About the Sony WH-1000XM5
Sony's world-class, flagship noise-cancelers get a new look
A completely new design (and case) for Sony's best noise canceling headphones.
Sony's world-class, flagship noise-cancelers get a new look
A new release in Sony's "XM" noise-canceling headphone series is always a huge deal. But the WH-1000XM5 wireless over-ear headphones mark the company's first major makeover to the much-beloved line. They sport a sleek, industrial design that's completely new, while still maintaining — and in some cases enhancing — much of what we love about the super-popular WH-1000XM4 headphones.
WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4 — what's new?
You'll find the previous generation 'XM4s in more of my "best-of lists" than any other headphones, and they are one of our bestselling headphones ever. That's a lot for these 'XM5s to live up to. So along with the new cosmetic design, Sony's added a second processor chip and extra mics, and they've redesigned the drivers. Taken together, these upgrades give you better sound, phone call clarity, and noise-canceling performance.
Here's a closer look at the key upgrades and changes:
- Roomier earcups with more padding and a more flexible headband: I haven't auditioned the 'XM5 headphones yet, but the new redesign includes larger earcups with thicker, plusher ear pads. They're designed to improve the noise-isolating seal, without increasing pressure on the side of the head. The padded headband is also more pliable and slightly relaxed — but note that it will not fold up for travel, so the included case takes up more space.
- Stronger noise-canceling circuitry: It's hard to imagine Sony's world-class noise cancellation getting any better, but it somehow improves with every generation of these headphones. This time around, they have two of their ground-breaking wireless processing chips on board — the QN1 and V1 chips. They also claim to better cancel out higher frequencies and voices thanks to new "Auto NC" algorithms and eight mics dedicated to hushing external sounds. These tiny mics "read the room" and optimize the noise cancellation for your surroundings in real time.
- Bluetooth 5.2: This is the latest and most reliable version of Bluetooth available, and it makes for a stronger connection to most phones and devices. Not only should it cut down on dreaded audio dropouts, but it should also make "multipoint connection" and moving between two devices even snappier. That allows you to pair, say, your laptop and phone simultaneously — a game changer for the office or working at home.
- Hands-free "Hey Google" and "Alexa" support: The 'XM4s gave you the option to reconfigure the touch controls to immediately pull up Google Assistant or Alexa from your smartphone. You can do that with these headphones, too, but you can also set up Google Assistant or Alexa to activate via a voice command "wake word." It requires a one-time setup through Sony's Headphones Connect mobile app, a free download for Apple® and Android™.
- Redesigned drivers: The 30mm drivers inside the 'XM5s may be physically smaller than the 40mm drivers inside the 'XM4s, but Sony says these headphones deliver a more spacious sound. That's notable, because the 'XM4s have a good-sized soundstage themselves. Inside the new 'XM5 drivers are diaphragm domes made of a light, rigid carbon fiber composite that can move quickly and accurately. It helps deliver more high-frequency detail without distortion, and what Sony says is a clearer, more refined sound overall — versus the extra bass emphasis you get from the 'XM4s.
Top-notch adaptive noise cancellation thanks to two processing chips and eight built-in mics.
Completely personalized noise cancellation
Sony has used adaptive noise cancellation for a while now, and I've always found the circuitry very effective. And the new Auto NC Optimizer is their most advanced version yet. Special on-ear sensors detect whether you are moving or standing still — and even if you're wearing glasses or not. Another sensor monitors barometric pressure. So now Sony can automatically serve up noise cancellation that's optimized to the altitude of your flight during travel.
Sony's app lets you fine-tune the settings
The Headphones Connect app gives you direct control over what noises you let in or keep out. You can customize the level of noise cancellation or ambient sound based on your task, movement, or even location. In previous generations, I've found the ambient awareness mode great for walking the dog. It allowed some outside noise to seep in, so I could hear whenever a car came down my quiet cul-de-sac.
The app gives you a few other controls, too. For instance, you can customize the sound characteristics and tell the app to prioritize either connection stability or sound quality. (The former is helpful when competing with other wireless signals in a high-traffic area like an office or mall.)
A convenient way to hear others
With all the new design touches and features, I'm glad to see Sony bring back the “Quick Attention” feature from the 'XM4. Simply place your hand over the right earcup to temporarily turn off the noise-canceling technology. Tiny built-in mics will pick up external sounds, so you can hear voices or your surroundings.
The right earcup also has a snappy touch-sensitive panel. You control music, volume, and calls with a simple tap or swipe of your finger.
Multipoint connection lets you pair two Bluetooth devices simultaneously.
For the best in wireless sound, you can use these headphones together with a Sony High-res Walkman. This pairing takes advantage of Sony's LDAC technology, which allows the wireless signal to retain more musical detail. I often find that the bass seems better contained, though just as potent, with this connection.
Note that these headphones do not feature the popular aptX or aptX HD codecs. But they do have Sony's DSEE Extreme feature that promises to restore clarity and substance to compressed digital tracks.
Like most Sony headphones these days, the 'XM5s arrive inside a low-key, yet substantial carton made of a recyclable blended material. Sony has told me that this sustainable packaging is made "from bamboo, sugarcane fibers, and post-consumer recycled paper, all of which are available around the world's largest manufacturing hubs in Asia." It's refreshing to see big companies like Sony becoming mindful of their packing materials — and trusting their products to do the talking.
- closed-back, over-the-ear headphones with active noise cancellation
- flexible headband with large, breathable earcups
- generous cushioning on headband and earpads
- headband does not fold up
- Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity for wireless music listening and phone calls with compatible smartphone
- LDAC, SBC, and AAC decoding provides high-quality music streaming from compatible devices
- NFC-compatible for one-touch pairing with compatible devices
- multipoint connection for pairing to two devices at once
- dynamic 30mm drivers with carbon-fiber composite diaphragm domes
- tuned for clear, consistent sound across a wide frequency range
- DSEE Extreme™ (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) processing restores high-frequency signals to compressed digital formats
- uses artificial intelligence to dynamically recognize song elements and restore in real time
Auto NC Optimizer:
- dual-chip system includes the QN1 HD Noise Cancelling Processor and V1 Integrated Processor
- strengthens noise cancellation for human voices and other higher-frequency sounds
- active noise cancellation circuitry adjusts to the level of external sound
- four microphones in each earcup to capture ambient noise
- QN1 chip senses and adjusts to music and noise signals up to 700 times per second
- free Sony Headphones Connect app for Apple® and Android™ lets you adjust settings
- customize the sound and manually choose the level of noise cancellation
- 20 steps of ambient sound control for allowing external sounds in
- personalized Sony 360 reality audio experience with select music services (firmware update required)
- Adaptive Sound Control uses movement sensors to adapt noise cancellation
- detects whether you're running, walking, standing still, or riding in a car (app required)
- barometric pressure sensor optimizes noise-canceling and sound to your altitude when in flight
- summon Alexa or Google Assistant by voice (on your smartphone)
- ask questions, dictate texts, and control music by voice
- available for Apple® and Android™
- only one voice assistant can be set up at a time
- requires one-time setup through the Headphones Connect app
- earcup touch controls let you answer calls, play/pause music, skip tracks, and control volume
- Ambient awareness features:
- "Quick Attention" turns off noise-canceling and engages ambient when you cover the right earcup with your hand
- "Speak-to-chat" detects when you're speaking and automatically cuts off music and lets in external sounds
- built-in microphone system for making calls with a smartphone
- four-mic system filters out background noise for clearer calls
- music automatically pauses when headphones are removed
General info and specs:
- built-in rechargeable battery offers up to 30 hours of wireless use with noise cancellation (40 hours without)
- 3 minutes of recharging provides enough power for 3 hours of listening
- includes USB-C cable for charging
- 47" audio cable with 3.5mm plug for wired use
- carrying case included
- frequency response: 4-40,000 Hz (wired), 20-40,000 Hz (wireless, LDAC mode), 20-20,000 Hz (wireless, non-LDAC)
- weight: 8.82 oz.
- warranty: 1 year
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
- MFR # WH1000XM5/S
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More details on the Sony WH-1000XM5
Features & specs
|Earcup Width x Height|
|Mic For Taking Calls||Yes|
|Voice Assistant Access|
|Frequency Response||4-40,000 Hz (wi Hz|
|Parts Warranty||1 year|
|Labor Warranty||1 year|