Sony WH-1000XM5 review: should you fall for Sony’s new star headphones?

In the wireless noise canceling headphones market, I demand the WH-1000XM5. Sony’s new headphones, announced before the summer, replace the excellent WH-1000XM4 in the catalog. A rapid renewal which seems necessary for the Japanese in view of the rate of release of competitors.

Bose, Shure, Sennheiser and even Apple give the inventor of the Walkman a hard time. With the WH-1000XM5, Sony promises a better audio experience, better noise reduction and, above all, a new design (finally!). These new features are also accompanied by a price increase: 40 euros more compared to the previous generation, i.e. a helmet at 420 euros (still!).

Does the WH-1000XM5 keep its promises? Does it mark a clear evolution compared to its predecessor? And above all, does it allow Sony to keep its throne? Answer in our full test.

Sony WH-1000XM5 price and availability

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The WH-1000XM5 is already available at a price of 419 euros at most partner distributors including Amazon, Boulanger, Darty and Fnac. It comes in two colors, Black and Platinum Silver.

Sony’s new headphones therefore compete with the latest Bose QC45, the Apple AirPods Max or its predecessor, the WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM5 at the best price Base price: €419

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Yes, for audio quality

sony wh 1000xm5 headphones review

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Over the generations, Sony has improved the sound quality of its headphones in small steps. Determined to mark the occasion with this WH-1000XM5, the Japanese inaugurates an all-new 30mm transducer – smaller than standard at 40mm – with a carbon fiber membrane. It supports AAC, SBC and LDAC codecs.

By ear, this material choice is materialized by a bassier sound (less rich than the AirPods Max) than that of the WH-1000XM4. The whole is therefore less dynamic, less balanced, the bass sometimes taking too much over the mids and highs. Luckily, the Headphones Connect app has a full equalizer to adjust all of that. Listening profiles even allow you to quickly choose a mode corresponding to the music being listened to. And after a few adjustments, the WH-1000XM5 reveals its full potential.

sony wh 1000xm5 headphone review

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With the titles where the bass is less present (or by adjusting this slider), we discover that Sony has improved the upper mids as well. The voices are therefore less crystalline, clearer, more powerful. Podcast enthusiasts will particularly appreciate this rounder, warmer sound.

Generally, the WH-1000XM5 is therefore a bit better than its predecessor, but you will have to listen carefully to really notice it. Sony always stands out from the competition with its balanced sound signature. We might have liked a little more risk-taking to make an impression. And to establish its sound identity in an increasingly competitive market.

Yes, for noise reduction

sony wh 1000xm5 noise reduction review

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Already very good with its two previous models, Sony still manages to improve noise reduction on the WH-1000XM5. First by reviewing the design of the helmet (we will come back to this) which now consists of soft leather ear hooks allowing their position to be adjusted. Result, the passive noise reduction is already a bit better than on the previous model.

In addition to this hardware improvement, Sony is integrating a new V1 processor that comes with the QN1 HD processor. The eight microphones (four on each ear hook) pick up ambient sounds which are then canceled thanks to the power of the two chips.

In the facts, the noise reduction of the WH-1000XM5 is excellent. Nevertheless, the hardware additions associated with Sony’s algorithms do not create a clear difference compared to the WH-1000XM4. We appreciate the slight improvement but we expected more.

We can therefore listen to his music peacefully in the noisiest transport (plane, train, metro) or in the street. Nevertheless, certain frequencies (in particular the high ones) sometimes pass through and come to tickle our ears. We quibble, but for this price we have the right.

sony wh 1000xm5 button review

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Above all, we would have liked this cluster of technologies to improve the quality of telephone conversations. Especially since Sony explains that it has developed Pelisse Voice Pickupa technology using “four beamforming microphones and an AI-based noise reduction algorithm to precisely isolate your voice.”

In fact, holding a conversation outdoors or in a noisy environment is still impossible, despite the wind filters that protect the microphones. Again, it’s a little better than the WH-1000XM4, but not enough for our taste.

Finally, a word on mode Ambient Sound (transparent mode). The latter is also slightly more efficient than that of the WH-1000XM4 but it will be difficult to distinguish anything in daily use.

This mode amplifies surrounding noise so that you are aware of the environment while listening to your music. In this little game, Apple remains the undisputed reference even if Sony is getting closer this year with the WH-1000M5.

Yes, for its autonomy

sony wh 1000xm5 battery life review

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On its official website, Sony announces up to 30 hours of battery life with noise reduction activated, like its predecessor the WH-1000XM4. An estimate which turns out to be accurate since our 01Lab laboratory measured 29h40 of autonomy.

If Sony keeps its promise, the WH-1000XM5 is still worse than the WH-1000XM4 which reached 36 hours of autonomy under the same test conditions.

On the charging side, the WH-1000XM5 is efficient. Count 1h30 for a full charge in USB-C. Sony promises to gain three hours of listening in just 3 minutes of charging. This is indeed the case. A nice spare tire in case of emergency.

Yes and no, for its new design

If technically the WH-1000XM5 does not mark a clear evolution compared to its predecessor, its design changes completely. For better is for worse.

Let’s start with what bothers us. First of all, Sony has abandoned its folding format, which makes transporting the helmet much more restrictive. The storage cover (now flexible) is logically massive, so train or plane regulars will have to reserve a large space in their bag, or go back to the good old method of wearing a helmet around the neck.

With this new generation, Sony has opted for a much thinner arch than that of its predecessor. If aesthetically, this choice is attractive, it makes wearing the helmet less comfortable. Since it is thinner, the headband does not allow good weight distribution. The WH-1000XM5 therefore tends to slip and the headband may, over long listening sessions, tend to irritate the top of the head despite the fairly thick padding.

Apart from these two points, the design of the WH-1000XM5 is a real success. Sony has finally redesigned the aesthetics of its helmet which has not moved for several years.

More elegant, the WH-1000XM5 is distinguished by its modern lines and resolutely high-end finishes. The earphones are still as comfortable even if they give a little heat to the ears.

Sony does not change the layout of the control keys and the connectors (power on and noise reduction on the left with the headphone jack, USB-C on the right). The right earbud still has a touch surface to control music with a few simple gestures (swipe up or down to control volume, forward or back to change music, tap to pause).

The design of the WH-1000XM5 therefore leaves us a little unsatisfied. If we are delighted that Sony has finally brought a breath of fresh air to its headphones with a very elegant aesthetic, ergonomics and comfort are not quite there. In any case, less than on the previous generation.

The features of the WH-1000XM5

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We take the same and start again. The WH-1000XM5 has exactly the same features as its predecessor. Always accompanied by the Headphones Connect application, it is thanks to her that the new Sony headphones can be configured as desired.

Equalizer, listening modes, 360° sound, customization of control keys, voice assistant, it’s all there. Sony is adding this year a new feature called Quick Attention which allows you, by covering the right earpiece with your hand, to stop the music (to answer a caller for example).

Other than that, nothing new in the tropics, and that’s okay. Previous generations of Sony’s wireless headphones were already very complete on this side. This new model is therefore part of a certain continuity.

No for the price

At 419 euros, the WH-1000XM5 therefore comes out at a higher price than the WH-1000XM4 when it was launched (379 euros). This increase is all the more regrettable as the WH-1000XM5 does not bring major upheavals compared to its predecessor (apart from the design), which itself was only a small evolution of the WH-1000XM3.

In addition, the WH-1000XM5 loses its mobile side by the absence of a folding headband. Finally, the WH-1000XM4 is available at a much more interesting price at the time of writing these lines. It can often be found around 329 euros, and sometimes even below 300 euros.

Sony WH-1000XM5 at the best price Base price: €419

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Our opinion on the Sony WH-1000XM5

Who can dethrone Sony in the wireless headset market? With this new WH-1000XM5 the Japanese are still improving their recipe. Certainly, the novelties remain minimal, the most striking being undoubtedly the more modern design, more upscale, but also less comfortable. The sound quality is still improving, the noise reduction too. In short, the WH-1000XM5 stands out as the new benchmark on the market.

Still, these improvements are too discreet to justify replacing a WH-1000XM4 (or even a WH-1000XM3). Above all, the WH-1000XM5 costs 40 euros more than its predecessor when it comes out. And at the time of writing these lines, the WH-1000XM4 remains a market benchmark, with a much better price-performance ratio.

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