Sony WH-1000XM5 Review: The Best Headphones On The Market Have A Super Price To Match It

Each iteration of the WH-1000 line of headphones may look the same, but they have made improvements in key areas such as noise cancellation, sound and call quality and even comfort
Sony WH-1000XM5 review
Sony WH-1000XM5 review

Lightweight and extremely comfortable. As I sat on my Air India flight from Mumbai to Delhi on a rainy Sunday evening, I was lost in my own world for most of the flight’s duration. The Sony WH-1000XM5 might be the first pair of over-ear headphones to convince me to step away from True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbuds for a while. 

Headphones, for a long time, have personally felt big and sometimes clunky. It’s an extra item that needs to be carried around and cannot snugly fit into a pocket like any pair of TWS earbuds. For that reason, and that reason alone, I’ve never considered buying any pair of headphones - except the one pair of casual gaming headphones I have for my at-home gaming sessions. 

With headphones launching by the dozen, it’s hard to truly get excited. Yet, Sony somehow makes the whole world sit up and take notice every time they release a pair of headphones or TWS earbuds. That’s because the company’s flagship product - the Sony WH-1000XM5 - takes active noise cancelling (ANC) technology to the next level. 

Each iteration of the WH-1000 line of headphones may look the same, but they have made improvements in key areas such as noise cancellation, sound and call quality and even comfort. This is the key to keeping the WH-1000 line of headphones ahead of every other competitor in the market. 

The downside is that these headphones don’t come cheap. 

One hopes that the successor to the WH-1000XM5 (whenever they come out in 2023) look and feel different. The question to be asked though; does Sony need to overhaul something that isn’t broken? It’s more of a personal want than a need, to be fair, but some changes would be nice and offer consumers more of a reason to upgrade. 

While Bose may have taken the lead in the TWS earbuds market (thanks to their absolutely amazing ANC technology), the WH-1000XM5’s uphold Sony’s legacy as the leader in the headphones market. 

Design & comfort: Can be worn for hours 

The WH-1000XM5’s are now sleeker and slimmer and are clad in soft coating and vegan leatherette. The padding is now deeper and wider, to accommodate larger ears and therefore more comfortable for everyone at large. 

Unlike their predecessors though, the XM5 headphones’ earcups cannot be folded. The XM5’s simply fold flat. That means that one must use the accompanying carry case, which in turn takes up a lot of valuable space. Instead of throwing the headphones into a backpack, one must carefully pack them in the carry case first. The carry case is collapsible and barely takes up any more room than the headphones themselves. 

The XM5’s also feel a little less premium than the XM4’s. They’re four grams lighter (250g vs 254g) than the XM4’s. The XM5’s are made from Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), the same material used on Sony’s one-of-a-kind LinkBuds wireless earbuds.

The synthetic leather that covers the band is super smooth to touch. Comfort levels are some of the best in the headphones space. The XM5’s feel secure without being too tight on your ears. 

Last but not least is the new aero dynamic design that helps improve the flow of air all acros the headphone frame. This is done to reduce the wind noise. 

The only time I found some sort of discomfort with the XM5’s were when they were resting on my shoulders. They felt quite awkward and bounced about my shoulders a bit more than I’d have liked. 

Feature-packed: The XM5’s are loaded[Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Sony has packed in a lot of features to the XM5’s. There’s  

- Quick Attention (one can lower the volume - just by covering the right earcup - to have a conversation).  

- Speak to Chat: When you start talking, the XM5’s will automatically pause playback and engage ambient sound mode. 

- Wearing Detection: The headphones automatically detect when they have been taken off and pause the music/video. They’ll restart instantly when you put them back on. 

- Multipoint: With the XM5’s, you can connect the headphones to two devices simultaneously.  

Sound & call quality: Top-notch

Sony is a leading player in the audio business and the XM5’s show why. They deliver great clarity and audio separation when listening to any type of music. The XM5’s expose you to great details and the note differentiation is on another planet. 

The notes on the higher frequencies also don’t miss a beat. Playing Elevation by U2, In the End by Linkin Park and Miles Davis’ Take Five, I was able to notice subtle differences in each song. From identifying every instrument in Take Five to enjoying the booming sounds of Elevation, the XM5’s delivered an all-round musical experience. The aggressive base, on songs like Bad Guy by Billie Eilish isn’t something I was a fan of. It kicks in too hard, at times, and manages to throw some songs off. 

If you want to shut off the outside world, then the XM5’s will help you do so with aplomb thanks to the Integrated Processor V1. I was on a flight back from Mumbai to Delhi last week and the only time I noticed something happening around me was when my co-passenger nudged me. I was oblivious to the outside world and lost in various songs of the 60s. Sony’s noise-cancelling technology is one of the best in the business. 

The number of microphones on the XM5’s have been upped to eight (as compared to four on the XM4’s). This change in hardware helps a lot when it comes to call quality. Call quality with the XM5’s are impeccable. With the wind-noise kept to a minimum, both ends of the call come out loud and clear. Absolutely no complaints here. 

Battery life: Impressive 

The XM5’s give you 30 hours of battery (with ANC on) between charges. That’s pretty good, all things considered. With ANC off, you can give 40 plus hours of battery. I was in Mumbai for six days and didn’t even have to charge it once.  

If you want to fully charge the XM5’s then it will only take 3.5 hours with the supplied USB-C cable. If you’re in a hurry than you can get 180 minutes of playback after plugging in the XM5’s for just three minutes! 

Verdict: Should you buy these cans? 

There is no doubting that these are cans are expensive. They have launched at Rs 34,990 with an introductory price at Rs 26,990. They will be available from 8th of October onward and in two - Black and Silver - colours. One can buy them across all Sony Centers, major electronic stores and e-commerce portals in India. 

There are plenty of positives going for the XM5. The sound quality is top-notch, ANC is fantastic, one can’t complain about the call quality, and they are much more comfortable than their predecessors. 

There are two downsides to the XM5’s but are heavily outweighed by the positives. The XM5’s aren’t collapsible and they are irritating when resting on the neck for longer than ten minutes. Carrying them also requires a bit of space in the bag. 

Taking all this into consideration, if you’re in the market for headphones, and budget isn’t an issue, the XM5’s are the best in the market no doubt.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Business & Money