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Sony WH-1000XM5 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: Which should you buy?

Source: Pocketnow

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In our Sony WH-1000XM5 summary post, we covered all the new features available with this latest release, stating how there are changes across the board and an increased price tag. Now, that last factor got us thinking about whether the Sony-WH1000XM4 is still worth considering, with the primary thought being, Yes. And Sony choosing to keep around the previous generation a price cut in most regions further supports the answer to the question.

So, while the Sony WH-1000XM5 is an upgrade with new pricing, the previous generation still gives it a run for its money. And in this article, we will look at the two models and see how they compare to help choose the one that’s better for your usage.

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Product Image of Sony WH1000 XM5

Sony WH-1000XM5

The Latest

The Sony WH-1000XM5 features a refined design and audio hardware that promises more detailed audio partnered with Noise Canceling performance that’s hard to beat! It starts at $399 and is the option to get if you’re looking for a comfortable pair of headphones that offer everything you may ever need.

Product Image of Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4

Value for Money Predecessor

The Sony WH-1000XM4 features some of the best noise-canceling technology and packs audio hardware that delivers a thumping bass. If you wish to add a versatile pair of headphones to your everyday carry, this is an item not to miss!

Design

Both Colors of Sony WH 1000 XM5 Source: Sony

The first difference you will notice between the two headphones is their designs. The XM4 showcased a minor change from the XM3’s, while the XM5 features a much more significant departure. It is much cleaner with fewer lines and angled segments, larger earcups, and a new headband adjustment mechanism that replaces the notched metal band style. The headphones also let go of the folding mechanism seen on XM4 and thus, come in a carrying case with a larger footprint.

Whether the change is a dealbreaker is subjective as everyone has different travel and carrying preferences, but I don’t mind the change.

We mentioned there are new larger earcups, and with the change in design, Sony has also changed the material to be softer and more comfortable. There’s also a decrease in the overall weight. Now, the XM4 is by no way an uncomfortable pair to have on your head, but the new model does have changes that will make the experience better.

The change in the design of the earcups is partnered with new material for the ear cushions, too — one that’s softer and more comfortable. There’s also a decrease in the overall weight. Now, the XM4 is by no way an uncomfortable pair to have on your head, but the new model does have changes that will make the experience better.

Overall, design-wise, the XM5 is significantly different, and it is easy to consider it an upgrade. The only drawback is the lack of collapsibility, which might break the deal for a few consumers.

Audio

Speaking of audio, many users of Active Noise Canceling headphones do more than play music, as they find themselves relying on these gadgets during long flights or even meetings. The XM5 features new and improved hardware across the board in this segment.

Active Noise Canceling

WH 1000 XM5 being used next to a train Source: Sony

Active Noise Canceling on the latest generation has been called an upgrade by many reviews due to its ability to cut out high mids and treble frequencies (human voices around you) than capable on the XM4. The improvement is made possible by the eight onboard microphones on the XM5 (compared to the four on XM4) and the inclusion of an additional audio processor — the integrated V1 Processor.

The larger ear cups also play a role in aiding the cancellation of outside sounds due to the improved passive isolation they offer.

But regardless of these changes, the noise cancellation you will find on the XM4 is more than likely to suffice because once you begin watching content, keeping track of what’s happening outside becomes a task. This component is unlikely to change irrespective of the upgrades the XM5 introduces.

The last noise-canceling-related upgrade you will find on the XM5 is the automatic optimizer; this component automatically adjusts ANC based on your surroundings. On the XM4, users need to perform this action by holding down the CUSTOM button manually — if it hasn’t set it to access Alexa or Google Assistant (Android-only) — or by getting into the Headphones companion application and starting Noise Canceling Optimizer.

Audio Playback

Featured Image Version 2 for Sony WH 1000 XM5 Source: Sony

Next, coming to actual audio playback, the XM5 comes with new 30mm drivers, which produce a tighter sound closer to a neutral sound profile than the bass-heavy output provided by the 40mm drivers on the XM4.

I’ve mentioned this previously in the XM5 summary, and I’ll repeat it now, the XM4, while they sound good, can sometimes overpower the vocals in a song with its bass output.

Now, both headphones feature EQ controls and EQ presets, so customizing them is easy, and getting them modified to match your tastes is possible, though if you’re looking for a more neutral output, going the way of the XM5 would serve better.

As for audio codecs, like with the XM4, the XM5 supports the SBC, AAC, and LDAC codec with DSEE Extreme.

DSEE Extreme is an AI layer that upscales digital music files in real-time.

Call Quality

The last audio-related upgrade on the XM5 is its ability to cancel out background sounds better and the improved transmission of your input during calls. The eight-microphone array has been described as highly capable and will work better than the setup on the XM4.

The improved background cancelation is due to the four beam-forming mics that you will see on the earcups of the XM5. The XM4 doesn’t feature this set of hardware.

Battery

Sony WH-1000XM4

And coming to the last point of contention between the two devices, which is their battery life. Both XM5 and XM4 are rated to provide 30 hours of listening with ANC enabled. When not in use, the new headphones offer 40 hours of listening compared to 38 on the previous generation.

When charging the two devices, the XM5 will need a three-and-a-half-hour-long session to juice them from 0 to 100%. But there is a fast-charging element, which will give you three hours of use with a three-minute charge, provided you use a compatible USB PD charger.

With the XM4, there’s a need for a three-hour charge session to hit 100%, while its fast-charge system allows for five hours of use with a ten-minute charge.

I don’t think the difference between these quick charge metrics is a significant factor, especially since the overall battery life on these headphones is decent at 30 hours of listening.

  • Inbox Contents: XM5 doesn’t come bundled with the in-flight adapter.
  • No NFC: XM5 drops support for NFC-based Quick Pairing.
  • Bluetooth 5.2 Support: Since the XM5 comes with Bluetooth 5.2, it also supports Bluetooth LE Audio, which allows it to connect to devices running Windows 10 and later via Swift Pair.

Which should you buy between WH-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM4?

Sony WH-1000XM4 Features Image Source: Sony

So, concluding this piece. If money is just an object, the Sony WH-1000XM5 has some evident upgrades that make it a device distinct from the WH-1000XM4. Its new design is more comfortable to wear, and its audio will be more detailed; there’s also improved noise-canceling to keep in mind.

But if you’re looking to save some money, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is the pair you can’t go wrong with buying.

I’d describe it as such; if the XM5 is a 10 in all three categories, that is, design, audio, and battery, then the XM4 is a nine only in the audio department. Its design has unique advantages — collapsibility and rotating earcups — and its battery performance is easily comparable with the latest generation.

What are your thoughts on the upgrades brought to the table by the Sony WH-1000XM5? Would you prefer to buy the new headphones or save money by picking the WH-1000XM4? Let us know with a comment below.

Technical Specifications

Category Sony WH-1000XM5 Sony WH-1000XM4
Weight 250g (approx.) 254g
Headphone Type Closed Closed
Wearing Style Over-Ear
Freely Adjustable
Over-Ear
Notched Metal Headband
Driver Unit 30mm 40mm
Frequency Response 4 Hz – 40000 Hz
20Hz-20,000Hz (Bluetooth, 44.1kHz sampling)
20Hz-40,000Hz (Bluetooth, LDAC 96kHz sampling)
4 Hz – 40000 Hz
20Hz-20,000Hz (Bluetooth, 44.1kHz sampling)
20Hz-40,000Hz (Bluetooth, LDAC 96kHz sampling)
Battery 3.5 hours charge time
30 hours playback (ANC On)
40 hours playback (ANC Off)
24 hours continuous communication (ANC On)
32 hours continuous communication (ANC Off)
3 hours charge time
30 hours playback (ANC On)
38 hours playback (ANC Off)
Continuous Communication Time: NA
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2
Wired
Supports Google Fast Pair and Windows Swift Pair
Bluetooth 5.0
Wired
Supports Google Fast Pair and NFC-based Connection
Ports USB C
3.5mm Headphone Jack
USB C
3.5mm Headphone Jack
Cord Type Single-sided (detachable) Single-sided (detachable)
Colors Black, Silver Black, Silver, Navy, White (Limited Edition)
What’s In The Box Carrying Case
USB C to USB A Cable
Connection Cable (AUX)
Carrying Case
USB C to USB A Cable
Connection Cable (AUX)
In-flight Adapter

Product Image of Sony WH1000 XM5

Sony WH-1000XM5

The Latest

The Sony WH-1000XM5 features a refined design and audio hardware that promises more detailed audio partnered with Noise Canceling performance that’s hard to beat! It starts at $399 and is the option to get if you’re looking for a comfortable pair of headphones that offer everything you may ever need.

Product Image of Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4

Value for Money Predecessor

The Sony WH-1000XM4 features some of the best noise-canceling technology and packs audio hardware that delivers a thumping bass. If you wish to add a versatile pair of headphones to your everyday carry, this is an item not to miss!

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