Sony WF1000xM4 review: the best wireless in-ear headphones you can buy
Sony’s flagship true wireless earphones are even more expensive than Apple’s AirPods Pro.
Are the WF1000xM4 worth it? You better believe it.
You won’t find many earphones that come close to matching their all-round excellence.
They sport an all-new design, new charging case and new audio processor. I've been using them every day for a couple of weeks and here's what I found...
The new audio processor delivers a fantastic level of rich detail and clarity that makes rival headphones sound dull by comparison.
The depth and presence of the bottom-end is incredible, even at low volumes.
I've tested them out repeatedly on a range of reference tracks and compared the quality to many other in-ear headphones. I've been hugely impressed.
Aside from the stunning sound quality, they deliver a fantastic user experience, class-leading battery life, top-notch call quality and some of the best noise-cancelling you will get from in-ear headphones.
There are three sizes of polyurethane foam ear tips in recycled paper packaging.
And, as always, I recommend you try them all for a couple of hours to see which is the best fit.
The seal you get from the most secure fit greatly impacts both noise cancellation and audio quality on all in-ear headphones.
I found them really comfortable to wear for long periods.
There’s a brilliant Headphones Connect smartphone app full of functionality for both iOS and Android users.
You can adjust EQ, change voice assistant, customise the controls and install firmware upgrades.
The app can also run a fit test to see if you chose the best fitting foam tips, which seem to provide a better seal than the silicon tips most earbuds use.
I found the ANC excellent and love the Ambient Sound mode when it is set to full as I can hear myself clearly on calls which makes a huge difference.
Android users get support for Fast Pair to get up and running with minimal fuss.
To pair manually, put the buds in your ears. Hold your fingers to both buds for six seconds and a voice will tell you that your buds are in Bluetooth pairing mode.
I used the latter for connecting to my laptop and iMac, but I only had to do it once.
There’s no aptX HD support onboard, but the XM4 support Sony’s LDAC file format, which, streamed over Bluetooth from a compatible source, allows hi-res audio files up to 24-bit/96kHz to be transmitted at data rates of up to 990kbps.
It's obviously not hi-res but it's the best quality you can get over Bluetooth (alongside the LHDC codec).
Sony uses Bluetooth 5.2 but there is no multi-device connectivity. However, switching between paired devices is relatively painless.
And there is support for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio service. You need a Deezer or Tidal subscription to enjoy this (admittedly limited) 3D-style music catalogue.
The experience is not quite as impressive as when using Sony’s over-ear WH1000xM4 but it’s a nice bonus nonetheless. There is a quick test to run in the app to optimise your earphones for the 360 Reality Audio experience.
Sony said its V1 processor helps the WF-1000XM4 use less energy for its main functions, so noise-cancelling and hi-res playback should not affect your battery life too negatively.
Battery life is outstanding. You’ll get close to eight hours from the buds with ANC on and 24 hours in total including the case.
The compact and lightweight charging case supports both USB-C fast charging and wireless charging, incidentally.
Sony WF-1000XM4 are not waterproof, but they do have an IPX4 rating which means they can be used in the gym or for runs and can withstand splashes of rain. The X in IPX4 means they have not been tested for dust resistance.
Speak To Chat, when enabled, will automatically enable full Ambient Sound mode when it detects you speaking.
There is an Adaptive Sound Control feature that will automatically adjust settings to suit your location. You can disable this and I did as I prefer to control the settings manually.
There is Automatic Wind Noise Reduction and the latest version of Sony’s digital sound enhancement engine (DSEE) which upscales lower quality audio files.
To be clear, the ANC you get from in-ear headphones can never match the over-ear experience, but Sony’s noise cancellation on the WF1000xM4 is the best I’ve experienced on in-ears (even better than AirPods Pro).
And the audio quality is fantastic too, although bear in mind even the highest standard of wireless headphones and earphones like these cannot match the superior sound you will get from wired audio.
If you are an Apple user I would still recommend the AirPods Pro as the H1 chip on board makes integration with your Apple devices so seamless.
That said, if you are an Apple user who chooses Sony you will not be disappointed with the features you get for your money.
Pricing and availability
€289 from Harvey Norman