It’s been coming for 2 years, and this week it finally came. The new Sony WH-1000XM5 is the long-awaited follow-up to the company’s best noise-cancelling headphones, the XM4. In this review of the new XM5, we’ll see if Sony was able to take them to the next level and see how they stack up against the latest headphones from Bose and Apple.
WHAT’S NEW IN THE SONY WH-1000XM5?
A man wearing the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones. Since the XM4 is already the best all-around headphone on the market, the question is what to do next. Well, it has to do with the details and the materials. The WH-1000XM5 is just a more streamlined version of the line that came out years ago.
The headband is by far the most noticeable change in how they look. There is a new style that looks a bit like the Bose 700 series. It has a tube-like shape and doesn’t fold up neatly like the XM3 and XM4. That will make some people upset because XM headphones are usually very popular with travelers who don’t have much room in their carry-on bags.
On the inside, there are new drivers that supposedly make the sound better. I’ll talk about it later in this review, of course. There are also more microphones and a new chip to help cancel out noise.
The battery lasts for 30 hours, which is the same as before, and the quick-charge function has been updated. There will also be a light and a dark color option, but we chose to review the black XM5, which is holding up well.
Lastly, the earpads and materials have been improved to make a higher-quality product that leans toward the luxury market but still has a fair price (RRP $400 USD).
1. SONY WH-1000XM5 PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
Get it now on Amazon.com
The Sony XM5 is likely to be one of the most popular headphones to come out this year, so it shouldn’t be hard to find. Most of the big consumer websites and stores, like Best Buy, Walmart, and others, should have them in stock in the next few weeks.
To see how much it costs on Amazon, click the link below, which will take you to the Amazon store closest to you. You can also find links to buy the WH-1000XM5 directly from Sony at the end of this review.
SONY WH-1000XM5 SPECIFICATIONS
Accessories for Sony Wh-1000xm5
Accessories and carrying case for the Sony WH-1000XM5
Instead of listing the WH-1000XM5’s boring specs, let’s talk about its most important features.
As was already said, the XM5 has a quick charge feature, but it’s not just any quick charge. It depends on the type of power brick you use. 5 hours of playback time come from a 10-minute charge (standard charger), or 3 hours come from a 3-minute charge (from a PD – Power Delivery Charger).
That’s a big claim, and our tests have shown that it’s not really true. The 10-minute charge only gave us 4 hours of playback, but the 3-minute charge was right. This depends on the volume level, but it’s still a pretty cool feature for any headphones to have. Especially if you travel with them a lot and need to charge them quickly.
APTX and APTX HD were still not included, which was a shame. If you want to stream music at higher bitrates than regular Bluetooth, you have to use Sony’s LDAC technology. Even though LDAC is good, we like having choices, so it was disappointing that they left out this much-requested feature again.
With the receivers moved and the materials updated, the range and stability of the connection have both gotten better. I was able to get a lot farther away from my source device when I wore the XM5 than when I wore other top noise-canceling headphones. Updates to the Bluetooth codec and hardware are very welcome, and I didn’t lose any connections while we were testing.
The other things we liked about the older models, like upscaling audio and being able to cover an earpiece to let sound pass through, are still there and working. Sony seems to have improved features that were already there and added just a few important new specs to get our attention.
DESIGN, STYLING AND BUILD QUALITY
Sony WH-1000XM5 WH-1000XM5 by Sony
Ok, so as I said above, this new model has a big change, and I’m not sure if it’s a step forward or if they’re just going with the flow.
The headband has changed from being a flat band to a tube. From the side, this looks very sleek, but from the front, it makes the negative space between the head and the headband yoke mechanism bigger. I don’t think it looks bad, but I think it would look a little better if the yoke was more integrated.
With this new design, you can’t fold the XM5 like you could with previous versions. This is probably going to bother travelers who liked how small the previous versions folded up. But there is a good side to it.
The folding mechanism used to be the weakest part of Sony’s XM headphones. It got better over time, but if you weren’t careful, your headphones could still break there.
It’s really a trade-off: a little bit of modern styling to make it more reliable, but losing the small size and streamlined shape at the same time. I don’t think this is a win or a loss. Just a little bit different, and it should be pointed out Sony told us that they will continue to sell the XM4 line.
Overall, the build quality has gotten a lot better. They feel like a higher-quality product overall, more like a luxury headphone. This was obviously done to keep up with new headphones from Apple and Bang & Olufsen, whose materials give a lot of confidence.
The Sony WH-1000XM5’s earcups feel more solid and high-end, but they’re not made of metal, so they’re not as good as those on more expensive headphones.
The headband we talked about above makes them stronger than ever, and a new slider mechanism that runs on metal rails makes it possible to fine-tune the fit.
Not only that, but the points of contact have also been improved. When we tried them on, they felt immediately better, more balanced, and rooted. The padding on the headband is a more durable memory foam that molded to the shape of my head and relieved me of contact pressure.
The earpads are gorgeous. It’s made of protein leather and is probably the softest and most breathable headphone material I’ve ever used. It’s comfortable all day, and it’s a clear step up from the rest of the line.
HOW STRONG IS THE NOISE CANCELLING?
The noise-canceling WH-1000XM5 headphones by Sony can be listened to.
The noise canceling is the best in its class. Bose used to make the best noise-cancelling headphones, but Sony took over that title a while ago. With this new model, Sony takes another step forward and makes the best noise-cancelling headphones we’ve ever tried.
I took three pairs of headphones to three different places to test this. All of them were looking for clues about where people who want ANC headphones would probably use them. I took a 3-hour flight each way to Panama, used them for a week in a busy co-working space, and used them every day to get to and from work. The results couldn’t even be argued about.
I chose to compare the top-of-the-line Bose 700 and the expensive Apple Airpods Max for this review.
First of all, on flights, the amount of background noise that the XM5 technology drowns out is mind-blowing. Noise from the engine is kept to a minimum. It works even better if you do a pressure test with the Sony app to control your environment. But there was no need because Sony now adapts the headphones automatically.
The XM5 measures the air pressure and adjusts the way the headphones respond to take the pressure off the headphone. This is something that the Max and the 700 didn’t do well, and it’s a big reason why I recommend these headphones for flying.
In the office and on the way to and from work, Sony won again because the background noise of air conditioners was not there. It was soothing, and I felt much less tired at the end of the day.
From my tests, the Sony worked better than the Bose in every situation, but the Apple AirPods Max were better in one way. When it came to ambient sound, the Max’s algorithm just beat the Sony’s, making the sound much more realistic and natural, as if I wasn’t even wearing headphones.
THE QUALITY OF THE SOUND IS STILL BEST IN CLASS.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 from the side
In our XM2 review, I said that Sony made noise-canceling headphones with better sound quality than any other company. The presentation just seemed more natural and the ANC tech inside never seemed to get in the way.
The XM5 is now more polished and detailed than ever. In terms of fidelity, it seems that new driver technology has taken things to a whole new level.
Again, the WH-1000XM5’s sound and tuning were better than those of the Bose 700 and AirPods Max. But it’s important to note that none of these headphones can compare to the best audiophile headphones at this price.
The XM5’s tuning works well with many different types of music. There was a slight V-shaped frequency curve, and the bass and treble were boosted, making them sound lively and punchy.
Sub-bass rumble is possible and sounds good with EDM and Rap, but the XM5 stays calm when listening to rock or jazz, where the music isn’t as loud. The driver is tight enough that it can change to fit the situation and won’t sound loose or muddy. There was also no leakage into the midrange that could be heard.
The midrange sounds natural and smooth. In the upper midrange, there are no weak spots that can lead to sibilant fatigue. Both male and female vocals sound great, with warmth and closeness, but a sound-first headphone like the Sivga P-II might have more depth and reverb.
The good news is that stringed instruments hold up very well, and their openness and imaging make them stand out even in complicated pieces like Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
The WH-1000XM5 does treble well. It’s not so hot that it wears you out, but when you need it, it adds a nice sparkle that works well with the rest of the tuning. It also gives this closed-back headphone an artificial soundstage feeling that impressed us.
It’s true that the XM5 doesn’t compete with audiophile headphones, but it really stands out as a consumer-focused headphone that tries to do a lot in one package. Even with the ANC on, it’s a very enjoyable thing to listen to. Detail retrieval is good, and it’s clear that Sony worked on this to get ahead of the competition in terms of sound. Both soundstage and timbre work well.
If you go into the Sony headphone app, you’ll see that the WH-1000XM5 can be changed in a lot of ways. There are presets for recreating studio, concert, and home listening environments. There are preset EQs based on the type of music you listen to, as well as custom preset and equalizer options that let you set them up the way you like. There are even places to adjust how much noise canceling is done.
Sony’s noise-cancelling headphones already had the best sound, but the WH-1000XM5 takes them to the next level with well-thought-out improvements and hardware upgrades.
SONY WH-1000XM5 VS BOSE 700 & APPLE AIRPODS MAX
Before I start this part of the review, I have to say that I use Sony ANC headphones and have done so since I switched from the Bose QC35 to the Sony WH-1000XM2 many years ago. During that time, I upgraded to the XM4, which I’ve been happy with for the past two years.
Since the XM4, Bose has made the 700 and the QC40 headphones to compete with Sony, which had taken a big chunk of their market share. I like both of those headphones, but how comfortable they are and how they look will be big factors in which one you choose to buy. The winner is clear to me. Sony.
When I directly compare the XM5 to the Bose 700, I think the XM5 does a little better in almost every way. It looks better, sounds better, and, most importantly, gets rid of noise better. The Bose, on the other hand, are more comfortable than the XM5 because their earpads are bigger and they are made of lighter materials.
Apple has also entered the market at this time, but I just can’t love them, even though I use Apple products all the time. Yes, the build quality of the Max is better, and yes, there is something about taking the headphones out of the carrying case and having them automatically connect.
But, just like with the Bose, the sound is better and the noise cancellation is better, and I really, really don’t like the design of the AirPods max. Even more so when you hold them side by side with the Sony WH-1000XM5.
As I said above, the AirPods Max do have an advantage when it comes to ambient sound, but I don’t think that’s enough to beat Sony. Especially since the Max headphones are so expensive.
Conclusion: It’s not a revolution, but it’s enough to keep them at the top of the noise-canceling headphone market.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 are better than the XM4, but it’s not clear-cut, and there are still reasons to recommend the older model, which Sony says they will still sell. The second one still has a number of selling points that shouldn’t be overlooked, and now that the XM5 is out, they should be cheaper.
But after a lot of testing for this review, I know for sure that the XM5 is the better headphone and that Sony’s time at the top has been extended with its release. It’s probably the best all-around headphone on the market right now and definitely the best noise-cancelling headphone.
You don’t always have to come up with something new, you just have to keep things going. The same thing has been done here. Because of this, we at Audiophile On have no trouble recommending it.