Two years after the WF-1000X, Sony released its WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds (for some reason there was never a WF-1000XM2 model, because Sony gonna Sony) and it solved its predecessor’s biggest problem: awful battery life.
Design is still an issue.Ask anyone who’s ever had the chance to try the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds what the one feature they’d like to see improved is, and they’ll inevitably say they wish the whole package was smaller and lighter.
The WF-1000XM4s are still some of the largest premium wireless earbuds out there, and like their predecessors I’m hesitant to use them during more physical activities like jogging where your body is really bouncing around.
To Sony’s credit, despite their size, the WF-1000XM4s do stay in your ears a lot better than the WF-1000XM3s did, and that’s because instead of including silicone eartips, inside the sparse packaging are three pairs of different sized memory foam eartips.
Like an earplug, the foam material returns to its original shape after being squished, so when inserted into your ear (I find squeezing and squishing them first results in a better fit) the tips expand and do a much better job of keeping the earbuds securely in place.
But while it’s recommended to replace third-party options every month or so as they get dirty and lose their elasticity, Sony promises the memory foam it’s using should remain effective for the life of the earbuds.Even if I don’t think active noise-cancelling is perfect and completely essential yet, the Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds give me hope that one day it will be.
With limitations on travel and wanting to be a responsible socializer during an ongoing pandemic, most of my ANC testing has been done using a series of pre-recorded sounds (a noisy coffee shop, in-cabin sounds of an Airbus A320 in flight, and crowded trains and buses) piped through a large Bluetooth speaker.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds are so good at muting deeper frequencies (no noise-cancelling solution gets rid of all sounds, and most are less effective for higher frequencies) that when ANC was turned on I assumed my laptop had lost its connection to the Bluetooth speaker and the recorded sounds I was hearing were being piped through my computer’s weak speakers—but that wasn’t the case.
If you’re a frequent traveler, or easily distracted at work, you won’t find a more effective set of noise-cancelling earbuds.If there’s one thing you can rely on when it comes to consumer tech, it’s that a flagship pair of Sony headphones are going to sound fantastic, and unsurprisingly, the WF-1000XM4 earbuds deliver exactly that.
Despite the physical size of the WF-1000XM4s, you’ll actually only find 6mm drivers inside, whereas companies like Master & Dynamic have managed to squeeze larger 11mm drivers into buds that are physically much smaller.
When the beat drops at around the 30-second mark of the Tropic Remix of Surf Mesa’s “ily”, there’s a satisfying snap with every note hit that’s not quite as emphatic through the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds.That being said, even with 6mm drivers, the bass performance of the Sony WF-1000XM4s is still excellent.
Although the very useful multi-device connectivity of Sony’s over-ear WH-1000XM4 headphones is missing here, the voice detection has been carried over, and the WF-1000XM4s will automatically pause your music and turn on ambient sound boosting when you start talking, or when someone nearby starts talking to you, so you can effortlessly engage in conversation without having to reach for the pause button.
Call quality is also good, although people on the other end of the line I’ve spoken to say it’s not quite as good as if I was speaking directly into the phone.The touch controls on each earbud work well, and the functionality of each side can be customized through the Headphone app.
The app also includes the ability to turn on “Adaptive Sound Control,” which automatically turns ANC and ambient sound boosting on and off depending on your activity and physical location using your phone’s GPS (you might want as much silence as possible in your local coffee shop).
Two years and one pandemic later, the new Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds deliver just about every improvement users of its predecessor have asked for, albeit with a price tag that’s now $50 more.
If noise cancellation is of the utmost importance to you, the WF-1000XM4s might be a bit bulky, but with a pair of hefty microphones on each bud (facing forward and back), they prove Sony has once again raised the bar when it comes to silencing the world around you.