We judge all headphones and earbuds on a scale of 10, analyzing the categories we think are most important: sound, comfort, design, battery performance, and, if applicable, special features.
Here's how the Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-canceling headphones stack up.
A follow-up to our favorite wireless cans, the Sony’s WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-canceling headphones bring subtle but meaningful tech improvements, while retaining the same design and uncompromisingly awesome sound. The noteworthy new features include an upgraded microphone setup and clever ergonomic enhancements, among others. They make the high-end cans even more convenient for daily use.
• Sound: 10/10
• Comfort: 8/10
• Design: 8/10
• Battery Performance: 9/10
• Overall Score: 9/10
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SONY WH-1000XM4:
The cans look just like their predecessors
They deliver crisp yet powerful sound with industry-leading noise-canceling
The touch controls are a bit underwhelming
They have long battery life and fast charging capabilities
The Sony WH-1000XM4’s sound is a solid contender for the best. The cans deliver a balanced sonic experience with supreme fidelity, courtesy of 40-millimeter audio drivers with outstanding frequency response that ranges from 4 Hz to 40,000 Hz. Users can tune the sound to their taste via Sony’s Headphones mobile app.
Rather impressively and unlike their competitors, the cans can play Hi-Res Audio content in both wired and wireless mode. While I tested them, I profoundly enjoyed streaming My Songs — the latest album by Sting with fresh takes on his iconic tracks — in Hi-Res Audio format on Qobuz.
A live recording of “Fragile,” one my favorite songs by the music legend, sounded remarkable on the WH-1000XM4. The accuracy of the beautiful classic guitar notes, the percussion, and the artist’s voice made me feel like I’m part of the audience.
The WH-1000XM4 are also capable of delivering insanely entertaining bass without affecting the mid-range and the highs. The powerful beats in the intro of “Protection” by Massive Attack sounded exceptional, as did the voice of Tracey Thorn.
When it comes to noise-canceling capabilities, the cans are among the best at blocking ambient noise, thanks to a duo of microphones per ear cup, and a sophisticated noise-canceling processor. A feature called Ambient Sound Control, on the other hand, can adjust the noise-canceling experience depending on your surroundings.
During my testing, the Sony WH-1000XM4 tuned out my surroundings superbly — I even missed a delivery by a day because I didn’t hear the doorbell with them on. I enjoyed using Sony’s Speak-to-Chat feature, which paused the playback and the noise-canceling when it detected my voice.
The upgraded microphone setup is among the main reasons why you should consider the WH-1000XM4 headphones. Their performance during calls was flawless, and vastly better than the WH-1000XM3’s. In this instance, Sony is finally on par with top-tier wireless cans by Bose and Jabra.
Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity is another major improvement that the Sony WH-1000XM4 has over the previous generation. It allows the cans to maintain a robust connection with compatible devices. There’s even the option to simultaneously pair them with two devices, and manage the connections from the mobile app.
When it comes to comfort, the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are on par with the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 — today’s benchmark for wireless cans. The newcomers are lightweight and, thanks to superbly padded ear cups and a headband which doesn’t cause even a hint of discomfort, ideal for lengthy listening sessions. Whether you are grinding through a long day of virtual meetings or flying to another continent with them on, you won’t feel any fatigue.
I like that Sony has equipped the WH-1000XM4 headphones with a sensor, which stops the audio playback when you take them off in wireless mode. Just like the WH-1000XM3, the latest generation will also switch to Quick Attention modes when you place your hand over the right ear cup. The functionality is handy for quick conversations.
I wish that Sony didn’t carry over the previous iteration’s finicky call, playback, and volume touch controls into the WH-1000XM4. They are not as reliable as the tactile buttons found on some of their competitors. Thankfully, there are buttons for powering them on/off and checking the battery level, as well as for controlling the noise-canceling experience.
There’s no telling the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones apart from the Sony WH-1000XM3 from 2018. The new cans look completely identical, and they are even available in the same colors with copper accents. They're nicely understated overall, but I won’t be surprised if upgraders find them a tad too familiar.
For comparison, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 and the JBL Club One headphones have design and craftsmanship that are on another level. Even the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 look dramatically different from their predecessors.
BATTERY PERFORMANCE: 9/10
With up to 30 hours of wireless playback between charges, the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, like the WH-1000XM3, are among the best in their price range. The cans can last considerably longer than their rivals from Bose and JBL. While I tested them, I didn’t have to charge them for days.
The headphones’ futureproof USB-C connector and the fast-charging capabilities have remained unchanged from the previous generation. I like that you can get up to 5 hours’ worth of tunes after only 10 minutes.
The upgrades have made the Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones noticeably better than the already stellar WH-1000XM3. The better microphones make the cans excellent for remote work, while the top-tier noise-canceling tech will ensure that you can shrug off unwanted distractions at will.
The headphones’ sound, in line with the expectations set by their brand’s heritage, is also fantastic. Overall, if you are shopping for new wireless cans, the Sony WH-1000XM4 deserve every bit of your attention.
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