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.
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.
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.
Each bud has touch controls that are 99% reliable. You can change the allocated taps to other actions.
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.
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.
OK Google can switch on and off ANC and Ambient sound. It will summon Alex and Siri as well.
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%.
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.
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.
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).
- Multipoint BT connection to two hosts
- NFC pairing
- Latency (225ms PC and 182ms iOS) is too high for gaming
- Qualcomm aptX codecs
- 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 chart||Sony WF-1000XM4|
|Sports (with wing)||No|
|IP rating||IPX4 sweat resistant|
|Ear-tip type||Polyurethane Foam|
|Codecs||SBC, AAC and LDAC|
|A2DP, AVRCP, HFP||Yes|
|True Wireless||Uses Sony V1 chip|
|Google Fast Pair||Yes|
|Windows Swift pair||Yes|
|Multipoint||No, and no NFC pair|
|Weight each gram||7g|
|Type||Touch – can be customised|
|ANC||Adaptive – on or off|
|Conversation mode||Auto speak to chat|
|Game mode||Too much latency|
|Speaker size mm||6mm|
|Frequency response||20Hz-20kHz (up to 40kHz LDAC)|
|Case charge type (USB or Qi)||USB-C/Qi|
|Case size/weight||40x69x30mm x 41.4G|
|Charge voltage rating||5V/1A|
|Battery time ANC off||12|
|Battery time ANC on||8|
|Additional battery time in case hours||16/24 ANC on/off|
|Charge time case||1.5-2hrs (5min=60min use)|
|Number on each bud||2 x noise-cancelling (inside and outside)|
1 x Voice beamforming
Bone conduction sensor
|Other||Auto wind noise reduction|
|APP||Sony Headphone connect|
|Features||Adaptive Sound Control recognises places you visit – office, gym, or café, and tailors sound to suit the situation.|
|EQ||12 pre-sets. Saves EQ settlings on the buds.|
|Find my buds||Yes|
|Other||DSEE Extreme (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) uses Edge-AI to upscale compressed digital music in real-time.|
|Spatial||Sony 360 Reality Audio|
|OS support||Android and iOS, as well as any BT host device|
|Ear fit test|
Sony WF-1000XM4 continued
|From||Sony and approved retailers|
|Accessories included||USB-A to USB-C cable|
S, M, L foam ear tips.
|Qualcomm aptX codecs|
|Latency is too high for games|
|PRO 1||Excellent combination of passive noise isolation and active, adaptive noise cancellation|
|2||Foam ear tips are very comfortable|
|4||BT 5.2 and LDAC for high-res|
|5||Sound quality that is hard to beat|
|CON 1||No Qualcomm aptX codecs|
|2||For deep pockets that don’t care about the price|
|3||No multipoint or NFC pairing|
|Short of a customised hearing profile, it lacks nothing. A good fit is vital.|
|At this level, you may want to look at the Bose QC, OPPO Enco X Dynaudio, Jabra Elite 7 Pro and Sennheiser Momentum 3|
|Superb across a wide range of genres. Sennheiser Momentum has an audio edge with a vented design.|
|Ease of use||9|
|Apart from all the privacy warnings, it is easy to set up. Call quality is variable to generally good.|
|The copper highlights around the lower mic are distinctive and a bit futuristic.|
Sony WF-1000XM4 BT, ANC, earphones$368
- 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
- No Qualcomm aptX codecs
- For deep pockets that don’t care about the price
- No multipoint or NFC pairing