The 1000x series from Sony has been a staple for wireless headphones everywhere. Their true wireless series has similar acclaim and is always improving, adding new features with each new generation. The WF-1000XM5 has recently been released, following up on the WF-1000XM4. Should you get this upgrade?
What You Get
The same accessories are included in the XM4 and XM5.
- Charging case
- USB Type C charging cable
- Ear tips (SS/S/M/L)
- User guide
Look & Feel
Just like the transition from the XM3 to the XM4, Sony once again changes almost everything about the design of the XM5. If one of your criticisms of the past few models was that they were too big, then the XM5 should fix that with its slimmer housing and more ergonomic construction. I liked the changes the XM4 made from the XM3 when it launched, but the XM4 has it beat in pretty much every single way.
A lot of the staple features that you’re used to getting with Sony wireless products are here, but the XM5 brings some new things to note. As far as ANC goes, both models are as strong as you’re going to get anywhere in the market. Both the XM4 and XM5 will work perfectly if you’re just looking for the best ANC available. Other features like DSEE, adaptive ANC, and 360 Reality Audio are present with both earbuds. Touch gestures are similar, but the XM5 is a bit more sensitive this time around, which is a welcome change. My favorite feature that is added to the XM5 though is the new “find your EQ” option. This gives you the choice of a few different filters that get meshed together in order to replicate your preferred sound signature. It’s a lot more versatile than the XM4’s standard EQ.
The XM5 goes from the XM4’s Bluetooth version 5.2 to 5.3, but it’s rare to find a more solid connection. I never have dropouts when dealing with this series, plus if you’re on Android you’re getting LDAC with either model.
You’ll get almost the same amount of playtime from both earbuds. The XM4 and XM5 both offer around 8 hours from a single charge, depending on whether you have ANC turned on or not. These earbuds have good charge for the price, but I would have liked to see a slight improvement to the XM5 here.
With the XM4, Sony started to make a lot of improvements to their default soundstage. It was no longer a constricted, solidified soundstage, possessing better movement and other stereo properties. The XM5 goes a bit further by making the spatial imaging even more concise, albeit still not being the widest or deepest. Both earbuds will give you a sound that is almost entirely in your head, even with 360 Reality Audio enabled. However, with spatial audio active, the soundstage gains more dimension. Head tracking was introduced to the XM4 a few weeks ago, and the XM5 has this feature right out of the box.
If you like a lot of bass, the 1000x series has already got you covered. Improvements were made on the XM4 to make the bass less muddy, but the XM5 offers something a bit different. There’s clarity there if you want it, mostly by turning down the clear bass feature on the app. However, the XM5’s bass is able to reach a lot deeper than the XM4, with more present sub-bass power. This gives the XM5 a very intense sound with clear bass, but you also run into the problem of overshadowing other ranges of frequency. You can counteract this a bit with the ‘find your EQ’ option, which I set to only give me the bottom end of the sub-bass with more distinguished upper mids and highs. With this, you can strike a better balance than the XM4 can offer.
Both the XM4 and XM5 have average midrange reproduction with their default profile. This kind of response is nothing new for this series, and EQ can only do so much. The XM5 in particular has a rougher, darker timbre, with only spurts of instrumental and vocal clarity coming from personalized EQ settings, which are harder to come by with the XM4. However, the XM4 is still enjoyable in its midrange, even without the greatest definition. There’s texture and form to at least some commanding qualities of vocal ranges.
I tend to enjoy the highs of the 1000x series with more EQ, and with the XM5, there’s a lot more potential for the timbre. The XM5 exhibits a lot more height than the XM4, even with EQ, and it grants you more spark and air. With the XM4, you can get a smooth, unobtrusive tone, but their surface isn’t the most elegant.
Between the WF-1000XM4 and XM5, the difference is really going to come down to sound. The standout feature that really changes things for me is the new EQ that personalizes your sound even more precisely than what the XM4 can bring. Its new design is also going to sell more people getting the XM5 alone as well. Other than that, not much else has changed. No matter if you get the XM4 or XM5, you’re still getting the same great ANC and spatial audio features.