About the Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony takes their world-class noise-cancelers to another level
Sony's flagship WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-canceling headphones fold neatly into their carrying case.
Sony takes their world-class noise-cancelers to another level
You're looking at one of the most anticipated headphone releases of all-time — and the Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-cancelers live up to all the hype. In my hands-on review, I noted that Sony didn't stray too far from what made the previous-generation WH-1000XM3 arguably the best all-purpose headphones ever. But they made improvements in almost all the key areas:
- Even more comfortable: In late 2019, we named the 'XM3s one of our "Top 5 most comfortable over-ear headphones" after 20 employees tested and scored over 50 headphones. The new WH-1000XM4s manage to feel just as light and secure on my head, but offer a slightly more relaxed fit. I also found the earpads even softer and roomier, making the headphones easy to wear through entire work-from-home shifts.
- Even better noise cancellation: Sony's world-class noise cancellation somehow got even better. Thanks to new algorithms and a state-of-the-art wireless chipset, the noise neutralization is better and more adaptive. Tiny mics "read the room" and optimize the noise cancellation for your surroundings. The results can be pretty staggering. It knocked out both the constant, low-frequency hum of my dishwasher and the less-consistent whistles and draining water sounds. I had to lift an earcup to ensure the machine was actually making noise!
- Bluetooth 5.0: Speaking of that new wireless chipset, the addition of Bluetooth 5.0 is a big deal. It offers a whole new level of wireless reliability. I could keep my phone charging on my desk and walk clear across the basement, or even upstairs to refill my coffee. There was no audio dropout in the kitchen — something unheard of with Bluetooth headphone less than two years ago.
- Pair two devices simultaneously: A game-changer for working from home. I could pair the ‘XM4s to both my work laptop and my phone at the same time. This made it super easy to toggle back and forth between music, podcasts, and videos, grabbing an incoming phone call, or hopping on a Zoom/Microsoft Teams meeting. I didn't have to re-pair the headphones each time I started a new task on a different screen.
Completely personalized noise cancellation
Sony has used adaptive noise cancellation for a while now, and I've always found the circuitry very effective. Special on-ear sensors detect whether you are moving or standing still — and even if you're wearing glasses or not. Another sensor monitors barometric pressure. So now Sony can serve up noise cancellation that's optimized to the altitude of your flight during travel.
Plus, you can download Sony's Headphones Connect mobile app for direct control over what noises you let in or keep out. You can customize the level of noise cancellation or ambient sound based on your task, movement, or even location. Whenever I pocketed my phone and took the dog for a walk, the app quickly kicked into ambient awareness mode. This allowed some outside noise to seep in, so I could hear whenever a car came down my quiet cul-de-sac.
Listening impressions: Detailed sound with clear vocals and hard-hitting bass
(I have a full review of the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, but here are some of my thoughts on the sound.)
These headphones delivered sound with a clear sense of space and depth. This is what I expected from the Sony "1000X" series — instruments were easy to pick out and pinpoint, and vocals jumped out dead center. But Sony has leaned even more toward the bass with the out-of-box tuning.
I'll admit that I found it a little too boomy for some tracks. Particularly hip-hop, where it might seem counter-intuitive to complain about too much bass. But on the Run the Jewels RTJ4 album, I thought the bass overpowered the midrange a bit, and actually diminished the emotional impact and energy of some of the songs.
I found the musical sweet spot with Sony's app
But not to worry! Sony always brings next-level sound processing. And in the Headphone Connect app, you can choose from several sound presets or manually adjust the EQ. If you think there's too much bass — or not enough — sliding the "Clear Bass" control up or down should do the trick.
I lowered the bass and played “Even Now” by Walter Wolfman Washington featuring Irma Thomas (a track I often use as a reference for audiophile headphones). The wonderful juxtaposition of the two New Orleans legends' voices can be challenging enough for some headphones to handle — his deep and smoky and hers smooth and thick. The duet sounded just right through the ‘XM4s once I had the bass dialed in.
Meanwhile, the percussion and deep bass notes felt full and substantial, but never at the expense of the vocals or beautifully haunting keys.
A convenient way to hear others
When it comes to controls, Sony brings back much of what I loved about the 'XM3s. Including everyone's favorite “Quick Attention” feature. Simply place your hand over the right earcup to temporarily turn off the noise-canceling technology. Tiny built-in mics will pick up external sounds, so you can hear voices or your surroundings.
Crutchfield Producer Phillip uses the WH-1000XM4's "Quick Attention" feature while editing our video on these headphones.
The right earcup also has a snappy touch-sensitive panel. You control music, volume, and calls with a simple tap or swipe of your finger. And with the Headphones Connect app, you can repurpose the noise cancellation button to immediately pull up Google Assistant or Alexa from your smartphone.
For the best in wireless sound, you can use these headphones together with a Sony High-res Walkman. This pairing takes advantage of Sony's LDAC technology, which allows the wireless signal to retain more musical detail. My phone also has LDAC, so I turned that feature on in my Bluetooth settings. The bass seemed better contained, though just as potent.
Note that these headphones do not feature the popular aptX or aptX HD codecs. But they do have Sony's new DSEE Extreme feature that promises to restore clarity and substance to compressed digital tracks. Sony is high on this technology — the headphone engineers worked closely with the Sony Music division to get it right. It's yet another example of how Sony went all-out to create these special headphones.
- closed-back, over-the-ear headphones with active noise cancellation
- form-fitting headband with relaxed, breathable earcups
- generous cushioning on headband and earpads
- Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity for wireless music listening and phone calls with compatible smartphone
- LDAC, SBC and AAC decoding provides high-quality music streaming from compatible devices
- NFC-compatible for one-touch pairing with compatible devices
- multi-point connection for pairing to two devices at once
- dynamic 40mm drivers with an aluminum-coated, Liquid Crystal Polymer diaphragm
- tuned for clear, detailed mids and highs with deep bass punch
- DSEE Extreme™ (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) processing restores high-frequency signals to compressed digital formats
- uses artificial intelligence to dynamically recognize song elements and restore in real time
- co-developed with Sony Music Studios Tokyo
Adaptive noise cancellation:
- includes Sony's sophisticated HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 chip
- strengthens noise cancellation for human voices and other higher-frequency sounds
- active noise cancellation circuitry adjusts to the level of external sound
- two microphones in each earcup to capture ambient noise
- QN1 chip senses and adjusts to music and noise signals up to 700 times per second
- free Sony Headphones Connect app for Apple® and Android™ lets you adjust settings
- customize the sound and manually choose the level of noise cancellation
- 20 steps of ambient sound control for allowing external sounds in
- personalized Sony 360 reality audio experience with select music services (firmware update required)
- Adaptive Sound Control uses movement sensors to adapt noise cancellation
- detects whether you're running, walking, standing still, or riding in a car (app required)
- barometric pressure sensor optimizes noise-canceling and sound to your altitude when in flight
- dedicated earcup button summons Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa on your smartphone or tablet
- ask questions, dictate texts, and control music by voice
- available for Apple® and Android™
- only one voice assistant can be set up at a time
- must repurpose the earcup Noise Cancellation button using the Headphone Connect app
- NFC-compatible for one-touch Bluetooth pairing with compatible devices
- earcup touch controls let you answer calls, play/pause music, skip tracks, and control volume
- Ambient awareness features:
- "Quick Attention" turns off noise-canceling and engages ambient mode by covering the right earcup with hand
- "Speak-to-chat" detects when you're speaking and automatically cuts off music and lets in external sounds
- built-in microphone for making calls with a smartphone
- three-mic system filters out background noise for clearer calls
- music automatically pauses when headphones are removed
General info and specs:
- built-in rechargeable battery offers up to 30 hours of wireless use with noise cancellation
- 10 minutes of recharging provides enough power for 5 hours of listening
- includes USB-C cable for charging
- 47" audio cable with 3.5mm plug for wired use
- airline adapter included for in-flight entertainment systems
- portable folding design with carrying case included
- frequency response: 4-40,000 Hz (wired), 20-40,000 Hz (wireless)
- weight: 8.9 oz.
- warranty: 1 year
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
- MFR # WH1000XM4/B
- Stable (stays in place)
- Feels lighter than most
- Good for work/travel
What's in the box:
- Over-ear wireless headphones (black)
- 48" Audio cable (straight 3.5mm plug on one end and right-angled 3.5mm plug on other end)
- Airline adapter (single 3.5mm jack-to-dual 3.5mm plugs)
- 9" USB charging cable (Type A USB on one end and USB-C on other end)
- Zippered hard storage case
- Reference Guide
- Operating Instructions
- Limited Warranty sheet
- Sony Headphones Connect app features
- 360 Reality Audio free trial
More details on the Sony WH-1000XM4
Features & specs
|Earcup Width x Height||3.17" x 4.034"|
|Mic For Taking Calls||Yes|
|Voice Assistant Access|
|Frequency Response||4-40k Hz|
|Parts Warranty||1 Year|
|Labor Warranty||1 Year|
Overview: The Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones combines the industry's leading noise canceling with exceptional sound quality to give you a premium listening experience. The soft urethane foam ear pads evenly distributes the pressure, while increasing the contact around your ear for a good seal and comfortable fit. The WH-1000XM4s feature many smart and innovative features to make your listening much more enjoyable. The headphones include an audio cable for wired listening, an airline audio adapter, a USB charging cable, and a zippered storage case.
Bluetooth/NFC: The 1000XM4 has Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless listening from your smartphone, tablet, or Bluetooth music player. Compatible profiles include A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, and HSP, with SBC, AAC, and LDAC codecs. LDAC transmits approximately three times more data than conventional Bluetooth, with a maximum transfer rate of 990 kbps for exceptional sound quality. For NFC-enabled devices, you can easily pair to the headphones by simply touching the device to the N-mark on the left ear cup of the headphones. For convenience, the headphones can be paired to two Bluetooth devices at the same time, giving you the ability to switch between them with ease.
Digital Noise Cancellation: The WH-1000XM4 is equipped with HD Noise-Canceling Processor QN1 to provide industry-leading noise cancelation. Each ear cup now features two microphones to capture ambient noise. This noise data is sent to the processor, where a new algorithm is applied to a range of acoustic environments. The QN1, along with a new Bluetooth SoC (System on Chip), can self-adjust the noise canceling up to 700 times per second, based on your music, the amount of ambient noise, and other environmental conditions. The Sony Headphones Connect app has a Noise Canceling Optimizer that takes into account the shape of your face, whether or not you wear eyeglasses, even the atmospheric pressure, to make the noise canceling effect even better.
Adaptive Sound Control: Sony's Adaptive Sound Control can detect your activity and adjust the sound settings to you. When traveling, you can immerse yourself in your music with the highest level of noise cancellation. If you're walking, the noise cancellation adapts so you can stay aware of your surroundings while listening to music. While waiting, such as in an airport or train station, the noise cancellation is reduced so you can hear important announcements. These settings can be customized to your personal tastes in the Sony Headphones Connect app.
Sony Headphones Connect App: The Sony Headphones Connect app gives you control over the sound of your headphones right on your smartphone or tablet. In addition to Adaptive Sound Control and Noise Canceling Optimizer (mentioned above), the app's Sound Position Control lets you choose the direction from which you hear your music (Front, Front Right, Front Left, Rear Right, or Rear Left). You can select from available presets for the Surround VPT and Equalizer features, control your music (play/pause, skip forward/backward, fast forward/backward), and set the Clear Bass and DSEE Extreme (high range compensation for compressed music files) levels. The Sony Headphones Connect app is compatible with iOS devices (iOS 11.0 or later) and Android devices (Android 5.0 and up).
Voice Assistant: The Sony Headphones Connect app now gives you access to Alexa and Google Assistant. To set up your favorite Voice Assistant, you will need to download the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant app, then change the assignment of the noise canceling button with the Headphones Connect app. Once completed, you can ask Alexa or Google Assistant to play music, dial and answer calls, reply to messages, find out the weather forecast, and remind you about appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, and when to pay bills.
Speak-to-Chat: The new Speak-to-Chat feature makes having a conversation much easier without removing your headphones. As soon as you speak to someone, Speak-to-Chat automatically stops the music, and lets in ambient sound so you can have a conversation. Sony's Precise Voice Pickup technology utilizes five microphones built into the headphones and advanced audio signal processing to recognize your voice and activate the feature. Approximately 30 seconds after you stop talking, your music resumes. You can adjust the time frame within the Headphones Connect app.
Touch Controls: Using the touch-sensitive panel on the outside of the right ear cup, you can easily control all your music and calls. Volume is controlled with up or down swiping motions, while music/call controls utilize tapping and forward or backward swipes. The Quick Attention feature lets you instantly mute the audio by placing your hand over the touch pad so you can hear an announcement or conduct a conversation without removing your headphones.
Proximity Sensor: The headphones have proximity sensors that can detect when you're wearing the headphones, and when you're not. The music pauses automatically when you remove the headphones to help save your battery. When the headphones are put back on, the music automatically resumes.
High Resolution Audio: The headphones are compatible with Hi-Res Audio, allowing you to hear all of the subtle details of your music. They have powerful 40mm aluminum-coated Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) diaphragms that can reproduce low bass notes and ultrasonic highs up to 40kHz. For true Hi-Res audio reproduction, the included 4' audio cable must be used in a wired connection to your Hi-Res-capable playback device.
Rechargeable Battery: The Sony WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones are equipped with a 3.7-volt Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery to power the Bluetooth and ANC functions. The battery fully charges in approximately 3 hours via USB using the included USB-C cable and a USB power source with an output of 1.5A or more. With a 10-minute Quick Charge, you can get about 5 hours of music playback. (See battery life estimates below in Specifications.)
- Frequency Response:
- Wired: 4Hz to 40kHz (with or without NC)
- Wireless: 20Hz to 20kHz (44.1kHz sampling); 20Hz to 40kHz (LDAC 96kHz sampling, 990 kbps)
- Sensitivity: 105dB/mW (wired, NC on); 101dB/mW (wired, NC off)
- Impedance: 40Ω (wired, NC on); 16Ω (wired, NC off)
- Full Charging Time: approx. 3 hours
- Battery Life (estimated):
- Music Playback: 30 hours (NC on), 22 hours (Ambient Sound Mode), 38 hours (NC off)
- Communications: 24 hours (NC on), 18 hours (Ambient Sound Mode), 30 hours (NC off)
- Standby: 30 hours (NC on), 22 hours (Ambient Sound Mode), 200 hours (NC off)
- Noise Canceling with Headphone Cable Connected: 22 hours
- Ear cups:
- External: Width 3.17" Height 4.034" Depth 2.116"
- Internal: Width 1.52" Height 2.46" Depth 0.748"
- Headband: Width 0.913"
- Ear cups:
- Weight: 8.9 ounces (w/o cable)
The Sony WH-1000XM4 replaces these items
- adaptive noise cancellation adjusts to your movement, altitude, and the level of external sound
- aptX® HD, LDAC, and AAC decoding for high-quality music streaming from compatible devices
- 30 hours of battery life (10 minutes of recharging provides enough power for 5 hours of listening)