Sony WF-1000XM4s: Honest Review
In 2016, the truly wireless industry began to flourish, and Sony is likely the only company that has fully harnessed its potential. Sony’s WF-1000X was their first offering in 2017, and it marked a departure from the company’s previous efforts’ emphasis on security to instead prioritize audio quality. The WF-1000XM3 arrived two years later, when the full potential of genuine wireless networking was only starting to be realized.
Sony WF-1000XM4s Specification
|Battery Life||8 hours|
|Wearing Style||In Ear|
|Charging Time||1.5 Hours|
|Cable Length||USB C – Type Charging Cable|
Unlike the XM3 models, the WF-1000XM4 has its own dedicated CPU in the form of Sony’s V1 chip. It’s all thanks to the Bluetooth System on Chip (SoC) and noise-cancelling processor integration. The effectiveness of battery life is affected. Compared to the XM3, the XM4 has the same amount of endurance with noise cancellation turned on (24, but the charging case is 40% smaller in volume. With noise cancellation turned off, the WF-1000XM4 is rated for 12 hours of use on a single charge. The maximum battery life is 36 hours when using the case’s three available charges, which is four hours longer than the WF-1000XM3.
The WF-1000XM4’s noise cancellation is more effective than that of earlier models of noise-cancelling headphones. Although Sony says that the XM4’s noise cancellation is the best in the business, I disagree. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds seem to do a better job of blocking out ambient noise. When in Ambient Mode, sound is filtered so that it seems like you’re not even wearing headphones. It has a crisp tone and provides excellent context. Sony’s LinkBuds are a great alternative to the XM4 if you don’t like ‘conventional’ earphones that completely block your ear canal and want to be aware of your surroundings.
Sony’s previous premium true wireless offerings have consistently ranked among the best-sounding products of their respective generations, and the newest model is no exception. The WF-1000XM4 are the most high-quality headphones I’ve heard so far. They, like the WF-1000XM3, are flexible instruments that can convey any style of music. Wonderfully expressive examples range from Nancy Sinatra’s You Only Live Twice to Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain and Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade. They may be bold when necessary and understated when appropriate. The midrange is superb, and the highs in songs like “Raven” by Gogo Penguin are reproduced with stunning clarity and precision. The Sony is excellent at expressing low frequencies of all kinds, producing bass that is powerful, tight, and punchy. Everything sounds just as it should, and the tonal balance is quite realistic. Rob Zombie’s Dragula had me immersed in the music (and whatever Zombie was saying) from the very beginning, while Maroon 5’s This Love even had me bobbing my head in the grocery aisles of a Sainsbury’s.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 can be purchased today for $279.99, £250, or AU$449.95. This pricing seems reasonable when one considers that the discontinued WF-1000XM3 originally retailed for $230, £220, or AU$399 in 2019, with the remaining stock selling for roughly $170, £150, or AU$200. When compared to other models from companies like Bose, Grado, and Sennheiser, as well as the superb (and mind-bogglingly expensive) PI7 from Bowers & Wilkins, the WF-1000XM4 holds its own rather well.
We found the WF-1000XM4 to be a little difficult to insert, and we expected them to rest deeper in the ear than they do. However, once you get them where you want them, you can adjust the touch controls, the EQ levels, and the many other features to your liking. All set? Good. It’s time for some tunes. We began our evaluation by playing a Tidal Masters file of Ross From Friends’ Burner and were instantly pleased by the WF-1000XM4. They don’t overemphasize any one frequency range, they pay close attention to every nuance, and they don’t linger on rhythms or tempos. Their presentation is full of life and energy, but they maintain an air of indisputable mastery over the situation. In spite of the abundance of energy and forward motion, the WF-1000XM4 never loses control of its composure. The transition between bass notes is crisp and distinct, preventing the lows from bleeding into the mids. The active noise cancellation works, but only to a lesser extent than expected. The WF-1000XM4 can’t quite pull off the same trick, but it does a good job of reducing the interference of background noise. Although they may not be the best noise-cancelling headphones, they are more than enough for the vast majority of listeners.
More is happening than ever before, despite the WF-1000XM4’s new, smaller form factor. The new Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity allows for bidirectional transmission to both earbuds at once as well as Hi-Res Audio Wireless certification (when employing Sony’s proprietary LDAC codec). Although in principle Bluetooth 5.2 would lead to longer battery life, in practice the best-case scenario of 24 hours (eight to twelve in the earphones, depending on whether active noise canceling is on or off, plus another couple of charges in the case) is hardly impressive. However, the WF-1000XM4 is compatible with Qi charging pads, and a quick five-minute charge from a wall outlet will provide another hour of use.