Sony WH-1000XM5 is Sony’s new active noise canceling headphone, which replaces the model WH-1000XM4, which was released about a year and a half ago. Sony has long ridden the wave of the best headphones (receiver / audio device) with active noise reduction, and the goal of the new XM5 version is clearly to confirm this first, and deliver great sound quality in a headset that is comfortable to wear . and able to reduce environmental noise at a low cost.
The transition from XM3 to XM4 was not particularly disruptive as Sony in a very similar format has better technical qualities of the headset; but as we said in our 2020 review, those who owned the XM3 version did not have many reasons to upgrade to the XM4. With the XM5, it’s different, as Sony is finally also renewing the design for another product, even if it does not disturb the foundation.
It is curious how it is possible to buy the XM3 model again, at a price of around 180 euros, while the XM4 is available for around 280 euros. We expect the XM3 model to disappear in the coming months, which may be the subject of interesting deals to keep an eye on, given that it remains an excellent headset even today, especially if it will fall in price again.
The biggest difference from previous models is the loss of the ability to fold down to take up less space during transport. As a consequence, the transport box is slightly larger, but it is designed with a special geometric shape that makes it possible to reduce the thickness when empty. This choice has already been made by other manufacturers in the market, such as Bose with its “700” model. It is a choice that can share but which can not be considered wrong, it depends on how you use the headphones. In any case, the larger dimensions of the cabinet are only marginal.
As a consequence, Sony has been able to implement a thinner round headband, which facilitates the design, also physically given the lightness of the XM5. The headband in synthetic material weighs less on the head, and the synthetic material used, even if it is not too soft, does not cause discomfort when worn.
The pavilions, on the other hand, remained very similar in shape and size. The padding, in this case, is very soft. The ear pads can rotate 90 degrees inside and about 45 degrees outside to better adapt to the shape of your head. They can also be tilted slightly on the vertical axis, and thanks to the limited effect of the headband, the pressure on the head around the ears is very minimal. This judgment is valid for those with a medium / small head. If your head is wider than average, you’ll probably experience more pressure, but given that this would happen with any headset, we’ll like to tell you that the comfort of the WH-1000XM5 is assured for just about everyone. Of course, it is also possible to adjust the length of the headband through a free-sliding system that allows it to adapt perfectly to the circumference of the head.
Controls and technical specifications
The outer surface of the right pavilion is touch sensitive and has the same set of controls as previous models. Then you can control playback and calls with a series of “taps”, adjust the volume by swiping your finger up or down or cover the earcup with your hand to activate transparency mode and talk to someone without having to remove the headphones (gesture that also lowers the volume of The music). There is a sensor that detects when you put the headset on or off, while much of the intelligence is given by the combination with the smartphone application that can automatically adjust the intervention of the ANC, understand when you start talking to put stop music into playback and much more.
On the lower edge of the left pavilion, the small power button, next to another button, is slightly longer, allowing you to switch from ambient mode to active noise reduction. Also on this pavilion there is the audio jack, while the USB-C port for charging the battery is located in the right pavilion.
If you have an Android smartphone, the pairing can take place with the automatic mode, while you have an iPhone must continue in the classic way, via the application or Bluetooth pairing.
It is also possible to interact with the voice assistant, Android, Alexa or Siri.
A dedicated sound processor is paired with eight microphones, and the active noise reduction result is, as expected, top notch. It’s hard to say how much better it is than the XM4s offer, after all the level reached is such that the differences become smaller. But what we perceived is an improvement, especially in the medium and high frequencies, the area of the sound spectrum where ANC systems have historically been weaker.
Reducing, or even completely eliminating, continuous low-frequency noise, such as the classic noise that can be perceived inside an in-flight cabin, is something that many headphones, even low-end, are now able to do well. If passive sound insulation is combined with this analysis and noise reduction, the final result will be excellent.
The XM5s excel in this area, but as mentioned they also do very well with other more difficult sounds. We worked for a week in the office with these headphones on, and even without playing a music track, the voices from colleagues or the noise from the keys on the keyboard come within a few inches of the ears like a small murmur. By adding background music, such as ambient noise or some classical music, the isolation is virtually total.
In an urban environment, on the street, the situation is clearly a bit different due to the many sound sources, but we can confirm that the calm result obtained is really excellent. Sony confirms an excellent result from this point of view. However, the question is whether the new XM5 is worth buying, if you already have the older model, for noise reduction? The best answer we can give you is the following: If you are already happy with the “old” model then you can avoid spending money, if you instead feel the lack of a little more insulation, you should give the new headphones a try.
Judging sound quality is perhaps even more difficult than ANC. We were happy with the performance of the XM4s, so we are also happy with the XM5s. The behavior is quite similar, although the driver is different. LDAC, DSEE Extreme, 360 audio, the technical characteristics remain the same.
Maybe it’s the slightly better ANC that makes the sound quality of these XM5s even better perceived. However, we do not want to give a clear opinion. There are many headphones that can do well in this price range. We can say that sound quality will not be an issue given that we are not in front of a pair of headphones born for listening sessions, but to be multifunctional, to isolate ourselves from the surrounding environment, to make phone calls and , ii meanwhile, listening to music. Likewise, we have not encountered any problems so you will be happy with the sound.
The measured autonomy is similar to that of the XM4, so about thirty hours. In any case, the fast recharge, which in a few minutes is able to achieve several hours of listening, removes all doubt, with these WH-1000XM5 you will not have problems with battery life.
Verdict: who should buy them?
The new WH-1000XM5 essentially manages to improve the technical features of the XM4, but also offers a new design. This is perhaps the main point that could pressure those who already have the previous model to buy the new XM5s, as long as you obviously like them. The same can be said for those who still have the XM3 model, the performance leap will be clearly felt. In both cases, however, you will have to accept the loss of the opportunity to close them for themselves and in return get a lighter and more modern design along with technical improvements.
The price of the WH-1000XM5 is 420 euros, which is a slight increase compared to what we have seen before. However, we do not rule out that the offer in the weeks after the launch may stabilize at just under 400 euros, a price that we believe is correct in relation to the properties offered.