Analysis in a minute
The latest in Sony’s highly successful WF-1000 line of wireless headphones is small, lightweight and more eco-friendly than ever. Oh, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 also sound more articulate and immediate than the model they replace at the top of the range.
It is true that there is not a single thing (with the possible exception of the excellence of its control in the app) in which they are pioneers; But if you want something better than its combination of sound quality, noise cancellation, and battery, you’ll have to buy three pairs of wireless headphones.
In all respects, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are ‘very good’ or ‘oops, they are good’, and in general it is very difficult to put any fault on them.
Compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless headphones offer enough quality features to make them worth swapping out, even if they are a tad more expensive.
A more compact design means the Sony WF-1000XM4 are more comfortable and easier to carry, while the app simplifies control and equalizer settings.
Plus, features like Speak-To-Chat, DSEE Extreme rescaling, and Adaptive Noise Cancellation make finding a pair of wireless headphones to match this pair a very difficult task.
Although others surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4 in specific areas (noise cancellation, for example), none comes close to offering this quality. That is why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are undoubtedly the best true wireless on the market.
Sony WF-1000XM4: price and release date
- Now available for € 280
The Sony WF-1000XM4 are already on sale for € 280, and when you remember that the WF-1000XM3 came out for € 230 in 2019, and now they can be had for € 150, the price is quite fair. It can be compared favorably with a Bose or a Sennheiser.
Layout and controls
- Smaller than its predecessors
- Amazing control app
- Touch controls
The fantastic WF-1000XM3 gave us many reasons to recommend them, but ‘discretion’ was not on that list. They were big, and imagine their case, but Sony has chosen wisely and greatly reduced its size on this new model.
The charging case is 40% smaller, and the headphones themselves 10% smaller. The fact that they are still among the largest only serves as an example to illustrate how huge the WF-1000XM3 were, but at least the new charging case now fits in a pocket, and the headphones do not protrude excessively from the ears as if it were. a science fiction movie.
(Sony has also made changes to the packaging. The current WF-1000XM4’s box is 40% smaller than the previous model, and is completely made of recycled and eco-friendly paper.)
The WF-1000XM4 incorporate some of the features we saw in the headband WH-1000XM4 last year: active noise cancellation that detects what you do and where to adapt to your circumstances; quick pairing for Android and Windows; and Speak-To-Chat, which simply requires you to make a noise to pause the music so you can speak without removing your headphones. Noise cancellation has been increased thanks to the polyurethane rubbers (small, medium and large come in the box) designed to give an improved and passive noise reduction.
The only thing you need to control all the functions of the Sony WF-1000XM4 is the ‘Headphones’ application. This is where you can tweak all the features (all small but cool) that are duplicated on the touch pad of each earbud. In the app you can decide what you want each headset to control: volume up or down, play, pause, skip, forward, backward, call the voice assistant … or even the not so useful ‘do not assign anything’.
There is also an equalizer setting (the many presets it has includes one called ‘Excited’), and there is room for a couple of custom ones, with the option to enable or not auto-pause the DSEE Extreme. Here you can upload photos of your ears, in an effort by Sony to optimize the music streaming apps that offer 360 Reality Audio or Dolby Atmos, and where you can decide what type of Bluetooth connection you want to prioritize connection stability or quality stability of sound.
You can also control them from the main assistants (Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa), and they can be called by voice. Regardless of the assistant you choose, the WF-1000XM4 are highly intelligent and attentive to instructions, even in noisy environments.
There are three microphones on each earbud, which take care of active noise cancellation, call quality, and interaction with voice assistants. A combination of feedback picks up where the wearer’s voice is coming from, and will automatically mute when adverse conditions are detected (wind noise, most of the time). Sony has also included a bone conduction sensor, which picks up voice vibration, but does not register it as ambient sound.
Audio performance and noise cancellation
- Balanced and convincing sound
- Very good noise cancellation
- Good rhythmic and dynamic ability
Wearing the WF-1000XM4 comfortably is somewhat slower than usual. We find them somewhat complicated to insert, and it seems that they should be inserted more into the ear than it really is. Of course, once you configure the controls, the equalizer, and the numerous options, everything is going great. Hit play.
We started our tests with a list of Tidal Masters, and we were immediately impressed by the WF-1000XM4. They don’t let any frequency range predominate, they don’t miss any detail, and no rhythm or tempos are missed. There is a lot of enthusiasm in the presentation, but it is tied down by indisputable control.
Down at the extreme, the bass sounds with substance, texture, and tons of detail. There is plenty of momentum, but the WF-1000XM4 lose nothing: everything is perfectly balanced. The bass input and output are clean and well defined, which helps prevent the bass from going to midrange.
The media is just as rich: listening to Kate Bush’s ‘Lake Tahoe’, the WF-1000XM4’s ability to identify and incorporate the smallest detail was obvious. ‘Communicative’ may sound redundant when we talk about a singer, but it is very appropriate here: if they have to be labeled, the WF-1000XM4 are communicative.
The shift from mid-to-upper range is smooth and natural, and high-pitched sounds are bright and penetrate without being shrill. Kate Bush is more about hoarding high-frequency information, but the WF-1000XM4 handles it just as well as it does the rest of the frequency range.
(Everything mentioned above has been heard with an equalizer setting. It is rare that Sony allows the end user such great control over the sound of their headphones, but the truth is that the most natural and convincing sound comes from the flat EQ of the WF-1000XM4.)
In dynamism there is not much to criticize either. The WF-1000XM4 are capable of switching from ‘aural explosion’ to ‘near silence’ almost instantly, and even the most subtle harmonies of the Bush piano come to life. When it comes to rhythm and expression, their combination of control and attack ensures that they are always perfectly in tune with your music. All of this adds incredible support to convincingly natural timing and presentation.
Active noise cancellation is a hit for those who are slightly superior. The problem with other true wireless pairs with ANC is that the Bose QuitComfort have shown that it is possible to eliminate external noise without letting other signals enter and without impacting the quality of the music you are listening to.
The WF-1000XM4 don’t do the same trick, but they do minimize the impact of ambient sound on your music experience. They may not be the market leaders in noise cancellation, but for most users, they do the job very well.
Battery and connectivity
- Eight hours of battery
- Wireless charging
- Bluetooth 5.2
Even with the WF-1000XM4’s new physical downshifts, there’s a lot more to it than there was before. Connectivity is now Bluetooth 5.2, so streaming to both headphones is simultaneous and immediate, and when you use Sony’s LDAC codec, they’re Hi-Res wireless certified.
Bluetooth 5.2 should, in theory, translate into a better battery, but in the real world 24 hours a day (headphones last between 8 and 12 hours, depending on whether or not you use active noise cancellation and whether the headphones are you put to charge in the case or not) is nothing special. Anyway, at least the WF-1000XM4 have a Qi charge, and having them plugged in for five minutes will give you an hour of action.
Like LDAC, the WF-1000XM4 are compatible with SBC and AAC codecs, but not a trace of aptX. They also incorporate DSEE Extreme capabilities, in case you believe that an algorithm is supposed to be capable of extracting high-resolution sound from a standard definition digital audio file (we’ve never been completely convinced).
Should you buy the Sony WF-1000XM4?
Buy them if …
You need the best true wireless on the market
The WF-1000XM4 are not unbeatable (but almost) in sound quality, but for the comfort they offer they are worth more than the rest of what is out there.
You recognize a control app when you see it
The Sony app is an absolute marvel in stability, functionality, and overall usefulness.
You love the little comforts of life
‘Speak to chat’. Adaptive noise cancellation. ‘Quick attention’. IPX4. The WF-1000XM4 will simply make your life easier.
Don’t buy them if …
Noise cancellation is more important than sound quality
If you just look at that, the noise cancellation of the WF-1000XM4 is good. But other true wireless, like the Bose QuietComfort in particular, do better.
You will be away from an outlet for quite some time
A 24-hour charging case isn’t bad, but it’s nothing special either.
You think aptX is the pinnacle of wireless sound quality
Sony disagrees, but their LDAC is a good alternative, and is supported by most Android phones (sorry, iPhone users).