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Voted as the best in-ear headphones at the TechRadar Choice Awards 2021

The latest model in Sony's WF-1000 line of true wireless headphones is smaller, lighter and greener than ever. Oh, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 also sounds even more articulate and immediate than the model it replaces at the top of the range. .

It's true that there isn't a single area (with the possible exception of control application excellence) where they really lead the pack; but if you want to beat them for their combination of sound quality, noise cancellation, and battery life, you'll need to buy three pairs of noise-canceling headphones.

  • Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones at Crutchfield for £178 (opens in a new tab)

By any measure, the Sony WF-1000XM4s are "very good" or "really very good" and, as a whole, very difficult to put on.

Compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless headphones offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading, even if they are a bit more expensive.

A more compact design means the Sony WF-1000XM4 is more comfortable and easier to transport, while the accompanying app makes it simple to adjust controls and equalization settings, rivaling the best headphones.

Meanwhile, features lifted from the on-ear Sony WH-1000XM4 - including Speak-To-Chat, DSEE Extreme Audio Upscaling and Adaptive Noise Cancellation - mean you'll be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded pair of wireless headphones. , even when looking for the best wireless headphones.

While other true wireless headphones outperform the Sony WF-1000XM4 in particular areas (noise cancelling, for example), no other model offers such excellent quality in all areas. That's why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are by far the best true wireless headphones you can buy today.

Read on for our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 are the best true wireless headphones you can buy today. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Sony WF-1000XM4: price and release date

  • Available Now, Posted June 8, 2021
  • $279,99 / £250 / A$449,95

The Sony WF-1000XM4 is on sale now, priced at €279,99 / £250 / AU$449,95, and considering that the outgoing WF-1000XM3 started life at a nominal price of €230 / €220 / AU$399 in 2019, with the latest pairs currently available for around €170 / €150 / AU$200, that price seems pretty fair.

In terms of competition, the WF-1000XM4 compares quite favorably to alternative designs from Bose, Grado, and Sennheiser, and looks like a bargain next to Bowers & Wilkins' exceptional (and sky-high price) PI7.

sony wf-1000xm4 case

The charging case is 40% smaller than the Sony WF-1000XM3. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Sony WF-1000XM4: design and controls

  • Smaller than predecessors
  • Exceptional control app
  • Touch controls

The outgoing WF-1000XM3 gave us plenty of reasons to recommend it, but "low-key" wasn't high on the list. The earbuds were large, as was their charging case, and Sony wisely chose to try and reduce some of that bulk on this new model.

Key specs

Acoustic Design: Closed

Weight: 7,3 g

Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz

Drivers: 6mm

Battery life: 8 hours (headphones) 16 hours (charging case)

The charging case is 40% smaller, while the earbuds themselves are 10% smaller. The fact that they're still among the heaviest examples of their type just goes to illustrate the size of the WF-1000XM3, but at least the new charging case could slip into a trouser pocket, while the ear cups wouldn't. they protrude from the wearer's head like a prop in a sci-fi movie.

(Sony also eliminated much of the packaging. The box the WF-1000XM4 arrives in is 40% smaller than the WF-1000XM3 box and is completely paper, recyclable, and environmentally friendly.)

sony wf-1000xm4

The headphones come with some of the features first shown on the Sony WH-1000XM4 on-ear headphones. (Image credit: TechRadar)

The WF-1000XM4 incorporates some of the features first introduced in last year's WH-1000XM4 headphones: Active Noise Cancellation that can determine what you're doing and where you're doing it to suit your situation; quick pairing for Android and Windows devices; and "talk to chat," which simply requires you to make a noise to pause your music so you can have a short conversation without removing your headphones. Noise cancellation is increased with new polyurethane ear cushions (small, medium and large supplied) designed to provide better passive noise reduction.

Your one-stop-shop for controlling the WF-1000XM4 is Sony's fully stable and comprehensive headphone app. This is where you get to play with all the features (big and small) that are partially duplicated on the capacitive touch surface of each earbud. In the app, you can decide what you want the left and right earbuds to control: “volume up/down”, “play/pause/skip forward/skip back/invoke voice assistant”, “turn noise canceling on/off”. adaptive/active. ', or the much less useful 'nothing is assigned'.

There's also the EQ settings (the many presets include one labeled 'Excited'), with room for one or two custom presets, and the ability to turn auto-pause and DSEE Extreme on or off. This is also where you can submit photos of your ears to help Sony optimize music streaming apps that offer 360 Reality Audio or Dolby Atmos, and where you can decide whether you want your Bluetooth connection to prioritize sound quality or sound stability. the connection.

sony wf-1000xm4 application

The application allows you to adjust the equalization settings of the headphones. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Control is also available via the big three voice assistants: Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa, which can be invoked via your set "wake up" words. Whichever assistant you choose, the WF-1000XM4 remains alert and attentive to instructions, even in unpromising noisy environments.

There are three microphones on each earcup, supporting active noise cancellation, call quality, and interaction with voice assistants. A combination of feedback and feedback microphones capture the user's voice directionally (from the mouth), although the feedback microphones will automatically mute when adverse conditions (most likely wind noise) are detected. Sony has also included a bone conduction sensor, which picks up vibrations from your voice, but doesn't register it as ambient sound.

sony wf-1000xm4

There are three microphones on each earcup, supporting active noise cancellation, call quality, and interaction with voice assistants. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Sony WF-1000XM4: audio performance and noise cancellation

  • Balanced, lively, serene and convincing sound.
  • Pretty good noise cancellation
  • Great dynamic and rhythmic capacity

Fitting the WF-1000XM4 comfortably takes a bit longer than it should (we found it a bit fiddly to insert and felt they should fit deeper into the ear than they should), but once that's done you can set up the touch controls , the equalizer levels and endless other options to your liking. Finished? Good. It's time to hit some music.

We started our tests with a Ross From Friends Burner Tidal Masters file, and the WF-1000XM4 immediately impressed. They don't overemphasize any part of the frequency range, they don't let any detail go unnoticed, and they don't let rhythms or tempos linger. There is vigor and enthusiasm in his presentation, but it's tempered by unmistakable control.

Down below, the bass from the earphones rings out with substance, texture, and plenty of detail. There's dynamism and drive to spare here, but the WF-1000XM4 never loses momentum on its own - there's just as much poise to go along with it. The entry and exit of low notes are crisp and well defined, helping to prevent the low end from spilling over into the mids.

sony wf-1000xm4 review

The Sony WF-1000XM4 has dynamism and drive to spare. (Image credit: TechRadar)

The midrange is also rich in information: listening to Kate Bush's Lake Tahoe, the WF-1000XM4's ability to identify and incorporate the smallest details or most fleeting transients into a much larger picture was obvious. "Communicative" might seem like a redundant word when it comes to a person's singing voice, but it's totally appropriate here: if they're anything, the WF-1000XM4s are communicative.

The transition from mid-range to high-end is smooth and naturalistic, and the treble sounds themselves have plenty of sparkle and punch without even screaming about it. Kate Bush and Ross From Friends are more than happy to pack on high-frequency information, but the WF-1000XM4 handles it just as adeptly as the rest of the frequency range.

(All of the above assumes an unchanged EQ setting, we should point out. Sony is a bit unusual in allowing the end-user to endlessly play with the sound from their headphones, but the most natural and compelling sound comes from the WF-1000XM4 when their The equalizer is flat.)

sony wf-1000xm4

The transition from mid-range to high-end is smooth and naturalistic. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Dynamically there is also little to criticize. The WF-1000XM4 can go from "deafening" to "almost silent" and back again in an instant, and even the subtlest harmonic dynamics of Bush's piano playing are described in detail as well. When it comes to rhythmic certainty and expression, their combination of control and attack ensures that, like James Brown, they're always on the right foot. This is all aided infinitely by the compelling natural timing and presentation drive.

Active noise cancellation is a somewhat more nuanced achievement of its kind. The problem for every other pair of ANC true wireless headphones is that the Bose QuietComfort headphones have shown that it's possible to reject external sounds completely, without leaving a password and without affecting the quality of the music you hear.

The WF-1000XM4 cannot…

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