Sony’s most popular consumer-class noise-canceling headphones lineup recently expanded with a new model, the WH-1000XM5. Building on the foundation laid out by the previous models, the Sony WH-1000XM5 promises even better audio quality and noise-canceling efficiency than the older WH-1000XM4. Does it really manage to do so? Are these headphones a good choice for you? Read this review and find what to expect from the Sony WH-1000XM5:
Sony WH-1000XM5: Who is it good for?
Sony WH-1000XM5 are the headphones you need if:
- You’re looking for excellent noise-canceling headphones
- You’re uncompromising when it comes to audio quality
- You wear headphones daily on your commute, in your office, or any other place
Pros and cons
These are the essential positive aspects of the Sony WH-1000XM5:
- First-class noise-canceling performance
- Top-notch audio quality
- The capacitive touch panel works very well
- Pleasant design, comfortable to wear
- Good battery life
- Excellent sound quality in phone calls
There are a few downsides to the Sony WH-1000XM5 noise-canceling headphones:
- No support for Qualcomm’s aptX audio codec
- The ear cups don’t fold
The Sony WH-1000XM5 are some of the best noise-canceling headphones you can get. While the previous model impressed me with its features, audio quality, and noise-canceling efficiency, the new WH-1000XM5 somehow managed to be even better. With the refinements and improvements Sony brought to their most popular consumer-class wireless headphones, the WH-1000XM5 is the model you should get if you want everything from excellent sound to first-class noise canceling. If you have the premium budget required, you won’t regret getting yourself the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones.
Unboxing the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones
The Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless noise-canceling headphones are delivered in a relatively large box that looks interesting, although its design is minimalistic. The packaging is made of recycled and sustainable materials and contains no plastic. On the front, you can see a photo of the headphones together with their name, but that’s it.
The back of the box offers more details about the headphones, including their serial number and Sony’s contact information.
Unboxing the Sony WH-1000XM5 reveals a large carrying box made of cardboard wrapped in a textile material that matches the color of the headphones. Inside, you find the headphones themselves, a short USB-C charging cable, an audio cable (with 3.5mm connectors), and a series of documents that include the warranty and user manual.
The unboxing experience for the Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless noise-canceling headphones is enjoyable. I appreciate Sony’s care for the environment shown by using recycled materials for the box and avoiding plastic. Also, I like the fact that we get a carrying case and an audio cable. On the other hand, I was quite surprised to see how short the USB-C cable is. 🙂
Design and hardware specifications
The WH-1000XM5 is the latest model in Sony’s prolific series of WH-1000XM ANC (Active Noise Canceling) headphones. In the past, we reviewed the WH-1000XM2, WH-1000XM3, and WH-1000XM4 headsets, and we found each of them to be quite amazing, both in terms of sound quality, features, and design. The WH-1000XM5 follow in their forefathers’ steps, promising even better audio quality and enhanced features by changing or improving parts of the manufacturing process, materials, and software.
Before going into the more technical details, a word about design. Compared to their predecessors, the WH-1000XM5 feel more minimalistic, although the general line of design and appearance does point to them being part of the same family. The headphones are covered in vegan leatherette, and the relatively large cups are connected between them by what Sony calls a step-less headband. This makes the whole process of adjusting the headphones easy and seamless.
The cups are covered by soft plush that, although it doesn’t seem too generous at first look, it feels more comfortable to wear than the one on the older WH-1000XM4 headphones. However, on the negative side, a change that probably many won’t appreciate, myself included, is the fact that the cups are no longer foldable. Although they do swivel and fit nicely regardless of your head conformation, the inability to fold the cups means that it’s harder to tuck the headphones in a pocket. Sure, you do have the traveling case, but it’s not the same thing: that’s bulkier than just folding them and putting them next to your laptop in a bag.
On the upside, Sony brings in a major change regarding the type of drivers used for its best consumer headphones. Unlike the previous-gen WH-1000XM4, which had 40 mm (1.57 in) dome driver units, the new WH-1000XM5 received 30 mm (1.18 in) carbon fiber composite driver units. According to the company, these drivers feature a soft edge that helps with noise canceling and improves high frequency ranges thanks to their light weight and high rigidity domes.
Sony’s WH-1000XM5 response in frequency covers the 4 to 40,000 Hz range when a wired connection is used. If connected on Bluetooth, the standard frequency response falls within a narrower range of 20 to 20000 Hz with 44.1 kHz sampling but widens to the 20 to 40000 Hz range when using the LDAC codec (96 kHz sampling rate, 990 kbps).
On the same note, and in case you’re wondering, the headphones use a Bluetooth 5.2 connection and support Bluetooth Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP), Hands-Free Profile (HFP), and Headset Profile (HSP). The supported audio formats are SBC, AAC, and Sony’s high-fidelity LDAC. However, just like the previous Sony WH-1000XM4, the WH-1000XM5 doesn’t support Qualcomm aptX (standard or HD). The last version of headphones in this series that did offer support for aptX was the Sony WH-1000XM3.
The right cup of the Sony WH-1000XM5 is home to a built-in capacitive touch panel that allows you to control the headphones. Swiping up or down turns the volume up or down, swiping forward or back skips to the next or previous track, and double-tapping pauses or resumes play. Tapping and holding on the center of the cup launches the voice assistant, while placing your whole hand on the right cup enables the ambient sound passthrough. On the bottom of the cup, you also find the USB-C charging port.
The left cup doesn’t have any touch controls on it, but it’s home to the 3.5 mm audio jack and two physical buttons: Power/Bluetooth and NC/AMB. The first turns the headphones on or off, and holding it for three seconds or more enables Bluetooth pairing mode. The latter, branded NC/AMB, acts as a switch between noise-canceling and ambient sound passthrough modes.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones also promise to offer top-notch call quality thanks to the company’s Precise Voice Pickup Technology. Using four beamforming microphones calibrated to identify your voice and with the help of an AI noise reduction feature, the headphones should be able to efficiently isolate your voice from noisy environments such as the office you work in, street traffic, or even a moderate breeze on a windy day.
The battery specs haven’t changed significantly compared to the previous model. Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones promise a battery life of 30 hours during music playback, with noise canceling on. Turning off ANC, the battery life increases up to 40 hours. Fully charging the headphones should take 3 hours and a half.
For more details about the technical specifications and features, visit Sony WH-1000XM5: Specifications.
When I first saw the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones, I thought they looked too simple, at least compared to the previous model. However, after a more thorough inspection, I’ve come to like them even more than the WH-1000XM4. Sometimes less is more, and the minimalist design of these headphones is quite pleasing. Furthermore, the materials used make them very comfortable, while the audio improvements turn them into a more attractive choice than the older WH-1000XM4.
Using the Sony WH-1000XM5 noise-canceling wireless headphones
Using the Sony WH-1000XM5 is a very enjoyable experience. First of all, I need to say that they’re incredibly comfortable to wear. The foam on the cups and headband is very soft and adapts perfectly to any head conformation or ear size. I wore them for a full day of work and never felt uncomfortable.
Thanks to the generous swiveling angles, you can rest assured that traveling with these headphones is not problematic. Even if you don’t use their case, you can simply put them next to your laptop in a backpack or a bag, and they’re not going to take up a whole lot of space. However, it’s not the same if you’re used to folding your headphones and tucking them in a larger pocket. Unfortunately, since they don’t fold, that’s out of the question.
Touch controls are very well implemented. Although I’ve been happy with the ones on the older WH-1000XM4, the ones on the right cup of the WH-1000XM5 feel even more responsive. Sure, there were a couple of times when the headphones didn’t immediately respond to the touch the way I expected them to, but generally, they did. Most headphones I’ve tested have a much greater rate of not registering touch properly.
The noise-canceling on the WH-1000XM5 is, in a word, outstanding. Sony’s previous models in this lineup impressed me, and these ones did so even more. I don’t know how the algorithms work behind the scenes, how the passive noise canceling affects audio quality, or how the headphones benefit from their multiple microphones, but the end result is spectacular. Traffic, surrounding noise, and even voices are all muffled and undisturbing when wearing the WH-1000XM5. At low volume, you’re still hearing some of the environmental sounds, but turn the volume up to 20% or more, close your eyes, and music listening will feel like you’re in a dark, quiet room with the band playing your favorite songs.
On the same “musical” note, audio representation is top-notch too. All frequencies sound very well, with instrument and voice separation being quite easily observable, which is great. The mids and highs are clear and beautifully rendered, and the lower frequencies (bass) are powerful. Maybe some expert audio technicians or audiophiles would say that the WH-1000XM5 emphasize low frequencies a bit too much, but for me, they’re exactly as powerful as they should be.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones also excel in phone calls. The microphones and the noise-canceling algorithms do a great job of picking up only your voice and removing most of the surrounding noise.
Last but not least, I have to mention the Sony Headphones Connect mobile app. While the headphones can work without it and with any Bluetooth-enabled device, if you want the best mobile experience, you should download, install, and use this app on your smartphone. Sony Headphones Connect is available for both Android and iOS and allows you to configure and control the way the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones work. That includes key areas such as adaptive sound control, sound quality, equalizer management, and noise-canceling features.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 are the best headphones I’ve had the chance to test lately, and it’s hard to believe that there are many competitors for their excellent audio quality and especially noise-canceling feature.
What’s your opinion about the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones?
With the WH-1000XM5 headphones, Sony managed to impress me again, although I didn’t think the company could improve the previous WH-1000XM4 too much. I love these headphones and believe anyone who affords them will be pleased. Do you agree? Let me know in the comments section below.