Sony WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4 Headphones – The best ANC headphones got better

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The Sony WH-1000X range of headphones is generally regarded as the best active noise-cancelling headphones on the market.

Every couple of years, Sony update them, the WH-1000XM4 were launched back in 2020 for £349, and yesterday Sony announced the WH-1000XM5 for £379.

Audio technology is not as fast-paced as computers and phones, so can headphones change that much in two years?

A passing glance may seem like the headphones haven’t changed much, but Sony has made significant changes here.

I have not used the WH-1000XM5, so I can’t personally vouch for them or say if they are worth £100 more than the current pricing for the WH-1000XM4.

Specification

 Sony WH-1000XM5Sony WH-1000XM4
TypeClosed, dynamicClosed, dynamic
Driver30mm carbon fibre composite dome40mm dome type (CCAW Voice coil)
MagnetNeodymiumNeodymium
Impedance48 ohm(1kHz) connected via cable with headphones on
16 ohm(1kHz) connected via cable with headphones off/passive
Not stated
Freaquency Response4 Hz - 40,000 Hz
20Hz-20,000Hz (Bluetooth 44.1kHz sampling)
20Hz-40,000Hz (Bluetooth LDAC 96kHz sampling 990kbps)
4 Hz - 40,000 Hz
20Hz-20,000Hz (Bluetooth 44.1kHz sampling)
20Hz-40,000Hz (Bluetooth LDAC 96kHz sampling 990kbps)
Sensitivity102dB(1kHz) / mW (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned on)
100dB / mW(1kHz) (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned
105dB / mW (1kHz) (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned on)
101dB / mW (1kHz) (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned off)
Passive OperationYes
Active Noise CancellingAuto NC Optimizer
Ambient Soud Mode
Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing
Personal NC Optimizer
Ambient Soud Mode
Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing
Active Noise Cancelling Mics85
Bluetooth5.25
CodecsSBC, AAC, LDACSBC, AAC, LDAC
Battery Max. 30 hrs (NC ON)
Max. 40 hrs (NC OFF)
Max. 30 hours(NC ON)
Max. 38 hours(NC OFF)
Weight250g
Price£379£279

Headphone Driver

Perhaps the biggest change is a complete overhaul of the driver inside the headphones.

The WH-1000XM4 and M3 both used 40mm driver units with a liquid crystal diaphragm. Sony has now swapped this for a 30mm carbon fibre composite dome.

Initial reviews indicate that this provides a significant improvement in audio quality. The low end is regarded as being more precise with punchier higher frequencies.

Active Noise Cancelling

Neither Sony nor Bose makes grand claims about noise reduction in the form of decibels (unlike Huawei). This is because those numbers are vague and subjective.

However, the WH-1000XM4 was regarded as being one of the best headphones on the market for ANC performance.

Things should be significantly better here. The WH-1000XM5 retain the same HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 and Integrated Processor V1, but they have increased the number of microphones from 5 to 8. This allows the headphones to better sample the sound around them and apply the appropriate noise cancelling.

Battery

Sadly, the battery life hasn’t improved much, but it is unlikely you will find this a problem. The WH-1000XM4 had a 30-hour battery life via Bluetooth with ANC on, and the WH-1000XM5 retains this performance.

The WH-1000XM5 does extend the battery by 2 hours, now 40hr, if you use one of the less demanding Bluetooth codecs and have ANC switched off.

Design

Controversially, the design has changed quite a bit. The new WH-1000XM5 looks more aesthetic with nice clean lines. However, this means that Sony have removed the joints and hinges, and the WH-1000XM5 can not be folded in on themselves. Instead, the headphones fold flat, similar to the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, they even look quite similar to them.

If you always use a case, this won’t be an issue. However, if you are sometimes more reckless and pack them away loosely in a bag, you might want to reconsider with these. The included case is collapsible, so it doesn’t take up too much room when not in use.

Other Features

Pretty much everything else is the same with an excellent range of features, including:

  • Google Fast Pair
  • Speak-to-Chat (auto pause + ambient)
  • Quick Access to restart music
  • Adaptive Sound Control – This is now improved and adjusts the sound based on your regular locations.
  • The headphones still have LDAC but lack any form of aptX

Overall

It looks like the Sony WH-1000XM5 will provide significantly better performance than the older WH-1000XM4 for both sound quality and active noise cancelling.

However, the WH-1000XM4 appear to have had the RRP lowered to £279, and they are regularly available on Amazon for less. It looks like £240 and £260 are the two most common reduced prices.

The SonyWH-1000XM4 are still outstanding headphones and well worth considering if you can’t stretch to the premium price of the Sony WH-1000XM5.

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