August 2, 2021

Review: Sony WH-1000XM4 – Enjoy the Silence – Nieuws

There are still certainties in life: taxes, rising water levels and… the fact that Sony occasionally releases a new version of its top noise-cancelling headphones. Model four listens to the sexy model number WH-1000XM4 and Data News did the test.

There are those gadgets that make you wonder: what on earth can be improved? We had that feeling when we put the WH-1000XM3 through its paces in 2018. Or better: let loose on the ears. Sony had already perfected its wireless over-the-ear headphones with noise canceling to such an extent that a successor did not even seem necessary.

Extra wearing comfort

Maybe it was. But: standing still means going backwards, and the competition (especially Bose, in this market segment) is of course not twirling their fingers either. And so Sony prepared the WH-1000XM4 behind the scenes. In terms of design, very little has changed – at most a few small adjustments for even more wearing comfort. For example, the ear cups offer ten percent more space, so that they feel more pleasant and there is also more ventilation in the shells (read: a smaller chance of sweat development). Despite this change, the 1000XM4 as a whole is a fraction lighter and more compact than its predecessor – a matter of grams and millimeters. The wearing comfort is again top notch, although we have the impression that our glasses are pressed a little more firmly against the head than with the previous model.

Sony WH-1000XM4. © Sony

The heart of the noise reduction on the 1000XM4 is once again formed by Sony’s HD Noise Canceling QN1 processor. Although it now uses an improved algorithm. With noise canceling, an opposite cancellation signal is generated via microphones on the headphones – also called ‘anti-noise’. What remains is the music, against a background of silence. The microphones also make the XM4 suitable for hands-free calling and for putting the Google Assistant to work.

The QN1 chip is assisted by a new Bluetooth Audio SoC. This not only helps to optimize the sound quality, but also adds ‘multi-point connection’ for the first time. In plain English: you can easily connect the headphones to two Bluetooth devices at the same time, for example a notebook and a smartphone. When a call comes in, the headphone will automatically connect to the correct device. The user can of course also switch between two devices, with a simple tap against the touchpad on one of the ear cups.

Sony's HD Noise Cancelling QN1-processor., Sony
Sony’s HD Noise Cancelling QN1-processor. © Sony

Polishing away sharp edges

The difference with predecessor WH-1000XM3 is not only barely visible, but also barely audible: the sound quality was already of a sublime level last time, just like the efficiency of the noise reduction. How can you make the music sound even better? Sony came up with the idea of ​​giving the audio signal itself a facelift. To this end, the Japanese tech giant, together with Sony Music Studios Tokyo, developed the Edge AI audio system. This technology restores the quality lost with digital compression of audio tracks, taking advantage of a large database of music tracks. Edge-AI analyzes the music in real-time and recognizes instruments, genres and individual elements of an audio track. “Treble notes lost in compression are restored for a richer listening experience,” says Sony.

For the rest, the new 1000XM4 mainly offers more gadgets in the field of ease of use. Speak-to-Chat, for example, can be activated via the (very) extensive app for iPhone and Android devices. Once enabled, music playback will automatically pause as soon as you start talking. Handy for ordering a coffee on the go without having to remove the headphones or pause the music in the classic way.

Another smart thing is wearing detection. Thanks to two distance sensors and two motion sensors, the headphones stop playing as soon as the device is turned off. The music will automatically resume when the user resets the 1000XM4. Such a function was already on the previous model, but now clearly works a bit more reliably.

Sony WH-1000XM4., Sony
Sony WH-1000XM4. © Sony

Discover your spot

Not new, but still worth mentioning: you can extensively personalize the sound of the WH-1000XM4 via the aforementioned Sony’s Headphones app. The application houses an equalizer, a tool to analyze the ear shape and – above all – a setting called Adaptive Sound Control.

This function automatically detects where you are (a quiet place, on an airplane or train) and whether you are sitting, walking or running at that moment. Depending on these parameters, the best or most secure noise reduction is set: for example, you will continue to hear traffic on the street, and you will not miss any important announcements at the airport. With the 1000XM4, this function is even self-learning: via the GPS function of the smartphone, the headphones gradually learn to recognize your most visited locations, such as a gym or station, and then automatically set the best noise reduction for that place.

The excellent battery performance of the predecessor has not changed: the WH-1000XM4 still sings for thirty hours with noise cancellation, or 38 hours without noise cancellation. A short charge of ten minutes is also sufficient for another five hours of listening pleasure.

Conclusion

The WH-1000XM4 approaches perfection even more than Sony’s previous over-the-ear headphones with noise canceling, but looking for very large differences is in vain. The added value is mainly in handy gadgets such as Speak-to-Chat, the improved wearing dection and the possibility to connect the gadget to two Bluetooth devices at the same time. Downsides? Not really, but there is something else to take into account: predecessor 1000XM3, still available here and there, has fallen sharply in price. In some stores, that model is currently up to 150 euros cheaper than the newcomer. Personally, we would opt for that competitive deal. Even though the WH-1000XM4 is technically superior, it will undoubtedly get even better through firmware updates in the coming months and years.

Recommended price: 380 euros (including storage cover, available in black and silver)

There are those gadgets that make you wonder: what on earth can be improved? We had that feeling when we put the WH-1000XM3 through its paces in 2018. Or better: let loose on the ears. Sony had already perfected its wireless over-the-ear headphones with noise canceling to such an extent that a successor didn’t even seem necessary. Maybe it was. But: standing still means going backwards, and the competition (especially Bose, in this market segment) is of course not twirling their fingers either. And so Sony prepared the WH-1000XM4 behind the scenes. In terms of design, very little has changed – at most a few small adjustments for even more wearing comfort. For example, the ear cups offer ten percent more space, so that they feel more pleasant and there is also more ventilation in the shells (read: a smaller chance of sweat development). Despite this change, the 1000XM4 as a whole is a fraction lighter and more compact than its predecessor – a matter of grams and millimeters. The wearing comfort is again top notch, although we have the impression that our glasses are pressed a little more firmly against the head than with the previous model. The heart of the noise reduction with the 1000XM4 is once again formed by Sony’s HD Noise Canceling QN1 processor. Although it now uses an improved algorithm. With noise canceling, an opposite cancellation signal is generated via microphones on the headphones – also called ‘anti-noise’. What remains is the music, against a background of silence. The microphones also make the XM4 suitable for hands-free calling and for putting the Google Assistant to work. The QN1 chip is assisted by a new Bluetooth Audio SoC. This not only helps to optimize the sound quality, but also adds ‘multi-point connection’ for the first time. In plain English: you can easily connect the headphones to two Bluetooth devices at the same time, for example a notebook and a smartphone. When a call comes in, the headphone will automatically connect to the correct device. The user can of course also switch between two devices himself, with a simple tap on the touchpad on one of the ear cups. The difference with the predecessor WH-1000XM3 is not only barely visible, but also barely audible: the sound quality was previous times already at a sublime level, as is the efficiency of the noise reduction. How can you make the music sound even better? Sony came up with the idea of ​​giving the audio signal itself a facelift. To this end, the Japanese tech giant, together with Sony Music Studios Tokyo, developed the Edge AI audio system. This technology restores the quality lost with digital compression of audio tracks, taking advantage of a large database of music tracks. Edge-AI analyzes the music in real-time and recognizes instruments, genres and individual elements of an audio track. “Trebles lost in compression are restored for a richer listening experience,” says Sony. Otherwise, the new 1000XM4 offers more features in terms of ease of use. Speak-to-Chat, for example, can be activated via the (very) extensive app for iPhone and Android devices. Once enabled, music playback will automatically pause as soon as you start talking. Handy for ordering a coffee on the go without having to remove the headphones or pause the music in the classic way. Another clever thing is wearing detection. Thanks to two distance sensors and two motion sensors, the headphones stop playing as soon as the device is turned off. The music will automatically resume when the user resets the 1000XM4. Such a function was already on the previous model, but now clearly works a bit more reliably. Not new, but still worth mentioning: you can extensively personalize the sound of the WH-1000XM4 via the aforementioned Sony’s Headphones app. The application houses an equalizer, a tool to analyze the ear shape and – above all – a setting called Adaptive Sound Control. This function detects fully automatically where you are (a quiet place, on an airplane or train) and whether you are sitting at that moment , walk or run. Depending on these parameters, the best or most secure noise reduction is set: for example, you will continue to hear traffic on the street, and you will not miss any important announcements at the airport. With the 1000XM4, this function is even self-learning: via the GPS function of the smartphone, the headphones gradually learn to recognize your most visited locations, such as a gym or station, and then automatically set the best noise reduction for that place. nothing has changed from the predecessor: the WH-1000XM4 still manages 30 hours with noise cancellation, or 38 hours without noise cancellation. A short charge of ten minutes is also sufficient for another five hours of listening pleasure. The WH-1000XM4 approaches perfection even more than Sony’s previous over-the-ear headphones with noise canceling, but the search for very large differences is in vain. The added value is mainly in handy gadgets such as Speak-to-Chat, the improved wearing dection and the possibility to connect the gadget to two Bluetooth devices at the same time. Downsides? Not really, but there is something else to take into account: predecessor 1000XM3, still available here and there, has fallen sharply in price. In some stores, that model is currently up to 150 euros cheaper than the newcomer. Personally, we would opt for that competitive deal. Even though the WH-1000XM4 is technically superior, it will undoubtedly become even better via firmware updates in the coming months and years. Recommended price: 380 euros (including storage cover, available in black and silver)

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