Sony WF-1000XM4 Review: TWS Flagship Earbuds with Best Noise Cancellation
By: Alex Chub | 07.10.2021, 13:27
Sony WF-1000XM4 is one of the best top-of-the-line TWS headphones you can buy at the moment. First of all, the excellent active noise cancellation system, already traditional for Sony flagships, is worth mentioning. The headphones are one of the best on the market in this respect. Sony WF-1000XM4 are convenient, look attractive and have water protection standard IPX4. They last a long time on a single battery charge and have a bunch of useful extra features. Including auto-pause and switching to transparency mode during a conversation, as well as automatic change of settings depending on the current activity or location. The only minor complaints are the lack of support for Multipoint. As for the sound quality, it is driving and most users will be happy with it. However, if you are an experienced musician, it is worth looking for something more effective. For example, the slightly more expensive Noble Audio Falcon Pro.
Sony WF-1000XM4 is packaged in an unusual way. The box is made of recycled paper. It is small in size with rounded edges. Inside there is a standard set: earphones in the charging case, a short 20 cm Type-C cable for charging, changeable ear cushions and a set of different papers. The Sony WF-1000XM4 comes exclusively with foam tips, but you can use third-party ones as well.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Design
By design and construction, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is very different from its predecessors, the WF-1000XM3. The previous ones were massive and protruded significantly outside the ear. The new Sony WF-1000XM4 are quite big but usual modern TWS. We got the black version with gold accents. The earphones, as well as the case, are made of matte plastic with a coating very reminiscent of Soft-Touch. It looks good and pleasant to the touch, but the fingerprints are slightly visible.
There is a big round pad on the outside of the headphones. It is touch-sensitive and is responsible for controlling the headphones. The Bluetooth antennas are hidden underneath this pad. The golden circular design is not only decorative. These are the microphones.
The earpieces consist of two halves and the seam between them is clearly visible. Although there are no problems: they fit together perfectly. On the tops of the headphones there are Sony logos. And on the bottom, in the golden trim, there are a couple of microphones for noise cancellation and transparency mode.
On the inside of each headphone there are charging contacts, left-right markings, and infrared sensors that are responsible for automatically pausing or continuing playback if the headphones are pulled out and put back in.
Sony WF-1000XM4 sound heads are of medium length and absolutely standard diameter with dirt protection inside. There is a trim, thanks to which the pads are well fixed and do not fly off. There are only foam pads included, which some may not like. This is not a problem: most of the standard third-party pads are also suitable.
Sony WF-1000XM4 has IPX4 splash and sweat protection. So they are suitable for sports and jogging in the rain without worrying about performance.
The charging case is quite large and has the usual design with a hinged lid. There is a Sony logo on the top of the lid and an LED charging indicator on the front.
The lid is auto-opening and is held closed by magnets. The lid does not open by accident. But the lid itself has a minimal clearance. Inside everything is standard: places for headsets with contacts for charging.
There is a Type-C connector for charging.
Sony WF-1000XM4 in Use
Sony WF-1000XM4 has a pretty good and well thought-out shape: they fit perfectly in your ears, don't fall out, don't get in the way and don't squeeze anywhere. But it's worth trying them on before you buy: with small ears it might not be that good. The only thing worth mentioning is the foam pads. They will take some getting used to if you haven't used them before. But they provide very good passive sound insulation. On the other hand, you can use third-party pads if you want. The headphones practically do not stick out of your ears, which gives hope for comfortable use in winter with a hat. The fit in the ear canal is average in depth, quite comfortable.
The headphones are built on a new proprietary SoC V1, which, among other things, includes all the developments QN1e from the last model. For connection, Bluetooth 5.2 is used, there is support for SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs, the latter allows you to provide up to 990 kbps, which makes sense when listening to FLAC, or streaming services with appropriate support. Here we have Deezer Hi-Fi, which offers quality up to 1,411 kbps.
On the one hand, the lack of support for any aptX options is strange. On the other hand: there is AAC for Apple, and LDAC is supported by all Android smartphones starting with version 8. So the lack of aptX can not be called critical.
Sony WF-1000XM4 supports Google Fast Pair for pairing with Android devices. The first time we turn the headphones on, they automatically go into pairing mode as soon as we take them out of the case. To connect to a new device we need to manually put them into pairing mode, which is started by a long touch to two headphones at the same time. There are no problems with the stability of the connection in general, even in the quality priority mode with LDAC codec. The exception - Huawei P40 Pro: with it there were regular breaks. But it seems that this is a problem of the smartphone itself: no such problems were observed with other models.
The only little thing that could upset you is the lack of Multipoint support. That is, you can't connect to a smartphone and a laptop at the same time, which would have been very convenient.
Sony WF-1000XM4 is controlled by touch pads on the outer side of the headphones. They are quite large and easy to operate. The default control settings are as follows. One tap on the right earphone - pause/playback. Double and triple tap - next and previous tracks respectively. Long tap - start the voice assistant. Left earpiece touch - switch noise cancelling modes: active, transparent, off. Long tap - Quick Attention function: pause and maximum transparency mode are enabled. You can reconfigure some functions in the proprietary app.
The Headphones Connect app is used to make all headphone settings. At the top of the application, the current charge of the earphones and the charging case are displayed, as well as the codec in use. Sony WF-1000XM4 has more than enough additional functions and features. There is an interesting thing "Adaptive Sound Control": the headphones automatically change settings depending on the current activity or location, including GPS tracking. Of course, there is a noise cancellation setting and transparency mode with level adjustment and the ability to focus on the voice.
One of the most useful features is Сhatting. The headphones recognize that the owner has started a conversation, automatically activate pause and transparency mode. After the end of the conversation, playback resumes and noise cancellation is enabled (if it was originally turned on). Extremely handy thing: in stores, there is no need to take the headphones out of your ears or do any additional manipulation at all. Of course, there are equalizers, proprietary sound enhancer DSEE Extreme, support for virtual 360° surround sound (we also have it available in the Deezer service). At the same time, for the best effect of 360 Reality Audio, the application offers to analyze the shape of the owner's ears. To do this, you need to take a picture of your ears. Of course, updating the firmware of the headphones is also done through the same application.
Sound Quality, Microphone & Noise Cancellation
The headphones are powered by 6mm dynamic drivers with a 20% larger neodymium magnet and a very flexible diffuser. It is claimed that this allows the headphones to sound great and reproduce deep bass frequencies. The DSEE Extreme system is also worth mentioning, which improves the sound of music files with compressed data in real time. At least, that is what the promotional materials claim. In reality, the sound quality is very good. But it is obvious that the headphones are aimed exclusively at the mass audience: they sound best in all sorts of electronics, pop music, hip-hop and other light styles of music. There are no significant gaps in the entire frequency range, just as there are no low frequencies that scream out all the rest. The bass in the headphones is really good: dense, deep, massive and driving. Not the fastest and most detailed, but at a good level. The high frequencies are also good, they are present in sufficient quantity and allow the headphones not to descend into a completely dark sound. The treble is smoothed out a little, so there is nothing to fear for the treble-phobes. There are some complaints about the middle part of the frequency range. The mid frequencies are present and in good quantity, they are not really sunk. But they sound a bit "dirty", lacking detail and accuracy. As a result, many live instruments sound a bit flat. The imaginary scene is not striking, but it is very good, given the form factor.
One of the main features of Sony's top-of-the-line wireless headphones is the active noise cancellation system. Here too, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is at the top of its game. Although you wouldn't expect anything different from Sony's flagships. The noise canceller perfectly cuts off the monotonous hum on the street or in transport. The headphones are absolutely comfortable to listen to music in the subway, and there is no need to crank up the volume to the limit. In this case, while using noise reduction there is no effect of "vacuum" and pressure on the ears, Sony WF-1000XM4 are very comfortable. All in all, we can say that these are some of the best (if not the best) TWS headphones in terms of noise cancellation performance on the market.
The microphones in the headphones are of very good quality: even on the street or in transport, the person I'm talking to has never had to interrupt me. Yes, the frequency range is a little low, but this applies to all TWS models. And the main thing is that you can get the information without any problems.
The manufacturer promises that on a single charge the headphones can work up to 8 hours with noise cancellation and up to 12 hours without it. But it all depends on the number of conversations and the codec used for the connection. Of course, with LDAC the consumption will be significantly higher than with SBC. The headphones were used solely with the LDAC codec active in quality priority mode. Noise cancellation is active all the time. In this mode, the headphones can handle about 5 hours, which is pleasantly surprising. The case allows you to charge the headphones 2 more times. So everything is great with Sony WF-1000XM4 battery life. As for charging, the process takes about an hour and a half through the cable. There is also support for wireless charging standard Qi. So you can charge the headphones from most standard wireless chargers, or from smartphones with wireless reverse charging.
3 Things to know about Sony WF-1000XM4:
Sony WF-1000XM4 is a TWS headphone with one of the best noise cancellation implementations on the market
Long run on a single charge and support for wireless charging
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