Sony brings best ever noise-canceling performance to new wireless earphones
The rumor mill has been buzzing about a new pair of premium true wireless earphones from Sony for a good while now, but chatter online has been hotting up of late thanks to numerous product leaks. Now the company has officially revealed the WF-1000XM4 noise-canceling true-wireless in-ear headphones, with a brand new design that's better, smaller and lighter than the company's WF-1000XM3 model from 2019.
"Sony's 1000X series features the best noise canceling in the industry, and these headphones have raised that bar even higher," says the company's Daisuke Kawaguchi. "Sony has been revolutionizing the personal listening experience since pioneering the iconic Walkman in 1979 and introducing the world's first in-ear model back in 1982. Our talented team has studied and perfected sound, noise canceling performance and call quality over the last several decades, and the WF-1000XM4 headphones are a direct result of those extensive efforts."
The XM4 earphones' noise cancellation prowess starts with two noise-sensing microphones per ear – one feed forward and the other feed back – that pick up environmental noise, which is analyzed by a new Integrated Processor V1 specially developed by Sony, and the 6-mm driver unit (with increased magnet volume and "high compliance diaphragm") then generates a cancellation signal to the lower frequencies. This is all reckoned to result in the delivery of the industry's highest level of noise canceling.
Sony is promising a big dynamic sound from the relatively small drivers, and says that the processor also helps with Bluetooth 5.2 connection stability, while the low-latency connection should be good enough to ensure that audio syncs well with any visuals running on the source device.
The earphones play nice with Google's Fast Pair feature and Microsoft Swift Pair for painless connection to Android and Window 10 devices, respectively, and as well as the SBC and AAC audio codecs, the Bluetooth profile here supports Sony's LDAC codec, which allows for high resolution audio streaming. And an onboard AI sound enhancement engine can upscale compressed digital music in real time for "a richer, more complete listening experience."
The Speak-to-Chat feature has trickled down from the company's excellent WH-1000XM4 headphones, which makes use of four microphones and sensors combined with audio signal processing to automatically pause playback and allow in ambient sounds as soon as the user starts a conversation with someone. Noise cancellation and music playback will resume when the conversation is over.
Adaptive Sound Control smarts will adjust the sound profile based on the wearer's location and activity (so will respond differently for walks through the park and being on public transport, for example), and playback volume can be decreased and sounds from the outside world allowed through by simply placing a finger over the left earbud – useful for quickly checking travel announcements or when crossing a busy street. Other touch controls can activate noise cancellation, control playback and take calls.
Should users be out and about in windy conditions, a special mode will automatically suppress wind noise to help listeners focus on the music. And beamforming microphones have been calibrated to pick up only the user's voice during calls, even in noisy environments, while the noise cancellation tech helps the wearer clearly hear the person on the other end of the call.
The 1.45-oz (41-g) earbuds are 10 percent smaller than the previous generation, and the size of the charging case has also been reduced by 40 percent. Sony says that the earphones are good for up to eight hours of per-charge playback, with a further 16 hours available on the go via the case. A five-minute quick charge should be enough for an hour of use, and the charging case also supports Qi wireless charging.
Sony has been in the in-ear headphone game since the early 1980s, and has used knowledge gained on various ear shapes in the development of new noise isolation earbud tips made of "a unique foam material" for a snug fit. The Headphone Connect App can also help users choose the best fit eartips, in addition to tweaking the overall playback experience.
There's support for Google Assistant and Alexa for hands-free interaction, and if the paired smartphone hosts a participating streaming service app, listeners can tap into Sony's 360 Reality Audio immersive sound experience. IPX4 water resistance also means that the earphones should survive a gym session or a quick dash for cover during a downpour.
The WF-1000XM4 earphones ship in plastic-free packaging, and are available now in black or white for a suggested retail price of US$279.99 – which puts them very much at the premium end of the true wireless market, along with models from the likes of Master & Dynamic, Devialet, RHA and other high-end audio brands. Still, there's a lot to like here, and we look forward to giving the new earphones a try.
Product page: WF-1000XM4