Released in August 2023, the Sony WF-1000XM5 in-ear headphones serve as a follow-up to the richly received Sony WF-1000XM4, which were unveiled in the summer of 2021.
Promising even better sound, beefed-up noise-cancelling capabilities and more, Sony are clearly focused on maintaining their standing as leaders in the in-ear headphones market – and they’ve produced another knockout product here, even if it all comes at a steep price.
Sony WF-1000XM5 review: Design
True to form, the Sony WF-1000XM5 look sleek and stylish and come in two colour variants; I got to test the particularly snazzy-looking black set but the silvers look great too. Both pack minimal designs with a small Sony logo on the sides, with matching charging carry cases that won’t take up much room wherever you store them. In fact, both the carry cases and the WF-1000XM5s themselves are significantly smaller than their predecessors - the headphones have been made 25% smaller and 20% lighter according to Sony.
Much like the Sony WF-1000XM4, the new model offers simple controls - one tap on the left earbud switches from Noise Cancelling to Ambient Sound, a longer tap activates Quick Attention, while a double tap on the right earbud skips to the next track. Tapping four or more times in a row controls volume. You can change these controls in the free Headphones Connect app that you can access via the product’s packaging. The app also lets you alter your EQ settings, sound levels and much more.
Like its predecessor, the Sony WF-1000XM5 comes in environmentally safe packaging, which is a nice bonus.
Sony WF-1000XM5 review: Features
The Sony WF-1000XM5 boast a shiny new Integrated Processor V2 feature for maximum noise cancelling effect. I tested this function in a busy gym with its own PA, out on a walk near a busy road and on a 40-minute train journey. While the earbuds’ noise cancelling capability doesn’t quite match up to Sony’s over-ear equivalents, this is as good as I’ve ever heard it through in-ears and more than enough to keep the outside world at bay
Speaking of ears: mine often stubbornly seem to push out in-ear buds when performing strenuous activities (running, working out). Initially, I found one of the default buds a little uncomfortable, but upon swapping it for one of the three alternative sizes provided in the packaging, I didn’t experience any more issues.
With eight hours of charge on the in-ear headphones themselves another 16 in the case, you’re effectively set for a whole 24 hours of audio before needing to hook the Sony WF-1000XM5 up for a proper recharge. Plus, with up to an hour of play from a quick three minute charge, if you get caught out at short notice, you can still get a good bit of extra life.
I tested the Sony WF-1000XM5 for a couple of phone calls, and while my voice came across nice and clear, I wouldn’t describe the headphones’ audio on those calls as particularly impressive. This isn’t an issue for me as I’ll be mainly using these for entertainment rather than business function, and it was certainly good enough to have conversations with, even in busy areas.
Sony WF-1000XM5 review: Sound
I wanted to give the Sony WF-1000XM5 as wide a testing pool as possible, so I picked a decent range of albums to listen to. First up was a blast of propulsive dance music courtesy of new Jungle album Volcano, which sounded lush and beautifully layered, the headphones perfectly picking up every floating bit of synth or pattering blast of percussion.
I swung over to some entirely different next with a play through of Swedish extreme metallers Orbit Culture’s latest album Descent. Despite the dizzying wall of noise coming at me, the Sony WF-1000XM5 kept everything crystal clear while never losing the impact of those ferocious riffs and battering drums.
Finally, I went for something a little more classic - a play through of Lauryn Hill’s legendary 1998 opus The Miseducation Of…. It sounded as fresh and vibrant on the Sony WF-1000XM5 as it did the first time I listened to it 25 years ago, the mixture of Hill’s soaring, soulful vocals and those r’n’b-flavoured beats sounding electric through the headphones.
Sony WF-1000XM5 review: The alternatives
While the Sony WF-1000XM5 sound fantastic, look cool and are super user-friendly, their steep price, however worth it they may be, may understandably put off some. With that in mind, there are some alternatives you can always look at.
The Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation are always worth a look if you want a high-end, reliable set of earbuds to meet all needs. The sound is always top drawer and the battery life is extensive. Paired with Apple Music, and these are a great alternative option.
Of course, you could always dive into the still excellent Sony WF-1000XM4. Great audio deliver, excellent noise cancelling, comfortable and top battery life... and you'll probably be able to get them a little cheaper than the new model.
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