Sony has long been a dominant force in the world of noise-canceling headphones. Their WH-1000XM line is loved by so many people for its comfort, sound quality, and top-notch noise-canceling abilities. With the release of the WH-1000XM5, Sony has taken a bold step, introducing some significant changes.
In this review, I’ll take a closer look at these changes and compare the new model to its predecessors. I’ll also discuss whether or not the WH-1000XM5 is worthy of taking the throne as the best noise-canceling headphones on the market.
Design: Sleek but Less Travel-Friendly
One of the most noticeable changes in the WH-1000XM5 is the new design. Sporting a minimal, sharp, and clean look, these headphones are now available in dark and light variants. The ear cups are slightly bigger and wider, making them more comfortable to wear. The vegan leather material used is much softer, contributing to an overall lightweight and comfortable pair of headphones.
The right-side ear cup still features a touch-sensitive panel for controlling playback and volume, and head detection is still present despite the lack of a plastic cutout. The number of microphones has doubled, with four on each side, improving noise cancellation and voice quality.
However, this new design has a major drawback: the WH-1000XM5 no longer folds. This makes it less travel-friendly compared to previous models, as it takes up more space in your bag. The sliding headband design, similar to the Bose 700s and AirPods Max, prevents the headphones from folding down into a smaller size. As a result, the carrying case is also larger, although it has a modern and attractive design.
Despite the larger size, the case still offers a magnetic door compartment for storing the charging cable and an audio cable. While the new design may look premium and trendy, the inability to fold the headphones down can be a significant inconvenience for frequent travelers.
Noise Cancellation: A New Level of Immersion
The WH-1000XM5 has taken noise cancellation to new heights. With the addition of extra microphones and an improved processor, these headphones provide even stronger noise cancellation capabilities. They excel at blocking out low-frequency droning sounds, such as airplane engines and road noise, while also being more effective at canceling out higher frequencies, like appliances and human voices.
The transparency mode is also present in this model, allowing users to adjust the level of external sound that passes through the headphones. While it performs better than the Bose 700s, it doesn’t quite match the AirPods Max in terms of clarity and natural sound.
Sound Quality: Impressive and Immersive
When it comes to sound quality, the WH-1000XM5 does not disappoint. Sony has managed to improve the already excellent sound quality of the previous models.
The new drivers provide a richer, more detailed sound signature, with punchy bass, crystal-clear mids, and crisp highs. The headphones also support LDAC, which allows for higher-quality Bluetooth audio streaming from compatible devices.
The 360 Reality Audio feature makes a return, offering an immersive and engaging listening experience. However, it’s worth noting that this feature still requires compatible tracks and streaming services, which might limit its usability for some users.
Battery Life: Reliable and Enduring
Battery life remains one of the WH-1000XM5’s strong suits. With up to 30 hours of playback time on a single charge, you can trust these headphones to last through long flights or multiple days of use without needing a recharge. Quick charging is also available, providing up to 5 hours of playback with just a 10-minute charge.
The WH-1000XM5 now uses USB-C for charging, which is more convenient and faster than the micro USB port found in previous models. The headphones also offer a power-saving mode that disables noise cancellation and other features to extend battery life further.
Price and Comparison to Previous Models
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is priced higher than its predecessors, making it a significant investment for potential buyers. The increased price tag can be justified by the improvements in noise cancellation, sound quality, and comfort. However, the less travel-friendly design may be a deal-breaker for some.
|Minimal, sharp, clean look. Available in dark and light variants. Ear cups are slightly bigger and wider. Vegan leather material is softer. Headband slides like the Bose 700s and AirPods Max. Cannot fold down into a smaller size.
|Notched headband track. Can fold down into a smaller size.
|Number of microphones
|8 (4 on each side)
|Larger due to inability to fold down headphones. Offers a magnetic door compartment for storing cables.
|Smaller due to ability to fold down headphones. Offers a magnetic door compartment for storing cables.
|31 hours, 53 minutes with ANC on. Fast charging: 3 minutes of charging provides 180 minutes of playtime.
|Good. Fast charging: 5 minutes of charge yields 180 minutes of playback.
When compared to the WH-1000XM4, the new model offers noticeable improvements in noise cancellation and sound quality. The design changes, while controversial, provide a more modern and sleek appearance. For those who already own the XM4, the decision to upgrade will come down to whether the enhanced noise cancellation and sound quality are worth the trade-off in portability.
If you’re interested in learning more about other top contenders in the audio market, be sure to check out this comprehensive comparison of Nothing Ear 2, AirPods Pro 2, and Galaxy Buds2 Pro.
Verdict: A Worthy Successor with a Compromise
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is an impressive piece of audio technology, offering top-notch noise cancellation, sound quality, and comfort. The design changes make it stand out from previous models, providing a fresh and modern look. However, the inability to fold the headphones and the larger carrying case may deter frequent travelers.
|Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones
|Buy on Amazon
If you’re in the market for high-quality noise-canceling headphones and aren’t concerned about portability, the WH-1000XM5 is an excellent choice. If you own the XM4 and are considering an upgrade, weigh the benefits of the improved noise cancellation and sound quality against the less travel-friendly design.
- Pros: The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones are comfortable to wear, have excellent sound quality, and have a long battery life. They also come with a variety of features, such as active noise cancellation, ambient sound mode, and touch controls.
- Cons: The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones are expensive. They also don’t have a built-in microphone, so you’ll need to use an external microphone if you want to take calls or record videos.
Overall, the Sony WH-1000XM5 manages to build on the success of its predecessors while making some bold changes. It’s a top contender in the noise-canceling headphone market and is sure to please most users looking for an immersive listening experience.