Sony WF-1000XM4 are remarkable BT, ANC earphones (long-term review)

The Sony WF-1000XM4 are remarkable in almost every way. They provide excellent noise cancellation, easy listening neutral sound signature, and they are worth every cent of the $368 price tag.

But (isn’t there always one) it depends on your budget and needs as there are plenty of excellent BT ANC earphones (Bluetooth, Noise cancelling) starting from $199 that may just fit your needs.

We have been using the Sony WF-1000XM4 for a few months now, hence the long-term review.

Comfort

I prefer Sony’s foam tips to silicone gel tips, and Sony’s deliver all-day use. They are more comfortable and expand once in your ear. If you compress them before you insert them, they work even better.

Fit test

The App has an air-tightness test. While my left ear was fine with medium tips, I ended up using large tips on the right. This is the first time I have ever used different sized tips.

The App – Sony Headphone Control

You need the App to set these up and update the firmware. It wants you to create an account and agree to activity tracking to ‘start recording your activities and enjoy your life with your headphones.’ It also encourages you to sign in with a Sony, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, or Google Account – you don’t have an option to use a junk email (details on how to set one up at the end) and a password.

Never, repeat, never, sign in with another account as you open tracking to that account as well. I find that a little creepy.

The App has Sound, ANC, EQ and system features.

Controls

Each bud has touch controls that are 99% reliable. You can change the allocated taps to other actions.

Battery life

Sony claim 8/12 hours ANC On/Off. We tested for a full day with ANC, and it managed 7 hours and 53 minutes at 75% volume. There is 16-24 hours more in the charge USB-C/Qi charge case.

Hands-free

Speak to chat switches ANC and music off to enable clear voice and some sidetone. If you don’t speak for 15 seconds, it switches back.

We have mixed feelings about the hands-free. It was fit for purpose in most calls, but in some, the recipient said my voice sounded ‘far off’.

Wind reduction needs to be manually switched on in the App, but it switches off noise cancelling.

Voice control

OK Google can switch on and off ANC and Ambient sound. It will summon Alex and Siri as well.

Sound

It is a neutral sound signature with perhaps a slight kick in mid-bass and high-mid. The EQ can then cut (it cannot boost sound past the native sound signature) and offers 12 pre-sets (custom setups). You can adjust +/- 10dB from 400Hz to 16kHz (20-20) as well as a bass slider.

We settled on ‘Excited’ only because we like that and don’t listen to a lot of strictly vocal tracks (select vocal or treble boost).

You can read how we test sound signatures as well as sample tracks and spatial audio How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key).

DSEE extreme up-samples low-res music and adds just a little more body. It is not mind-blowing, but it is nice to have if you listen to ripped MP3s.

We also settled on about 75% volume as the ideal level. We were able to select the LDAC (Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra) and uncompressed music from Spotify, and it made a difference to music quality (it was good to start with) but required a volume boost from 75% to 85%.

Sound stage

Being closed back, the sound stage is within the ears, but the left/right separation is excellent. I could (and did) listen to these all day. If you want a more expansive stage (club/concert), then the Sennheiser Momentum 2 are for you.

360 reality

We did not test the 360 reality, but we used Dolby Atmos test tracks, which is terrific. We can see how Sony’s 360 reality may catch on.

ANC

Passive and active/adaptive noise-cancelling work exceptionally well together. Active blocks sub-100Hz to reduce bass rumble. Mid and treble mainly rely on isolation (as it should be) to not compress or clip the music.

Sony has a more natural uncompressed sound compared to Bose QC (which claims to be the ANC leader). The Sennheiser Momentum 2 just pips it for sound quality but has less ANC (on purpose – Sennheiser doesn’t like ANC messing with music).

Missing

  • Multipoint BT connection to two hosts
  • NFC pairing
  • Latency (225ms PC and 182ms iOS) is too high for gaming
  • Qualcomm aptX codecs

Comparisons

  • Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro $299 – good overall sound but a little behind in ANC
  • Bose QC $399 – more low and mid-range ANC and a good neutral sound signature
  • Sennheiser Momentum 2 $499 but on runout at $298 – Vented buds for a wider sound stage, mature, polished sound, Qualcomm aptX, and quality audio at the expense of full-on ANC
  • OPPO Enco X Dynaudio $349 – don’t overlook this as it is probably the class leader with Qualcomm aptX and Dynaudio tuning.
  • Jabra Elite 7 Pro $299 – IP57 and slightly better mic
  • Apple AirPods Pro $329

CyberShack’s view – Sony WF-1000XM4 don’t disappoint

As you will see from the comparisons above, there is strong competition. Putting any brand bias aside, these are all worthy buys.

Unless Qualcomm aptX is your thing (and for many, it is a deal-breaker), these are an ideal set of premium BT, ANC earphones that you will enjoy for many years to come.

Earphone comparison chartSony WF-1000XM4
STYLE
   BudsIn-ear
   Sports (with wing)No
    IP ratingIPX4 sweat resistant
   Ear-tip typePolyurethane Foam
   ColourBlack/White
   ClassPremium
CONNECTION
   BluetoothBT 5.2
      CodecsSBC, AAC and LDAC
      A2DP, AVRCP, HFPYes
   True WirelessUses Sony V1 chip
   Google Fast PairYes
   Windows Swift pairYes
   MultipointNo, and no NFC pair
SIZE
   Weight each gram7g
CONTROLS
   TypeTouch – can be customised
   Auto pauseYes
NOISE
   ANCAdaptive – on or off
  Ambient passthroughYes
   Conversation modeAuto speak to chat
   Game modeToo much latency
AUDIO
   Speaker size mm6mm
   Frequency response20Hz-20kHz (up to 40kHz LDAC)
BATTERY
   Case charge type (USB or Qi)USB-C/Qi
        Case size/weight40x69x30mm x 41.4G
   Charge voltage rating5V/1A
   Battery time ANC off12
   Battery time ANC on8
   Additional battery time in case hours16/24 ANC on/off
   Charge time case1.5-2hrs (5min=60min use)
Mic
   Number on each bud2 x noise-cancelling (inside and outside)
1 x Voice beamforming
Bone conduction sensor
   OtherAuto wind noise reduction
VOICE ASSISTANT
   TypeAll
APPSony Headphone connect
   FeaturesAdaptive Sound Control recognises places you visit – office, gym, or café, and tailors sound to suit the situation. 
   EQ12 pre-sets. Saves EQ settlings on the buds.
   Find my budsYes
   OtherDSEE Extreme (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) uses Edge-AI to upscale compressed digital music in real-time.
   SpatialSony 360 Reality Audio
 OS supportAndroid and iOS, as well as any BT host device
SPECIAL FEATURES
Ear fit test
Sony WF-1000XM4 continued
GENERAL
   WebsiteProduct Page
   Warranty12-months
   Price$368
   FromSony and approved retailers
Accessories includedUSB-A to USB-C cable
S, M, L foam ear tips.
MISSING
Multipoint pairing
NFC pairing
 Qualcomm aptX codecs
Latency is too high for games
  PRO 1Excellent combination of passive noise isolation and active, adaptive noise cancellation
2Foam ear tips are very comfortable
3IPX4 sweatproof
4BT 5.2 and LDAC for high-res
5Sound quality that is hard to beat
CON 1No Qualcomm aptX codecs
2For deep pockets that don’t care about the price
3No multipoint or NFC pairing
4
5
RATING
Features9.5
Short of a customised hearing profile, it lacks nothing. A good fit is vital.
Value9
At this level, you may want to look at the Bose QC, OPPO Enco X Dynaudio, Jabra Elite 7 Pro and Sennheiser Momentum 3
Performance9.5
Superb across a wide range of genres. Sennheiser Momentum has an audio edge with a vented design.
Ease of use9
Apart from all the privacy warnings, it is easy to set up. Call quality is variable to generally good.
Design9
The copper highlights around the lower mic are distinctive and a bit futuristic.
Score /109.2

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony WF-1000XM4 BT, ANC, earphones

$368
9.2

Features

9.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Performance

9.5/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Design

9.0/10

Pros

  • Excellent combination of passive noise isolation and active, adaptive noise cancellation
  • Foam ear tips are very comfortable
  • IPX4 sweatproof
  • BT 5.2 and LDAC for high-res
  • Sound quality that is hard to beat

Cons

  • No Qualcomm aptX codecs
  • For deep pockets that don’t care about the price
  • No multipoint or NFC pairing


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