The task couldn’t have been easier, however Sony was able to offer a suitable successor to the WH-1000XM4. After a few weeks of using it, here’s our test of the Sony WH-1000XM5.
Still getting to know Sony in the nomadic audio world? No, we can now do without it as the Japanese manufacturer has managed to impose itself simply by offering the best headphones with active noise reduction on the market. yes, Sony They stole the show from Bose, Sennheiser and even Apple failed to oust Sony in this segment with the excellent WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4.
It’s been two years since the launch of the WH-1000XM4 and it’s clear that since then, no competitor has been able to perform better than the headphones from Sony. Also, the only person able to offer an alternative is none other than Sony itself. Also, the Japanese manufacturer is taking advantage of the spring of 2022 to announce completely new headphones with active noise reduction, and Sony WH-1000XM5 or Mark 5 for close friends.
We spent about ten days with her and here’s our opinion on Sony WH-1000XM5. It will be available from the end of May 2022 at the official price of 420 euros.
Prior to this year, the WH-1000X shared the same base and, in absolute numbers, all offered a somewhat similar design. Suddenly, if we’re not careful, all WHs looked the same, with some finer details on each iteration, but ultimately with very little evolution over the years. Then, some have always preferred this classic and basic aspect to design. Again, tastes and colors are not discussed.
The brand new design of the WH-1000XM5 represents a real change. The design has been improved to be slimmer and symmetrical, giving a sober and elegant design, even minimalist according to some. The finish has been revised upwards with a so-called felt feel. The pads provide softer skin for more comfort, and finally, the sliding headband has been modified to be quieter.
The pads cover the ears completely without any modification. If some have noticed some creaking due to the plastic on the WH-1000XM4 and its folding system, there are no longer those little issues on the WH-1000XM5. And again, we’re fans of the headphone’s weight, it’s very light (235 grams), especially when compared to Apple’s AirPods Max.
Like its predecessors, Sony chose to mix physical and sensitive controls. Thus there is a palpable surface on the right atrium. With the latter, the use is very intuitive, you can then control the volume, tracks, answer phone calls and above all, have the possibility to be able to interact with the outside world by placing your hand on the entire surface, this is the famous Quick Attention function. Practice.
Like the WH-1000XM4, the WH-1000XM5 is able to recognize a user’s voice and therefore automatically mutes the music while activating Ambience Mode to communicate with the outside world. Sound sensitivity is adjustable in the iOS/Android app and in our tests, it works very well. Suddenly it is impossible to push the song under the penalty of cutting his music. And speaking of music, once it is cut out, it will have to be manually restarted. So it’s all a matter of taste and for our part we prefer to get our hands on the headset to connect with the outside world.
On the left earcup is the power and pairing button and the NC/AMB button that allows the user to turn noise cancellation on or off, or turn on ambient mode to hear the outside world. Note that it is customizable in the iOS/Android app. Added to this is a sensor inside the left atrium that detects whether the helmet has been worn or not.
New this year is that this detection sensor is completely invisible to the user. The left earcup also provides a plug for wired use. There is a USB-C port for charging on the side of the right ear cup. It should be noted that 3 minutes of recharging allows an autonomy of 3 hours. Practice !
But that’s not all because Sony offers a complete packaging based on recycled paper and that’s without any plastic. The carrying case has also been modified to a fabric that is now designed to easily iron when empty. As a result, the most discerning will notice that the WH-1000XM5 no longer folds like its predecessor. On the other hand, it is flat, which makes it easy to store in a bag.
With a USB-C port for charging, the Sony headphones offer up to 30 hours of battery life with active noise reduction and up to 40 hours without it. Without making any scientific measurements, in about ten days we only recharged it once, which means excellent autonomy for this new WH-1000XM5. On a daily basis, this autonomy provides unparalleled convenience of use.
The jack is 3.5mm type, not 2.5mm as some competitors are. Unsurprisingly for headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5 can pair with two devices at the same time. On the other hand, with the multi-device function, LDAC technology will be deactivated. The WH-1000XM5 supports LDAC, AAC and SBC codecs. There is also Bluetooth and NFC technology.
And as with the WH-1000XM4, we no longer find Qualcomm’s AptX. A couple of years ago, we thought this would have an impact on our uses, but in fact, apart from the announcement itself, we didn’t miss this deletion any further. Ditto on the WH-1000XM5.
And if we find the same QN1 processor as in its predecessors, the WH-1000XM5 has an additional V1 processor for better sound analysis and active noise reduction in order to deliver the best possible performance. Note the support of the Fast Pair function that allows you to operate the connection router on your smartphone when the headset is nearby for the first pairing. Always practical.
The WH-1000XM5 offers new 30mm diaphragms (compared to 40mm for its predecessor). Finally, we’ve found DSEE Extreme technology that uses artificial intelligence to improve compressed sounds. The Sony WH-1000XM5 apparently supports HiRes Audio and HiRes Wireless Audio, as does 360 Audio.
Reduction efficacy and efficiency
We start with active noise reduction and we’ll be honest. So far, Sony has already delivered one of the best, if not the best, active noise reduction in consumer headphones with the WH-1000XM4. So, prior to this test, it was hard to imagine how Sony would do better with the WH-1000XM5.
On paper we find everything that distinguishes the WH-1000XM4 such as the QN1 processor and the use of artificial intelligence to adapt to uses and the environment in real time. But Sony goes even further with 8 microphones now and a wind noise protection chassis on the hardware side.
That’s not all since Sony has also worked on the software side for automatic optimization of noise reduction. Added to this is a new V1 processor also dedicated to noise reduction which will work in concert with the QN1 processor to reduce noise effectively and qualitatively.
But actually, how does it work with the WH-1000XM5? Well, things are going well. We won’t lie to you, the active noise reduction is great. We were able to test it on the street, on a bike (yes, it’s bad, but it was a short walk to test wind resistance), in the metro and even on the train.
Now, the WH-1000XM4 was already on top, so we didn’t necessarily see any real differences on a daily basis. It’s completely subjective and from a user’s point of view we’ll notice more on the tripartite level but it remains very personal. We still noticed some delays compared to the automatic adaptation of the environment but it really matters.
Anyway, it goes without saying that the WH-1000XM5 is formidable when it comes to noise reduction. Now, its predecessors have done well and we won’t necessarily measure any significant differences, at least during this short (10 days) testing period. We will have to keep testing the product in different conditions to get a real idea. Once the music starts, we’re in our bubble and that’s the main thing! In addition to a featherweight of just 235 grams, we tend to forget about it and only the current heat reminds us that they are still better headphones.
And if not, how does it sound?
We finish the sound quality, and from the first tones we get a “cool effect” in the ears. Without touching the equalizers, the sound is rich and detailed. We threw ourselves into our favorite music and whatever the style, we were captivated by the quality of the WH-1000XM5.
It must be said that the WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4 were really excellent in this area and there is no reason to see Sony offer less. During the announcement, we were afraid that the new 30mm diaphragms might not be as good as the old 40mm diaphragms, but from the first headlines, we were reassured.
As usual with Sony, there are fairly urgent mids and lows. It’s Sony’s signature And it’s for those who like a warmer sound. In our tests, we tried pieces of music by Marcus Miller and Joe Hisaishi, and whether it was jazz or classical, the music attracted us, and above all, in this specific case, we can clearly distinguish all the instruments. It goes without saying that with pop or rap, the bass was always present but it wasn’t too tiring.
And finally, we didn’t forget to test phone conversations. Thus, Sony relies on four beam mics (compared to the WH-1000XM4) and Precise Voice Pickup technology for precise sound isolation. And if we also add a microphone housing for wind protection, we had an excellent experience with our interlocutors. Both for our reporter and for the user, the experience is more than conclusive, without parasitic noises, without robotic voices.