Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. XM5: Time to Upgrade?

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. WH-1000XM4 | Time to upgrade?’ by Digital Trends

Written by: Recapz Bot

Written by: Recapz Bot

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How does it work?
Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones are an upgraded version of XM4, offering superior noise canceling, call quality, and comfort, while coexisting on shelves with XM4.

Key Insights

  • Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones are not a replacement for the XM4, but an upgrade
  • Both models will coexist on store shelves
  • The XM5 packaging is made of recycled material, while XM4 packaging is more premium
  • XM5 case is bigger and U-shaped, while XM4 case is more compact
  • XM5 headphones have a sleeker, more modern design and are lighter in weight
  • XM5 headphones are more comfortable and breathable for extended use
  • Battery life and quick charge capabilities are similar between XM4 and XM5
  • XM5 has superior noise canceling, with a second audio processor and more microphones
  • XM5 automatically optimizes noise canceling without the need for an app
  • XM5 offers better call quality, erasing background noise effectively
  • Audio quality is slightly better on the XM5, with refined bass and balanced sound
  • XM4 is still a great option for those not needing specific features or demanding audio quality
  • XM5 is recommended for those seeking the best noise canceling, call quality, and comfort

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According to Sony, the new WH-1000XM5 headphones are not a replacement for the XM4, they’re an upgrade. And the XM5 pricing reflects that. But which one should you buy?

Welcome back, everyone. I’m Caleb Denison. With the whole idea that the XM5 are an upgrade over the XM4, that might just be a marketing move by Sony. The fact is that for the foreseeable future, both models will exist right next to each other on store shelves, both physically and virtually. Now, Sony has promised a number of upgrades for the XM5. And in my review of these headphones, I think I made it pretty clear that Sony delivered on those promises. But what we haven’t done yet is directly compare the two and answer the question of whether the XM5 are worth the added cost. I mean, the XM4 sat at the top of our best headphones list since the day they came out, which means they are still stellar headphones. But the XM5 did dethrone them. So let’s dig in and see if we can figure out which might be the best choice for you.

Hey, before I roll these headphones out, I just wanted to ask you to do me a favor and support the channel. Clickety click. You know the drill. It really means a lot to me and helps us grow. And hey, leave me a comment down below with any questions and I will do my best to help you out. And if I can’t, our awesome community probably can. OK, thanks so much. Now, let’s quickly start with the unboxing experience.

XM4 come in pretty premium packaging, which gives you the pride and ownership vibe you’re looking for when you spend a good chunk of change on a piece of tech. But check out the difference with the XM5. There isn’t an ounce of plastic involved here. And when you peel off this outer cardboard wrap, what you’re left with is a very plain Jane box that is clearly made of recycled material that is itself recyclable.

And in the end, when all of this is going in a bin anyway, it makes sense to let the function outweigh the form. You notice, though, that the box itself is bigger and well, that’s because the case is bigger, too. And this is where the most obvious differences between the two come into play. The XM5 case is bigger and U-shaped, the XM4 clearly more compact. The reason the XM5 case is bigger is actually a big one. They don’t collapse down. And maybe that right there is a deal breaker for you. This means they’ll take up more space in your pack, whether you use the case or not. But there’s also less moving parts. And this is a little thing, but I was always frustrated by the learning curve involved in getting the XM3 and XM4 packed up. Looking inside the XM5 case, I see something new and something missing. This magnetic flap and compartment for the cables is new and way better than the little slot available in the XM4 case. But missing is the airline adapter. Will it really be missed, though? Something tells me most folks won’t miss this relic. And honestly, if you’re on a plane that still has this kind of headphone output, well, you have other things to worry about. Look, I’m not being elitist. I’m just saying that’s an old plane.

One more quick thing, and it is a complaint. Look, I’m all for minimalism, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Sony, this charging cable is too short. This is not useful in 90% of use cases, even with a portable charging battery. I still want a longer cable. Why are you doing this to us?

Anyway, the XM5 have pretty strong Bose 700 vibes going. The headband and adjustment is similar. The little accessory space with magnetic door, even the shape of the case itself. But considering most folks buy these kind of headphones for travel, I think the XM4 are more travel friendly from a logistics point of view. If compactness is a big deal to you, the XM4 are the better choice.

OK, moving on, let’s look at the headphones themselves. You may not be able to collapse the XM5 in like you could with previous models, but look at the more modern lines you get. This is just a sleeker set of headphones, and frankly, the XM series was in need of a refresh. Am I right? I mean, the name is definitely in need of some changing, but this is definitely a fresher look. And they don’t just look different. They feel different, too. Most noticeable is the weight. You can feel the difference just holding the headphones in each of your hands. And the XM5 are definitely lighter, and that translates into more comfort on your head. You feel the difference right away and you’ll feel the difference after hours of wearing at a time. Then there’s the faux leather material. It’s just softer and more breathable. And all of this makes them easier to wear for a long time. So if you’re someone who takes long flights or wears your headphones all day at work, you’ll definitely appreciate the lighter XM5. I mean, for some folks, that right there is enough of a reason to pay the premium for the XM5.

Now, I’m about to get to performance, but before I do, we have to talk about the battery. The XM5 will still give you about 30 hours of performance listening to music with ANC on or about 20 hours of talk time. And that’s the same as the XM4. However, the quick charge capability is way more useful. You’ll get three hours of performance from just three minutes of charging. But there is a catch. To get that kind of quick charge, you’ll need a USB PD or USB power delivery capable charging block. Otherwise, the quick charge is similar to the XM4, which will do about five hours of performance off 10 minutes of charging. So for most folks, I think the battery isn’t really a huge differentiator between the two.

Now, as promised, let’s talk performance. And I’m going to break this down into three sections. Noise canceling, call quality and audio performance. Starting with the noise canceling, the XM5 are superior. They cut out more of the high mids and treble frequencies than the XM4. And in fact, I think the XM5 have the best noise canceling you can get from any headphone on the market, period. And that’s thanks to the addition of a second audio processor and the addition of more microphones. The XM5 have double the onboard mics as the XM4. There’s now four per ear cup and they are all put to excellent use.

Now, I think the XM4 are more than sufficient for most folks. Honestly, with both of these headphones, when you start playing movies or music, that’s basically all you’re going to hear. But if you’re just looking for quiet, the XM5 will cut out more of the noise around including the cutting treble in a person’s voice or the high end wish of wind rushing by. I should also note that the XM5 automatically optimize the noise canceling based on environmental measurements. On the XM4, you could do that, but you had to use an app. With the XM5, it just happens.

As for call quality, no question, the XM5 are better. If you spend a lot of time on the phone or Zoom calls and you can’t always get to a quiet space. Trust me when I say the XM5 will basically erase any background noise going on. Barking dogs, a jackhammer, the bustle of baristas in a coffee shop. No problem. The XM5 will make you sound like you’re all alone in a room by yourself, even if you’re in the middle of a construction zone. Yes, they really are that good. As for the voice quality itself, well, you’re not going to record a podcast with these. They’re just not that good. But for phone calls and video meetings, yeah, they do the trick nicely. I think only the AirPods Max really have better voice quality.

Finally, let’s talk about audio quality. Here, I’m willing to say that I like the XM5 a bit better, but the difference is pretty nuanced. The most obvious difference is in the low end. I feel like the XM5 have more refined bass, which is not a way of saying they have significantly less bass. It is true that the XM5 are not quite as bass forward as the XM4 and they don’t smack you with punch quite as hard, though the punch is certainly not gone. I’ll put

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. WH-1000XM4 | Time to upgrade?’ by Digital Trends