If you were disappointed with Sony’s WH-1000XM4 — considered by many to be the best over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation — because of their dated design that didn’t change much from previous models, you’re gonna love the new WH-1000XM5.
For the fifth-gen ANC headphones, Sony redesigned everything — inside and out. I’ve been wearing the WH-1000XM5 for about a week and a half nonstop and let me tell you: These are really friggin’ light and really comfortable for long hours of wear.
This isn’t a full review (that’s coming soon), but more of my first impressions. I plan to spend more time listening with the WH-1000XM5 and switching over to the WH-1000XM4, AirPods Max, and Bose QC45 to get a real sense of whether these cans are worth the $399.99 price tag when they go up for preorder on May 20. Do note: The WH-1000XM5 are not replacing the WH-1000XM4; those will remain on the market for the same $349.99 MSRP.
Sleeker headband, redesigned ear cups — Starting with the new aesthetics (available in black or silver), the WH-1000XM5 just look sleeker than the bulkier WH-1000XM4. Call that look “classic” or “iconic” (Bose even went brought back the QC35 design for the QC45 because so many people complained about the Bose 700’s trimmer design), but I’m here for the new.
The headband is noticeably slimmer and made from soft-touch synthetic leather. The padding is plush and provides plenty of support for my dome. It’s also pretty flexible so you don’t need to worry about it easily breaking if you tossed it in a bag (it does come with a case — and one that doesn’t look like a bra... looking at you Apple).
On paper, the WH-1000XM5 don’t appear much lighter: 250 grams versus the 254 grams for the WH-1000XM4, but you can feel the lightness immediately on pickup.
Sony also redesigned the ear cups. They’re a little larger to better cover different ear sizes and the interior sensor for auto-pause is hidden for a cleaner look. The typical touch-based tap and swipe controls are built into the ear cups.
Even better ANC and sound quality — Look, few people would say the WH-1000XM4’s ANC is not strong enough or the sound quality needs more improvement. But Sony couldn’t launch the WH-1000XM5 and not up the stakes. Sony says they’ve improved noise cancellation with its dual noise-canceling processors by doubling the microphones from four to eight.
A 30mm driver also boosts clarity in the mid and high-range frequencies for. The WH-1000XM5 support Hi-Res Audio using LDAC and DSEE Extreme; they also support Sony’s 360 Reality Audio if you’re into that.
I’ve been listening to music from a range of streaming services (as well as more Hi-Res Audio lately) and needless to say, the WH-1000XM5 delivers on crisp, powerful sound. The sound isn’t quite as warm as AirPods Max, but I really can’t fault it. Sony knows its audio. ANC is stellar — how much better over WH-1000XM4 is TBD.
To top things off, Sony says it’s improved microphone call quality on the WH-1000XM5 thanks to a combination of four beamforming microphones and noise reduction algorithms that use AI to improve clarity.
Same long battery life — There were rumors that Sony would push battery life with ANC turned on up to 40 hours, but that’s not the case. With ANC, the WH-1000XM5 last up to 30 hours on a charge; 40 hours with ANC turned off, though. This is still ridiculously high compared to the 20 hours from AirPods Max and 24 hours from the QC 45.
Other cool specs — There’s a lot to unpack beyond the new design and sound quality. The WH-1000XM5 support multi-point audio for pairing and switching with multiple devices, the packaging is plastic-free (always a plus), and features like Speak-to-Chat. Stay tuned for a full review on Input soon.