For at least five to six years, Sony’s WH-1000XM line of noise-cancelling overhead headphones have been the industry standard by which all other overhead ANC headphones are measured.
and with good reason; They were pretty consistently the best as a combination of high-end audio, top-notch noise-cancellation and physical comfort.
This has allowed Sony to price recent releases at or above €400, which is often €50 or more more expensive than direct competitors.
How, then, does the latest iteration of the company’s famous headphones – the XM5 – fare?
Overall very good. What I’ve found in the time I’ve tested them is relatively excellent audio, top-notch noise-cancellation, and some clever little features you don’t generally get with other headphones.
However, physically they are a little different from previous versions in one key respect – they no longer fold. This will likely make them sturdier, but also means they don’t always fit into sections of my bag like previous versions did.
They also have a slightly narrower, thinner overhead band than some previous versions. At first, that worried me a little.
I tend to wear noise-cancelling headphones for long periods of time whenever I’m trying to work, be it on a plane or in a coffee shop (or office) to block out the noise of others around me. For me, the wearing comfort of the headphones is just as important as the audio quality and the level of noise cancellation. What I’ve found is that there’s not really a sacrifice in comfort here; I could wear them for hours without feeling any pressure on my head.
What do you get here in terms of noise cancellation that isn’t available on much cheaper devices like Sony’s own WH-C910n (€130) or Irish brand OneSonic’s HD1 (€99)?
It’s mainly a combination of additional controls and additional hardware that offers maximum damping.
For example, there’s a feature that automatically switches the headphones from full noise-cancelling to an ambient or “transparent” mode (so you can hear everything that’s going on around you) when you speak.
This is useful when you have the headphones on but want to quickly chat with someone, e.g. B. to order a coffee, pay for a bus ticket or ask a question with a colleague. (Note, however, that this feature only kicks in when you start a conversation, as it’s designed to go off when it hears your voice, not someone else’s.) Another feature lets you check noise-cancelling status Set location, from maximum to transparent. depending on whether you are outside, at home or in the office.
And then there are some general software features that are still not available on some of Sony’s main rivals, but which are very, very useful if you wear them regularly. Like its XM4 predecessor (but not the previous XM3 or XM2 models), it automatically switches between two of your connected devices, making it much easier to switch from your laptop to, say, an incoming call on your phone.
In terms of absolute noise cancellation, however, you get more attenuation than cheaper variants. This is partly because Sony has increased the number of microphones on these cans from four to eight. Helping that is the software, which allows the XM5s to be re-tuned to tweak the noise-cancelling in a different location without you having to do it yourself.
As I switched between the XM5s and significantly cheaper pairs, I definitely noticed the difference.
ANC and software aside, the main reason you’re paying over £400 for this is still the audio quality. Even though they don’t use Sony’s high-resolution LDAC technology, this is as high quality as you’d expect from a pair of non-wired headphones. Everything I played was wonderfully clear, with crisp accents on notes and vocals easily discernible.
For those who really want to push it to the limit, Sony’s cans come with a three-month free trial from higher-end music streaming platforms like Tidal. (Though there’s a difference between this and Spotify, you won’t hear it as clearly as you would with high-end wired headphones.)
Overall, the verdict is predictable. You can’t get any better than the WH1000-XM5 for wireless noise-cancelling headphones. Once again, Sony sets standards.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/reviews/sonys-wh-1000xm5-sets-the-new-standard-for-that-top-end-earphone-audio-experience-41952061.html The WH-1000XM5 from Sony sets the new standard for the audio experience with top-of-the-line headphones