Sony WF-1000XM5 Wireless Earbuds Review – Exceptional sound quality.

Sony’s WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds not only contain exceptional active noise cancellation, but also a sound quality that few other brands can match. This does put the earbuds in a price category above the rest.

Earplugs for everyone

For years, Apple’s Airpods Pro were my favorite earbuds. This is mainly due to their recognizable design and ease of use. The sound quality is satisfactory, but does not excel against competitors. I knew this the moment I first started using the WH-1000XM5, Sony’s latest over-ear headphones. In the price range in which Sony’s headphones came out, it was and still is, in my opinion, the best option. I am therefore very curious to see if the WF-1000XM5 can achieve the same.

I alternate the use of headphones with earbuds. Different situations require different approaches. For example, I like to use earbuds in the evening while watching a series, while I often use headphones at work or on the road. For talking on the phone, earbuds are more convenient. Earbuds like Sony’s WF series used to scare me, so I avoided them for a long time. This is mainly due to the design. With many competitors of the aforementioned Airpods, they still looked especially odd when someone wore them. Upon opening the box of the WF-1000XM5, I immediately noticed that Sony’s latest model was actually not that bad. They actually look pretty sleek, and most importantly, they don’t stick out an awful lot when these earbuds are worn. My hunch that they are a bit smaller turns out to be not unjustified, Sony itself indicates that the WF-1000XM5 is 25% smaller and 20% lighter than its predecessor, the WF-1000XM4. The case has also gotten a bit smaller.

It may feel a bit awkward to put them in for the first time because you have to get the hang of the trick. Airpods slide right in, but the WF-1000XM5 require a little twist that allows you to pry them into your ear. This way they sit just a little deeper, which in turn is necessary to do justice to the noise cancellation. It’s actually not uncomfortable at all. In fact, sometimes you wear the earbuds for a whole day without even noticing.

Sony seems to have thought of everyone with the design of the latest earbuds in the WF series. That starts with the packaging. It is made entirely of recycled paper. Recycled plastic has also been used for the earbuds themselves, showing Sony has gone to great lengths to make a commitment to the sustainability of these tech marvels. Upon opening the packaging, you also notice that a hefty set of noise-isolation earbud tips are included. As a fan of in-ear headphones, I often hear people say that these types of products don’t fit in their ears. Therefore, Sony’s earbud tips also come in the Super Small size, so that anyone with the smallest ear input can also use the WF-1000XM5. This can be called a positive development because, as mentioned, it makes the product accessible to a larger target group.

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No more ambient noise

In recent years, Active Noise Cancelling (ACN) has become increasingly important. It is therefore not surprising that Sony is once again betting on this. In fact, Sony calls the WH-1000XM5 the earbuds with the best noise cancellation to date. A hefty statement that is difficult for us to check. To achieve this, you do have to set the earbuds up properly first. Fortunately, Sony’s Headphones app helps with this. Step by step, the user is taken by the hand to start using the WF-1000XM5 earbuds. It explains the 360 Reality Audio feature, how to choose the right earbud tips and you can adjust the sound of the earbuds to your liking with the equalizer. With 360 Reality Audio, you can experience what it is like to hear the sound completely around you, although of course it is simulated. This can also be tested in Sony’s Headphones app, but otherwise only works in Tidal. Spotify does not use it, and Apple Music has its own version of spatial audio. An interesting feature, but unless you use Tidal you have little use for it. That Headphones app is somewhat cluttered, by the way. For example, we had to spend a long time looking for the status of updating the earphones, in addition to the fact that this updating itself took quite a long time.

Fortunately, we did get a lot out of the noise cancelling once we chose the right earbud tips. The earbuds feature the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN2e and the Integrated Processor V2, both an updated version of the processors found in the WH-1000XM5, the over-ear headphones. In combination with the in-ear earbud tips, it is quickly apparent that Sony’s earbuds block a lot more ambient noise than the headphones. Those already did this just fine, by the way. It works both ways, because people can’t easily listen in on you either. Even with the sound on earbud setting, the rest of the compartment can’t listen in when you’re on the train.

Use with multiple devices

Another feature that eliminates past problems is that it is made possible to use the WF-1000XM5 earbuds on multiple devices simultaneously with 2 device multipoint connection. The biggest reason for my use of the Airpods Pro is the ease between switching from iPhone to Macbook and vice versa. I didn’t think this would also be as easy with earbuds from other brands, but with the Sony it’s finally possible. In fact, you can connect to both a laptop and a phone at the same time. In general, this works flawlessly, with the exception of Spotify, which sometimes doesn’t seem to quite get it. Starting a song on Macbook and then continuing listening in the middle of the song on iPhone sometimes results in the song pausing by itself. With other apps, the problem does not occur, so it seems to be an issue specific to Spotify. What makes it even better is that this feature also works cross-platform, meaning also from Windows PC to iPhone or from Android to Macbook.

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Another problem that often comes up with these types of wireless earbuds is a bad battery. Of course, it is always a question of how the battery continues to perform over time, but the WF-1000XM5’s battery is very good. Without using the charging case, you can use the earbuds for about eight hours, while they can be used for up to 24 hours with the case. The fast charging makes using the earbuds even more interesting. With three minutes of charging, you can go for another hour. In practice, this ensures that you almost never end up with empty earbuds at a time when you really need it, such as for a call.

Finally, of course, we have to talk about the sound quality of the WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds. The earbuds are quite small, which gives the illusion that the sound can hardly be good. Fortunately, that’s not true. In fact, they sound fantastic. Which is just as well, since we do find them a bit on the expensive side. At the time the WF-1000XM5 hit the market, it had a retail price of 320 euros. Still on the hefty side. In return you get excellent deep sounds and a clearly perceptible bass. This is also adjustable to your liking with the Headphones app. If you do not like hard bass sounds, you can easily turn it down. Ultimately, we will always prefer over-ear headphones when it comes to pure sound quality, but the WF-1000XM5 come very close to that.

Sony manages to shake up the world of wireless earbuds with the WF-1000XM5 earbuds. They still don’t look as pretty as the Airpods Pro, but they are starting to look less and less like a device that sticks out of your ear quite a bit. Sony’s new earbuds do stand out in sound quality and excellent noise cancellation. In this, they are among the very best within their field. Combined with the use of multiple devices simultaneously and effortless switching between them, this makes the WF-1000XM5 earbuds much better than I expected beforehand.

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