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Sony WF-1000XM4: A perfect industry-level noise cancelling earbuds

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Sony WF-1000XM4: Best Earbuds Right Now

The next step up from the Sony WF-1000XM3 Truly Wireless model are the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless earbuds. Many improvements from their previous version are still present in them, such as active noise cancellation (ANC), in-app graphic equalization, presets for customizing the sound, support for virtual surround sound via Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, and more. They also provide handy features like multi-device pairing (available from firmware version 2.0.0 onwards) and fast pairing with compatible devices via Windows 10 Swift Pair and Google Fast Pair. An improvement over the prior generation, these earbuds also support the LDAC codec for high-resolution audio. We go into more detail about battery drain in our Battery test, but some users have mentioned problems with it.

Reasons to buy

  • ANC can block out ambient chatter.
  • Stable and breathable fit.
  • Low audio leakage at high volumes.

Reasons to avoid

  • Touch controls can be very sensitive.
  • ANC struggles with bass-range noise.

Why they considered best right now?

The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds continue to be highly considered to be some of the best wireless earbuds, even after three years of release. This is because they have seen price reductions over time, which makes them an excellent value when compared to their successor, the Sony WF-1000XM5, which saw price increases. They offer an unrivalled balance of noise cancellation, sound quality, and features—especially when you can get them for less money during sales events. They have been observed, for instance, at $160 / £180 / AU$260 on Black Friday. It’s difficult to find a better deal at that price, but if you’re ready to shell out extra money, you can obtain a better deal overall. 

Excellent noise canceling

The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds offer impressive noise canceling capabilities, rivaling those of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, which previously set the standard for true-wireless noise canceling. The new custom V1 chipset enhances both sound processing and noise canceling, resulting in significant improvements over the XM3 model. The earbuds effectively reduce noise from various sources, including HVAC units and street noise, providing a more immersive experience, even at higher volumes. Sony’s redesigned ear tips, featuring polyurethane-coated foam, contribute to achieving a tight seal for optimal noise canceling performance and sound quality.

In terms of battery life, the WF-1000XM4 earbuds offer up to eight hours of use with noise canceling on and can last up to 12 hours with it off, surpassing many competitors. The charging case provides an additional 16 hours of battery life. The earbuds also offer a range of features through the app, including adaptive sound modes, equalizer settings, customizable touch controls, and support for various voice assistants. While they lack multipoint Bluetooth pairing like the WH-1000XM4 headphones, they still offer versatile connectivity options, including Bluetooth 5.2 and support for Sony’s LDAC codec for high-resolution audio streaming.

Top-notch sound

The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds delivers excellent sound quality, characterized by detailed highs, well-defined bass, and natural-sounding mids. The redesigned 6mm drivers, with the new V1 chip for digital processing, contribute to a rich and immersive audio experience. While they may not match the absolute pinnacle of sound quality found in models like the Bowers & Wilkins PI7, the WF-1000XM4 earbuds offer a compelling balance of accuracy, articulation, balance, dynamics, and smoothness, especially considering their true-wireless form factor. In comparison tests, they stack up favorably against competitors like the Beats Fit Pro, offering a slightly more natural sound with better detail retrieval.

Despite facing stiff competition, particularly from the high-end Bowers & Wilkins PI7, the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds excel in noise canceling and headset performance at a more attractive price point. They offer a significant value proposition compared to more expensive options, making them a compelling choice for those seeking top-tier sound quality and features without breaking the bank. Alternatives like the Sennheiser CX Plus offer good sound quality and noise canceling at a more affordable price, providing a viable option for budget-conscious buyers.

WF-1000XM4: Final thoughts

The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds clearly outperform the Apple AirPods Pro in sound quality, offering a richer and more refined audio experience. While the AirPods Pro are lighter and generally more comfortable to wear, they fall slightly short in noise canceling compared to the Sony earbuds. However, Apple’s offering remains a compelling choice, especially considering its solid noise-canceling performance and natural-sounding transparency mode, making it a popular option around the $200 price point.

In comparison to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, the WF-1000XM4 earbuds excel with their smaller design, better headset performance, and slightly superior sound quality. While some users may prefer the fit of the Bose StayHear tips, the Sony buds offer a more refined and richer sound profile. While newer models like the Beats Fit Pro offer features like spatial audio and always-on Siri, the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds maintain an edge in sound quality and noise canceling, making them a strong choice for those prioritizing audio performance, voice-calling capabilities, and battery life. Looking ahead, anticipated releases like the Sennheiser True Wireless Momentum 3 buds and the AirPods Pro Second Generation with improved sound are worth watching for in 2022, potentially offering new competition for Sony.

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