If you’re on the lookout for a new set of noise-cancelling headphones, you’ve come across the acclaimed review of Sony’s industry-leading long line of ANC cans, the Sony WH-1000XM5.
But do you really need to fork an extra dosh for the latest and greatest, or does the previous generation-Sony WH-1000XM4- also meet your needs?
As you can guess from the headline, the XM4 is more than enough for the majority of users, but if you need the latest ANC technology, the XM5 is a luxury expense. That’s why the XM4 is a better purchase.
A handful of dollars
Please note that Sony’s launch price for the XM5 is higher than the launch price for the XM4 in all regions, as the focus of this article is on the value each pair of headphones offers: £ 349 compared to £ 349. 379 / $ 349 / AU $ 549 / XM4 is $ 399/499 Australian dollars.
In addition, the XM4 has been on the market for nearly two years, so prices have dropped significantly since its release. As with all Sony audio products, these price drops tend to occur shortly after release.
So, at the moment you’re paying the full price of the latest XM5 can, but the XM4 is priced at as low as £ 200/$ 250/330 AUD and could reach that price again on Amazon. Prime Day sales may drop, or even lower.
All this means that you can get the WH-1000XM4 for about 60% of the price of the new XM5, depending on the location. So why spend that extra change?
More things will change …
The most notable improvement of XM5 over XM4 is its noise canceling ability. The number of microphones has doubled from 4 to 8 and the presence of additional processors improves the overall ANC.
However, at launch, the XM4 had the best noise canceling available in its class. It’s incredibly impressive two years later. If you’re absolutely obsessed with getting state-of-the-art ANC, the extra cost may be worth it to you.
Another direct difference is in the design. The XM5 offers the first major refreshment in the 1000X range since it was first launched. Subjective aesthetics aside, the new can no longer features the foldable design of the previous model, but retains about the same level of comfort and lightweight construction as the previous model. Again, it’s entirely up to you whether the extra money is worth it, but not one is an improvement on the other.
In more important areas such as audio production and battery life, the results are much more subtle. The driver size has been reduced from 40mm to 30mm on the new model, but most of the same audio signatures are present. Both provide an incredibly clear sound with great spatiality and overall warmth, bass response.
Battery life is the same with ANC, but 30 hours of listening is impressive, but newer models can spend an additional 2 hours (40 vs. 38) when canceling noise. I can do it.
Due to audio quality, battery life, build quality, and the comfort of sharing much of the same DNA between models, it’s much harder to propose the XM5 with ANC alone, given its huge price differences.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 may have scored a perfect score in our review, but so did the XM4, so before buying either, is it okay with the best noise canceling in 2020 instead of 2022? Please consider, and if that slight upgrade is worth the cost.
For a detailed breakdown of the features of each product, see the Sony WH-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM4 comparison article.
Siren no Uta with repeated upgrades
We’ve specifically described these two sets of Sony headphones here, but this logic can be applied to most common technology products. Phones, laptops and televisions are all affected by this trend.
Even if something was incredible a year or two ago, its functionality and appeal should not be compromised by the simple fact that something new and a little better has landed.
If this improved model is available at the same price as its competent ancestors and you don’t have the latter yet, it’s easy to choose an improved version, but discounts are commonly seen. Given that, it’s very rare. With an old model.
I think it’s good to “believe in hype” when a new product arrives, but it’s even more important to remember the hype when a successor inevitably goes on sale months later.