Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony WH-1000XM5

Verdict

Sony’s WH-1000XM5 improve over their predecessors where it counts. The rich but detailed sound impresses, the noise-cancelling is strong, the call quality is superb; and the range of features and customisation they offer is unmatched. They’re not the best for ANC any more but they’re less expensive than most of their main rivals.

Pros

  • Musical, rich audio performance
  • Impressively clean and natural noise cancellation
  • Superb Ambient Mode
  • Great call quality
  • Less expensive than Bose

Cons

  • Non-foldable design
  • Choppy wireless comfort in busy areas
  • Not the best for ANC


  • V1 integrated processorBrings improvements to noise cancelling performance

  • DSEE ExtremeRestores frequency response of tracks using AI

  • 360 Reality AudioSupports music in spatial audio

Introduction

The WH-1000XM5 launched in 2022 and plenty has changed in the headphone landscape since. So it’s worth checking in to see how they fare against the latest competition.

Since then Sennheiser launched its Momentum 4 Wireless over-ears, Bowers & Wilkins launched the Px7 S2 and S2e models, Bose its QuietComfort Ultra Headphones and now Sonos has entered the game with its Ace headphones. There’s plenty of choice and competition in the wireless over-ear market.

And with the WH-1000XM6 looking like they’ll launch in 2025, there’s still life left in the current model. If you are looking to upgrade from an older pair of headphones, should the Sony WH-1000XM5 still be at the top of the list?

Design

  • No longer foldable
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Lightweight

The 1000XM5 are a good-looking pair of headphones, the series has made the jump to a more modern, svelte, and urbane look.

They’re available in black, silver, and midnight blue options, and made from the same recycled newspapers the LinkBuds used, as well bumpers from cars left on the scrap-heap. It’s part of Sony’s attempt to hit zero emissions by 2040.

Sony WH-1000XM5 yoke linkageSony WH-1000XM5 yoke linkage
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The new look means the fit is adjusted through a stepless slider, which is slicker than the slider of the old model. The headband is thinner and more comfortable with its synthetic soft leather underside providing a plush feel. The surface si prone to attracting smudges but these can be easily wiped off.

At 250g they weigh the same as before. It looks as if there’s less cushioning but the earpads still feel soft – they press lightly on the ears and don’t become too warm.

The space for your ears has taken on a rounded shape, which Sony says is based on its research of people’s ears. However, while I could wear these headphones for hours, they don’t feel as comfortable as the Sonos Ace. Dekoni offers earpads you could use in place of the ones Sony offers, with leather and suede options available.

Sony WH-1000XM5 midnight blue touch control surfaceSony WH-1000XM5 midnight blue touch control surface
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Touch and swipe controls work fine on the right earcup, though tapping to play a track for the first time doesn’t always register (the second attempt usually does).

The WH-1000XM5 can’t fold, and the reason behind this is to boost their noise-cancelling performance with fewer parts to stick out that could cause wind noise. Taking both the WH-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM4 out on a windy day, I heard less turbulent air with 1000XM5 than I did with the XM4.

The new storage case is bigger but collapsible, so it can be flattened to take up less space in a bag.

Sony WH-1000XM5 and collapsible carry caseSony WH-1000XM5 and collapsible carry case
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Features

  • Noise cancelling and transparency mode
  • Battery life remains the same
  • LDAC support

The Speak-to-Chat function returns, intelligently pausing music when you speak and restarting when you’ve stopped (you can change how fast it resumes in the app). Built-in voice assistance is a choice of Google or Alexa, and both can be activated via their wake words.

The Quick Attention mode where you put your hand over the right earcup to let sound in is back, and Adaptive Sound Control detects places you frequent often, allowing you to create custom sound profiles that activate when you visit that area.

Sony Headphones app features 1000XM5Sony Headphones app features 1000XM5
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The headphones support Apple’s MFi (Made For iPhone) program for improved compatibility with iOS devices. There’s Google Fast Pair for a quick first-time connection to Android devices and Spotify Tap to resume music from the service with a touch of a button.

There’s an equaliser for tuning the sound, as well as certification for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio that supports music in spatial audio (available on Tidal and Deezer).

Battery life is 30 hours of noise cancellation, and a two-hour battery drain saw them drop to 93%, so thirty hours is possible at about 50% volume. Turn noise cancelling off and there’s a boost from 38 to 40 hours over the previous model.

Sony Headphones app more features 1000XM5Sony Headphones app more features 1000XM5
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The ANC is supported by eight microphones and Sony says improvements have made in dealing with high frequency sounds. When faced with sharp, screeching sounds the 1000XM5 dulls them to make them less noticeable, and the sound of babies crying on a train were suppressed sufficiently so as to not disrupt the music I was listening to.

It’s how it deals with voices that I’m more concerned about. To my ears the XM4 conceals voices better and the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are better in this regard too. Nevertheless, put music on – and not even at a particularly loud volume – and the world transforms into a very quiet one.

Voices are hushed, the sound of big crowds are stripped away and vehicles big and small are reduced. Transport is quieter, the wind rushing past on the tube subdued, though while the Sony WH-1000XM5 are an excellent pair of noise cancellers, Bose is better for ANC.

Sony WH-1000XM5 physical buttonsSony WH-1000XM5 physical buttons
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The Ambient Mode is even better than on the 1000XM4. There’s less noise from the microphones, the sound piped in is clear and natural, as well as big and spacious – at times it feels you’re not wearing headphones at all.

Tethered to an Android smartphone and the 1000XM5’s wireless performance can be disappointingly choppy in busy train stations like Victoria and Waterloo. Prioritising for connection reliability helped but not completely.

The headphones feature the Bluetooth 5.2 standard, along with SBC, AAC, and LDAC. Multipoint support means the headphones can connect to two devices simultaneously, and the headphones have been updated to do this with LDAC engaged too.

Call quality is superb. The person on the other end of the line could hear me loud and clear, describing my voice as flawless. The headphones did not pick up the noises of buses, bikes, cars or even the high pitch sounds. Only isolated pockets of people’s voices were notable and there was no pickup of wind noise either.

Sound Quality

  • Boost to low and high frequencies
  • Rich, detailed midrange
  • Versatile in the range of music genres it can handle

In terms of the audio performance, this isn’t the same leap the 1000XM4 made from the 1000XM3. The tweaks make the 1000XM5 a more refined performer.

The low end of the frequency range is where the difference is most laid bare between the XM5 and the XM4. It sounds more accurate and brings a texture to low frequencies the XM4 can’t match.

Sony WH-1000XM5 in carry caseSony WH-1000XM5 in carry case
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The bass in Hot Sugar’s Sinkies is delivered with slightly more depth, the bass reverb articulated with more weight and detail. Eminem’s Say What You Say is another good example of the improvements, with more force to punctuate the low end.

In terms of flow and rhythm, Chic’s Everybody Dance is tied together with an excellent sense of timing and precision, the beat effortlessly maintained as well as weaving in all the instruments and voices in the track. Sony’s wireless headphones have always been the most musical and the WH-1000XM5 continues that trend, beating out the likes of Bose, Sonos, and Sennheiser with its rich, detailed, and dynamic sound.

Featuring a 30mm driver, the soundstage takes is described in different terms, the Instruments on the 1000XM4 sound bigger while on the 1000XM5 they sound tighter and more focused. The level of precision is more finely tuned.

The midrange is richer in tone and extracts more detail too. Instruments are described with more definition, detail and clarity. The guitars in Derek and the Dominoes’ Layla sounds richer, with more twang and fidelity applied to the strums of the guitar.

Sony WH-1000XM5 on grassSony WH-1000XM5 on grass
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Vocals have a slightly rich and warm tone compared to crispness of the WH-1000XM4, with a fraction more clarity and definition.

And Sony also says the new driver set-up offers improved high frequency sensitivity, though I’d say the Technics EAH-A800, Sonos Ace, and Bose QC Ultra Headphones bring out more clarity and definition at the top end of the frequency range. Despite that, there is a richness that make the WH-1000XM5 a relaxing and non-fatiguing listen.

And what’s also impressive is how the Sony reduces noise in older tracks. Lower quality streams gain a new lease of life with the DSEE Extreme upscaling that makes rough sounding tracks like The Sonics’ Have Love Will Travel sound far less crude.

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Should you buy it?

If you haven’t upgraded your ANC headphones in years

As an all-round pair of headphones, the Sony are excellent; and if you’re coming from an older Sony model, now is a great time to purchase the WH-1000XM5

Final Thoughts

The Sony WH-1000XM5 remain the best sounding headphones at their price, their balanced sound is adaptable to any genre, and in some ways they extend their lead a little further with their relentless consistency of how music is delivered.

Other headphones have caught up and surpassed them in certain areas. They are no longer the best for noise-cancellation with that crown passing to the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. The Sonos Ace are more comfortable to wear, and the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless over longer battery life if that’s a selling point to you.

That said, as an all-rounder pair of wireless noise cancellers there isn’t a pair as consistent across the board as the Sony. And now that they’ve hit the £279 mark, they’re a far less compelling alternative than the likes of the AirPods Max.

How we test

We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.

Tested with real world use

Tested across several months

Battery drain carried out

FAQs

How long is the Sony WH-1000XM5’s battery life?

You can get around 30 hours battery with noise-cancelling on, and 40 hours with the noise-cancelling turned off.

UK RRP

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Manufacturer

IP rating

Battery Hours

Fast Charging

Weight

ASIN

Release Date

Model Number

Audio Resolution

Driver (s)

Noise Cancellation?

Connectivity

Colours

Frequency Range

Headphone Type

Voice Assistant

Jargon buster

LDAC

LDAC is an audio technology from Sony that allows for higher quality audio streaming over a Bluetooth connection, with bit-rates of up to 990kbps

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a method of wireless transmission that allows for the exchange of data between devices over short distances.

ANC

ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) uses an array of microphones in a headphone to detect the frequency of the sound coming at the listener, with the ANC chip creating an inverse wave (i.e. opposing sound) to suppress any unwanted external noises.

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