STEREO GUIDE verdict
+ naturally balanced, warm sound
+ deep, accurate bass
+ very effective noise-cancellation
+ plenty of practical features
- minimal noisefloor audible in home mode with Bluetooth
- could offer more resolution for audiophiles
Sound: Bass / Dynamics9
Sound: Tonal Balance / Transparency8.5
Ease-of-use / Connectivity9.5
Like its three predecessors, the Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-cancelling on-ear headphones are one of the best-selling headphones in their class, despite a price tag being not particularly cheap. With a bunch of features, a very effective noise-cancelling and audiophile sound characteristics the 4th gen models are now trying to top this success story.
The new generation comes with app control, full 360deg spatial imaging and adaptive noise-cancelling, which is considered being one of the best around. Continuos Bluetooth connection with two smartphones at the same time and surprisingly small dimensions whenn being folding function might explain the popularity of the Sonys among frequent travelers.
Technology and plenty of features
The noise cancellation algorithm works as an adaptive one. That said, the Sony is taking advantage of two built-in microphones plus sensors per side to generate more than just a signal cancelling out unwanted noise waves from outside. This circuit also controls and adjusts the effectiveness of the cancellation on a permanent base with some kind of feedback-loop. In Sony’s own app, the level of the noise cancellation can be adjusted. When the effect is set to maximum, the Sony WH-1000XM4 isolates the listener as much as possible from the outside world. So well, in fact, that even a slight but not annoying hissing of the amplifiers becomes audible.
A voice-through function for announcements on planes or trains can be activated easily, which specifically amplifies the typical frequencies of voices. But not only that. There’s also a mode where the Sony specifically pauses Bluetooth playback when the wearer says something. The same applies when removing the headphones from the ears.
Technically, the Sony uses a 40 millimetre dome driver with a copper voice coil and aluminium-coated liquid crystal polymer diaphragm.
App control and battery
When adaptive noise-cancelling being activated, the on-ear headphones offer an impressive 30 hours of continuous operation per battery charge, and even 38 hours when ANC is deactivated. In the rare case the battery has died fully, passive operation via standard wire is possible. However, external noise from outside is quite audible with boxy mid-range frequencies being somehow emphasized. So you might better want to take advantage of the ultra-fast charging option. With 10 minutes of charging time, it brings enough energy for 5 more hours of enjoying music the way you are used to.
The basic functions are controlled by tapping on the outside case. This also allows you to answer calls, control the level, or skip tracks in Bluetooth mode.
Furthermore, with compatible devices, the voice assistants Apple Siri and Google Assistant can be used and activated with a touch. A finely programmed and very versatile app is available for both Android and iOS devices.
Sound quality of the Sony WH-1000XM4
The tonality of the Sony seems to be optimised for traveler´s preferences: natural to slightly warm, with substantial bass, a relaxed mood but nevertheless appealing dynamics. Its low end is powerful and delivers excellent punchy bass lines without ever sounding boomy. In combination with a very fine resolution it keeps the listener miles away from stress, tending to somewhat restrained treble.
Nevertheless, the Sonys are maybe not the very best choice for listeners expecting top-of-the-line wireless headphones for home use, since a quiet, yet perceptible noisefloor can be audible in relatively quiet rooms. And this is regardless of the adjusted mode of the noise-cancelling. For home use, we therefore recommend the passive version, which produces only a somehow less impulsive bass but also excellent dynamics.
Conclusion and alternatives to the Sony WH-1000XM4
Judging the overall package with the bunch of interesting features, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is hard to beat because of its versatility. Bose’s Quietcomfort 45 has cleaner noise-cancelling, but it also doesn’t sound as dynamic and detailed. However, those looking for a more audiophile voicing might be happier with the Yamaha YH-E700A.
Specifications Sony WH-1000XM4
- Price: approx. 350 $
- Type: On-Ear
- Transducer: Dynamic
- Weight: 256 g
- Special features: Passive mode via cable, adaptive noise-cancelling, app control
- More at: www.sony. com
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