Sony WF-1000XM4 True Wireless Earphones Review: Top Tier Stuff

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Sony is one of the world’s leading brands when it comes to personal audio, making high quality wireless headphones, earbuds, and true wireless earbuds on a regular basis. The company has also developed the LDAC Bluetooth codec, which enables high data transfer rates over Bluetooth for better audio quality with high resolution audio streams and files. The latest product from Sony brings together all of its expertise in this field; The WF-1000XM4 true wireless earphones promise first-class sound quality, among other important functions.

Priced at Rs. 19,990, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is the successor to the WF-1000XM3 and promises an even more powerful and feature-rich listening experience. In addition to active noise cancellation, mobile app support and wireless charging, the WF-1000XM4 supports the LDAC Bluetooth codec, which promises better sound quality with compatible source devices. Is this the best pair of true wireless earbuds you can buy right now? Find out in this review.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 supports the SBC and AAC codecs in addition to LDAC

All the specifications and features you would expect from the Sony WF-1000XM4

Some true flagship wireless earbuds like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 and Sony WF-1000XM3 are significantly larger than most affordable and mid-range options, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 is a similarly sized pair. One of the reasons for this is the built-in Sony V1 processor that powers the active noise cancellation and LDAC Bluetooth codec support.

Although slightly smaller than the XM3, the XM4’s earbuds are quite large. They stay anchored in your ears with the help of silicone earplugs alone. The earbuds stuck out of my ears a little unsteadily and tended to move easily with everyday use, especially when walking. However, the noise isolation remained good enough to provide effective active noise cancellation, and I had no issues with the comfort or the ability to use these earbuds for extended periods of time.

The Sony WF-1000XM4’s earbuds are made of plastic but have a nice finish and each has a small metal accent that houses one of the outer microphones. The second outer microphone is on the top of each earbud and a third microphone is inside to support ANC. The rounded portion on the outside of the earbuds is touch sensitive for the customizable controls, and the insides have proximity sensors that detect when they’re being worn or taken off, so they can automatically play and pause music or turn them off when not in use.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 earphones are IPX4 for water resistance. My test device was delivered in “environmentally friendly” recyclable packaging. I found three pairs of foam earbuds in the package, but Sony has confirmed that devices sold in India contain three pairs of silicone earbuds instead, which is a bit of a disappointment as foam tips usually offer a better noise-isolating fit. A single pair of silicone earbuds was separately provided to me by Sony for this review to suit the buyers’ experience.

The touch controls on the Sony WF-1000XM4 are customizable through the Sony Headphones Connect app, although this is limited to feature sets rather than allowing the user to select individual gestures and functions. The sets are assigned to each earphone separately and can be exchanged as required. There is a set for Ambient Sound Control that switches between active noise cancellation and listening mode with a single tap and the mode for quick attention by pressing continuously. A second set allows you to control playback and the voice assistant, and the third set allows you to control the volume.

I had Ambient Sound Control enabled on the left earbud and playback controls on the right, but the need to select two of the three sets was a bit disappointing. I would also have liked to be able to control the volume directly from the headset.

The charging case of the Sony WF-1000XM4 matches the color and texture of the earphones. It’s not too big, so it’s in your pocket and easy to carry. There is a USB Type-C port on the back for charging and a status indicator on the front, just below the lid. The charging case also supports Qi wireless charging.

The Sony WF-1000XM4’s earphones have dynamic 6mm drivers that support a frequency response range of 20-40,000 Hz and a streaming bit rate of up to 990 kbps with the LDAC codec (20-20,000 Hz frequency range with other codecs) . For connectivity, the earphones use Bluetooth 5.2 with support for the Bluetooth codecs SBC, AAC and LDAC. There is also support for Google Fast Pair, which enables quick pairing with Android smartphones by linking the headset to a Google account.

Sony’s Headphones Connect acts as a companion app for the WF-1000XM4 earbuds, allowing you to customize controls, change equalizer settings, and check the battery level of the earbuds and charging case. You can also tweak other things like 360 ​​Reality Audio settings, talk-to-chat, DSEE audio mode, voice assistant settings, auto power off, and more.

You can set the earbuds to give priority to sound quality over connection stability, or vice versa, depending on your usage preferences. On the whole, this is an excellent app that allows great control over the earbuds and their functions, aside from pushing firmware updates to the headset as they become available.

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The Sony WF-1000XM4 has touch controls that can be adjusted using the Sony Headphones Connect app

The Sony WF-1000XM4’s battery life isn’t exceptional, but it’s decent enough given its features and specifications. I was able to use the earbuds for about six hours (Sony claims eight hours) on a single charge of mixed use that included listening to music and audiobooks and answering calls, with active noise cancellation usually turned on. The charging case added two full charges for the earbuds, for a total battery life of around 18 hours per charge cycle. With a 10 W charger, the case can be fully charged in about 90 minutes, wireless charging of course takes longer.

Good sound quality and ANC on the Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony’s over-ear headphones like the WH-1000XM4 have been class-leading for some time, but the company’s real wireless range isn’t quite as impressive in the premium segment as its competitors from Apple and Samsung. The WF-1000XM4 represents a big change in this trend, putting Sony in solid competition among the best in the true wireless audio segment.

The key point that makes the Sony WF-1000XM4 special is the support for the LDAC Bluetooth codec, a rare specification for true wireless earbuds. Additionally, Sony has ironed out many of the connection stability issues older products had, making using LDAC as seamless and natural as the much more stable AAC codec over long distances. This resulted in a small but noticeable improvement in sound quality when using the earbuds with an Android smartphone compared to an iPhone.

When I listened to Rusko’s Hold On (Sub Focus Remix) on Apple Music with the LDAC codec at 990 kbps, I was immediately impressed by the sound quality it offered. The sonic signature of the earphones is based on the typical hearing profile of an everyday consumer and is therefore well matched to this aggressive dubstep track. This resulted in a significant bias towards low frequencies, which resulted in a tight and aggressive bass response that got the best out of the track.

There was also a lot of detail to be heard using the high definition audio stream from Apple Music. With Butterflies from Skrillex the vocals sounded clean and distinctive and played well with the deep attack of the lows. The weaker instrumental elements and subtle background vocals sounded clear and engaging, especially at medium to high volume.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 has been able to keep up with the fastest and most varied tracks in all genres, adapting to different styles almost intuitively. The Avalanches’ excellent sample-based Frankie Sinatra sounded significantly better on the WF-1000XM4 than any other true wireless headset I’ve used recently. This pair of earbuds was completely unimpressed by the busy, rapidly changing styles of the track. Everything held together coherently, with a detailed and energetic sound signature that defined the comfortable listening experience I had.

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There are three microphones on each earbud of the Sony WF-1000XM4 for ANC and voice recording

As expected, the active noise cancellation of the Sony WF-1000XM4 was very good, supported by the effective noise isolation of the earplugs. Turning on ANC instantly changed the noise level that I could hear both inside and outside. These earbuds were particularly good at reducing wind noise and the hum of the urban environment.

The effectiveness of the noise cancellation also meant I was able to keep the audio volume at a safe level even in noisy environments. However, I have experienced somewhat better active noise cancellation with competing products such as the Apple AirPods Pro.

The listening mode sounded quite natural, but it’s not quite as clean as the Apple AirPods Pro. Speak-to-chat worked well, but is very sensitive to soft speech, which can be annoying if you tend to sing along to the music and there is no way to adjust this sensitivity. The voice assistant functionality worked well with both Google Assistant and Siri, and quick attention mode is an intuitive way to quickly hear your surroundings, even with ANC on and audio playing.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 did well on phone calls and audiobooks – both focused on voices and speech – and I had no problems understanding or being understood even in somewhat noisy environments. As already mentioned, the connectivity was stable even with the LDAC codec active at distances of up to 3-4 m.

verdict

The Sony WF-1000XM4 is a flagship true wireless headset in every way and has one key factor that sets it apart from other products in this segment – the LDAC Bluetooth codec support. This makes it particularly suitable for use with Android smartphones and the sound quality is actually one of the best you can get with this form factor. Good active noise cancellation, a functional app and useful functions such as talk-to-chat, quick attention mode and voice assistant support make this headset a capable, true wireless headset.

However, if you’re using an iPhone, the AirPods Pro are better off for a number of reasons, including better connectivity and active noise cancellation, and sound that is practically as good with the AAC codec, except for minor differences in the sonic signature.

Check out the latest from the Consumer Electronics Show on Gadgets 360 in our CES 2022 hub.

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