Review: Sony WH-1000XM4, the best headphone is now even better

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Sony is known for being one of the best manufacturers of active noise-cancelling headphones. The release of the Sony WH-1000XM4 therefore immediately caught the attention of the editors at Techzine. In this review, you can read all about the new headset.

Not that long ago, the predecessor of this headset, the Sony WH-1000XM3, came out as one of the winners of our headphone comparison. Its drawbacks? It could only connect to one device at a time and had a worse than average call quality. Sony was eager to tackle these two issues, and the Japanese brand added a number of further improvements.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 might be the ideal wireless headphone on paper. The fact that the headset also scores well in real-life is not surprising considering Sony’s excellent track record. In this review, you can read why this Sony might be the best wireless headset to this date.

Comfortable design is retained

Never change a winning team. That must have been the mantra for the team behind the Sony WH-1000XM4. Nothing makes that more evident than the design. The WH-1000XM4 is available in the same silver or black colour with copper accents. There are only a few details that reveal that we are dealing with a different headset than its predecessor. The design is still sleek and professional. The headset looks good but is by no means distinctive or beautifully designed. We have no problem with that at all: it ensures that it fits in seamlessly with any business culture.

Much more important than the appearance of the headset is the comfort. Luckily, the comfort is outstanding. The WH-1000XM4 is with its 254 grams not too heavy, and it exerts enough pressure to stay put but not so much that it will bother you. The ear cups and the headband are soft and large enough. We could easily wear the headset for a complete workday without experiencing headaches or other inconveniences, which is certainly not the case with every noise-cancelling headphone. The lightweight design does not mean that Sony has cut back on the battery: it will last about 30 hours which is more than adequate.

Noise reduction now even better

Sony was already the king when it comes to active noise reduction and claims that the WH-1000XM4 scores even better in that area. Especially the high tones are supposed to be filtered out better. The headset indeed seems to suppress constant sounds just a bit better than its predecessor, but scores slightly lower in terms of speech. With the WH-1000XM3 your talking colleagues sound like robots, but as a result, they are less audible. The WH-1000XM4 allows voices to pass through more naturally and therefore suppresses them to a lesser degree. Overall, the noise reduction of this headset is not significantly better than that of its predecessor, but that’s not necessary. After all, the noise reduction of Sony’s previous showpiece was already phenomenal.

Sony has built-in a function that adjusts the level of noise reduction according to the situation you find yourself in. For example, you can set the headset to allow voices to pass through when you are in the office. The headset will apply a lower noise reduction level. But when you hop onto a plane or train you can set the noise reduction to full, to block out all the background noise. The headset does always needs some time to adapt to a new situation. If you give it time, the function works pretty well. There is also a button on the headset to adjust the level of noise reduction, which can adjust faster to new situations.

Wonderful music quality

The music quality of the Sony WH-1000XM4 is excellent. The headset does not put as much emphasis on the bass as its predecessor, although it is still very present. This makes the headset sound lively and energetic. Because the middle and treble tones are now a little better, the sound also sounds very realistic. For us, the WH-1000XM4 strikes a very good balance between the energetic and dynamic sound profile that comes with strong bass and sufficient definition in higher tones.

A drawback when it comes to music quality is that the headset does not support Qualcomm’s aptX codec. For high-quality audio, the WH-1000XM4 uses Sony’s own higher quality LDAC codec. As it is built-in by default starting with Android 8, Android users will not have any problems with it, but if you have a device that does not support LDAC but does support aptX, you will have to make do with lower sound quality.

Phone calls are improved

One of the disadvantages of the predecessor of this headset was that it lacked good sound quality during phone calls. Sony solved this problem with the WH-1000XM4. Whereas with Sony’s previous headset, we were sometimes told that other people couldn’t understand us during a phone call, this time that was no longer the case. The problem with our voice disappearing momentarily at the end of the sentence has not yet been completely solved, but it was reduced to such an extent that it no longer causes a big problem anymore in terms of audibility.

The background noise is cancelled quite well during phone calls, and the people we spoke to indicated that we were easy to understand and that we sounded warm. If you call with the Sony WH-1000XM4, you will also notice that the other party’s voice sounds good as well.

Obstacles removed

Although the predecessor of this headset was packed with extra features via the app, several hardware features were missing. For example, the device could only connect to one audio source at a time, and the music continued to play when you took the headset off. Sony addressed both shortcomings with the WH-1000XM4.

The ability to connect to two devices is especially convenient. For example, you can connect the headset to your laptop and your phone at the same time. Music, Teams-meetings and any other sounds are transmitted through the computer, and when you receive a call, you can answer the call directly through the headset.

The proximity sensor works well and ensures that you never have to pause your music by yourself again. Also if a colleague drops by with a short question? If you put your hand on the right ear cup, the sound is being passed on from the outside, so you can understand what your colleague has to say. This isn’t new, the predecessor also had this function. What is new is that Sony added a function that automatically passes on sound when you start talking. This function works remarkably well, but its usefulness is limited in our eyes. In any case, there is a lot to choose from, and it is just as easy to turn it off.

Conclusion

The concept of the Sony WH-1000XM4 is brilliant and straightforward: start with one of the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market and tackle all the shortcomings. Sony has done this successfully, which results in an excellent product.

In terms of comfort, sound quality and noise reduction quality, Sony’s flagship product already outperformed its competitors. With this new iteration, the headset can also keep up with the competition in terms of call quality and functionality, effectively leaving no drawbacks. The release price of 380 euros is substantial and most competing headsets are currently cheaper because they are already a bit older. However, if you can overlook the high price and small flaws such as the lack of aptX support, then the Sony WH-1000XM4 is the perfect headset for you.

9.5
  • Great sound
  • Excellent noise reduction
  • Comfortable
  • Extensive list of features
  • No aptX
  • Pricey