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Sony WF-1000XM4 review: The best ANC in any wireless earbuds

These wireless earbuds have the best active noise cancellation in any wireless earbuds I’ve ever tried. They sound so much better than AirPods Pro.

Before AirPods Pro, Galaxy Buds, or Echo Buds 2, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 were the best ANC wireless earbuds you could get.

Zlata Ivleva

Clunky name aside, the WF-1000XM3 had great ANC and some of the longest battery life of any wireless earbuds. Unfortunately, the buds and charging case were comically massive — the case was almost twice size of an AirPods case. It also didn’t support wireless charging.

Zlata Ivleva

Sony went back to the drawing board and came up with the WF-1000XM4.

The name is still a mouthful, but the WF-1000XM4 buds are an improvement in every way.

More compact

Powered by a new V1 chip, Sony was able to shrink the size of the buds and the charging case. The case is only marginally larger than an AirPods Pro and Echo Buds 2 case.

Each bud has touchpad controls.

It charges via USB-C and supports Qi wireless charging.

Crucially, they sound terrific. Better than AirPods Pro, Galaxy Buds Pro, and Echo Buds 2. The fantastic sound can likely be attributed to the larger 6mm drivers, which are 20 percent larger than the ones in the WF-1000XM3. Larger drivers tend to translate to richer bass, clearer mids, and gentle, audible highs and that’s clearly the case with these buds.

The superb active noise-cancellation ANC also greatly helps to block out external sound. Even the wind noise reduction is solid. Sony says a combination of dual-sensor mics with beamforming and bone conduction technology help achieve this level of ANC fidelity.

Another reason why the ANC is so much better than on other earbuds: foam ear tips instead of the usual silicone. They fit tighter in your ears for a better seal. The only downside is that ear wax tends to stick to them more. (Keep wipes handy!)

Borrowed from the WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones is “Speak-to-Chat.” Start talking and your music pauses and ambient mode turns on. Detection is instant. It’s great for when you want to talk to someone and don’t want to take your earbuds out, like when you’re ordering at a coffee shop.

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Make sure to turn it off if you think out loud. You can always tap the left earbud to exit Speak-to-Chat, but if you talk to yourself when you’re working or reading (like I do sometimes), the repeated pausing can get annoying fast.

8

The XM4 last 8 hours with ANC — 3 hours longer than AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro.

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That’s two hours longer than the WF-1000XM3. The case holds another 16 hours of battery life. It’s mighty impressive! However, if battery life is a priority, Master & Dynamic’s MW08 lasts longer: up to 10 hours with ANC and 42 hours total with the case. They cost more, though.

The Sony Headphones Connect app has a slew of features.
Customize the touchpad controls, adjust settings, or use the equalizer to tweak sound profiles.

$$$

Sony’s WF-1000XM4 are not cheap: $279. They’re more expensive than 1000XM3 when they launched for $229 and pricier than AirPods Pro ($249), Galaxy Buds Pro ($199), and Echo Buds ($139). But if you want simply the best ANC and sound quality and longer battery life, the WF-1000XM4 are worth paying extra for. (Or wait for an inevitable sale.)

I rarely talk about packaging in reviews, but I’m making an exception. Not only is the unboxing experience thoughtfully designed with a stacked layout that doesn’t waste any space, but the packaging material is free of plastic and made from eco-friendly sugarcane fiber bamboo paper. Love this.