The Sony noise-cancelling headphones WH-1000XM4 are finally here! The WH-1000XM3 is the previous model, and although they do still share some of the same features, the new XM4 model has some improved headset features and functionality worth considering before buying your next pair of headphones.
The close rivalry between Bose and Sony back in 2018 meant the XM3 took the title from Bose, but since then, both Apple and Bose have released new headphones. So, can the Sony WH-1000XM4 maintain the title in 2020/2021? With the latest release of the Apple AirPods Max, it’s a close call, but who will be crowned the winner?
Editor’s Quick note: Our review guide to choosing the “Sony WH-1000XM4” was updated on April 26, 2021.
Table of Contents
- The price has been reduced slightly but is still expensive
- The tap to pause function did not always work
- The WH-1000XM3 did have more cushion but slightly heavier
- 30 Hours of Battery life – both the XM4 and XM3 listening sessions are the same in this respect
- The lack of design changes is a bit sad and I would have liked to see some new styling
- Great call quality
- Unlock headphones connect app features
- Transparency mode
- Dual noise sensor
- Excellent noise cancellation improvement
- Custom button functionality
- Improved audio quality making phone calls
- Power button
- Better comfort with soft padding
- Background noise is quieter than the predecessor
- Auto-pause functionality; it pauses when you take them off
- Double-tap functionality
- Some key upgrades that make these more versatile
OUR RATING: Throughout the Sony WH 1000xm4 headphone review, you will see that we have mentioned improvements in some key areas that made listening and speaking better than other similar models, particularly with the WH 1000XM3 being the previous model. If you already have bought the WH 1000XM3, then the main feature that I would consider to justify the $300+ purchase is the enhanced noise cancellation functionality and the multipoint Bluetooth connectivity. This for me sealed the deal and made it worthwhile.
If your in a hurry click the link, otherwise read on for more information on why everyone is raving about these headphones by Sony!
The Sony WH-1000XM4 Review
After two years of development, there is now multiple device support with the WH-1000xm4. The previous model WH-1000XM3 did not have this feature and was something that was always lacking. This now means you can actively be connected to multiple devices at the same time. For example, if your headphones are connected to your computer and also your phone, you don’t have to disconnect and pair again if the phone rings to take a call; it will switch between them seamlessly. This saves time to connect!
Sony WH 1000XM4 Noise Cancellation Features
The noise cancellation features on the WH-1000xm4 have been improved compared to the WH-1000XM3, both sounding brighter and fuller. The Sony app controls give you a lot of sound tweaking ability through the EQ settings, but the main thing that stood out here was the improved noise cancellation quality compared to the previous M3 model.
The WH-1000xm4 sound quality has always been good with low frequencies hum (sounds like airplanes, trains, etc.), but now notably improved with higher frequencies (dishwashers, cars, peoples voices, etc.). The usual clicking and clacking of my keyboard is now gone, which I liked and noticed. Simply put, you will not find a better pair of noise cancellation headphones for sound quality or noise cancellation at this price point, it’s like being in your own world at times.
XM4 Mic Physical Adjustments
The WH-1000XM4 dimensions are slightly different than the WH-1000XM3. The cushion around the top of the head is lighter and slightly larger (10%), which is technically an upgrade. The proximity sensor is placed in the left ear cup and is primarily a wear detection sensor. This sensor being on the left side allowed me to quickly figure out left from right when placing it on my head.
Sony WH 1000XM4 Mic
What is the Sony WH-1000XM4 Mic quality like? The XM4 has a better mic pattern with improved call quality overall with five microphones total and with better voice recognition. We liked the noise cancellation feature in busy and built-up areas. With multiple sounds going off, the voice and sound were clear in the headphones, which didn’t come through to the receiver, making adaptive sound control improvement.
Sony MX4 Speak to Chat Settings
The speak to chat functionality is good but not our favorite feature. This feature works by sensing voice chat, and as soon as I speak, it turns off the music and noise cancellation then amplifies voices through the headphones. The feature does work and doesn’t accidentally activate, which was good. However, as soon as I say anything, the music will pause, and I then have to activate it again by either tapping my headphones or going back to the settings. You can go into the setting and adjust the noise cancellation optimizer to suit your preferences, 15s, 30s, 1 minute, etc.
You can activate another feature new to the XM4 by placing one hand on the right side of the headphones, which will turn off the noise cancellation function and allow sound/voices to pass through. This is handy if you’re about to board a plane or public transport, for example, and want to hear the air hostess as she asks a quick question, but you do not want to take off your headphones. The sound/music immediately comes back when you lift off your hand, which can be awkward for extended lengths of time, so ideal for quick questions but not much more.
WH 1000 XM4 Headphones App
The Sony Headphones Connect App has a massive set of impressive features which are hard to beat. Sony also keeps updating its firmware from time to time which further improves the usability of the app. The app’s design has been changed slightly, and everything has been categorized under three distinct sections:- Sound, Status, and System.
The controls present under the System option are – firmware update, automatic power off, customization of the custom button, and motion detection. Status mostly hosts an array of more fundamental functions like media player controls, devices that are currently connected and also allows you to obtain access to the settings of Adaptive Sound Control.
But the most exciting parts are present under the Sound section. First, you have the Equalizer here that is fully customizable to your preference. The app definitely provides you with some functional presets like Bright, Bass Boost, Treble Boost, Relaxed, Mellow, Excited, Vocal, and Speech. Then, you also get the 360 Reality Audio option under the same section.
Sony WH-1000XM4 battery
According to the claims placed by Sony, these over ear headphones should provide you 30 hours of constant playback time on a single charge. This is the same as what the 1000XM3 claimed. And from only 10 minutes of charging, you get an additional 5 hours of playback time.
What seems disappointing to us is that Sony couldn’t come up with enhanced battery life for its new model even over the course of a year. But it’s hard to argue since 30-hour battery life is often enough juice to get you through most occasions – be it a long flight or your daily commutes.
There have been improvements in the sound quality of this model compared to the previous ones. In this Sony WH 1000XM4 review, let us now see how well the sound quality performs. If you are fond of a detailed sound with the correct amount of bass, these can be an excellent option. I am not saying that the WH 1000XM3 was bad, but the 1000XM4 audio quality is better.
Towards the lower end of the frequency, the bass response is much flatter, so you get to enjoy a clear and crisp sound. This feature shouldn’t be problematic for most listeners, except, of course, if you are inclined towards bass-heavy sound quality, then you should look elsewhere. Another option you have is to open the app and adjust the EQ preset from there to emphasize the lower end.
The Sont WH 1000XM4 comes with an LDAC codec, and even though some users might have preferred the presence of aptX HD support, it does the job, and you get a lot of detail flawlessly. Suppose you are playing some lower-quality files with this pair of Sony headphones; you need not worry about reduced quality. It comes equipped with a Digital sound enhance engine, also known as DSEE Extreme, that takes those compressed formats and restores every detail.
The 360 Reality Audio of Sony is a real gem. With this audio format, you will get the perfect surround sound experience. For example, if you play a song like Sparkle From Your Name, most headphones won’t do justice to it as all the complexities of the song won’t be as clear as you want them to be. But with the WH 1000XM4 will allow you to enjoy those smooth vocals with every layer of the song being clearly audible.
If you are a fan of aux cables, you should know that these headphones sound equally great when using them in the wired mode. The midrange is somewhat more emphasized, and the bass does get affected a bit, but it’s still better than its competitors.
Who should go out and buy a pair of Sony WH-1000XM4?
If you don’t have the WH 1000XM3 noise-canceling headphones and this is your first serious pair of headphones, then go straight to purchasing the Sony wh 1000xm4 wireless headphones. These ANC headphones are great for commuting in busy areas, drowning out the sound of everything around you.
What is the Sony WH-1000XM4 like to use?
Using the WH-1000XM4 is very similar to the previous model, but some unique features are tucked inside almost identical aesthetics. The multipoint Bluetooth functionality makes everyday use easier and slightly more convenient, being able to pair with two devices simultaneously, for example, going from listening to music to receiving a phone call smoothly without any friction. The previous model did not have this ability and a notable improvement, one of the best, in fact! That was one reason most were looking at other models, like the Bose 700 and, more recently, the Apple AirPods Max’s.
All that aside, certain functionality can only be used when the Sony connect app is downloaded and turn on to unlock the WH-1000XM4’s full potential. That is the speak to chat functionality that activates when you talk, which is handy, but the downside is when you then have to turn the music back on, either by tapping the headset or going directly into the Sony app itself.
One Issue with the Sony WH-1000XM4
Like I mentioned before, if your Speak to Chat option has been activated, then it will sense whenever you talk and pause the music. So, even though it might be helpful in some situations, it is also annoying because of the high sensitivity. Let us say you are watching a stand-up comedy show. You will obviously want to laugh at the jokes. But even a chuckle is enough for this feature to pause the media. This might indeed be a handy feature for some people, but others might simply opt for keeping it turned off.
Ambient mode activates when you cup your hand over the left ear cup immediately
The controls of the headphones haven’t undergone too much of a change compared to the predecessors. Just like the previous models, the ear cups are sensitive to touch. If you want to pause the media that you are playing, you simply have to double-tap the earcup, but in most cases, it has been seen that this double-tap feature seldom works the way it should. On the other hand, if you want to skip songs or adjust the volume to your preference, you need to swipe, and this feature is completely seamless, unlike the taps.
In fact, sometimes the problem is unbearable that the easier way out seems to take the headphones off, and then, the music will automatically pause. For me, it was only about 25% of the time or so that this auto-pause functionality worked the way it is supposed to.
But it is quite an exciting feature where you can turn the ambient mode on by simply placing your hand over the left ear cup. The device will instantly lower the music, and you will be able to hear everything that is going on in your surroundings. Of course, if you are mostly a stay-at-home person, then the ambient mode is not of much use to you, but while you are commuting, it allows you to hear the announcements and traffic noise everything while listening to your favorite music.
Sony WH-1000XM4 FAQs
How do you pair to the Sony WH-1000XM4?
The process of pairing in the Sony WH-1000XM4 is pretty straightforward. If your smartphone supports NFC, you simply need to take it to your left earcup and find the logo of NFC. Touch the back of your phone on that logo. Keep an eye on the screen of your phone, and you will get some instructions over there. Follow them, and you will have successfully paired your device.
If your smartphone does not support this NFC technology, you can always do it from the Bluetooth settings in the traditional way.
- Step 1 – Press the power button of your headphones to turn them on. The headphones should enter the pairing mode all by themselves if this is your first time doing it.
- Step 2 – On your device, open the Bluetooth settings. Go to the list of available devices and find WH-1000XM4 over there.
- Step 3 – When you spot the name of the headphones in the list, tap on it, and your headphones will be successfully paired to your device.
Since the Sony WH 1000XM4 supports multiple devices to be connected at the same time, you can pair a second device. The process is the same as above. The only thing to keep in mind here is that in this case, your headphones won’t enter the pairing mode by themselves because you have already paired them to another device first.
How is the Sony WH-1000XM4 Connection?
Not only does the Sony WH-1000XM4 offer the provision of multiple connectivity, but it also offers a seamless pairing process and connection strength. It has Bluetooth 5.0, and the wireless connection is pretty stable during Skype calls and media streaming. It supports AAC, SBC, and the brand’s own LDAC. As far as the range is concerned, you can enjoy as much as 40 feet of wireless connectivity.
Is the Sony WH-1000XM4 comfortable?
It has been a trend of Sony to increase the comfort and fit factor every time it comes up with a new product. Compared to the previous models and the Bose 700, the WH-1000XM4 definitely has a lighter feel. If we see the earcups, they are slightly thicker than the previous ones. This is a handy feature because it helps in better noise isolation.
But the headband doesn’t have as much padding as it did in the 1000XM3, and it is also somewhat narrower in shape. This might not be a plus point for some people. Due to insufficient padding, these headphones might be slightly uncomfortable when you use them for an extended time period.
Is Sony WH-1000XM4 good for gaming?
If your primary purpose is gaming, then too, the Sony WH-1000XM4 will perform fairly well in every criterion. For starters, the controls are touch-based, making it hassle-free while you are in the middle of a game. Secondly, their connection strength is superb and stable. They also have commendable battery life and a quick charge feature. And last but not least, these noise-cancelling headphones can cut off all types of background noise, enabling you to play your game even amidst the busiest of all settings.
What is the difference between Sony WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4?
Sony has been at the top of the market for years whenever we talk about noise-canceling headphones. When the WH-1000XM3 came out, it swept off all other options in the market like a storm, and now we have an updated version – WH-1000XM4. So, what’s the difference between these two?
In short, if you have gone through our Sony WH-1000XM4 review, you’ll notice that this model has most of the features that the 1000XM3 had and, apart from that, also has a ton of additional features like the speak-to-chat functionality, Bluetooth multipoint, Bluetooth 5.0, and also better codecs.
Is it worth buying the Sony WH-1000XM4?
The Sony WH-1000XM4 has a perfect combination of handy features with some improvements than its predecessor, making it one of the top noise cancelling headphones right now. I recommend the WH-1000XM3 even now due to its great features, but if you want a better Bluetooth performance, do check out the WH-1000XM4. For those who already have the 1000XM3, I don’t think it’s worth upgrading until and unless you want the multipoint connectivity.
The best thing about the Sony WH-1000XM4 is that they don’t compromise on other features just because they upgraded a few important ones. Overall, if this is going to be your first purchase of noise canceling headphones and you want the best, you can safely invest in the Sony WH-1000XM4.
Sony WH 1000XM4 Alternatives
If you are looking for the best noise cancelling headphones in the market, I’d definitely suggest you go for the Sony WH-1000XM4. But it’s advisable that you also keep in mind some other options like the Sony WH-1000XM3, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, Microsoft Surface Headphones 2, Shure AONIC 50, and Sennheiser PXC 550-II. Not all of the options mentioned here have all the features of the WH-1000XM4, but they are worth checking out.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
The Bose 700 headphones are one of the most stylish headphones with effective active noise cancelling features and decent battery life. The ANC doesn’t beat that of the Sony WH-1000XM4, but it is better than some other competitors in the market. You can check these out if your priority is to spend money on a gorgeous pair of headset because they do stand out in the crowd owing to their sleek and minimalistic design. However, if we are to talk about performance, I’d say nothing can beat Sony. On top of that, these are pretty costly.
Apple AirPods Max
Overall, the Apple AirPods Max is undeniably a perfect pair of headphones. They offer a balanced sound quality without any distortion, and they also come with the H1 chip that is present in the Apple AirPods Pro. But if we compare it with the Sony WH-1000XM4, you’ll notice a difference in controls. In the case of the Apple AirPods Max, the controls are not touch-sensitive, whereas, in the 1000XM4, they are. Moreover, if you make a price comparison, the Apple AirPods Max at $500+ (prices do vary on Amazon) is not for everyone, whereas the 1000XM4 will not shell out so much cash and yet perform excellently from every perspective.