wireless and otherwise, Sony has spent a good few years coasting at the top of the noise-cancelling audio category. However, brands like Sennheiser and Apple have given them some real competition in recent times.
To shore up their slot as the current reigning champion of noise-cancelling headphones, Sony are now replacing the old Sony WH-1000XM4s with the new WH-1000XM5s. At a glance, the latter are already shaping up to be one of the most significant updates to the WH-1000X line yet.
While we haven’t had the opportunity to get hands-on with and review the new Sony-WH-1000XM5 noise cancelling headphones, the hefty hardware involved promises key improvements to the experience across the board.
There's a lot to keep track of here, and ever more to keep in mind if you're considering upgrading from an older Sony headset like the WH-1000XM4 or the WH-1000XM3.
To help make things easier, here's a quick and dirty round-up of the biggest upgrades coming to Sony’s next set of noise-cancelling headphones ahead of their launch next month.
New looks and smaller drivers
Picking up where the Sony WH1000XM4s left off, the new Sony WH1000XM5s feature a reworked design that's noticeably slimmer and reminiscent of Apple's AirPods Max. This is the most significant redesign in the history of the series since the WH1000XM3s, with key changes found on the inside and outside of the new headphones.
For those who care about their sound quality, the most consequential detail here is likely to be the shift to leaner 30mm drivers. While this is technically smaller than the 40mm drivers found in 2020's WH1000XM4s, Sony says that the change will deliver better high frequency sensitive and a more natural sound quality for consumers.
Aside from the smaller drivers, the other big point of contrast to be found between the Sony WH1000XM5 noise-cancelling headphones and the previous model is the design. The overall look and feel is fairly consistent with that of the WH-1000XM4s, but the new headphones feature a slimmer headband made of synthetic leather and ear-cups with a more oval-shaped profile.
Unlike earlier installments of the line, the new Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones don't fold up when not in use. Instead, the headband here bends to fit inside the carry-case.
For those who are more oriented around value for money, one of the most important differences between the Sony WH-1000XM4s and the Sony WH-1000XM5s is going to be the price.
In Australia, the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones have a recommended retail price of $649.99 and will be available via local retailers from late June. That's not quite AirPods Max expensive. However, it's still a $100 increase over the previous Sony WH1000XM4s and that's before deals and depreciation get involved.
With a price that puts Sony's latest set of noise cans above the closest alternatives you can find from audio brands like Bose and Sennheiser, the Sony WH1000XM5s are far from cheap. However, that's not to say you can't save some cash by choosing the right retailer.
Check out the table below for a breakdown of how Australia's various retailers compare when it comes to Sony WH1000XM5 pricing.
Two processors plus more mics
The overall quality of the noise-cancelling and sound isn’t something we comment on until we’ve reviewed the WH-1000 XM5 headphones, Sony have made a few hardware changes on this front that potential buyers will want to keep in mind.
Both headphones look to pair up Sony's HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1 chip with the Integrated Processor V1. However, the number of noise-cancelling microphones involved found in the new Sony WH-1000XM5s has been bumped up from 4 to 8.
There's a new Auto NC Optimizer feature. For now, this is exclusive to the more recent Sony WH-1000XM5s, this promises to adjusts the level noise cancelling to suit the environment around you.
While it's too early to tell how much of a difference these hardware changes will have on the quality of the noise-cancelling tech here, Sony's past efforts have set a high bar for the category so there's plenty of hype to go around.
Better battery life
With noise-cancelling enabled, both the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones deliver thirty hours of playback on a full charge. Without noise-cancelling, Sony say the older model should be able to stretch to 38 hours of playback. Meanwhile, those who opt for the new Sony WH-1000XM5s should expect 40 hours of listening time if they opt to let a little bit of ambience into the mix.
When it comes to fast-charging, the new Sony WH-1000XM5s also have the advantage. Their predecessors promise 5 hours of playback from 10 minutes or charging. However, Sony say the new model tops this with 3 hours of playback made possible from just 3 minutes of charging.
Sony WH-1000XM5 vs XM4 headphones: Everything else
While the above covers most significant upgrades that consumers should expect from the new Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones, let’s take a look at the key technical specifications of the WH-1000XM5 and XM4 side by side.
|Release||June 2022||August 2020|
|Price (at launch)||$649.00||$549.00|
|Colours||Black, Silver||Black, Silver|
|Weight (charging case)||249g||254g|
|Chip||QN1 + Integrated Processor V1||QN1 + Integrated Processor V1|
|Battery life (ANC on)||30 hours||30 hours|
|Battery life (ANC off)||40 hours||38 hours|
|Charging time (case)||3.5 hours||3 hours|
|Supported formats||SBC, AAC, LDAC||SBC, AAC, LDAC|