Ameya DalviOct 19, 2022 15:29:48 IST
– Excellent sound quality
– Top-of-the-line ANC
– Comfortable to wear for long
– Very good call quality
– Impressive battery backup with fast charging
– Smart controls, wear detection
– Useful companion app
– No ingress protection
– No LDAC codec support in multi-point connectivity
Price: Rs 34,990 (currently Rs 26,990)
It has been two long years since we reviewed the Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones, and it still remains one of the very best in the category. Given the quality of that product, there was no real need for Sony to release a successor sooner than they did. The Sony WH-1000XM5 has now arrived and the fans of the series can rejoice. Having said that, the 1000XM4 was always going to be a tough act to follow. Does the XM5 have enough tricks up its sleeve to justify its existence? Let’s find out.
Sony WH-1000XM5 – Build, design and comfort: 8.5/10
While the XM3 and XM4 were quite similar in appearance, Sony has opted for a different design for WH-1000XM5. Despite that, it doesn’t look alien and feels like a part of the family. It is still made of high-quality plastic with a smooth matte finish. It is available in Black and Silver (which is more between off-white and grey). We got the latter for review and it looks classy. In fact, for once I liked it even more than black. Unlike its predecessor, things are a lot more subtle here, and you cannot spot the sensors or microphone vents.
While the headphone is mainly made of plastic with hardly any visible metal parts, the construction is sturdy and weighs just about 250 grams. That makes it a tad lighter than the XM4 despite the additional circuitry it claims to host; that’s impressive. It actually feels even lighter when you wear it. The headband has a good amount of padding and the height adjustment is smoother than before and the ear-cups are nicely cushioned.
The back of the right ear cup is touch-enabled and accepts touch gestures. It also hosts a USB-C port for charging, and you can find a couple of physical buttons on the left earcup along with a 3.5 mm headphone jack. An aux cable is supplied in the package in case the headphone runs out of battery, or if you wish to use it as a wired headphone. The power button doubles up as a Bluetooth pairing button, and the second button is a toggle for noise cancellation modes, and more functions can be assigned to it from the Sony Headphones app.
Wear detection sensors are also present that automatically pause the audio when you take the headphone off and resume when you wear them again. A neat-looking carry pouch is present in the bundle to store the headphones. The XM5 earcups can be turned and flattened but cannot be folded. Thus they would probably take up more space in the bag, but I can live with it. A word on the outer packaging that is void of plastic and made of recycled, environment-friendly materials.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 sits nicely on your ears, and though the earcups aren’t large enough to go entirely over your ears, the padding is excellent. The soft cushions exert just the right amount of pressure to stay in place without causing any discomfort. They did not cause ear fatigue even after a few hours of continuous listening. However, it is always a good idea to give your ears a break every hour or two irrespective of how comfortable the headphones are. The earcups provide a good seal and decent passive noise isolation even before you turn on ANC.
Sony WH-1000XM5 – Key features: 9/10
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is compliant with voice assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa, and one can issue voice commands by summoning either of them. These Bluetooth 5.2 headphones support SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs. They also have multi-point support and can be paired with two devices simultaneously, which is a great option to have. However, if you opt for it, you cannot use LDAC codec and have to make do with AAC, which is relatively inferior.
The wireless range is not an issue here with the headphones retaining a strong connection easily at 10 metres with a clear line of sight, and a little over 6 metres with a concrete wall in between. The earcups hold a pair of 30 mm drivers, which is a good 10 mm smaller than the ones used in the XM4. It did concern me for a moment, but only till I switched them on and played the music. Other than the drivers they also host 8 microphones in total and two processors.
Unlike its predecessor which had a single processor to handle everything, you have a dedicated processor each to handle the sound processing and active noise cancellation (ANC). The V1 and QN1 processors do excellent jobs on both those fronts. You also get a companion app (Sony Headphones) to play around with certain features of this product. It also provides you with a multi-band equaliser to alter the sound profile; I wouldn’t bother with that though. One thing missing here is any kind of ingress protection. So it wouldn’t be wise to wear them during a workout or in a light drizzle.
One of my favourite features in Sony headphones is retained here. Let’s say you are listening to music with ANC on and you need to talk to someone in the room. You don’t need to pause the audio or remove the headphone. You can momentarily let ambient sounds through and reduce the volume of the audio drastically by simply placing your palm on the right earcup. The moment you take your palm off the earcup, things go back to the way they were with ANC reactivated and the loudness back to the original level.
You also get the Speak-to-Chat option, which if enabled pauses the audio when you start to speak and resumes once you are done. I am not a fan of this feature as it tends to get activated even when someone near you starts speaking or if you start humming along while listening to music. The touch controls on the right earcup are simple and effective. Double tap to play/pause a track or answer/end calls, sliding your finger horizontally lets you go to the next or previous track while sliding it up increases the volume and sliding it from top to bottom lowers it. These controls cannot be altered, but frankly, why would you want to?
Sony WH-1000XM5 – Performance: (9/10)
Before we head to sound quality, let’s talk about one feature Sony has mastered over the years – Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). The ANC was already the best on the XM4 for its time, and would drastically cut down on the surrounding noise quite effectively. Now with the dedicated processor and additional microphones, the XM5 takes it a notch higher. While it was already good at cutting low-frequency noise, Sony has now strived to eliminate a few mid to high-frequency sounds too. Even better, using Auto NC Optimiser can automatically fine-tune the noise cancellation based on your surroundings.
Mind you, the ANC doesn’t provide you with pin-drop silence, but cuts down on ambient noise tremendously to a point that the difference with and without ANC is stark even in the middle of a busy street. Speaking of a busy street, there are times when you need to be aware of your surroundings even when listening to music, and hence you have a transparency mode that lets ambient sounds through. Thus, you don’t need to take your headphones off when having a quick chat with someone or worry about missing an important announcement at the airport.
Moving on to the audio quality, it remains excellent across various genres of music and pretty much everything sounded good on it. I am not sure it sounds drastically different from its predecessor, as I did not have a unit of XM4 at hand for a live comparison. From what I can recollect having extensively used the XM4 in the past, XM5’s output feels just a touch more refined and has a slightly broader soundstage. Again, the sound signature isn’t neutral and the lows are boosted a bit to add a hint of additional warmth, but it is thoroughly enjoyable.
Though boosted, the bass isn’t excessive and is perfectly tight and punchy. The mids are reproduced very well too with clear vocals and ample instrument separation. The highs are tempered to perfection without being harsh but with ample sparkle. The imaging and the detail in sound are excellent. The already broad soundstage of the XM4 now feels a touch broader, which is always welcome. The Sony WH-1000XM5 is not just good for music, but equally fun when watching movies too with great dialogue clarity and ample thump. There was no delay between audio and video either.
Sony WH-1000XM5 – Call quality: (8.5/10)
This is one department in which the XM5 has made a significant improvement over its predecessor. The microphone quality is quite good on this headset and your voice is transmitted with ample clarity to the person on the line. But where it improves is in cutting down the surrounding chatter and noise. I am not saying the person on call couldn’t hear a thing other than my voice when I was outdoors, but the buffet of microphones and the audio processing algorithm manage to keep the background noise in the background without impacting the conversation. Another thing to note is that the wind noise was almost non-existent, which is great.
Sony WH-1000XM5 – Battery life: (9/10)
Sony claims a battery backup of 30 hours for the WH-1000XM5 with ANC on, which is the same as that of the XM4. I managed to get something in the range of 27 to 28 hours with LDAC codec and ANC all the time. At about three hours of daily listening, this headphone went on for over 9 days. With ANC off, it may last for two full weeks at that rate. These figures are quite similar to the XM4’s, but getting there even with the extra processor and additional mics is an achievement.
Even better, the XM5 supports fast charging. If it runs out of juice, 3 minutes of charging can give you close to 3 hours of playtime, which is more than handy when in a hurry. It takes over 3 hours to charge it fully, something you may consider doing overnight once a week or two, depending on your usage.
Sony WH-1000XM5 – Price and verdict
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is priced at Rs 34,990 with a one-year warranty, but can still be purchased for its introductory price of Rs 26,990 online and offline. While the official price is higher than that of the XM4 at launch, the introductory price is actually lower in comparison. And if it continues to sell for that price, you may add a little extra to the rating and take it up to 4.5 out of 5.
As I said at the beginning, the Sony WH-1000XM4 was always going to be a tough act to follow, and the very fact that the WH-1000XM5 improves upon it in almost every department, however little, cannot be underplayed. Be it comfort, sound quality, active noise cancellation (that was already best in the category) or even call quality, there are improvements all around. While the sound quality may not get a standing ovation from the purists, it is thoroughly enjoyable without compromising on the detail.
So should you buy the Sony WH-1000XM5? Do I even need to answer this? If you have the budget, just go for it unless you seek absolutely neutral sound output. There is another set of users who shouldn’t buy it – those who currently own the Sony WH-1000XM4. While the XM5 is better on all counts, it is not good enough a reason to dump the XM4, which is still an incredible all-round product. Speaking of which, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is currently selling for under 20K making it a great alternative for the XM5 if you are on a tighter budget.
Source by www.firstpost.com
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