Bose has long set the standard for active noise cancellation (ANC), even in the relatively new true wireless space. But the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds finally saw some real competition in the form of Sony’s $279.99 WF-1000XM4. From an audio standpoint, Sony’s wireless headphones work right out of the box, sound bass forward and bright, and can be adjusted to suit your tastes with EQ-something the Bose models don’t have. And when it comes to active noise cancellation, these are the first truly wireless headphones we’ve tested that outperform QuietComfort Earbuds in most situations. that makes Sony’s WF-1000XM4 headphones the best noise-canceling headphones you can buy, and our new Editor’s Choice Award winner.
WF-1000XM4 Design and Features
Available in black or silver, the WF-1000XM4 headphones feel lightweight and secure in the earpiece, despite their considerable size. They only come with three pairs of earbuds, and the design doesn’t have any additional fit-securing features like earbuds, although the earpieces hold in place nicely.
The IPX4 rating means the earpieces can withstand light splashes from any direction. You should not submerge them in water or wash them under a faucet, but they should be able to withstand rain, sweat and wiping with a damp cloth. This rating does not apply to the charging case, so be sure to keep them dry.
What is it like to use the Sony WF-1000XM4?
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is one of the best wireless headphones on the market and the experience is top notch in its category. Noise cancellation, sound quality and user experience are all top notch because Sony has a keen interest in improving things that may make the user’s life better.
A photo of the Sony WF-1000XM4 case open to reveal the headphones inside.
The addition of the brass ANC microphone housing makes the Sony WF-1000XM4 even more gorgeous.
The Sony WF-1000XM4’s recycled paper packaging includes a charging case, three sizes of polyurethane foam earbuds, headphones, and a charging cable. Various documents will help guide you as these are as smart as any other product and there is quite a bit to link your voice assistant and other integrations. To be honest, the setup process is fairly straightforward, although you’ll want Sony’s Headphones Connect app to make the most of your headphones. The app contains all sorts of goodies, such as changing your control scheme, updating your virtual assistant, changing the sound of your headphones, and more.
Actually using the Sony WF-1000XM4 is very beneficial, as the earbuds are much smaller than their predecessors and therefore fit better. Capacitive touch controls mean you won’t struggle to control your earbuds, and the sweat resistance means you probably won’t kill them during your workout.
How to wear the Sony WF-1000XM4
A photo showing the memory foam tips of the Sony WF-1000XM4.
The Sony WF-1000XM4’s polyurethane foam earplugs are easy to wear every time.
In order to fit the included foam earbuds perfectly, you will have to resist the urge to shove them in your ears. Take a moment to roll the foam around with your fingers first (until they’ve halved in thickness) so they slide into your ears more easily. Once inside, hold the headphones in place for about 20 seconds while the foam expands outward to press against your ear canal. After this happens, you should have a near-ideal fit, which you can check using the fit test in the Headphones Connect app. If you need bigger or smaller earplugs, the app will tell you!
Open Headphones Connect, then connect to your earbuds in the app. The next screen will give you several options to better use your headphones, and then you can navigate to the earbud fit test from the “System” tab. The test will guide you through the proper fit and test scan to verify that the feature is working properly, and then you are ready to go.
How good is the Sony WF-1000XM4 at noise cancellation?
The chart shows the excellent ANC and isolation performance of the Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless headphones.
Isolation and ANC are very effective on the Sony WF-1000XM4 because the foam tip ensures a good seal.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 does an excellent job of quieting the world around you. Not only do these earbuds have excellent active noise cancellation (ANC), but the memory foam earbuds seal oddly shaped ear canals very well, which means they also provide a fair amount of isolation. Good isolation also allows you to better shield yourself from incidental noise, such as the small talk of colleagues, and the cacophony of subway platforms or city streets.
Until the ANC unit in the Sony WF-1000XM4 can even attempt to eliminate noise in the ear canal, the foam earbuds will block at least some of the sound that reaches your eardrums. That’s great – it means street noise sounds about half to a quarter of what it does with poor or no isolation.
Does the Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone work well?
The Sony WF-1000XM4 has a decent microphone, but it’s a little less good than AAC. However, it is perfect for phone calls. There is also a feature that detects when you are speaking to help the microphone determine which sounds you want it to enhance and what is just noise. This is a useful feature, although you probably won’t notice it much. But that’s really the point: Sony doesn’t want you to think about this sort of thing, it just wants your audio to be good.
Sony WF-1000XM4: Battery life and connectivity
Eight hours of onboard battery life
Even in the new and reduced physical size of the WF-1000XM4, there’s more than ever before. Connectivity is now via Bluetooth 5.2, which means simultaneous transmission to the left and right earbuds, as well as (when using Sony’s custom LDAC codec) high-resolution audio certified wirelessly.
In theory, Bluetooth 5.2 should also mean longer battery life – but at best the reality is that 24 hours (8 to 12 hours in the earbuds, depending on whether active noise cancellation is on or off, plus a couple of other charges) is really nothing special. That said, at least the WF-1000XM4 is compatible with Qi charging pads and can be recharged for another hour by plugging into a power outlet for five minutes.