Sony WH-1000XM4 review

The Sony WH-1000XM4 builds on the foundation of its predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM3. The WH-1000XM4 continues to give Bose a competitive edge with multi-point connectivity, conversation capabilities and many other advanced software features. This time, Sony is ahead of the curve, and with the Sony WH-1000XM5, you can get the XM4 headphones at a significant discount. Does this set of Sony headphones have the intention to continue to compete with the competition, or are they being outperformed by others? We spent two weeks using the Sony WH-1000XM4 active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones to find out.

What’s it like to use the Sony WH-1000XM4?
While the WH-1000XM4 is almost identical to its predecessor in appearance, there are some new features hidden inside. The Bluetooth multipoint makes it slightly easier to use on a daily basis, as you can connect to two devices at once (more on that later). It makes it easy to transition from listening to music while working at your desk to watching YouTube videos on your phone and back again, all without having to open your Bluetooth settings. Warning Warning: If you are going to use multipoint, both connected devices will need to use the AAC Bluetooth codec.

How do you control the music on the Sony WH-1000XM4?
Close up of the proximity sensor on the inside of the left ear cup of the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones.
The headphones have a new sensor on the left ear cup that automatically pauses your music when you take the headphones off.
The WH-1000XM4 controls have not changed much from the previous version. Both earcups are still touch sensitive and you can control playback with a series of clicks and swipes. Unfortunately, the double tap to pause feature actually only works some of the time. Sliding to control volume and skipping between songs works seamlessly, but for some reason the headphones have a hard time registering taps. Sometimes it’s easier and faster to just take the headphones off and let the music pause automatically.

Placing your hand on the left ear cup activates ambient mode, which is one of my favorite features. It dramatically reduces the volume of your music and uses the headphones’ built-in microphone to play back what’s going on around you. Not a big deal for people who still spend most of their time at home, but useful if you need to get a quick notification from a pilot or conductor while commuting.

What Bluetooth codecs does the Sony WH-1000XM4 support?
Man holding the Sony WH-1000XM4 headset in front of a green plant
The Sony WH-1000XM4 headset was chosen with a slightly thinner headband.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 uses Bluetooth 5.0, has Bluetooth multipoint capability, and supports SBC, AAC, and Sony’s own LDAC, which has the highest streaming quality if you’re willing to deal with a less-than-stable connection. If you’re using something that’s not compatible with any of these codecs, it will default to SBC, the most basic codec shared by all Bluetooth audio devices. Devices that don’t have Bluetooth at all can also be connected via the included 3.5 mm audio cable.

However, the multipoint feature is only available if you are using AAC instead of LDAC or SBC. Depending on what you want to do, this may be worthwhile, but it’s not for me since I use at least two devices most of the time.

How does the Sony WH-1000XM4 sound?
Graph showing how the frequency response of the Sony WH-1000XM4 compares to SoundGuys’ house curve.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 (cyan) default frequency response is a little more amplified in the bass and treble than our consumer curve (pink) shows.
The Sony WH-1000XM4’s sound quality is one of those subtle things that Sony has improved on in the previous generation of models as well. That’s not to say the XM3 sounds bad – it sounds great – but the older model certainly has more of a consumer-friendly punch at the low end.

The more neutral frequency response in the bass translates into a sound that doesn’t get the huge bass boost that other headphones do. It’s not for everyone, but most people won’t have a problem here. If you do want more low-end emphasis, you can always change the EQ preset in the app.

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