Sony WF-1000XM5 Review: A Leap Forward in Comfort and Performance

Sony has recently introduced the WF-1000XM5 true wireless earbuds, building upon the success of the popular WF-1000XM4 model. This new iteration incorporates numerous design enhancements alongside exceptional noise-cancellation capabilities. In this article, we present the Sony WF-1000XM5 review to provide our readers with comprehensive insights.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Review: A Leap Forward in Comfort and Performance

In the realm of noise-canceling headphones, a perpetual competition has unfolded among industry titans: Apple, Sony, and Bose. The previous year bore witness to the debut of cutting-edge offerings such as the AirPods Pro 2, WF-1000XM4, and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2. Each of these companies integrated the latest advancements into their headphones. Faced with mounting competitive pressure, Sony introduced the WF-1000XM5 as a testament to its enduring prominence in the realm of premier noise-canceling earbuds.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Review

Design

We had the chance to test the WF-1000XM4 (REVIEW), and when you place these two products side by side, the significant strides forward become evident. Although the charging case has remained nearly identical, a noticeable improvement is the reintroduction of the physical pairing button. Previously, you had to remove the earphones and tap through various connection steps for device pairing. However, the most striking distinction becomes apparent when you take out the earphones. The 25% reduction in size truly makes a world of difference, not to mention a 20% decrease in weight. This reduction allows you to wear the earphones for extended periods without constantly needing adjustments or experiencing fatigue.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Review: A Leap Forward in Comfort and Performance

Of course, both the notification LED and the TYPE-C charging port have been retained. As for the case finish, it maintains an excellent matte texture, while the earphones exhibit a 50/50 split between matte and glossy surfaces. The matte finish of the case tends to accumulate a bit of dirt over time, whereas the glossy part of the earphones coincides with the area we grip to extract them from the case, which can sometimes lead to slight discomfort. Unfortunately, the certification remains limited to IPX4, offering only basic splash resistance.

Comfort

Before delving into discussions about ergonomics and user-friendliness, it’s worth noting that within the sales package, you’ll discover three pairs of earbud tips crafted from polyurethane, which contribute to a more immersive experience. These tips add to the overall comfort, resembling foam but lacking the gummy sensation that can occasionally vex users.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Review: A Leap Forward in Comfort and Performance

The case opens akin to a clamshell, boasting a hinge with a distinct, robust movement and impressive resilience. Extracting Sony’s new WF-1000XM5 earbuds isn’t a formidable task, yet it’s not exceptionally delightful due to the aforementioned glossy finish. However, once these earbuds are in place, the comfort level vastly surpasses that of the WF-1000XM4 model. Even individuals with smaller ear canals are unlikely to encounter difficulties donning these earbuds, and the small bronze-colored embellishments enhance the aesthetic appeal.

Upon wearing the earbuds, minimal modifications are noticeable in comparison to the previous model, specifically regarding the controls and interactions. Unfortunately, Sony has adhered to a restrictive approach, limiting interaction options with the earbuds. Tapping the left earbud governs the two ambient sound modes (ANC and ambient), while taps on the right manage all playback functionalities, including play/pause, multimedia content skipping, and rewinding. However, a significant addition lies in the introduction of volume control, achieved by tapping the left earbud four times to decrease and the right earbud four times to increase the volume.

Within the Sony Connect App, customization of gestures is feasible, though you’ll swiftly realize that the available choices are quite limited. On the other hand, the automatic play/pause function performs admirably when the earbuds are donned or removed from the ears.

Software

Discussing gestures, we’ve previously touched on the Sony Headphones Connect app, and I believe it’s essential to delve a bit further into this topic due to its status as one of the most comprehensive and feature-laden offerings on the market. Furthermore, its functionality remains consistent across both Android and iOS platforms. Upon initial connection to the app, a substantial software update for the earbuds will be downloaded, a step I highly recommend.

Upon completing this update, an array of classic Sony features awaits us. These encompass adaptive sound control, ambient sound control, multipoint and voice assistant administration, and the “speak to chat” function which pauses music during conversations and activates the ambient mode. Furthermore, there’s a “Find Your Equalizer” feature, which, while songs play, facilitates automatic calibrations in three steps to achieve an optimal equalizer setting tailored to our auditory preferences.

Noise cancellation

Thanks to a new chip named Noise Canceling HD QN2e, which partners with the well-established Sony V2 technology in the WF-1000XM5, we achieve an apex in noise cancellation performance for earbuds of this size.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Review: A Leap Forward in Comfort and Performance

Amidst the seemingly interminable waits at the airport and throughout the subsequent flight, the multimedia content played at even the lowest volume level allowed me to remain cocooned in my world. This was made possible by the deployment of six microphones. Initially, I had reservations about the WF-1000XM5’s ability to stand on par with its competitors. However, the proclaimed 20% leap forward becomes conspicuously apparent, particularly when attenuating ambient conversations.

Sony’s adaptive sound control, designed to activate or dampen the ANC by usage scenarios, is a conceptually appealing feature. Nonetheless, there are instances where the implementation falls short. Instances of vexing abrupt transitions or misidentification of usage scenarios, such as confusing a car trip with a subway ride, occasionally occur.

Battery life

While the battery capacity remains unaltered, the enhanced performance fosters reasonable expectations of prolonged battery life. We comfortably sit within the realm of approximately eight hours on average, a commendable outcome. This is particularly impressive when considering that active noise cancellation (ANC) can be perpetually engaged at maximum intensity within this duration.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Review: A Leap Forward in Comfort and Performance

When employing intermediary settings for ANC, we also attain approximately 10 hours of usage. Moreover, deactivating all features often yields up to 12 hours of usage, a not uncommon achievement. The charging case offers swift replenishment, providing 60 minutes of playback for a mere three-minute charge, and it supports two complete charge cycles. The inclusion of wireless charging compliant with the Qi standard is an added convenience. Throughout this Sony WF-1000XM5 review, I have not observed any unusual battery drainage when leaving the earbuds idle within the case, a predicament that regrettably isn’t unheard of.

Microphones and calls

Turning our attention to the microphones, I find it noteworthy to acknowledge the substantial advancement achieved in comparison to the WF-1000XM4 model. Beyond the six previously mentioned microphones, the inclusion of a bone sensor stands out. This sensor, which records mouth vibrations, contributes to overall optimization. Additionally, a windproof grille has been integrated, accompanied by a comprehensive repositioning of the microphones on the headset.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Review: A Leap Forward in Comfort and Performance

While this Sony WF-1000XM5 review test lacks scientific rigor, I conducted pragmatic tests alongside other headphones for comparison. It might come as a surprise that the clarity and sharpness of the voice captured by the Sony WF-1000XM5 exceed expectations in certain contexts.

Sound

When considering sound quality, numerous technical aspects come into play. Firstly, it’s notable that Sony continues to abstain from adopting the dual-driver approach. Instead, in the WF1000XM5, they offer a solitary 8.4mm Dynamic Driver X. Paired with the Sony V2 technology (including the 24-bit DAC), support for LDAC, and EXTREME DSEE (a software technology aimed at enhancing compressed audio tracks), a comprehensive auditory experience is delivered. Initially, I used the earbuds with an iPhone, and subsequently, I switched to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 to fully appreciate the spatial audio accompanied by head tracking support—an impressive feature of the WF1000XM5.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Review: A Leap Forward in Comfort and Performance

While I don’t claim to be an expert in music, I was astonished by the ability to discern minute details that are frequently overlooked when using earbuds. Essentially, without adjusting the equalizer, a slight emphasis on bass is discernible. However, this bass emphasis is both enjoyable and unobtrusive. For optimal equilibrium and an authentic soundscape, there’s an option called Clear Bass, which allows adjustments to bass levels alongside the conventional equalizer settings.

Throughout this Sony WF-1000XM5 review, I utilized both Spotify and Apple Music to test the DSEE EXTREME feature. However, I must admit that I failed to perceive a significant distinction between having it activated or deactivated. It’s worth mentioning that the Bluetooth version is 5.3, and although the superior LDAC codec is supported, it remains unavailable on iPhones as well as certain Android smartphones.

Final line

Concluding thoughts on the Sony WF-1000XM5 are quite straightforward—remembering their rather cumbersome acronym isn’t necessary anymore. Silly as it might appear, I’m genuinely convinced that rebranding many Sony products with more memorable and aesthetically pleasing names could significantly aid their efforts to connect with users and establish a lasting product identity (for instance, Sony Buds Pro 5 or Walkman Buds 5, capitalizing on the Walkman brand).

Setting aside the whimsical notion, I’ve found these Sony earbuds to be commendable, and my positive impressions are likely to persist in the months ahead. If you’re contemplating a purchase, I recommend awaiting a minor price reduction. At the time of writing this Sony WF-1000XM5 review, the price on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk stands at $298 and £259, respectively.

It’s worth highlighting the numerous minor and major enhancements over the WF-1000XM4. These improvements, spanning microphone quality, noise cancellation, audio performance, battery life, and the redesigned form factor, signify a substantial leap of not just one, but two generations. Irrespective of the cost, this compact product manages to satisfy users without fail.

Regarding the microphones, our findings indicate significant enhancement; nevertheless, I still consider them to be slightly outclassed by the AirPods Pro 2. A discernible gap in performance favored the Apple earphones, although software updates could potentially bridge the divide. What are your thoughts on this Sony WF-1000XM5 review? We welcome your feedback in the comments section below!

Pros:

  • Significantly enhanced design and comfort
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Top-tier noise cancellation among TWS options

Cons:

  • Microphone optimization required

About Ankeet Solanki

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