Sony WF-1000XM5 review: smaller is better


Sony WF-1000XM5 in silver, charging case with lid open, sitting next to plants and rocks.

Sony WF-1000XM5

MSRP $300.00

“Smaller, sleeker, and with superior sound, the XM5 are Sony’s finest buds.”


  • Smaller and extra snug
  • Prime-notch sound
  • Wonderful ANC and transparency
  • Nice battery life
  • Bluetooth multipoint


  • Match is not tremendous safe
  • Voice could be distorted on calls
  • Multipoint did not work constantly

Sony’s newest flagship wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM5, are 25% smaller than their predecessors. Why am I throwing that on the market? As a result of it’s actually exhausting to seek out any faults with the XM5 predecessor, besides their measurement and form. For lots of oldsters, the XM4 had been simply too massive for a snug match.

So proper off the bat, the brand new XM5 have achieved what is perhaps their most vital mission (assuming that their smaller measurement truly interprets into higher consolation).

Sony additionally claims the XM5 have incremental enhancements to sound, noise cancellation, and name high quality. Oh, and there’s additionally another incremental change: At $300, the WF-1000XM5 are Sony’s costliest wi-fi earbuds to this point.

Are the WF-1000XM5 nearly as good in actual life as they give the impression of being on paper? I spent per week with them to seek out out.

However first, a reasonably main editor’s observe:

Midway by means of our time with the XM5, Sony notified us that it had despatched prototypes to reviewers — not manufacturing variations that may go to shoppers. There are a number of areas on this evaluate like name high quality, Bluetooth connections, and noise cancellation the place the XM5 didn’t carry out in addition to we anticipated. Sony claims these are the identical areas the place it additionally famous weaknesses within the prototype and it says they’ll all be addressed within the full manufacturing fashions.

We will’t take Sony’s phrase for it, so this evaluate has been scored and described as if our models are the identical as those you’ll purchase — identical to some other Digital Developments evaluate. (Now we have, nonetheless, withheld any award designation.) If and once we obtain a set of manufacturing XM5 to check out (and in the event that they carry out in a different way), we’ll replace this evaluate accordingly.

Smaller, sleeker

Sony WF-1000XM5 and Sony WF-1000XM4 in silver.
Sony WF-1000XM5 (high) and the continuing WF-1000XM4 in silver. Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

The WF-1000XM5 aren’t simply smaller than the XM4, they’re 20% lighter and far more streamlined. That goes for the earbuds in addition to the wirelessly-charging case, which has additionally been given a extra rounded, lozenge-like form which is much more pocket-friendly.

Appears are a subjective factor, however I don’t assume anybody was particularly taken with the XM4’s cumbersome, bulbous form and gold-tone microphone ports, besides to say they had been a bit higher trying than the XM3 model that got here earlier than them.

The XM5, alternatively, are small, clean, and chic. The microphone port continues to be there, and it’s nonetheless gold-toned, nevertheless it now sits flush with the earbud physique the place it seems to be extra like an inlaid gold accent than a useful a part of the gadget. You possibly can put on this stuff to a black-tie occasion and never look misplaced.

Sony WF-1000XM5 in black, charging case with lid open.
Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

A part of the attraction is the shiny piano black (or the beigy colour that Sony insists on calling “silver”) end of the primary physique, which blends seamlessly — there are actually no seen seams — into the matte end of the contact floor.

Nonetheless, nearly as good because it seems to be, that shiny end is so slippery that it’s straightforward to lose your grip whereas dealing with them.

Consolation and match

Are they extra snug than the XM4? For me, the reply is sure. The mixture of clean plastic and smaller measurement makes for a much less fatiguing match. Sony has additionally redesigned the froth eartips to be extra forgiving and there are 4 sizes to select from as a substitute of three — an additional small measurement has been added.

Sony WF-1000XM5 in black, with accessories.
Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

However the XM5 don’t sit as securely because the XM4 or Sony’s LinkBuds S, which might restrict the attraction of the XM5 for operating or gymnasium use, though they’ve an IPX4 rating for water and sweat resistance. The shiny end gives lots much less grip on the pores and skin of your ear and the horn (the half that’s lined within the foam eartip) doesn’t stand proud of the earbud physique so far as it does on the XM4. This limits how deeply you possibly can insert the earbuds and thus limits the quantity of contact the froth sleeve has together with your ear canal.

Let me caveat this by saying I’ve deeply set ear canals, and the XM5 aren’t the primary earbuds I’ve worn that really feel like I can’t get them into my ears so far as I’d like. In the event you’re within the reverse camp, and routinely have bother getting earbuds to sit down absolutely in your ears, this might be excellent information.

It hasn’t been a deal-breaker for me. Whereas I’ve needed to nudge them in additional than I’d like — even with the biggest ideas put in — total I want the consolation of the XM5 over the safe match of the XM4.

Man wearing Sony WF-1000XM5.
Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

New for the XM5 are built-in accelerometers, which allow the identical form of head-tracked spatial audio that Apple has added to pick out AirPods fashions. (Extra on that in a second). Sony has taken benefit of the accelerometers to include head motion management gestures. They’re rudimentary however work like a appeal: you possibly can nod your head to simply accept an incoming name or decline it by shaking your head. In principle, Sony might provide you with extra gestures and extra actions — Klipsch’s T5 II ANC makes use of devoted software program from Bragi to do that — however I wouldn’t maintain my breath on that.

ANC and transparency

For the XM5, Sony has moved from a single processor (its V1 which was used on the XM4) to a twin processor platform made up of its new V2 Built-in Processor plus its newest devoted chip for noise cancellation — the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN2e. Sony says that by operating these gadgets in tandem, together with the XM5’s six onboard microphones, and the XM5’s redesigned drivers, it may well obtain higher ANC efficiency throughout all however the highest frequencies when in comparison with the XM4.

Sony WF-1000XM5 two earbuds sitting in front of charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

I discovered that to be true — the XM4 was no slouch within the ANC division, however the XM5 is best. Not radically higher, nonetheless. If I needed to put a quantity on it, I’d say 10% to fifteen% higher, although it’s possible you’ll discover there are particular occasions and locations when it’s extra noticeable, particularly if you happen to’re battling with very low frequencies. One other space of energy is the XM5’s skill to cope with wind noise whereas in ANC mode. Wind can typically undermine ANC efficiency — my recent experience with the Beats Studio Pro was a reminder of that. The XM5 appears completely unaffected by wind.

For day-to-day conditions, I discovered them to be simply as succesful as Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 ($249) and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II ($299). Nonetheless, even with the XM5’s ANC enhancements, there have been nonetheless some cases the place Bose and Apple had an edge. In my completely unscientific toilet fan take a look at — the place I stand outdoors my toilet and take heed to how earbuds cancel the fan noise — each the AirPods Professional 2 and QuietComfort Earbuds II eradicated the sound totally. The XM5 nonetheless let among the increased frequencies by means of. Sitting 6 toes away, there was no considerable distinction between them.

Sony WF-1000XM5, LinkBuds S, and WF-1000XM4 earbuds side-by-side.
From left: Sony WF-1000XM5, LinkBuds S, WF-1000XM4. Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Comparable issues could be mentioned of the XM5’s transparency mode. It provides a extra pure sound when piping within the outdoors world than the XM4, however even with its non-obligatory voice-targeting mode, it may well’t fairly meet the exceptionally excessive bar set by the AirPods Professional 2. Sony has improved the transition time between ANC and transparency modes, though curiously, it’s quicker at switching from transparency to ANC than vice versa.

As with the XM4, the XM5 can detect while you’re talking and shift routinely from ANC to transparency. It takes a second to kick in, nevertheless it appeared to be very constant in detecting my voice. Once you allow this voice detection setting, it’s lively in each ANC and transparency modes. Hopefully, that is yet one more prototype bug, as a result of listening to the voice detection chime because the earbuds try to change to transparency — while you’re already in transparency mode — is tremendous annoying.

I want Sony had taken a web page from Apple’s transparency playbook. The AirPods Professional 2 have a function referred to as Adaptive Transparency, which continually screens your setting for loud noises while you’re in Transparency mode. If a sound is judged to be dangerously loud, it kicks you into ANC mode immediately to guard your listening to. Given the extra processing energy Sony has given the XM5, I’d prefer to assume they might handle this trick, too.

Sony WF-1000XM5 one earbud sitting in front of charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Name and voice high quality

Sony claims its new twin processor platform additionally provides the XM5 a leg up in the case of name high quality. Past the six mics, there’s additionally a bone conduction sensor in every bud that feeds your voice vibrations into an AI algorithm, which Sony says has been educated on 500 million voice samples — with the purpose of separating your voice from background sounds.

With that stage of tech, my expectations had been very excessive, however the XM5 have confirmed to be uneven for calling. As promised, the earbuds do a greater job than the XM4 of killing background sounds, nevertheless it additionally impacts your voice, giving it a much less pure sound. Fellow DT AV reporter Caleb Denison and I did quite a few take a look at calls utilizing each the XM4 and XM5 and we got here to an analogous conclusion: the XM5 sound just like the mics are too sizzling — as if the achieve has been pushed too excessive, creating distortion. Sony says it’s a prototype drawback and that the problem can be fastened.

Sound high quality

The XM5’s drivers have been considerably redesigned from the XM4 — they’re 40% greater at 8.4mm (vs 6mm) they usually sport a brand new form. Sony calls it Dynamic Driver X — a dome-edge separation construction that mixes completely different supplies (although Sony hasn’t indicated what these supplies are). It’s designed to cut back distortion whereas enhancing each vocal readability and low-frequency response.

Sony WF-1000XM5 in black, charging case angled with lid open, next to an iPhone 14.
Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Sony has by no means disenchanted us in the case of sound high quality, and the XM5 are excellent, with a sound signature that may finest be described as a small however nonetheless noticeable enhancement of the XM4’s efficiency. Bass response, which has all the time been a Sony energy, is deeply resonant and musical however now feels higher balanced with the remainder of the frequencies.

By way of quite a lot of genres from exhausting rock to jazz, these earbuds stored particular person parts distinct from one another. Even on a monitor like Zeal by Invoice Laurance, the place the numerous layers of synth, strings, and percussion, proved too advanced for the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2, the XM5 managed to maintain issues organized and intelligible. When utilizing Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec (Android solely), element and dynamic vary — particularly with lossless hi-res audio sources — had been additional improved.

Vocals are crystal clear, however regardless of the presence of these new drivers, I’m undecided the XM5 ship a greater high-end than the XM4. On some tracks, like Camila Cabello’s Bam Bam, I truly most well-liked the XM4’s remedy, which sounded rather less processed. However I’m actually splitting hairs right here — they each sound nice.

The soundstage has wonderful element and precision, however as we’ve observed with each Sony headphones and earbuds, it’s a stage that doesn’t develop very far outdoors your head — a lot of the sound is concentrated inside a small circle. That’s when listening to regular stereo. 3D codecs, like Sony 360 Actuality Audio (360RA) and Dolby Atmos supply a a lot wider efficiency, with 360RA benefitting essentially the most.

Sony has additionally thrown in a beta model of its sound personalization system referred to as Discover Your Equalizer. You choose a music to take heed to and the function walks you thru a sequence of three EQ modifications. With every step, you choose your favourite mod from amongst a couple of numbered choices, and every of these selections results in additional refinements. In the long run, the system saves your EQ settings as a customized preset throughout the Headphones app’s equalizer part, the place you possibly can modify it or flip it on and off. I wasn’t wild concerning the sound signature it created, which appeared to considerably de-emphasize the best frequencies, nevertheless it’s a enjoyable device to fiddle with if you happen to’re not eager on shifting particular person EQ sliders round.

Spatial audio

Sony WF-1000XM5 in silver.
Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Sure, the XM5 help head-tracked spatial audio, however for now it’s restricted to only a few conditions. I couldn’t get it working with any Dolby Atmos Music sources like Amazon Music or Apple Music, nevertheless it did work when watching Netflix on a Google Pixel 7 Professional. The hot button is that the telephone itself has to help head-tracking, which dominated my different two take a look at telephones, an iPhone 14 and a Xiaomi 12 Professional. Sony tells me that it’s going to additionally work with immersive video games like Niantic’s Ingress when the function is added later this yr.

Whereas watching The Batman, I used to be capable of transfer my head and a few components of the soundtrack remained anchored to the situation of the telephone. Nonetheless, it’s not as clean or convincing as Apple’s model of head-tracked spatial on the AirPods Professional Gen 2.

Bluetooth Multipoint

Bluetooth 5.3, connections on the WF-1000XM5 had been stable. I simply paired two gadgets without delay, like a MacBook Air and a Google Pixel 7 Professional, and in contrast to the Technics EAH-AZ80, you don’t want to decide on between Multipoint and LDAC use. However some options didn’t work as anticipated. With Bluetooth Multipoint, you need to have the ability to pause music on one linked gadget, then hit play on the second gadget and the earbuds ought to routinely swap their audio precedence to the gadget that’s now enjoying. It didn’t work. I used to be capable of swap utilizing the Headphones app’s linked gadget menu manually, however nobody ought to have to do this.

The XM5 additionally help one-tap pairing with Android telephones through Google Quick Pair, however that additionally proved unsuccessful. Lastly, I skilled a number of cases the place the XM5 didn’t keep their connection to the Mac when beginning a Microsoft Groups name. The Mac mentioned they had been linked, however Groups merely refused to acknowledge them. Can these issues be as soon as once more chalked as much as prototype woes? For Sony’s sake, I hope so.

Sony tells me the XM5 will help LE Audio, together with Auracast and music sharing, however I wasn’t capable of take a look at these options.


The WF-1000XM5, like many earbuds, use contact controls as a substitute of bodily buttons. They’re very correct and straightforward to make use of, and Sony’s use of a brief tone while you efficiently faucet removes any doubt — if you happen to don’t hear the tone, faucet once more. Sony has additionally made an effort to enhance the provision of features. On the XM4, you had been pressured to decide on between completely different management teams, which meant that if you happen to wished to have the ability to regulate the quantity (for instance) you may need to reside with out voice assistant entry.

Sony’s answer has been so as to add quantity management entry as an always-on function. That makes loads of sense. What doesn’t make a lot sense (to me, at the very least) is that quantity adjustments at the moment are achieved by tapping every earbud 4 occasions — the precise earbud raises the quantity and the left lowers it. 4 faucets for a high-use function like quantity is extreme and form of awkward.

Sadly, there’s no technique to change any of the gestures. The one customization accessible throughout the Sony Headphones app is whether or not you need to assign ANC features to the left or proper earbud (or you possibly can determine to disregard ANC totally and use each earbuds for playback management). To be honest, neither Apple nor Bose supply a lot customization both, however I want the way in which these earbuds handle quantity adjustments.

An extension of those controls is Sony’s auto-pause function, which is enabled by the XM5’s put on sensors. Pop an earbud out to pause your tunes; pop it again in to renew. It really works very well, however you can also disable it within the app if it bugs you. In the identical vein is the auto-off function, which is able to energy down the earbuds if you happen to’re not sporting them however neglect to place them again within the case (this may also be disabled).

Battery life

Sony WF-1000XM5 charging case rear view.
Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Battery life is unchanged from WF-1000XM4: Sony claims you’ll get eight hours of playtime per cost when ANC is turned on, and as much as 12 hours when it’s off. With two full expenses within the case, that implies that if you happen to maintain quantity no increased than 50%, you might be able to stand up to 36 hours of complete time earlier than it is advisable cost up. However Sony has managed to enhance the XM5’s quick-charge function as soon as once more. You now solely want to stay the earbuds of their case for 3 minutes to seize an additional hour of playtime — that’s one of many quickest quick-charge occasions we’ve seen thus far.

It’s evident from the time I’ve spent with the WF-1000XM5 that Sony has developed a unbelievable set of wi-fi earbuds. For anybody who wished to purchase the XM4, however couldn’t as a result of they had been simply too massive, the additional $20 for the XM5 is perhaps properly price it.

Even with the efficiency issues with name high quality and Bluetooth Multipoint — which might be the results of the prototype standing of our evaluate unit — the XM5 are snug, fashionable, and great-sounding, with ANC and transparency that comes very near rivaling the present king, Apple’s AirPods Pro 2.

Nonetheless, since we haven’t truly been capable of strive the ultimate product but, for the second, we’re going to cease in need of handing the XM5 both our Beneficial Product or Editors’ Alternative award. I additionally suggest that you simply wait till we get an opportunity to listen to the ultimate model in motion earlier than making a purchase order choice. Hopefully, that gained’t be lengthy from now.

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