The true-wireless earphone market is brimming with decent brands right now, all trying to offer up the best audio from the smallest device.
In recent months we have had some fantastic buds in our ears - from Nura’s AI efforts, the NuraTrue, to Devialet’s premium offerings, the Devialet Gemini. All wanting the ‘AirPods killer’ tag, all ‘nearly’ grabbing it.
And now for Sony. Sony released its Sony WF-1000XM4 range in recent months, hoping to prove to the world that when it comes to both true wireless and noise cancelling it can still deliver the goods.
We have spent a few weeks now using the earphones - here are 5 things to know about the Sony WF-1000XM4 ANC buds.
- The best true wireless earphones - we've reviewed the ones you need to know about.
1. The design is superb
Where their predecessors were somewhat bean-shaped, Sony has redesigned its earbuds to great effect. They use a completely redesigned 6mm driver and are bloody stylish. We are big fans of the industrial design, with the brushed metal and gold-looking circle adding a nice design flourish (it’s actually a mic inlet but Sony treating it as an essential part of the design is a great touch).
They are 10% smaller than their predecessors and because of this fit flush in the ear. Couple this with a suitably small carry case (that also charges) and what you have is a smart, well-designed pair of buds.
There are three tips thrown into the mix as well, with Sony deciding (quite rightly) that memory foam tips are the way forward when it comes to keeping in the music.
2. They work out when you workout
Sony has added an IPX4 rating to the WF-1000XM4s. This means that the earphones are both water and sweat resistant - ideal then for your workouts and the Great British weather (of which both helped with the testing of these earbuds).
As mentioned, the earbuds have been reduced around 10% in size and the case is 40% smaller. The smaller the buds, the better the fit in our ear and after 45 minutes or so of cross training, we never once had to adjust the earphones.
The only niggle we had was when using a towel to wipe the sweat from our face. It would sometimes trigger the touch ‘pausing’ on the side of the earphones when it brushed against them.
3. Touch controls (and setup) are fantastic
Towel-touches aside, we were really impressed with the no-nonsense controls. They are easy to decipher and work well whether on the go or in the gym. You can hold the button for Sony’s passthrough, so you can speak and listen to people when you need to. You can tap quickly to pause, double tap to skip tracks and so on. If you take a bud out then they automatically pause what you are listening to as well.
There is also Google Assistant and Alexa integration which works a treat if you are into that sort of thing. There is also a Speak-to-Chat feature can be enabled which will pause what you are listening to when you start talking. The idea is that you will actually be speaking to someone and want to hear their reply. We, ahem, like to sing to the songs we are listening to which meant that we had to turn this feature off. If you are a silent singer, then it may well be for you!
Setup can take as long or as short as you want it to. You can just connect straight through Bluetooth and not worry about the app. Go through the app, though, and you get far more choice with controls and audio tweaks.
4. Sound is market leading, noise is cancelled
Apple may have shifted the mainstream consciousness about spatial audio, but Sony has been making strides in this department and this can be found in its 360 Reality Audio feature. This is supported by the likes of Deezer, Tidal and Amazon - and involves you, seriously, taking photos of your ear for it to work. But even if you don’t use this in your music (and it is only available for music) listening you are in for a treat.
Load up the accompanying Sony Headphones Connect app and there are a decent amount of EQ settings that you can tinker with. We balanced out the lower end and the mids, but even by default the music sounds fantastic.
LUMP’s blip-heavy Animal was utterly entrancing, its syncopated sound echoing throughout the earphones, creating a much bigger sound space than we were expecting. The beauty of Halley’s Comet by Billie Eilish whispered through the earphones, but even with the slight sound everything was picked up perfectly.
Little Fluffy Clouds pulsated as it should, we got more out of the song that we have in a long time (and this one is a mainstay in our headphone testing).
When we brought the bass, things were a little too ‘booming’ but that is something that can be fixed in the app. It’s nowhere like listening to Beats which are tuned to the bass, but it was overpowering on tracks such as Rusko’s Gone Sleep and Chesters Groove by Skream.
Still, each time we listened we were utterly impressed by what we heard.
ANC-wise, the seal is the real deal here, allowing for a really immersive noise-cancelling experience.
5. The Battery is a belter - thanks to the case
Sony has really thought about battery here and offers one of the longest-lasting wireless earphones around. We got eight hours out of the earphones on a single charge and if you aren’t happy with that, then you could get around 50% more battery by turning the noise cancelling off.
Couple this with a case that holds two full charges and what you have is a pair of wireless earphones that can potentially last a full 24 hours without a charge. This really is impressive stuff - and wireless charging has also been added like a cherry on top.
Sony WF-1000XM4: final verdict
We are big fans of the Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless earphones. A huge amount of audio prowess has gone into the buds. This is coupled with a great-looking, new slimline design and a battery life that is best in the business.
The only caveat is that this comes at a premium. Currently at £249 they are some of the priciest earbuds around but they are high-end, powerful little buds that made us fall in love with our music all over again.
- Sony WH-1000XM4 review: the best just got better