Meet the Sony WH-1000XM5: the follow-up to the best headphones in the world

After weeks of speculation, Sony has finally lifted the lid on its latest pair of flagship over-ear headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM5 picks up where the excellent WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones left off, with the company making improvements to active noise cancellation, design and battery life.

The new headphones will start shipping on May 20 and set you back $399 / £380 / AU$650. It’s a bit more expensive than their predecessors, which cost $349.99 / £349 / AU$549 when they launched in 2020 – but from the looks of things, Sony has made enough improvements to its state-of-the-art headphones to justify this price hike.

In the past, Sony hasn’t brought a massive design overhaul to its flagship range of wireless headphones – but the WH-1000XM5 are quite different from their predecessors. They’re much more streamlined, the headband is adjusted via seamless sliders, and the ear cups and hinge points where the ear cups meet the headband are less clunky. They’re still generously padded, so they should feel comfortable all day.

Smart features

Along with the design changes, Sony seems to have put a lot of emphasis on active noise cancellation technology, with two processors controlling eight microphones to reduce mid- and high-frequency sound in your environment. It works in tandem with an Auto NC Optimizer, which adjusts the level of noise cancellation based on your location – so you should be able to hear your music in relative peace whether you’re in a quiet cafe or on a crowded train.

As for the sound? Sony says the WH-1000XM5 “sets a whole new standard for high-quality sound”. Inside the headphones are 30mm drivers, with a lightweight and rigid dome made from a carbon fiber composite material. Apparently, this improves high frequency sensitivity for a more natural sound.

Sony WH-1000XM5 noise canceling headphones

(Image credit: future)

It’s surprising that the drivers are actually smaller than the 40mm drivers inside the Sony WH-1000XM4 – perhaps Sony has found a way to reproduce the powerful sound of larger drivers that can move a lot of things. air inside a smaller case. That would at least partly explain the XM5’s sleeker new look – but it’s not the only reason.

The streamlined design of the XM5 apparently helped improve noise cancellation and call quality, allowing gusts of wind to pass smoothly over the earcups. This means you should hear less wind when listening to music and your voice should sound clearer on calls, the latter further aided by beamforming microphones and an AI noise reduction structure that can isolate your voice.

Hi-Res Audio and Upscaling

High-Resolution Audio support is provided by Sony’s LDAC codec, while the company’s DSEE Extreme upscaling technology allows lower-quality music files to be “restored to high-end sound” in time. real. We’ve never been 100% convinced that you can really scale low-quality sources this way, but we never had any issues with the sound of the Sony WH-1000XM4, which also used this technology. Like their predecessors, the XM5 supports 360 Reality Audio, so you can enjoy virtual surround sound if you have a compatible device.

In fact, there are quite a few features carried over from the Sony WH-1000XM4. You still get adaptive sound control, Speak-To-Chat, multipoint pairing, Google Fast Pair, quick access for quick Spotify playback, and integration with the Sony Headphones Connect app. That said, there’s a nifty new feature for 2022: you can now summon your device’s assistant using their wake words (“Hey Google” or “Alexa”, for example).

Battery life also got a (minor) upgrade. While you’ll get the same playtime when using ANC as with the WH-1000XM4 (30 hours), you’ll get 40 hours of battery if you turn that feature off. That’s a two-hour increase over the previous model – and while that might not seem like much, an improvement on an already decent figure is always welcome.

We’ve been playing with the headphones for a few days now, so our full verdict, check out our Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless Headphones review.

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