Sony WF-1000XM4 headphones review the best-sounding noise-cancelling

If you are a music lover or demanding user with the audio you listen to from your mobile, these headphones are the best on the market. They also have an active noise cancellation that isolates you even from noises such as a Roomba operating in the same room.

The world of truly wireless in-ear headphones is really saturated. We have options ranging from just 9 euros to models that are around 300 euros and in that range, there are many differences both in materials and in sound quality, autonomy, and noise cancellation.

Sony has been optimizing its top model for years, and where it seemed that it could no longer improve with its third iteration, the Japanese company launches a renewed version with a remarkable aesthetic redesign in both the case and the headphones.

They have also been able to improve noise cancellation and continue to offer hi-res audio support using the LDAC codec. Let's see if this Sony WF-1000XM4 (yes, Sony has to do something with the nomenclature of your products) is worth it or not.

  Sony WF-1000XM4
Guy In-ear
Dimensions and weight (headset) N.A | 7.3 g
Dimensions and weight (case) 40 x 67 x 30 mm | 41 g
Drivers 6 mm
Sensors Microphone sensor, the usage detection sensor
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) Yes
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2
Battery Headset: up to 8 h / 12 h (without NC) | Case: up to 24 h / 36 h (without NC) | USB-C and Qi charging
Protection IPX4
Compatibility Android app | iOS app | Any Bluetooth device

Renewed look, comfortable and more ergonomic box

Sony had taken a design line in which it was flattening the headphones and with this fourth generation has cut for the healthy. We have a more cylindrical design with a differential touch in the assembly of one of the microphones for noise cancellation and a very successful plastic material with a matte finish.

But before that, let's talk about the product packaging box. On this occasion Sony has opted for a box of recycled material, fleeing from plastics and plasticized cardboards with a multitude of colors.

Once we saw the contents of the packaging we started talking about the box of the headphones and that in the previous generation it was one of the complaints we saw in the analysis. They had a box with a flat lid and very pronounced edge that could be nailed to the leg when we sat down and carried them in our pockets.

Sony has rounded out its design and, in fact, the case has a very minimalist matte plastic finish. We only see the Sony logo at the top and the bottom of the charge current indications.

Sony WF-1000XM4

It should be mentioned that the feeling of the box is less premium than last year and, although it is in line with what we see from other brands, we did like that the box has that matte finish that prevents the footprints from being impregnated.

The box can be charged using the USB-C that mounts on the back and also by qi wireless charging if we leave it placed on its base.

This box mounts a large LED that serves as a notifier to know the level of load that remains to the box and to knows if it is charging the same or the headphones. It is not something very precise, but if we want precision we just have to look at the mobile and it will reflect the percentage of the box and the headphones as we open it.

Sony WF-1000XM4

Let's take a look at the headphones and what this new design looks like. In our case, we are analyzing the black model that has details in copper color.

The highlight when it comes to catching them is that copper circumference that gives input to the ambient audio to one of the three microphones that are responsible for active noise cancellation. It's differential and we haven't seen it in other models.

Sony WF-1000XM4

The body is matte black, including the outer surface, which is the area in charge of touch control. The zone that is attached to the ear has gold connectors for the load of the same in the box as well as the use sensor.

The pads are somewhat different compared to other headphones on the market since we are facing a brand that offers silicone tips and is foam, which, according to Sony, leads to greater comfort and sound insulation thanks to the microcavities of the foam.

The latest in Bluetooth and Hi-Res codec support

If there's anything Sony has expertise in the audio issue. They are years and years within a market that saw the birth of portability with its Walkman.

The company has been developing every part of the audio chain for years to be able to deliver the best sound quality to users and it's something these Bluetooth headphones carry in their DNA.

Sony WF-1000XM4

Within the wireless connectivity and Bluetooth headphones True Wireless, there are differences in the driver used, how the set has been tuned for the playback of frequencies, and how these sounds are received from the devices.

This is where we see the first decrease in quality when we talk about cheap headphones since the headphones can get a version of the audio very compressed with old Bluetooth codecs.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 uses the latest in Bluetooth connectivity, the Bluetooth 5.2 standard, and on it, they can make use of either the SBC standard (48 kHz, usually up to 328 kbit/s) or LDAC that allows a maximum bitrate of 990 kbits/s and lossless content playback in CD quality and above.

The connectivity of these headphones is very good, it has different profiles of audio quality according to the strength of the received signal, the mobile next door is not the same, then 10 meters away. In this way, we have struggled to get both the music and a call to be interested in distances in which we feel comfortable away from the mobile.

In fact, something that usually happens with other headphones is that if I have the phone in my pants pocket, glued to the leg and playing Spotify, by streaming or local download, it usually is choppy, we assume by the shielding of the leg.

With this Sony, there has been no such problem and it is something to be grateful for since surely you are with me in that there is nothing that bothers you more than listening to music in fits and down.

Probably the best on the market in sound quality and noise cancellation

We have already commented that Sony has been tuning its headphones for years and with this fourth generation of top wireless headphones, TWS seemed that little could improve since the WF-1000XM3, however, it has surprised us.

It's amazing how good these headphones sound with drivers of only 6mm. This is where Sony makes it clear that size doesn't matter and that unchecked power isn't going anywhere. With this size of driver and a more powerful magnetic control system you get defined bass without neglecting the rest of the frequencies.

Sony WF-1000XM4

In addition, the most interesting thing is that Sony has technologies, DSEE Extreme, to be able to recover characteristics of the compressed sound from sources such as MP3 or streaming in the low definition that does a very good job of giving brightness to the highest frequencies without sounding artificial.

And for most music lovers, although Sony has balanced the response of the headphones very well, the Sony Headphones application allows you to configure a 5-band frequency equalizer to adjust the sound to your liking and a bass enhancer, Clear Bass, in case you are one of the people who like a lot of sticking in the music.

Inside the equalizer, there are 11 presets of which the last three are completely customizable and can be saved by the user to have different profiles depending on what we are going to hear.

Something that we liked a lot is the section of the app to find the optimal pads and is that it is something that either for comfort or vagueness, many do not change if we see that we do not fall. Sony has created an assistant that reproducing sounds and capturing the outside sound with its microphones determines whether the pads you carry do their job.

Not all mobiles allow the use of LDAC as a codec, but it is interesting that you go to the Bluetooth settings of your mobile and see if you can activate high-quality audio or similar since in quiet environments you can notice the difference compared to the SBC standard.

How does noise cancellation work? Here Sony has been surprising us for years and showing how it is one step ahead of the competition and with this new generation manages to slightly improve noise cancellation in the range of lower frequencies without affecting the sound quality.

We also have different noise cancellation profiles that we can select manually or let the headphones analyze the ambient sound and have the most effective mode.

We have noise suppression and noise suppression with wind reduction modes as modes in which the sound of our environment is actively canceled. The second mode has a higher consumption but is much more effective if we go down the street and there is a lot of wind.

Cancellation in both modes is superb for what it is designed for. We talk about the constant noise cancellation type rolling noise of train, metro, bus. In the midst of a pandemic and being at home we have noticed how it also effectively cancels the sound of fans, robot vacuum cleaners, or even the washing machine.

app 8

It is not a dirty noise cancellation that introduces white noise but you can use them as plugs without listening to any music and silence is made.

It also has an Ambient Sound mode that lets the sound of our surroundings pass and we can choose to let the voices pass, that is, with that mode, it would let the frequencies of the voice pass but would cancel the noise in the rest. It is useful if you are in an office or similar since you will avoid shocks when they touch your shoulder "because they have been calling you for a while".

And, of course, you can turn off active noise cancellation for a typical in-ear headphone experience with the natural insulation that pads produce.

They are not headphones that sound good or cancel the sound well, they do it very very well, and clear is that we are talking about the top model of Sony in this format and that is also noted in the price: 279 euros.

We want to mention that we have received several firmware updates, something to keep in mind for the future and as a small complaint, we have that the transfer of the same to the headphones the slow as well as the total update time.

Above-average software and effective touch controls

We have already mentioned in the previous section that Sony Headphones is an application with sections that complete and complement the multimedia experience with this WF-1000XM4.

Sony offers it for free for iPhone and Android although you can always pair the headphones with any Bluetooth device without the need for an app.

Inside the mobile application, we have a small block at the top in which we are informed when we take the headphones out of the box of their autonomy as well as the box and under it three sections: State, Sound, and System.

The first of them shows if we are playing anything and the typical controls of multimedia playback and Adaptive Sound Control.

This feature is interesting as the headphones can analyze in real-time if you are moving, if you are running if you are in transport or you are standing, and apply the noise cancellation mode that you preset for each of those moments.

In addition, you can also learn by geolocation, that is, you can mark the area of your house as an area in which noise cancellation is activated and the park where you go for a run that lets the ambient noise pass.

It is useful not only because you mark it but because you can activate the option for the headphones to learn the locations according to the use you give it and change according to where you are in mode.

It is in the Sound section where we see how Sony offers options above the market average with various control support of its active noise suppression system as well as sound retouching with its 5-band equalization that we can customize.

An interesting option of these headphones is "Talk by chat" which we see is a bad translation since it is nothing more than a mode in which the headphones detect that we are talking and then pause the multimedia playback.

We can make a fine adjustment of this function by choosing the quiet time until you play sounds again or having the ambient sound mode that lets only the voices, or everything, pass through.

talk for chat

In my particular use, it is more comfortable to remove a headset, also so the other interlocutor sees that I pay attention to it, but yes, it works.

Just as Apple has released surround sound in its latest Airpods Max and Airpods Pro, Sony has been trying for years to boost 360 Reality Audio sound– the point is that there are few compatible streaming services (Deezer,, and Tidal) and not in its entire catalog.

Amazing autonomy for this sound quality even with active noise cancellation

This is another of the key points in which Sony has given a twist on the previous generation. Most headphones on the market indeed allow a playback that exceeds 3 hours out of the box and some touch the 4 hours.

Once you put them in the box they load and you can enjoy that extra playing time one or two more times on most models. Well, here Sony has done an excellent job as it promises up to 8 h (12 h without NC) of multimedia playback once you take them out of the box.

The box promises a total of up to 24 h (36 h without NC) and can charge both USB-C and Qi modes in a low-intensity charging mode of 5V 140mAh so there is no difference in charging time of the box either by cable or wirelessly.

According to our measurements, the box allows you to charge the headphones twice completely and reach up to 60% of them for the third time.

Each full charge of the headphones takes about 50 minutes while during the first 10 minutes they reach almost 50%, that is, they have a fast charge for a hurry.

The box takes about 80 minutes to charge from 0% to 100% and we have measured time practically calvados by USB-C and Qi.

Sony WF-1000XM4

As for autonomy, we have verified that Sony does not cheat since in our tests we make a continuous reproduction at 100% volume and we have reached between 5-6 hours of playback with active noise cancellation, so it is achievable with a reasonable volume level.

If we go adding hours and charges of the battery we see how these headphones are the ones that get more autonomy, being more than enough for a weekend of intense use without having to recharge the box.

It is confirmed again: We are facing one of the best in-ear solutions on the market

The previous two generations of the WF-1000XM were very balanced models, with superb noise cancellation and Sony had it complicated to on the one hand continue to hit the nail on the head and the other hand hit with a surprise redesign for most.

However, the company has done it again. You do not have to have sybabar ears to notice how noise cancellation is the best on the market, you will notice it even if you have corkscrew ears that do not differentiate the quality of the Renfe headphones from any other model.

If we talk about sound quality is another of the strong points and is that if you like to listen to music and I do not talk about having background music while you do other tasks, these headphones are a perfect complement to go on mobile. They are small, comfortable, and offer clarity and sound power out of the box.

And what about autonomy: these Sonys have pleasantly surprised us. With active noise cancellation, they get the same autonomy as the generation without active noise cancellation and many other headphones on the market of this generation.

Sony WF-1000XM4

We lacked a bit of flexibility on the part of Sony to be able to configure the touch controls at our whims, but, certainly, it is a very round product as also commented by our colleagues at Business Insider.

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