Two years after the release of the WF-1000XM3, Sony has renewed the proposition in the field of true wireless earbuds by launching the WF-1000XM4, which aims to improve upon the series and create a niche in an increasingly crowded market of wearables. So, what are the new arrivals bringing? We tried them for a couple of days and we must say that the differences with the previous ones are many, what are those? Let’s see in this Sony WF-1000XM4 review, but the quality is guaranteed.
Expectations are high, as this family of earphones has established itself as one of the best in the consumer segment in recent years, or at least has been able to make a significant leap forward at launch: The WF-1000XM3 for example brought them with remarkable noise-canceling technology and sound quality.
First, the macroscopic difference relates to the design, and you can already see it starting with the case, which is 40% smaller than the previous one and has completely changed its face. Starting with the fact that it stands on the bottom (instead of the lid) and has no glossy finish which gets scratched easily. You can carry it comfortably in your pocket.
The magnets on the lid and earbuds hold everything in place with a very strong grip. There’s also a front LED that indicates the charge status of the case, but there’s no button for Bluetooth pairing, which is instead done by holding both earbuds down for 7 seconds. It’s not a maneuver you’ll have to do very often, although a fast pair of swivels are offered that works very well.
Even the earphones are 10% smaller and have changed shape: more rounded on the outside, with this attractive windproof microphone, they’re less bulky than previous ones. On the inside, flat, 3 pogo pins for charging and the sensor that detects whether they are bad or not. Another popular innovation is the IPX4 certification against rain and sweat.
Comfort has improved compared to the XM3s, which we honestly felt, as well as stability, but you’ll have to practice a little to wear them correctly: Once inserted you will need to turn them slightly counter-clockwise and press them to fit them snugly into the ear canal to ensure optimum separation.
Rubber pads are made of polyurethane, with a spongy structure that holds them in place and improves insulation. The app also features a guide that analyzes the fit according to your ear and suggests which one to choose from the three available sizes (S, M, L). Great that everything is made from green, sustainably sourced ingredients that can be easily recycled, starting with the packaging, which is quite small.
Moving on to the audio quality, let’s talk about music reproduction right away, which continues to be the WF-1000XM4’s strong point: at the moment there is no official graph on the frequency response of WF 1000XM4, but Sony has integrated a new driver unit that uses the new processor: V1 for audio processing.
To optimize playback performance, the DSEE Extreme system can be activated, which analyzes the tracks played in real-time, improving their quality to stem the deterioration due to low-resolution MP3 conversions. If you are a lover of high fidelity, there is something new because Sony has also introduced support for the proprietary LDAC codec on these small ones, which together with Bluetooth 5.2 allows wireless transfer and playback in very high quality. The 360 spatial audio option remains available.
So, how is the yield? In a nutshell, the new Sony WF-1000XM4 sounds good: Sony has managed to improve what was already good in the previous ones, taking into account that they are the best true wireless earbuds. At first listen they are richer and all-rounder than the WF-1000XM3, with good high-frequency detail and not overly intrusive bass. The maximum volume is very high, like the Galaxy Buds Pro, but with a more crystalline, balanced rendering; the driver gets along well with all genres of music, and we must say that with ANC on, listening can be an exciting experience.
Everything is fine on the call front too: the signal is stable – even because the BT signal reaches both earbuds simultaneously, just like on the WF1000XM3 – and the voice is clear, also thanks to a bone conduction sensor that detects vibrations. However, the simultaneous connection with two devices is still missing, it takes a while to be able to comfortably switch from one device to another, for example from smartphone to PC.
Active Noise Cancellation
When it comes to noise cancellation, these Sony maintain a high standard, but a lot depends on the fit of the ear tips in your ears. Personally, we compared them to the Galaxy Buds Pro (REVIEW) that we had available (among the best in the consumer market for this aspect) and found them to be equivalent when music playback is active; Instead, when activating ANC to silence ambient noise without starting music, we felt like the Buds Pro were a bit more effective on vocals. However, there is talk of a very high level.
According to data provided by Sony, ANC has improved significantly concerning low frequencies such as aircraft sound. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to test them in this situation, but it turned out to be quite effective in city traffic.
The ambient sound is truly excellent, letting the voices of those close to us shine through without echo. The management of modes is also very interesting: to switch from one to another (ANC – ambient sound – off) you can use the touch controls, but there are also two options. Speak to Chat detects the wearer’s voice, pauses the music, and imports ambient sound for 15 seconds to allow you to speak (but we don’t use it much because we hum often, and it would activate).
With quick attention, on the other hand, just place your finger on the headset to give priority to ambient sounds while the music continues in the background; then you can hold down as long as necessary, and then return to your listening. There remains the adaptive sound linked to behavior and place (sitting, moving, etc.) and also the sensor to detect if we are wearing them, which immediately blocks playback.
There’s also good news for smart functions, with the possibility of evoking Google and Alexa’s voice assistants. There are also Find My Device functions to ring the headphones and locate them with geolocation.
The app is the usual Sony Headphones Connect that you may have already experienced, and it works well on iOS too; is divided into three pages: “status”, “sound” and “system”, where you can control a large number of parameters, from adaptive sound to music reproduction, from ANC to speak to chat, also passing through the possibility of privileging the quality of the connection or music reproduction with an adjoining choice of codec, analyze the shape of the ear and freely equalize the music reproduction (Sony is one of the few that allows you to do this, although we don’t particularly exploit this possibility because we prefer original).
The touch controls chapter is also quite interesting: practically the entire rounded surface that protrudes from the ear is responsive and does not miss a beat. The commands are different for each headset and can be customized directly from the app, but they are divided into thematic groups (ANC and ambient sound management, music playback management, volume). If we look at the factory setting, this means for example that the left earphone controls the ANC and the right the music playback.
Then a tap on the left serves to switch between ANC and Ambient sound turn of or off. Two-tap to accept or end the call, hold for quick attention, or decline the call. Instead one tap on the right to play/pause, two taps to the next song, three taps to the previous song, and a long press to summon the voice assistant.
There is good news from the charging point of view as wireless charging support is provided, while Quick Charge gives you 1 hour of playback with 5 minutes of charge.
The battery life is also improved, a single earphone with ANC activated which has gone from 6 to 8 hours, which promise to become 24 hours with the contribution of the charging case. As far as we are concerned, we were given very little time for this Sony WF-1000XM4 review, we would say that this estimate corresponds to reality.
Sony is aiming for high-end users, and from a build and sound quality standpoint, it has the numbers to do so, always keeping in mind the fact that it’s TWS. We may not have appreciated the device much in terms of ergonomics and switches, but the street price could soon make them even more interesting.
The new WF-1000XM4 is available in two colors, Black and Silver, available to buy from Amazon.com at the list price of $278. (the previous ones were launched at $229.99, and now they are $50 less) or £249 on Amazon.co.uk.
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