Sony WF-1000XM5 – are these the best noise-cancelling earphones ever? (AV review)

The new Sony WF-1000XM5 replace the already exceptional M4, M3, M2 etc. Each generation builds on its strengths with improved performance and features.

This time Sony has focused on two things (above the usual) – to be the best at noise cancelling and offer astonishing sound quality – ‘For The Music’ (its words).

We have an engineering sample firmware V2.0.1 to test, and the initial results are impressive.

The review is preliminary on the understanding that the review unit may perform differently from the retail ones. We will update over time.

Sony WF-1000XM5, BT, ANC, earphones

WebsiteProduct Page  
Price$499.95. Pre-order from Tuesday, 25 July, with availability in August.
The Sony AU website and JB Hi-Fi list these at $419.95.
FromSony Online and major CE Retailers
ColoursBlack or Silver. Includes case, four tip sizes, USB-A to USB-C cable and 3.5mm cable
Made inChina
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(able) rating that is not as good as it should be and 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 – not as chunky as the M4 – Pass+

More streamlined, smaller, and lighter and has lost the distinctive M4 circular bronze microphone port and highlights.

I don’t want to keep making comparisons to the Sony WF-1000XM4 are remarkable BT, ANC earphones (long-term audio review). But I still have these, and a quick comparison shows:

  • Better low-and-high-frequency ANC (Adaptive Noise Cancelling)
  • Perceptibly clearer and more dynamic top end
  • More comfortable design – not as large in the ear
  • Lighter at 5.9g (7.3g)
  • Three mics per bud – two for ANC (2)
  • Later BT 5.3 multi-point (5.2)
  • Larger driver at 8.4mm (6.4mm)
  • New V2 Sony Processor and HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN2e (V1)
  • Addition of Extra Small tip to S/M/L
  • Head tracking supports 360 Reality Audio
  • Built-in Spotify client

Common features of the M4 and M5 include:

  • 8-hour battery life and 16 hours extra in the new lighter USB-C/Qi charge case
  • IPX4
  • Adaptive Sound Control and Speak-to-Chat

The Sony Headphone App – Pass+ and Fail

Fail: The Privacy Policy is lengthy, scary, and largely unnecessary for earphones. I get that Sony needs location and more to offer features like environmental noise cancelling and 360 Reality Audio, but the rest is solely to ‘own the client’.

Fortunately, you can disagree (recommended if you are concerned about privacy) and start using them minus Adaptive sound control, Activity tracking and settings backup.

Pass+: The App has four tabs – Status, Sound, System and Services.

  • Sound: You can select Noise Cancelling, Ambient Sound (slider for more or less sound, voice passthrough, Speak to Chat, EQ, BT connection quality and DSEE Extreme), and off.
  • System: Auto power off, pause music when removed, Notifications and voice, Update software (painfully slow 40 minutes)
  • Services: Spotify Tap client, Endel Quick Access (sleep).

It has a good fit test (to determine the right ear tip size).

Codecs – Pass

SBC and AAC, 16-bit/44,100Hz and LDAC. Sony does not support Qualcomm aptX family codecs. Read Bluetooth sound codecs – what you need to know as the game has changed.

Sound – Exceed

We cannot use testing our analyser software/mics on earphones. So it has to be a subjective test.

Compared to the M5, it has a more polished bass but seems to start a little later in mid-bass. Still, it is impressive and gives an accurate Thump instead of Whump.

Mids are neutral, which means it neither adds nor subtracts from the original quality. The EQ has Bright, Excited, Mellow, Relaxed, Vocal, Treble Boost, Bass Boost, Speech, Manual, Custom1 and Custom 2. These show the adjustments against each setting – excellent.

The treble is more controlled, and you hear slight additional nuances in instrumental and vocals.

Our initial tests confirm what we already know – an EQ cannot boost above the natural sound signature but can recess. So Treble Boost cuts everything below 2.5kHz, and Bass Boost uses its natural bass and cuts everything above 400Hz. Try them all, but my advice is to leave the EQ off unless you really need to.

Hearing-impaired listeners should use the Vocal or Speech setting, focusing on Mids.

Noise Cancelling – Exceed

While we cannot say that they have the ‘best’ ANC of any brand, we can say that it is the best Sony has produced. Why?

Because ‘Best’ is dependent on the definition. If best is removing extraneous environmental noise above all else – Sony, is it. But as rival Sennheiser says, that can affect sound quality, so its best is to limit environmental noise without affecting sound quality. Others have variable ANC settings – you choose.

Sony also wants two bites at this cherry. Its Adaptive Sound Control (that requires location and acceptance of App conditions) uses AI to change ambient sound settings for the ideal listening experience. Over time, it will learn your behaviour, recognise locations you visit often, and tailor the sound to suit your location.

In any case, its ANC is up there, provided you get a good tip fit.

DSEE Extreme  (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) – Pass+

This improves the apparent quality of compressed, lossy MP3 etc. It does it by AI analysing the sound and filling in the blanks. Mostly upside for music pleasure but reduces battery life.

Sound Stage and 360 Reality Audio – Not Tested

We cannot test 360 Reality Audio as we don’t intend to agree to its privacy terms.

In 2.0 mode (normal stereo), the sound stage is confined inside your head. There is reasonable Left/Right 2D separation.

With Dolby Atmos content (LDAC), you get a wider sound stage – appearing to come from just outside your head, and there is definite 3D height placement.

Hands-free – Not Tested

Sony stated that the engineering samples were not fully configured for optimum hands-free experience.

Its marketing states, Thanks to an AI-based noise reduction algorithm based on Deep Neural Network (DNN) processing, and bone conduction sensors, your voice will come through clear and more natural, even in a noisy environment. And if you’re outdoors, the noise reduction structure will minimise any wind whooshes, so you always know you’ll be heard.

Our use with a teleconference was fine – loud and clear. The real test is adaptive hand-free that understands the environment; the M4s were pretty good at that.

Battery Life – Pass+

Sony advertises 8 hours plus 16 hours in the case with ANC On. This is at 50% volume, and we find that, like all earphones, closer to 75% volume is needed (depending on the BT host). We got a little over 5 hours at 75% on LDAC. When using DSEE Extreme, that reduced to 4 hours 13 minutes.

A 3-minute charge gives approx. 60-minutes of use (at 50%).

CyberShack’s view – Sony WF-1000XM5 is an excellent performer

Sony wants to own the premium BT/ANC WF-1000X earphone and WH-1000X headphone market. The Sony WF-1000XM5 is a step up from the M4, but not so much that happy users will be compelled to change.

Sony has significant marketing clout at a retail level, and you will likely be steered in that brand’s direction. Its two XM5 offerings are excellent but have substantial and worthy competition. In the end, it comes down to personal preference.

Who buys Sony WF-1000XM5?

At this level, you have Sony WF-1000XM5 (this review), Sennheiser True Wireless Momentum 3 BT/ANC earphones and Bose QuietComfort II earbuds (QC II) – premium BT, ANC earphones

We have all three, and the bottom line is that all are worthy of the crown in different ways.

Sennheiser – aptX/Adaptive codecs, sound quality is more important than perfect ANC – Music quality, and aptX codecs are its strengths. The Momentum 3 was released in early 2022 and is due for a new model. Runout pricing at $299 makes these an attractive option.

Bose – These were slightly better than the M4, but the M5 narrows the gap. Excellent sound, BT SBC/AAC codecs only, USB fast charge, IPX4 – a good all-rounder. The Bose is a current model at $429.


  • Features: 95, but remember that you trade off privacy for some features
  • Value: 90 – it is in the top price bracket and offers everything you expect
  • Performance: 95 – Good for various music and podcast genres. It is natively bass-heavy, but you can back that off in the EQ.
  • Ease of Use: 90. Apart from all the privacy warnings, it is easy to set up. Call quality is variable to generally good.
  • Design: 90 The reduction in weight and size are appreciated but lose the distinctiveness of the M4 – more a ‘me too’ design.

CyberShack ear and headphone reviews

Sony WF-1000XM5, BT/ANC earphones

$499.95 but shop around







Ease of Use





  • ANC is top draw
  • Sound quality is excellent, but you may need the EQ
  • Lighter and more comfortable
  • Multi-point pairing support
  • Decent battery life, fast amd Qi charge


  • Cannot select ANC levels
  • No Qualcomm aptX codec support
  • The bass is a little heavy – use the EQ
  • Some advanced features depend on setting up an account and accepting privacy provisions.
  • Android App is fully featured, but iOS has some reduced functionality.