Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise Canceling Headphones

I had a chance to try literally all the big “ears” with active noise canceling, and Sony headphones win over in many things. They are lightweight, with great sound quality, they suppress noise perfectly, I like chips like activating microphones when you put your hand on – so you can quickly chat with a colleague or listen to an announcement.

It is clear that Sony has planted a mine for itself: how can you improve a product with a huge margin of safety? I thought the Sony WH-1000XM3 would be updated in the 21st, when new technologies accumulate and an idea appears on how to make the design even cooler. But for some reason the company decided to release the XM4 for sale. The decision is rather strange, although there is some logic in Sony’s actions. Let’s get to know the headphones and look for it together.

Design

We discussed headphones with the guys in the office, and everyone kept repeating to me: why did they leave the same design at Sony? Really it was impossible – and here I can immediately interrupt the flight of thought. Why would Sony change the ideal headphone design? Just for the sake of some action? The XM4 has excellent weight distribution, high-quality materials, they are invisible on my ears, in the office I can sit in them for hours.

The black model with bronze elements is a thrill, I really like it, minimalistic, nothing more. Why change the already iconic recognizable shape? Personally, I have no answer to this question. They write, they say, the ear pads have become a little larger, a little softer – I will say this: it was very comfortable to walk in the XM3, in the XM4, it turns out, it became even more comfortable. The brain itself completes the picture, since this is a continuation, it means that it has become better!

But it seems to me that the optimization (we’ll come back to this later) of the flagship model could go further. Why is there a 3.5 mm jack? You could have removed it. If you want a cable, please connect to USB Type-C, as implemented in Bowers & Wilkins PX / PX7. Perhaps, if this is a flagship, I lack metal and leather – but I’m ready to forgive everything for the sound.

It seems to me that the WH-1000XM5 will just move to the next step in terms of materials used, get rid of the 3.5 mm jack, get a little smaller, and get new color schemes. I really want this story not to be thrown into Sony – it turns out great!

As for the operating time, everything remains the same: they promise 30 hours of operation in noise canceling mode, without ANC, about 38 hours, very, very much. For a week of use, I connected the headphones to charging once, the battery pleases.

Another interesting thing – now in the application you can save all your settings to the cloud and restore when using the next Sony model.

Working with two devices

You need to put the Sony Headphones application and in the “System” tab turn on the “Work with two devices” slider. I tried the feature along with the iPhone 11 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy Note20. After connecting, you can turn on music on smartphones alternately, only nothing happens automatically – pause music on one gadget, turn it on on the second.

As for me, the ideal scenario is to connect headphones to a tablet for Zoom or Skype and use it in parallel with a smartphone for conversations, music, games. Calls go through without problems. There is nothing more to add, I did not notice sudden disconnections and other troubles. Well, sometimes you have to manually click on the headphones in the Bluetooth menu on your tablet or smartphone, but that’s the only caveat. Both connected devices are visible in the Sony Headphones program.

Codec support

An inquisitive Sony connoisseur may have noticed that the XM4 removed support for aptX and aptX HD, leaving only LDAC and AAC. Is it good or bad? Here you need to understand one thing: LDAC is cool, and Sony donated their development to Google for a reason, now we see the codec in hundreds of Android devices.

For example, when connected to a Samsung Galaxy Note20 in the menu, you can choose whether to use LDAC or not, when playing files in FLAC format, you yourself will notice a change in detail and sound quality. Thus, the owner of the headphones is provided with wonderful opportunities when connecting to smartphones based on Android: you can select the player, the desired codec, and get the best sound quality.

On the other hand, iPhone owners shouldn’t be upset – AAC is supported, and I really enjoyed listening to music from the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

I suppose that the Sony WH-1000XM4 model was not just updated, the company also optimized the production price by installing a modern chip – yes, it lacks aptX, but the savings helped to install a capacitive sensor that can pause sound. Now I’ll tell you about it.

Sensor and control

For the first time I saw such a solution in Parrot Zik headphones, they did not use it everywhere, I remember Bowers & Wilkins PX7 from modern well-known devices, but it was not in Sony WH-1000XM3. In the Sony WH-1000XM4, it is in the left cup, and if you remove the right, nothing happens, and if you remove the left, the music will pause.

The function can be turned off in the settings. All other control options are the same as in the XM3: on the right cup, you can use gestures to control playback and volume if you put your palm on it, the volume instantly decreases, microphones sensitively pick up all sounds around. It’s so easy to talk to someone, and the trick is ingenious – got into a taxi, said to the driver “no radio, the temperature is ok, everything is ok,” let’s go.

Anticipating questions – for example, you wear headphones around your neck for a while, what will happen? The music will be paused, as soon as you put it back on, playback will continue, only in the settings you need to turn off the automatic disconnection of the headphones.

I will not dwell on the capabilities of the application – Sony Headphones have added features related to the capabilities of the XM4, it is necessary to install for the sake of updating the firmware, adjusting the ambient sound control and 360 Reality Audio, here you can optimize the atmospheric pressure, play with the equalizer. I repeat, IT IS MANDATORY TO PUT! Most of the headphone manipulation takes place in the program.

The only complaint about the control is one: it is always better to make the off button in the form of a slider, click – and you know for sure that the headphones do not work. It takes time to remember the desired duration of pressing, and you don’t always guess correctly – and then you talk on the phone in another room, the sound switches, it infuriates.

Chatting

A great new feature, chatting, is enabled in the Sony Headphones app. As soon as you start talking, the music is paused, the microphones become much more sensitive, you can communicate with people without any problems without removing the headphones.

In the function settings, you can select the activity time (for example, if you do not say anything for about 15 seconds, the music and noise canceling will return again), and you can also select the sensitivity of voice recognition.

I checked it in the office, the thing is wonderful – you approach a colleague, start talking, XM4 amplify the sound with microphones by themselves, talked to a colleague, then continued to sit in silence and with music. High! Try it.

Sound

The drivers are the same as in the XM3, 40mm, “Aluminum-Coated LCD Polymer Film” as Sony calls it – no matter what they call it, it’s important that the sound is good! Among similar models, the XM3 and XM4 stand out very seriously, providing excellent quality tracks of any genre and literally from any source, be it Apple Music or FLAC tracks in the Vox player.

The main effect of XM4 is that you imperceptibly get involved in this game, you just want to run all the tracks from the Apple media library and look for all sorts of nuances, listen to the unheard and re-listen to your favorite.

I will give just a couple of tips. The application has the ability to enable DSEE Extreme – this proprietary Sony technology literally draws the picture in tracks of poor quality. I advise you to turn it on, listen to music like this for a day, then turn it off and compare.

We have a review of the Sony WH-1000XM3 on our website, the model has become a cult, and in general it is one of the most popular headphones in its category.

The second thing is called 360 Reality Audio, I don’t really like all these sounds around, here it only works with a special application created by Deezer – you can play it once, but nothing more.

I also recommend before listening to music to optimize the atmosphere of the past and carry out individual optimization – depending on the age, we hear differently, the headphones create a special setting, something like calibration happens.

Does the sound quality change afterwards? I tried listening both without tuning, equally cool. For example, I really love Thom Yorke’s album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, even the version for Apple Music brings any headphones to clean water: there are layers like in a quality cocktail in Noor Bar.

And all these layers are cleverly and coolly combined, flow into each other, and there is also vocals, and you can endlessly try to understand why Thom Yorke did all this – and it’s better not to think, but to listen. Buy XM4 or you will test it – turn on this album and appreciate the grandiose musical picture, one track There Is No Ice is worth a lot.

Verdict

If you have never had such headphones at all and there is no reason to save, immediately buy the Sony WH-1000XM4. I liked the implementation of the sensor responsible for pause music, working with two devices, the interlocutors hear me better. They write that noise reduction, sound and so on have been improved – honestly, everything was already cool, it’s difficult for me to notice the changes.

As a result, we got another great product from Sony. What do I mean when I say beautiful? Well, take the PS4 Pro – this thing is wonderful. With the console I play my favorite games, even if not as often as I would like, I get only positive vibes and, of course, I will be among the first to vote for PS5.

Together with the Sony WH-1000XM4, it is very good for me to walk, walk from work to office, protect myself from the noise of colleagues at work, listen to my favorite music or just turn on the noise of water – my brain relaxes, it becomes good.

If you ask directly: “And if I don’t understand anything about headphones at all and decided to buy a Sony WH-1000XM4 and these are my first headphones in my life, is it worth doing?” The answer is yes. It’s good when there is an opportunity to start with such a thing.

P. S. Yes, I noticed one more curious trick, it seems like this was not the case before: when you first connect, the headphones ask them to bring them closer to the mobile device for authentication. Are there many fakes? Here it is, real popularity!

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