In 2017, when most Bluetooth headphones still had some remaining cable, Sony launched the WF-1000X, tiny headphones that also had noise cancellation. Today that’s the standard in premium headphones, but Sony still has a special talent for integrating audio technologies. The new WF-1000XM4 are the proof.
Two years after the WF-1000X, Sony released the WF-1000XM3 (there was never an XM2 because Sony). The XM3 solved one of the main problems of the original model, the poor battery life. The XM3s had it all: excellent sound quality, 24 hours of battery life thanks to the charging case, and the best noise cancellation available at the time. A few months later, Apple released the AirPods Pro, which showed a problem with the 1000XM3, its size. That design problem is still there.
A charging case that finally fits in your pocket
If you ask anyone who has owned a WF-1000XM3 the first thing they would change, the answer is usually the charging case, which was huge and heavy. That of the WF-1000XM3 is (40% according to the company) and in addition to charging via USB-C, it can be charged wirelessly using the Qi standard. It is not as small as the Airpods Pro, but it is much closer to it. Its autonomy, yes, remains the same. The headphones last up to eight hours on a single charge, and the case increases that duration by another 16 hours.
Big but comfortable headphones
The miniaturization has also reached the headphones themselves, but it is beginning to perceive that if you want outstanding noise cancellation you have to sacrifice something in terms of size.
The size of the WF-1000XM4 is smaller, but not much more. What he loses in length he gains in height. The good news is that they now fit better in the pinna and do not fall off as easily.
The WF-1000XM4 are still one of the biggest in-ear headphones out there. Big enough that you hesitate to wear them during sports sessions like running. Right now there are smaller and lighter options with which to play sports.
In Sony’s defense, it must be said that the WF-1000XM4 grip the ears much better than its predecessors. One of the reasons is because in the package, apart from the silicone tips, there are three memory foam tips. Simply squeeze these tips, insert them into the ear and let them expand for a perfect fit.
Memory foam tips are nothing new. In fact there are companies like Comply who sell these tips for different headphones because they also have to be changed every month or so for hygiene reasons. Sony ensures that its foam earbuds do not need to be replaced for the life of the device.
A peaceful place
Although Sony’s noise-canceling technology isn’t perfect, the WF-1000XM4s make me suspect it has little to go. If you use the foam tips, the ability of these headphones to isolate you from the outside is spectacular compared to all the headphones I have tried so far. The pandemic has not let me travel much precisely, so for the tests of my latest ANC headphones I have used the typical conversation in the background of a cafe, the cockpit hum of an Airbus A320 and all kinds of prerecorded crowded public transport noises and played on my speakers at full volume.
ANC systems are less effective with some frequencies (usually high frequencies) than others. The Sony WF-1000XM4s are so good at muting multiple frequencies of noise at the same time that at times I thought the speakers had lost connection and sound was coming out of the laptop’s small speakers instead. That was not the case. If you travel frequently and work or study in very noisy environments you will not find anything less than this.
Great sound quality
One of the few things you can almost take for granted in the tech world is that Sony headphones are going to sound good. The WF-1000XM4 are no exception. They sound fantastically good.
Right out of the box and without touching the settings, using the WF-1000XM4 to watch a movie is like doing it on a perfectly calibrated television. The balance between high and low frequencies is perfect. The former sound crisp and crystal clear, and the bass is powerful but without distortion or gagging. Interestingly, the XM4 achieve this quality with internal speakers of only 6mm. There are companies like Master & Dynamic that have speakers up to 11mm in much smaller headphones.
I like headphones with bigger speakers better because it generally means that the bass is going to get punchier. In that sense my preference continues to lean towards the Master & Dynamic MW08 on these Sony WF-1000XM4. Around the 30th second of Tropic Remix de Ily (Surf Mesa), the rhythm-setting percussion sounds much more satisfying to me on the MW08 than on the XM4.
That said, even with the 6mm drivers, the Sony WF-1000XM4’s bass performance is outstanding. If we adjust the integrated equalizer in your app and activate the pure bass option, the quality of the low frequencies is always clear and without distortion. Noise cancellation and audio quality are two must-have subjects for any brand of headphones, and the 1000XM4 doesn’t pass them, it’s that they pass them with A’s.
Extras to sweeten the dish
The premium headphone sector is increasingly saturated, so manufacturers have to add value if they want their products to stand out. you Bowers & Wilkins PI7For example they have a case that streams to other audio devices. The extras on the WF-1000X4 are somewhat less imaginative, but very useful.
Sadly, there is no multi-device connectivity like in the WH-1000XM4 over-the-ear headphones. What we do have is voice detection that causes playback to pause if we start talking or if someone else starts talking to us closely. It is a function that avoids us having to touch the headphones to speak. Call quality is good, although people I’ve spoken to say it is best heard directly from the phone.
The touch controls work great, and in case we like the default ones we can configure them at will from the app. So we can activate the Adaptive Sound Control option, which manages the noise cancellation for us using our activity and the GPS. There is even a function to analyze the shape of our ear and recommend the correct size of rubber or foam tip to minimize noise.
Is it worth updating? It depends on your priorities
If sound quality and comfort are your priorities I still recommend the Master & Dynamic MW08 wireless above these even though they are $ 30 more expensive. They’re smaller, lighter, more comfortable to wear, and their internal 11mm speakers have a bass punch that rivals that of over-the-ear headphones.
The cancellation of the Master & Dynamic is also very good, and its autonomy crushes that of the Sony, with 12 hours in the headphones and 42 with the case.
Of course, if sound cancellation is important to you, you will not find anything better than the WF-1000XM4. They may be a bit bigger, but the huge microphones and their sensors have once again shown that Sony not only defends the throne of the ANC, but has raised the bar when it comes to silencing the world around you.