When it comes For headphones, Sony has to work harder than many others. Apple, Samsung, and even Google — these companies can run many products primarily based on the smartphone business. This does not apply to any of the above. Everything is perfectly good headphones to varying degrees. This is just the truth. I know to some extent that my loyalty to the brand is a bit tight, I’m a little closer to the retailer, and the product works on the device right out of the box.
Yes, Sony is making phones. In fact, the company just announced a great looking Xperia device earlier this week. However, the company does not have enough foothold to actually generate meaningful sales in the mobile market. What the company lacks a mobile foothold, however, is more than supplementing the audio pedigree.
When I first listened to it, I was fascinated by the WH-1000XM3. Curiously, I remember exactly where I first tried it. Sitting in a conference room with lots of Sony executives, the company did a clever trick of flipping the plane noise I noticed only when I took them off. Over-ear headphones have entered a fully formed world with a firm eye on Bose’s longtime favorite QuietComfort line. And they delivered.
The follow-up M4 didn’t receive an exciting demo (with its launch in August 2020), but it was the mainstay of my life. If you have a conference call with me, or have seen me hosting live panels or podcasts, you’ve probably seen them in my ears. Fit, noise canceling, and sound quality-all of which make a truly great pair of headphones. Whenever someone asks me to recommend a great pair of overyears, I always point them in the direction of Sony.
Today, after a seemingly endless series of leaks, the company finally announced the latest addition to the line, the WH-1000XM5. If the naming scheme isn’t broken …
The new version of the headphones features the largest product redesign since the M3 and significant improvements in sound quality. Overall, it’s not enough to recommend that M4 or M3 owners bite a $ 400 bullet to upgrade, but it’s enough to keep Sony at the top of my recommendation list for the fourth year in a row. So I’m looking forward to them coming to my mind during the meeting.
Sound quality is clearly the best on the list of things we see on headphones (spoilers: it’s very good), but after all, if you don’t want to wear them, it’s not that important. All entries on the line are very comfortable and Sony manages to win here. Headphones weigh 250 grams and are cut 4 grams from M4. Not so many, but it’s enough to notice the difference when holding both pairs in your hand. It will also be added if you plan to wear it for a long time while listening to music, during a meeting or on an airplane.
The ear cups are a little bigger than last time. It’s a subtle change, but it’s great to wear more comfortably. You need sensitive ears because you can wear them with comfortable headphones, but that’s not a problem for now. This was partially aided by the addition of a new soft synthetic leather material. The biggest concern with all these is that headphones can sweat a bit in warm environments, which is a complaint for most over-ear headphones.
Like its predecessor, this system relies on a more standardized form of noise canceling rather than the adaptive variety adopted by some competitors. But all said, it’s great here. I didn’t have the chance to wear it on an airplane (I think it will be around next month), but if I wear it around my apartment or in the city, it works. Sony has doubled and quadrupled the ANC processor and microphone, respectively.
The quality of the voice is excellent. I use headphones to make phone calls and hold meetings. I’m not ready to throw away the standalone USB mic for podcasting, but it works fine for Zoom calls. With the new 30mm driver, the sound quality is excellent and immersive. You can always mess with the EQ in Sony’s Headphones app, but so far I’m happy with the default settings for various music. I’m currently focused on using the Endel Music app to beat this post, but I’m happy with the mix of all genres, from hip-hop to classical to country.
The headphone band has been redesigned to reduce valuable grams from the overall weight. All its drawbacks are that the M5 does not collapse as small as its predecessor. This means, among other things, that the carrying case has a large footprint. Those who travel frequently should be careful. The battery life listed is the same as its predecessor, 30 hours. This is pretty good if you arrive almost twice as long as the longest direct flight in the world. It also has a quick charge function and can be used for 3 hours in 3 minutes.
A Bluetooth connection, an element that is often overlooked, is excellent. These things connect in an instant. The default “device 1 connected” audio now has a simple (and more subdued) effect that makes it sound like a stringed instrument is being played.
The button layout is the same here. There are two cups on the left for power and Bluetooth pairing and ANC on / off switching. You can also double-click or triple-click a button to assign different functions using the Sony app. This allows you to start Spotify, etc. Both have a large touchpad on the cup. By default, double-clicking on the right will display the last song left. The cup on the left is also mercifully equipped with a headphone jack. The system comes with that cable so you can wire it to your seatback or connect it to your laptop.
Headphones cost $ 399, which is $ 50 more than the already expensive M4. Therefore, it is not suitable for all budgets. The company chalks that prices will jump to new materials, but who knows? It’s worth it, so if you’re keeping your M4 at $ 350 and don’t want to spend an additional $ 50, these remain a great pair of headphones.