The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones have one of the most revered family trees in modern audio history. Following two best-in-class noise-canceling in-ear predecessors, the WH-1000XM5 lands with an unusual level of anticipation in the world of personal audio.

TechRadar correctly gave the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Sony WH-1000XM4 top marks in their respective reviews, so expect the WH-1000XM5 to follow in those perfect audio footsteps.

In terms of specs and performance, they mostly follow in the footsteps of their predecessors (too closely), but in terms of design, the Sony WH-1000XM5 cans represent the biggest change the line has seen since its inception. Still, we enjoyed reviewing them, which is why they're one of our top picks in our best wireless headphones guide.

So are the design differences enough to raise the already high bar that Sony has set for itself? Read on for our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review.

  • Sony WH-1000XM5 (black) at Amazon for €348 (opens in a new tab)

Sony WH-1000XM5: price and release date

  • Price: €399 in the US
  • Price: €380 in the UK
  • Price: AU$649 in Australia
  • Released in May 2022

On sale now, the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones will start shipping from May 20, 2022, priced at $380 / £399 / AU$649, a significant increase from the $350 / £349 / £549 starting price. AU$1000 AU$ from the previous generation Sony WH-4XMXNUMX.

At launch, you're looking to save around $30/$50 by choosing the older - and still very good - Sony WH-1000XM4. That's a big change, and more importantly, it's a gap that could widen as the year progresses and lead us towards major shopping holidays like Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday. At some point in the future, we'll likely see the Sony WH-1000XM4 drop below €300 before dropping to half the price, and at that price the Sony WH-1000XM4 is a no-brainer.

They're still significantly cheaper than Apple's alternative, and the AirPods Max are still priced at $549 / £549 / AU$899 when bought direct from Apple.

(Image credit: future)

Sony WH-1000XM5: Design

  • all new design
  • Comfortable for long listening sessions
  • Design prevents wind distortion, but no longer folds into a compact shape
  • Still no water resistance

After two generations of largely identical on-ear headphone designs, the WH-1000XM5 headphones stand out significantly from their predecessors.

The best way to quickly describe the WH-1000XM5 headphones is that they're slightly curvier than their predecessors. It's all a bit tidier, a bit sleeker: there are fewer visible articulation points, more discreet noise-cancelling mic ports, and a slimmer headband with an added leatherette cover to hide its joints and extension points. The cavity your ears can sit in is also shaped slightly differently: a thicker ovoid than the oval on the WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4. Although we haven't tested them to their absolute limits, the sliding extension points also feel sturdier than previous designs, with fewer pressure points that could come loose, a complaint from well-worn previous models.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Noise Canceling Headphones

The XM5 headphones on the left and the older XM3 headphones (which are almost identical in design to the XM4 headphones) on the right. (Image credit: Future)

But some changes may not be welcome. Frustratingly, there's still no water resistance of any kind featured here. Since the headphones can no longer be folded on themselves, they are not as portable as they used to be. And while the headband is better hidden and integrated into the overall design aesthetic, it feels like it has less padding than previous Sony headphones in the range.

That might be a bit of a moot point, though: in our experience, they're no less comfortable as a result, and will happily sit on your head during long listening sessions. There's ample padding around the ears, and the cups twist and turn to fit all sizes, with just the right amount of band-holding pressure to keep them in place without squeezing your brain through your ears. This headband now extends smoothly as well, instead of using the stepped extension of previous versions.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Noise Canceling Headphones

(Image credit: future)

The controls are largely the same as the 1000XM4 headset. In addition to the context-sensitive smart auto controls (which we'll talk about in the "Features" section of this review), there are two physical buttons on the left edge of the headset. The former toggles between noise-canceling and ambient-aware settings, and now you can double- or triple-press the ANC button to activate Spotify Tap, allowing you to launch and play from the music streamer without removing your phone from your pocket. The second is the power button, which you can hold down to activate Bluetooth pairing mode. You'll also find the exterior of the right earcup touch-sensitive: swipe up and down to change volume, double-tap it to pause audio and answer calls, and cup it with your palm to instantly switch to ambient awareness. way that channels outside sound. There's also a USB-C charging port on the right cup and a 3,5mm headphone jack on the left cup.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Noise Canceling Headphones

(Image credit: future)

So, among the obvious exterior changes and additions, what's going on and why?

Firstly, this more curved design is meant to reduce wind resistance on the earphones, which can cause that annoying distortion in noise-canceling performance when traveling in windy weather. A more streamlined design here should help reduce this effect, and while we didn't run head-on into the path of a hurricane, that claim held true on a windy day in London exploring Greenwich Park.

The second obvious addition is a doubling of the number of microphone dots housed in the earcups. This gives the built-in noise-canceling processors (yes, there are two inside the earbuds) more audio data to analyze and improve ANC performance, as well as doubling the amount of noise-forming microphone beams nearby. from the mouth of a user for calls from two on the WH-1000XM4 to four on the WH-1000XM5. Call quality, according to our reviewer friends, was crystal clear.

Despite these additions, the headphones are actually lighter than the previous model, weighing in at just 250g, which is 4 grams lighter than the latest version. On top of that, they use ABS plastics in their construction (as well as the packaging), made from recycled car parts to bolster their green credentials.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Noise Canceling Headphones

(Image credit: future)

Once again, there is a much appreciated included carrying case with these latest Sony headphones. Made from a gray fabric, it's somewhat foldable, providing a bit more room in the bag when using the headphones. Don't expect it to be crushed to paper thin, as an interior cable pocket keeps it a bit sturdier. Not a similar rating, but the area of ​​the new box is larger than previous models, although it may reduce its cubic area.

Sony WH-1000XM5: Features

  • The best active Noise Canceling on the market
  • Smart ambient sensing options
  • Allows connection to two devices at the same time
  • The app has features to protect your hearing.

Active noise cancellation features have long been a hallmark of the Sony WH range, and the WH-1000XM5 headphones continue this fine tradition. It must have been hard to beat the excellent performance of previous generations and, admittedly, it's not a world apart from the WH-1000XM4. But there is a definite improvement, albeit a slight one.

The WH-1000XM4 already effectively cut out low-frequency sounds (the rumble of public transportation or the roar of airplane engines), but the XM5s work more in the higher-frequency area. That's due in part to the new 30mm driver design which, while smaller than the previous 40mm design, uses a high-rigidity dome and soft edge to take some of the bite out of higher-pitched sounds. In fact, walking through London's Paddington station, abuzz with foam and dirt (and sounds of all kinds), I could barely hear a thing, even with my music turned down. It was very impressive.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Noise Canceling Headphones

(Image credit: future)

Active noise cancellation is the headlining act among a host of smart features that Sony includes with the WH-1000XM5 headphones, many of which automatically activate without you having to do anything, enhancing the listening experience without you having to lift a finger. .

First, location awareness. By pairing with your smartphone, the WH-1000XM5 headphones can learn your daily routine and adjust ambient sound control settings based on your location. If the headphones detect that you're sitting at home, they might switch to a lower level of noise cancellation than when you're sitting at the office, depending on your preferences. And if you're out for a walk, there may be more outside noise to keep you safe when crossing the street.

Speak-to-Chat is another useful feature. As the name suggests, if you start talking while listening to the headphones, they'll stop playback and play ambient sound so you can have a conversation without removing your cans. But like the WH-1000XM4s before it, they have an unfortunate side effect: it will stop playback if you start singing while the feature is on. Fortunately, it's an optional feature, so if you're a Pavarotti in the making, too, you'll still be able to stretch your lungs while listening.

A more immediately useful and intuitive feature is the fact that the WH-1000XM5s automatically pause the audio when taken off the head, thanks to a hidden sensor in the earpiece. Leave them off for a bit longer and they will automatically turn off completely, saving battery life. You also have the option to connect to two devices at once, switching between the two depending on what's happening on each, for example to prioritize a notification.

Finally, there's better support for voice assistants and their wake words. Alexa and the Google Assistant can be…

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