Sony WF-1000XM4 review — The finest of all truly wireless earbuds
Sudhanshu Singh/Business Insider India
SonyWF-1000XM4 truly wireless earbuds have finally debuted in India to rival the likes of Airpods Pro, Bose QuiteComfort Earbuds.
- The TWS is priced at ₹19,990 and is already up for sale across online and offline stores.
- It is the successor to the WF-1000XM3, but a hugely refined version in a more compact form factor.
AdvertisementThe first month of 2022 has kicked off with several TWS headphone launches but one of the most awaited WF-1000XM4 from Sony is the first premium entry in India. The truly wireless headphones have been launched at ₹19,990 and it's the direct rival to Apple's Airpods Pro and others in the same price segment.
With that price tag, it's quite evident that these headphones are for true wireless enthusiasts who are ready to spend a premium to get the absolute best available in the market.
I have been using the Sony WF-1000XM4 for around ten days and it's given me quite a lot to share. This includes some major first-time updates and some improvements over its predecessor — the 1000XM3. I also used it alongside the Airpods Pro to match the audio quality and noise-cancelling feature.
Let's dive in to find out more about the latest TWS from Sony.
Smaller case, buds and material finish is a welcome changeSony has cut a lot of chunk off the WF-1000XM4 over its predecessor. The charging case is said to be 40% smaller and the earbuds are 10% smaller. This is welcome, as most competitors had this advantage over the M3, which also makes it easier to recommend to those who want a compact TWS.
The earbuds offer a snug fit and come with eartips options for different sizes. The companion app also helps you find the best fit for your ear. I did try indoor running, and deliberate headbanging to see if it sticks in its place — and it doesn't get loose or drop unless you go crazy. To put things in perspective, both Airpods Pro and WF-1000XM3 earbuds loosen the grip after the same headbanging experiment.
As mentioned, the WF-1000XM4 is a lot smaller and it automatically makes it more pocketable. It's not just smaller but it fits better and it is now more comparable to the recently launched earbuds because of the smaller case and buds. The case is slightly thicker and wider than Airpods Pro, but it's narrower in height when you look at it from the front. Unlike the M3, the size difference is now negligible between the two rivals.
The earbuds of the Sony WF-1000XM4 are plastic with a polished finish and a small copper coloured metal accent on each one that packs one of the outer microphones. The second microphone is on the top of each earpiece, whereas the third one is placed inside. Lastly, these are rated IPX4 for water resistance, which makes them water-resistant.
Sony has also made another thoughtful improvement in the design — where the case for the WF-1000XM3 caught scratches after a few months of use. This time, on the M4, the company has switched to a more subtle, single-colour matte plastic case. It turned out to be more resistant to fingerprints and scratches, but we'll get to see more as we spend more time with it.
It's also worth mentioning that Sony has introduced a new eco-friendly packaging that's almost half the size compared to the previous one. It's also entirely paper-based and recyclable. A good initiative!
Features are inspired by its premium over-ear sibling and they work surprisingly wellFeature-wise, the WF-1000XM4 borrows a lot from the M3 and improves upon them. It also brings some of the top features from the WH-1000XM4 (Sony's premium over ear headphones) and they work quite well. These include adaptive active noise cancellation that adjusts as per the surrounding, fast pairing for Apple, Android and Windows devices and speak to chat feature that allows you to have a brief chat without pausing the music, all you have to do is to start talking.
Just like the previous iteration, the touch controls are capacitive and embedded in the buds. Both the buds are touch-enabled, where the right one is used to play/pause, change tracks, take calls and activate voice assistant, the left one takes on the mute, ANC and ambient sound control duty. It supports all Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri — so there are options for all users. I am not a big fan of voice assistants on headphones, but a lot of users need them and the M4 does a fine job at it, just like most premium headsets nowadays. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to test voice assistant response and accuracy in noisy or crowded environments.
But a key improvement for Sony's WF, WH and WI series is its feature-loaded Headphones app that has refined over and feels very natural to use. It allows access to a wide set of features and controls like adaptive sound, ambient sound, speaks to chat, equaliser, voice assistant, customising touch controls scheme and many more.
On the inside, the new earbuds get Bluetooth 5.2 support, compatibility with SBC and AAC codecs, as well Sony's LDAC codec to aid high-bitrate streaming. There’s no sign of aptX and of course, aptX HD. On the other hand, the M3 has Bluetooth 5.0 connection and only AAC and SBC codecs.
How is the audio and noise-cancelling performance on the WF-1000XM4?The sound on the WF-1000XM4 feels like home, especially for an M3 user like me. It's the same clean, crisp and full sound signature that keeps the right balance of loudness and details. Like always, I listened to quite a few genres ranging from Bollywood, old school rock to 90s hip hop and everything that falls beyond and in between.
AdvertisementThe soundstage is on point for noise-cancelling headphones. It is not audiophile grade to be fair, but it is at par with what it's like on the Airpods Pro. What's always been great about the W-series headphones is that the audio frequencies are balanced and not high on a particular frequency, which is the case on many earphones. Just like how the OnePlus Buds Pro favours highs over mids and lows.
For example with Bishop School by Yusef, it's a jazz-funk with a mixture of treble, from tambourine and drumkit percussion and flute. The earphones held on to the right texture and dynamic range in highs and mids. The transition points and layers on different frequencies are smooth and can be heard distinctively. In comparison to the Airpods Pro, the M4 are slightly louder and hence the bass is more prominent in ears.
The ANC or noise cancellation is of the top tier and gives no chances of complaint. The only better noise-cancelling TWS available is Bose QuietComfort which silences the outer world like magic, but that's the only department where it excels over the WF-1000XM4. It not only costs more but also falls short on the sound quality front.
Setup, mic and battery lifeSetting up these headphones might seem a little tricky as there's no button on the case, but it's not how it seems. You simply need to remove the buds and put them in the ear. Now tap and hold both the buds for 6 seconds and look for available Bluetooth devices on your source device.
Once you've paired it with a device, it'll automatically connect to it every time you open the case and use it. The pairing speed is quick and in my experience, it did not fail even once. But this is something that changes over time as my WF-1000XM3 have started showing these issues after 1.5 years.
AdvertisementThe microphone performance has been impressive for calls and voice assistants. While it's good for indoors, the quality tends to drop when there's wind or noise in the background. I did not get a chance to try it in a bus, metro or office setting, but for the rest, it is good enough to get the basic job done.
The WF-1000XM4 packs a new V1 processor that Sony claims uses less power. Eventually making noise-cancelling and hi-res audio consume lesser power than usual.
My unit lasted slightly over 7 hours and 30 minutes per charge, and the case can charge the buds at least two more times. It isn’t the best battery life we’ve seen on truly wireless earphones, but a lot is going on under the hood here and it's a considerably good backup.
VerdictA good premium TWS needs to excel in three areas - noise cancelling, audio performance and battery life. There are better options for each of these individually, but where the WF-1000XM4 excels is the balance of all three with a bonus of features that make it more user friendly. It’s a good pick for commuting, office and even for video calls.
It is the go-to option for those who need the best of all three and don't mind paying a premium. Its comfortable design, waterproofing, and companion app add genuine usefulness to the product. The options to customise the audio and controls ensure it adapts as per your comfort whereas in most instances it is you adapting to a new gadget.
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