Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4: Best Noise Canceling Headphone

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is the manufacturer’s flagship headphones with excellent noise canceling, long battery life and many sophisticated features. You can find out whether Sony has hit the bull’s eye with our review of the Sony WH-1000XWM4.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are optically presented in plain silver or black. The headphones are delivered in a simple, sturdy case in which every accessory has its own place. The scope of delivery includes the USB-C cable for charging, a plug adapter for use in an airplane and a classic headphone cable if you want to use the headphones without a Bluetooth connection.


Sony WH-1000XM4 Review

The wireless headphones are processed at the highest level and leave a valuable impression. The temples and ear pads are made of plastic and feel good even when worn for long periods of time. Compared to its predecessor, the WH-1000XM3, little has changed in terms of design. Sony has made minor adjustments to the headband and the cushions, but these are hardly noticeable in practice.


Sony WH-1000XM4 Easy setup and reliable Bluetooth 5 connection

The Sony headphones were very easy to set up using the associated smartphone app, although some settings are required for the initial configuration. The system not only optimizes the noise suppression for your needs for optimal 360-degree listening pleasure you can even take a photo of your ears with the smartphone camera. The app uses the data obtained from this to adapt the all-round sound perfectly to your ears. The Sony developers have done a great job here.

The connection via Bluetooth 5.0 works quickly and reliably, with two devices at the same time if desired. In the test with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, I never had any problems. The app itself is clearly structured and consists of three tabs that you can use to set everything important: status, sound and system. Here you can always see the battery level in percent.

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Sony WH-1000XM4 – Top class noise canceling in 20 levels

The Sony WH-1000XM4 wants to convince primarily with its noise canceling. And here the headphones really draw on the full – a full 20 levels are available. So you can always set the right level for you. The noise suppression works excellently at full level: Disturbing outside noises are barely audible, Sony’s motto applies instead: “Music. Nothing else.”

Clever: the so-called Quick Attention Mode, which does exactly what the name promises. If you would like to hear voices or ambient noises for a short moment while the music is playing, you simply place your hand on the auricle for the time and the system immediately reduces the volume. A very useful feature.

Sony’s engineers have given the over-ear headphones all sorts of practical functions, all of which have one goal and to offer the best possible listening experience. Compared to the previous model, the headphones use a new sound processor. DSEE Extreme optimizes compressed music files in real time. To do this, the manufacturer relies on the Edge AI developed by Sony Music Entertainment, which dynamically recognizes both instrumentation and music style and restores high frequencies.

The Sony headphones do not support high-resolution audio codecs such as aptX and aptX HD, but of course the in-house LDAC codec, which promises music almost in CD quality. Because: LDAC transmits almost three times the amount of data via Bluetooth than is the case with conventional wireless audio. The effect: You can enjoy Hi-Res audio almost as much as you can with a cable connection.

The adaptive noise control is also ingenious. The concept behind it: the headphones automatically adapt their sound to the respective environment. Over time, this works for frequently visited places, such as the office and café.

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You can also activate the speak-to-chat function in the settings. As soon as you talk to someone, playback stops automatically. Thanks to five integrated microphones and advanced audio signal processing, the headphones recognize your voice and automatically continue playing music as soon as you stop talking. This works excellently and very reliably in practice. In the app you can set the number of seconds after which playback should continue. Too bad: the minimum option is 15 seconds. An even shorter time span would have been desirable.

The proximity sensor, which is built into the inside of the left earphone, is also practical. As soon as you take off the headphones, playback stops. If you put it back on, the music continues. The feature is known from other headphones, but it works great in this model.


Sony WH-1000XM4 360 degree sound: Nice, but not a revelation

The headphones can handle 360 ​​Reality Audio, i.e. 360-degree sound. For this to work, the songs must be in the appropriate format. Sony promises a real sound like at a concert. But no all-round sound without a paid streaming subscription: So if you want to immerse yourself in the music, you have to rely on Deezer, or Tidal. Sony includes a voucher for a three-month free membership with which you can test the feature.

And indeed: once set up, the 360-degree sound sounds phenomenal, at least in the test file of the Sony app. As soon as you choose one of the few titles from the streaming providers, the result is much less impressive. Yes, in a direct comparison you will immediately notice the difference, everything sounds more spatial, less direct. But for me one thing is certain: A sound revolution is not (yet) emerging here.

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In the test, I accessed the available titles from 360 by Deezer to try out the feature. But the library is more than meager, current hits are in short supply, as are classics. It may be that the offer is being continuously expanded, but at the moment it’s nothing more than a nice gimmick. It works, but the likelihood of enjoying your favorite music in 360-degree sound is currently pretty low.


Sony WH-1000XM4 Conclusion: Sony raises the bar with the WH-1000XM4

The Sony WH-1000XM4 scores with a great, balanced sound, excellent noise-canceling and many practical features that make listening through headphones even more fun. The app offers a variety of setting options with which the sound can be set individually and perfectly coordinated. The headphones are very comfortable to wear and have an extraordinarily long battery life, they won’t let you down even on longer trips.

In short: If you are looking for well-made over-ear headphones with effective noise canceling, the WH-1000XM4 is the best choice. With an RRP of 379 euros, the headphones are not a bargain, but measured in terms of performance and features, the price-performance ratio is definitely right. Owners of the previous model can also take a look at the new version.

Visually, not much has changed, and the battery performance remains unchanged. For this, Sony has improved the noise canceling and integrated an AI to improve the sound. The carrying detection, which the previous model lacks, is also clever. Sony has cleverly and sensibly improved the headphones with fine-tuning in the right places.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Pros:

  • + High quality workmanship
  • + Noise canceling in 20 levels
  • + Many setting options
  • + Very good sound

Sony WH-1000XM4 Cons:

  • – 360 degree sound hardly worth mentioning

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