10 min Devices

Review: Sony WF-1000XM5 is a winner, but not for business use

Review: Sony WF-1000XM5 is a winner, but not for business use

Newest generation of Sony’s true wireless earbuds convinces on almost all fronts.

Sony recently announced the Sony WF-1000XM5 true wireless earbuds. You can think of this line as the true-wireless counterpart to the WH1000 line, which has now also arrived at its fifth generation. The WF-1000XM5 features Active Noise Cancelation (ANC), making it potentially interesting for the business user who is on the road a lot. If you have to make a call or phone call on the go, it is nice that you can hear everything clearly. If you are working in a relatively busy environment, ANC provides much-needed quietness.

We were sent a sample of the WF-1000XM5 by Sony and used it for a week or two as our primary audio device, both for entertainment and work.

For the Music… not the video calls

Before we record our experiences, it’s good to make it clear that the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds are basically aimed at consumers. This is immediately clear when you read the new tagline: For the Music. In itself, this makes sense, as Sony has always manufactured their headphones for consumers from low-end to high-end. Still, we can imagine that there are also plenty of people who prefer not to walk around with multiple sets of headphones, headsets or earbuds. And thus prefer a single device that can do it all. That’s why we also test earbuds like these in more business environments, especially Zoom and Teams calls.

By the way, there are not that many true-wireless earbuds that explicitly target the business market yet. The Logitech Zone True Wireless and the Poly Voyager Free 60 line come to mind, but then it kind of ends there. There is no doubt that business conversations or calls are regularly made with earbuds that were not designed for this purpose. That is why we always test this.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 comes in black…

Smaller and lighter: lots of comfort

The very first thing you notice when you take the Sony WF-1000XM5 out of the all paper/cardboard packaging is that they are a good deal smaller than their predecessor, the WF-1000XM4. 25 percent smaller to be exact and 20 percent lighter. You notice that very much. The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds sounded and sound very good, but are quite large and chunky. You notice that in your ears, especially over time. With the WF-1000XM5, this is no longer an issue. We had them in practically all day for several days without feeling uncomfortable. In fact, you hardly feel them, especially once they have been in your ears for a while and you get used to them.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 is very comfortable to wear. That is a big plus as far as we are concerned. In-ears in particular can still feel a bit intrusive. We didn’t suffer from that at all. The key, of course, is to choose the right earbuds to accomplish this. Sony now supplies extra small earbuds in addition to large, medium and small ones. So this offers even more options to achieve optimal wearing comfort.

A small criticism when it comes to the handling of the Sony WF-1000XM5 is that the sides of the earbuds are very slippery. This can be challenging at times when you want to take them out of the charging case.

Noise-cancelling: high level

ANC comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it is very good, but it can also be so poorly implemented that you wonder if it is even enabled at all. The latter is not the case with the Sony WF-1000XM5 anyway. Sony has invested a great deal in this component since it entered the ANC market in 2016. As such, the ANC functionality of both the WF-1000 and WH-1000 lines is of a high standard. This is no different with the WF-1000XM5.

Sony itself states that it is significantly better than its predecessors. In practice, this is not so easy for us to determine. It’s a bit like tasting the difference between a $100 bottle of wine and one that costs $110. Both are very good. It’s not as good as the ANC on the WH-1000 line; that’s not possible in such a small package. However, better than the ANC on the WF-1000XM5 we have not often experienced on a set of true wireless earbuds.

…and in white.

Battery life: economical earbuds

In general, there are big differences in battery life between true wireless earbuds, in our experience. The Sony WF-1000XM5 scores very well in this regard. So did and does the WF-1000XM4, but Sony has managed to offer roughly the same battery life in a much smaller size. That’s pretty clever. We were able to keep the earbuds in all day, which included video calls, regular phone calls, long walks with music or an audiobook.

Should the earbuds need recharging, you can do so in the charging case. This has another 16 hours of battery life on board for the WF-1000XM5. Another interesting thing is that you can charge this case wirelessly. This is new, the predecessor did not have this. By the way, it is not new in the market, Sony is actually relatively late with it. But anyway, at least it’s there now.

Sound quality: it doesn’t get much better than this

Witness the tagline “For the Music,” Sony is very concerned about making music sound good on the WF-1000XM5. It certainly did. We are not going to get into a difficult discussion here about how the low, mid and high sound. For that, we are happy to refer you to colleagues on other platforms.

We have listened to and reviewed quite a few audio products over the past decade, so of course we can pass judgment on them. And we can be pretty brief about it. The sound quality of the Sony WF-1000XM5 is very good. We use a variety of true wireless earbuds for all sorts of purposes. These include the Sony WF-1000XM4, Logitech Zone True Wireless, Bose Sports Earbuds, Beats Studio Buds and the Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC. None of these models even comes close to the sound quality of the Sony WF-1000XM5. Neither does the WF-1000XM4. No doubt there will be earbuds that sound better, but whether it is necessarily necessary to seek them out once you have heard the Sony WF-1000XM5 (especially in combination with its high wearing comfort), we wonder.

Call quality: not suitable for videocalls via PC

One of Sony’s main promises during the introduction of the WF-1000XM5 is that call quality would again be greatly improved. It is important to distinguish here between call quality for phone calls via phone and video calls via PC. For the first scenario, the Sony WF-1000XM5 is well suited. Even in very windy environments, we are perfectly understandable to our conversation partners on the other side of the line. The noise canceling also works well here.

However, the call quality for Zoom and Teams calls on a Windows PC is not very good. That in itself is not a problem, as Sony did not develop the WF-1000XM5 specifically for that purpose. Still, we do get a lot of complaints when using the earbuds. There are squeaks in the playback and accusations that we sound like a robot. We haven’t heard that before. Logitech’s Zone True Wireless and the Plantronics Voyager Free 60+ UC do much better in this regard. But the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro also perform better. By the way, for the best experience, it’s best to use a USB dongle and a good headset, but that aside. Of course, that’s not what this is about here.

To what extent the mediocre performance in this scenario can be blamed on Sony is difficult to judge. First, of course, there is the earlier comment that the company didn’t develop them for this at all either. In addition, the Bluetooth implementation within Windows is not exactly known for excellent quality, to put it mildly. The specific Windows device and adapter used will no doubt also play a role. So it may well be that the Sony WF-1000XM5. Still, it could have done a little better, as far as we are concerned. In the case of the WF-1000XM4, it wasn’t the best either, so it hasn’t gotten any better.

To end this section on a positive note, Sony equipped the WF-1000XM5 with multipoint Bluetooth from the beginning. That means you can connect it to two devices at the same time. So in our case, our phone and our PC. Sony did not add that to the WF-1000XM4 until later. Again, Sony was a bit behind much of the market in this regard.

Other: Controls, functions, app

Finally, let’s take a look at the things we haven’t covered above in what we think are the most important parts.

First, there’s the controls. The earbuds in this line from Sony usually have a pretty minimalist look. There are no buttons visible, nor can you press any larger surfaces. Still, there are many control options. In fact, both earbuds feature a capacitive layer. Using taps and combinations of taps, you can accept or reject calls, control music, turn ANC on and off and temporarily allow extra sound to enter the earbuds.

The latter comes in handy when you want to listen to an announcement in an airport or something similar. We did have more trouble because of the smaller size with the WF-1000XM5 not accidentally issuing a command when we wanted to move the earbuds slightly in the ears. Furthermore, you are not completely free in how you arrange the controls. Sony works with presets. One ear focuses on playback controls, the other on controls for things like ambient noise. You can switch these from one ear to the other, but not adjust them per tap, interchangeably.

Finally, there is the app, Headphones Connect. That’s a pretty comprehensive app for this type of product. In addition to general status, you can analyze your ear shape here. You can set the equalizer through the app, but there is also a feature that walks you through some personal preferences, and then the app creates a personalized equalizer for you. Furthermore, among other things, extensive help is available here to choose the right earbuds. Of course, you can also go there to update the Sony WF-1000XM5’s firmware.

Conclusion: (almost) perfect true wireless earbuds

There is not much negative to say about the Sony WF-1000XM5 true wireless earbuds. This product approaches the perfect set of earbuds in this category. However, there is an Achilles’ heel for business users, the performance in combination with a PC and video conferencing software. That’s where it just doesn’t perform well. Otherwise, the Sony WF-1000XM5 is undoubtedly pleasing to those users as well.

With a price of 320 euros (including VAT), the Sony WF-1000XM5 is not a cheap set of earbuds. As a business user, we would rather look at the Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC for that amount of money. It may not sound as good as this Sony, but it does perform well in business environments (thanks in part to the included dongle). If you already use another headset for videocalls, then the Sony is the much better choice.

Also read: Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC review: ultimate TWS earbuds for business traveler?