Sony WF-1000XM4 Review: Possibly a Turning Point For Sony

Yet another audio marvel from Sony!

Sony has been a prominent player in the truly wireless earbuds segment with its WF-1000X lineup. The company earlier introduced the WF-1000XM3, which offered great features like noise cancellation, good sound quality, and more. However, the earbuds were not that great to challenge the likes of Apple AirPods Pro or Bose QuietComfort. Now, the brand has finally come up with a worthy successor to the WF-1000XM3 earbuds, known as the Sony WF-1000XM4.

The latest wireless earbuds from Sony comes with an all-new design language coupled with a new audio processor and plethora of features. In addition, the company has also introduced a new type of ear tip that can change the way people think about ear tips. This coupled with features like Ambient Sound Control, noise-cancelling, Hi-Res audio support, and more, the wireless earbuds indeed seem to be one of the best options available in the premium wireless earbuds segment. But are these really that good? I got the chance to use the TWS for a while, and here’s what I think of it.

Design and Fit

The Sony WF-1000XM4 comes in unique packaging, and it is not something shiny but environmentally-friendly. The company has ditched the glossy box for recycled packaging made of paper. This is undoubtedly great news for the environment. Still, it does not really give the vibe of buying a pair of premium wireless earbuds. The retail box is compact and comes with two ear tips, a USB cable for charging and a quick start guide.

You are also greeted with a small, black charging case that houses the Sony WF-1000XM4. The case is about 40 per cent smaller than its predecessor, Sony WF-1000XM3. Flip it open, and you will find the earbuds with an all-new design. The earbuds come with a matte finish that surely gives a premium look. The round-shaped element at the back is touch-sensitive for different commands, and you will find a small golden circle that adds some points to the whole design aesthetics.

The ear tips were one thing I was deeply impressed with. The foam-based ear tips are something unconventional yet very soft and cushiony. The ear tips seal perfectly and are comfortable to wear for a prolonged period. However, at first, you need to get used to it. (Pro tip: Just pinch the ear tips before inserting them into the ears). There is a setting in its Headphones Connect application to ensure that your ears are perfectly sealed with the ear tips (more on this later).

The matte part on both the earbuds are touch-sensitive and comes with some default functions. However, you can customise it through the application. For example, a single tap on the left earbud will switch between active noise cancellation and ambient mode. Likewise, a single tap on the right earbud will pause the music, double-tap to skip to the next track and triple tap for previous music. If you are one of those sports enthusiasts, they can be your companion as it comes with IPX4 water resistance, making them splash-proof and sweat resistant. Overall, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are a sturdy pair of earbuds that offer a comfortable experience.

Connectivity, App, and Features

The TWS can be easily connected with Android or iOS devices. It also supports fast pairing for Android and Windows. However, you need to install the Headphones Connect application to fully utilise the features. The application is available for download on Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Once you have downloaded it, you need to configure the earbuds. The setup takes some time as you need to follow different instructions. For example, the app will test whether the earbuds are appropriately sealed or not. It will also analyse your ears to deliver the best experience. So, once you are through with the setup process, the app greets you with all the information about the Sony WF-1000XM4.

There is a Status menu that shows the songs currently playing in the application. In contrast, the top shows the battery level of each earbud and the charging case. You also see Adaptive Sound Control. The feature automatically detects your action and locations you visit and changes the headphones settings accordingly. So, for example, if you are sitting at home, it will switch to Staying. Apart from this, there are other options like Walking, Running, and Transport. One can customise the settings for each mode as per your own taste. One can choose between noise cancelling and ambient sound, select the sensitivity for ambient sound, and more. The earbuds switch between the different modes quite effectively. It can easily sense when you are walking or running and automatically choose the settings.

Then comes the Sound menu, where you can fiddle around with different settings. One can choose to turn on/off noise-cancelling and the Speak-to-Chat options. The latter automatically detects when you utter a word and pauses the music. However, I found the sensitivity to be too high for my liking. There were instances where a slight cough or humming paused the music. So, if you are one of those who love to do impromptu karaoke sessions, you better turn off this feature or else you will be frustrated (trust me, I have gone through this horror!).

You can also play around with the Equaliser settings in the Sound menu. By default, the company offers different presets, including Excited, Mellow, Relaxed, Vocal, Treble Boost, Bass Boost, Speech, Custom, and Manual. Then we have the System tab that allows you to change the touch sensor function and do more. That said, the application is relatively easy-to-use and offers some good customisation options for the Sony WF-1000XM4.

Coming to the features, the Sony WF-100XM4 is loaded with a plethora of features that make it an exciting pair of headphones. To start with, the earbuds come with a new 6mm driver unit that claims to deliver high-quality sound output. The earbuds are also loaded with integrated processor V1, specially developed by Sony. The processor helps the earbuds achieve Hi-Res wireless standards. It also comes with 360 Reality Audio along with DSEE Extreme support.

Sound Quality and ANC

The Sony WF-1000XM4 is easily one of the best truly wireless earbuds available in the market. The earbuds offer high-quality bass, and the clarity of low frequencies is excellent. Listening to Centipede by Knife Party was an absolute delight as you could feel the thumping bass, and the entry and exit from the bass notes were clean and to the point. The earbuds also handled the mids quite well, and you could actually listen to the different layers of the music with good clarity. While listening to Elton John’s Rocket Man, we could easily distinguish between piano, guitar and drums sound. The whole experience was top-notch, in my opinion. The vocals were clean, and they didn’t feel pinchy at all, even at full volume.

The noise-cancelling function, which is also one of the strong points of these earbuds, does a good job. The ear tips provide good noise isolation, and the active noise cancellation function works quite decently. It cancelled out the typing noise from my mechanical keyboard to some extent. Also, it can help reduce office chatter. However, if you wear it while walking on the street, you will notice some subtle differences. Although it does not completely cancel out loud noises like buses or car horns, it does limit to a certain extent. The company has also given Ambient Mode to hear the background sound. One can also set the intensity of the Ambient Sound right from the Headphones Connect application.

Mic Quality and Battery Life

The Sony WF-1000XM4 offers a decent microphone, though I felt it was a bit of a let down. The microphones come with a feature that boosts the vocals and suppresses the background noise. It is suitable for indoor conditions, though not very ideal for outdoor use. I noticed that the background noise, such as wind or traffic sound, was getting picked up, and the vocals were a bit muffled while I was talking on the phone using the earbuds. The clarity was slightly off, and other people on the call told me that the voice was not great.

Coming to the battery life, the TWS does an excellent job. The company claims that you get up to 12 hours of playback time with ANC off and about 8 hours of music playback with ANC on. During the testing, I found the wireless earbuds could last around 7 hours with ANC off, which is a good thing. You also get a couple of full charges with the case. The good thing here is the charging case comes with wireless charging, which is a pretty useful feature. Moreover, a five-minute charge can deliver almost one hour of music playback.

Should You Buy Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds?

The Sony WF-1000XM4 has the capability to bring the company back to the top in the audio segment. The earbuds offer a unique design language, which provides better isolation. The plethora of features and absolutely stunning sound quality make it one of the best premium wireless earbuds available in the market. The battery life is great as well. That said, the mic quality was a bit of a letdown and was not at par with other premium earbuds like Apple AirPods Pro or Bose QuietComfort. But you get some great sound experience and excellent battery life coupled with good noise cancellation, which makes it a worthy pair of earbuds to consider.

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Rohan has more 9 years of experience in journalism, of which he's sent 5 years covering technology. He holds a degree in journalism and is obsessed about smartphones. In his free time, you will find him playing games, clicking photos or trying out new street food.