Sony WH-1000XM5 BT, ANC, headphones – great gets even better (review)

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is the 2022 iteration of the now famous WH-1000X series of BT, ANC, over-the-ear headphones.

And at $549, these are excellent value for the depth of features on offer. Some would say this is the world’s best headphone of its type. We say they are damned good, but Sennheiser, Bose, and others have strengths and weaknesses too.

Sony’s strength is battery life, probably the best noise cancelling, excellent sound signature, and DSEE Extreme upscale that makes lower-res music sound better.

Its weakness is the lack of Qualcomm aptX codecs, but it has Sony’s LDAC codec for higher res music if your BT host device supports that. It won’t play and charge over USB-C (no DAC as Sennheiser has), and the fold-flat case is quite large.

Australian Review: Sony WH-1000XM5

WebsiteProduct Page  
Price$549
FromSony Online and major CE Retailers
ColoursPlatinum or Black. Includes case, USB-A to USB-C cable and 3.5mm cable
Warranty1-year
Country of OriginChina
CompanySONY is a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. As a major technology company, it operates as one of the world’s largest consumer and professional electronic products manufacturers, the largest video game console company, and the largest video game publisher.
MoreCyberShack Sony news and reviews

We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed.

You can click on most images for an enlargement.

First Impression – streamlined but still has WH-1000X styling – Pass+

A slimmer memory foam headband, stepless slider, exposed swivel arm, but it now only folds flat – no Origami-like hinge of the WH-1000XM4 or Sennheiser PXC 550-II (227/187/414g), so it is pretty big in your bag.

The headphones now weigh 250g, and the hard-sided, fabric/flocked case is 285g for a total of 535g. Still nowhere near as heavy as the 307/315/622g Bowers and Wilkins Px7 S2, BT, ANC, Headphones (review).

Being a little picky, they are mostly made of ABS (recycled plastic) that slightly downgrades the premium feel of its successors. But it is good to be green.

Overall, they are attractive and subtly Sony.

Setup – Manual or the Sony Headphone App – Pass

While you can BT pair with any BT host (and fast pair on Android and Windows ), there is also an Android or iOS App.

Now we complain about Apps and privacy, but this App can record activity x location and adjust the sound to environments. If you want to avoid that, you need not create an account and use the app as usual, so Sony does not lose points here.

The App can

  • Update firmware (this is very slow!)
  • Has a full +/-10dB EQ for sound signature control
  • Speak to chat setting – simply start to talk
  • Select Noise Cancelling, Ambient sound or off
  • Enable multipoint (2 simultaneous connections)
  • Voice Assistant setup
  • Change the action button and add Quick Access multiple push commands
  • Power off, pause or do nothing when headphones are removed
  • Enable voice prompts
  • Connect to services
  • Spotify Quick Access
  • 360 Reality Sound setup

There is also a free trial of Sony 360 Reality Audio. We did not test this functionality as it requires a subscription to Deezer, nugs.net, or Tidal.

That is as close to 100% of possible features as we have seen on headphones. If you want more details on the App, read Sony LinkBuds S WF-LS900N – quality mid-range BT/ANC earphones (review).

Fit and Comfort – Pass+

They are mid-weight and quite comfortable for a few hours of use. We only wore them for four hours daily, and the pads get a little toasty, but we did not feel the need to adjust or remove them.

The ear cups are deep and mushier (memory foam) and ample size for most ears. Remember that you need a close fit for the best passive noise isolation.

Buttons and Touch controls – Pass+ with caveats

The right earcup is touch-enabled and, most importantly, very responsive and accurate. But it can be a nuisance with false positives if you brush the cup or wear glasses. There are two physical buttons on the left earcup for ANC/Ambient/Off and Power/Bluetooth.

Automatic Adaptive Noise Cancelling (AANC) and Ambient sound – Exceed

It now has eight mics (four per cup) – two are for voice beamforming. An automatic adaptive noise-cancelling algorithm optimises ANC levels based on wearing conditions and external environmental factors such as atmospheric pressure.

It will recognise your frequent environments like work, home, transit etc., (if you enable this in the App) and adjust ANC to suit. Even without location permission, AANC works very well. I found that it removed low bass (<100Hz) like train noise, but Ambient allowed the announcements through. It also removes higher frequency  (>4kHZ) hums like fan or AC and noisy children.

It is the best ANC I have heard, but audiophiles (like me) will tell you this is at the expense of music quality. When it does its job in noisy environments, the sound is compressed and can lack a little sparkle. You can adjust the EQ, but that defeats the purpose of Automatic Adaptive NC.

We measured good noise attenuation from 20-200Hz, and a mix of active and passive isolation takes over to 2kHz when it then stops. You know that passive isolation works when others cannot hear your music.

Battery  – 30 hours BT, ANC, any codec – Pass+

We wore the headphones for four hours a day over seven days using a mix of SBC and LDAC codecs. In the end, it still had 20% battery remaining.

Charge time using USB-C 5V/3A/15W (or as low as 5V/1A/5W) is about 3.5 hours. You can fast charge – 3 minutes for 3 hours!

Inputs – Pass(able)

BT 5.2 allows multi-point connection (need to enable this in the App), which works well. It fast pairs to Android and Windows 11. They also work on iOS devices (not tested but has some reduced functionality).

It supports SBC, AAC and Sony LDAC. We tried with a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (Qualcomm SD 8 Gen 1) and OPPO Find X5 Pro (Qualcomm SD8 Gen 1) – both of which support Qualcomm aptX codecs and LDAC.

Both phones select SBC by default and offer AAC as the higher res option. Without fail, we had issues getting the phones to use LDAC (we finally did so by forcing it in Developer Options).

Hands-free – Exceed

The eight mics do a superb job suppressing external noise and wind noise. Callers commented on clarity and volume even though I was outside in 25kph freezing winds. If you regularly use hand-free, then this is the one to use.

How do they sound? Exceed with a few caveats

If you are an audiophile purist, you will never be happy with BT, ANC, or closed-back headphones. It is a case of the best ANC will compress music. Sony has done an excellent job within those constraints. For the best all-around music versus ANC compression, Sony WH-1000XM5 has nailed it.

The sound stage is a little tight (as it is with most closed-back designs), feeling more that it is inside your head than outside your ears. But with Dolby Atmos content, the sound stage widened significantly with good 3D spatial. However, had we opted to test the Sony 360 Audio, it would have analysed our eats and optimised the sound even further.

The maximum volume is 84dB.

Let’s analyse the sound.

We tested with ANC, Ambient sound and off. All had a similar native white noise response (to be expected), but there were subtle differences in music quality.

Deep Bass: 20-40HzNo
Middle Bass: 40-100HzStrong, almost vertical build to 70Hz and flat to 4kHz
High Bass: 100 to 200HzFlat
Low-mid: 200-400HzFlat
Mid: 400-1000HzFlat
High-mid: 1-2kHzFlat
Low-treble: 2-4kHzFlat
Treble:4-6kHzVery slow decline and a slight dip at 6kHz to avoid harshness and help with ANC
High Treble: 6-10kHzReturns to flat
Dog whistle: 10-20kHzSecond slight dip to avoid harshness, then solid to 20kHz

This means it has a Neutral sound signature: The audiophile standard is a flat (good) response that neither adds nor subtracts from the original music! The only issue here is garbage-in, garbage out – the better the music quality, the better it sounds.

It also means that the EQ works and can recessed bass, mid and treble to give you Mid for clear voice, warm and sweet for most music and bright vocal for string instruments and vocals.

What it means to me is

  • A clean bass thump with precise notes (Mid-bass is the most critical where you get all the musically important bass. An average sub-woofer usually handles this).
  • High-mid covers the human voice (1-4khz), where our ears are most sensitive even as we age. This is the critical area for clear dialogue.
  • Low-mid treble defines the sound character and adds sparkle
  • High-treble add a sense of sound direction and a feeling of ‘air’, a reality as though the music were really there

I could listen to the Sony WH-1000XM5 all day. But for sheer music joy and pleasure, the Sennheiser Momentum wins because it won’t compromise sound over ANC.

DSEE-HX Extreme – Pass+

The Sony WH-1000XM5 has enough processing power to upscale ripped MP3s and lower quality music to faux higher res. Does it work? Yes, reducing background noise, pops and hiss to produce cleaner music. Leave it on – it does not hurt.

Latency – Not for games – Pass(able)

PC latency over SBC is over 200ms, and Android is about 125ms. This is not noticeable for movies and music but is too high for gamers. LDAC latency is also high and disables multi-point use.

CyberShack’s view – Sony WH-1000XM5 is the best BT/ANC headphone, but it depends on what you expect

For all-around use, these are hard to beat. But the new non-folding design puts the Sennheiser PCX-550 II ahead for travel (EPOS Adapt 660 AMC – Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team co-brand (Review) – these are the same. And for music, the Sennheiser Momentum is tops. Sennheiser supports Qualcomm aptX codecs and will play while charging – Sony does not.

If you own Apple, these are excellent, but Apple restricts some functionality, so the AirPod Max is the go. Still, these are way cheaper than AirPod Max.

That is not to put Bose QC 45 and 700 down either. Excellent BT/ANC with a Bose twist and for Bose lovers.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is another winner, and you won’t be disappointed.

Sony WH-1000XM5 BT, ANC, headphones

$549
9.5

Features

10.0/10

Value

10.0/10

Performance

9.5/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Designm

9.0/10

Pros

  • Full +/-10dB EQ and comprehensive App that does not require private details
  • 30 hours BT/ANC battery life
  • Excellent Automatic ANC
  • Well-made with a travel case
  • Best yet for hands-free use and multipoint pairing

Cons

  • No Qualcomm aptX codecs
  • Can't listen and charge
  • Fold flat and a large travel case
  • Narrow sound stage, but it expands with Atmos content


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