Sony WF-1000XM5 review, we keep the throne

9 min read

It’s summer and it’s been two years already, Sony has just announced its brand new high-end true wireless headphones. Here is our test of the Sony WF-1000XM5 or Mark 5 for friends.

Two years is the life cycle of audio products at sony. It is therefore no surprise that the Japanese firm has finally announced its brand new high-end headphones, the WF-1000XM5. We thought that the launch of the LinkBuds range was finally going to bury the references that meant nothing to the consumer… Well no, so there won’t be any LinkBuds Pro, at least not yet.

We had some doubts with the WF-C700N review, but we thought, wrongly, that Sony was finally going to offer a reference worthy of the name to compete with the AirPods Pro or the Galaxy Buds Pro, but no, we are Japanese or we are not. We therefore find the Sony WF-1000XM5 which succeed the WF-1000XM4. With a refined design and the consideration of user feedback on its previous models, Sony arrives with confidence with these new headphones and in an increasingly competitive market. We spent a few weeks with it and here is our test of the Sony WF-1000XM5 (or Mark 5 for short).

Sony WF-1000XM5

Presentation and characteristics of the Sony WF-1000XM5

It’s starting to be a habit at Sony, we change the design completely. The WF-1000XM4 changed completely from its predecessors in terms of design. This is also the case this year. Also, the Sony WF-1000XM5 offer a brand new design. Thinner, smaller and lighter (25% smaller and 20% lighter), we find them a little more classic and simple, whereas the design of the Mark 4s had that little something different. Now, it remains a matter of taste and as we know, tastes and colors are not discussed.

On the other hand, the direct consequence of such a change is not insignificant and the first thing we noticed in our tests was that the Sony WF-1000XM5s were much more comfortable over long listening sessions. And if we follow everything that Sony has been offering for some time in its audio products, we find a bit of the design of the Sony LinkBuds S and more recently Sony WF-C700N, which is not so bad in the end. The finish is always on top with a premium rendering.

Sony WF-1000XM5

Sony uses the principles of intra-auricular for a better fit in the ear canal. Sony innovates with new polyurethane tips that are halfway between silicone tips and tips with memory foam. The advantage is that these tips fit much better in the ear canal and because they are malleable, they adapt perfectly to the ear canal. Results, we end up with a very good passive insulation when the size is well chosen by the user. Sony also offers an XS size just in case. In addition to all this, there is IPX4 certification for the Sony WF-1000XM5.

The storage box is still a more than reasonable size, it’s not the smallest on the market, but the Mark 3 box is already a distant memory. It obviously charges the headphones. On the move, the case allows the equivalent of two recharges, which leads the WF-1000XM5 to offer a total of around 24 hours, like its predecessors. According to Sony, the WF-1000XM5 offer an autonomy of 8 hours with active noise cancellation, that’s what we obtained more or less. And finally, it was a criticism last year, it is no longer since the box can be recharged wirelessly. Finally, note that 3 minutes of charging gives you one hour of listening time. Convenient. And this year, we are entitled to wireless charging, practical with the reverse wireless charging of the Sony Xperia 1 V for example.

Sony WF-1000XM5

Active noise reduction

As we had already said above, the competition is always stronger and if Sony had impressed its world since the first model and more particularly since the third iteration, it must be said that the competitors have organized themselves since. Whether it is the Bose QC Earbuds IIthe Apple AirPods Pro 2 or the very recent Technics EAH-AZ80, they are all excellent in terms of noise reduction. Afterwards, it is played at trifles but for the vast majority and on a daily basis, we will not necessarily make the difference between all these high-end models when we talk about active noise reduction.

We remember Sony’s excellent work on the WF-1000XM3 and even more so on the WF-1000XM4 which had managed to be a cut above. Let’s keep it simple, it’s just as excellent on the active noise reduction on the WF-1000XM5 but we are no longer entitled to such a difference as it was between the Mark 3 and Mark 4. It was by being really careful that we noticed that the noise reduction was a bit cleaner on the Mark 5. Now, it’s because we were on it and we paid attention to it. In the frenzy of everyday life as in a metro, we are not sure that everyone will necessarily note these subtleties.

Sony WF-1000XM5

The real novelty are the new polyurethane foam insulating end caps which allow good passive insulation provided that the end caps are the right size. Indeed, until now, the tester has always used the M-size silicone tips. With these new tips, the tester had to switch to the L-size ones, which means that it is possible that those who used L until now could end up with the largest tips in the box too small for them.

With the new size M earmolds, we quickly saw that there was a leak in the insulation, which resulted in a faulty active noise cancellation when the earmolds were not at the bottom of the ear canal. As soon as we went to size L, the leaks were immediately fixed. Please note that each ear is unique. As a result, our reflections do not necessarily apply to everyone. Also, we repeat ourselves but when the tips are the right size, it’s ecstasy. To tell the truth, for some time, it is still difficult to take high-end headphones. Otherwise, this year, the WF-1000XM5 continue with Adoptive Sound Control and Speak-To-Chat technologies but above all offer multipoint connection from the start, which makes it possible to pair two Bluetooth sources simultaneously. Note again that Android and Windows users will benefit from fast pairings with Fast Pair and Swift Pair technologies.

Sony WF-1000XM5

The same controls

The touch controls have not changed particularly, they are fully configurable from the Headphones application on iOS or Android. All the controls are not available at the same time but they have the merit of being present and available to the user. By default, a press on the right earphone allows you to start (stop) your music and a long press to launch the voice assistant while on the left one will be used to activate or not the ambient control. Speaking of ambient control, as on previous models, we preferred to deactivate it because we still do not find the automation of the reduction level super effective. As was the case with other audio products from the Japanese manufacturer, the headphones can cut off when the user speaks. On paper, the idea is brilliant but in practice, it remains a gadget. By leaving the left earphone pressed, we find the possibility of listening to the outside world. And finally, to advance to the next title, it’s two presses on the right earphone, and three to go back. Classic.

Sony WF-1000XM5

And the sound in all this?

And finally, for the audio quality, we find excellent sound with the Sony signature. This year, Sony is offering new Dynamic Driver X diaphragms to offer users a wider frequency range, which translates into better perception of voices and more present and deep bass. The sound obviously remains oriented towards the general public, it is balanced with very present and precise but not intrusive bass. As usual, the tests were done on compositions by Ryuichi Sakamoto or Rich Bryan’s RAP, but above all a lot of Kpop because we are currently in Korea. These were our primary headphones and we really had no complaints. The restitution of the instruments is striking and to this are added complete equalizers from the application to personalize the sound rendering if the default one does not suit the user. Also note the DSEE Xtreme technology which significantly improves the sound quality. And now, if the user has audio hi-les, we note that the WF-1000XM5 supports the LDAC codec.

Sony WF-1000XM5

2023 obliges, the Sony WF-1000XM5 embeds Sony spatialization technology, 360 Reality Audio but also head tracking to follow the movements of the head when the source supports it. We always find it a bit gimmicky, especially in nomadic use, but why not? Note that the sounds align with the smartphone screen.

Finally, Sony continues to improve on the quality of apples, even if we don’t really call each other anymore. Suddenly, the Japanese manufacturer offers a noise reduction algorithm based on AI necessarily. Added to this are bone conduction sensors to better recognize the user’s voice. Whatever our speakers (telephone or video calls), we had no problems with voice, which was not the case with voice messages, very popular and which show the limits of headphones when the environment keeps changing.

Prices and availability

The Sony WF-1000XM5 will be available from the beginning of August at a price of around 320 euros.


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