We were able to take in hands the Sony WH-1000XM5 before its launch. Here is our first impressions on the new wireless headset with ANC from Sony.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 in a nutshell
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is available from 20 May 2022 at a price of 419 euros. The Sony headset comes in two colors: black and ecru, a kind of beige.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is the flagship of Sony’s consumer audio headphones. Its predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM4 and its predecessor, the WH-1000XM3 were considered the best references on the market. The Bluetooth headset relies heavily on sound quality thanks to Sony’s LDAC codec, but also on the effectiveness of its active noise-cancelling (ANC). The Sony WH-1000XM5 also marks a breakthrough in terms of design, with a more refined and streamlined look.
My first impressions of the Sony WH-1000XM5 are rather positive, but I found that it did not bring any big novelty compared to the previous model, except for the design.
Design: A sleeker look reminiscent of Bose
The Sony WH-1000XM5 differs from its predecessors mainly by its design. The look is sleeker, less massive and more elegant thanks to the work on the hinges. It also looks very comfortable.
- The matte coating and the ecru color very nice and sober.
- The thinner and more subtle hinges.
- The thinner and better padded headband.
- The very cozy earpieces.
I did not like:
- The headset can no longer be folded.
- The coating catches fingerprints a lot (especially the black color).
I really like the new look of the Sony WH-1000XM5. The ear cups are bigger, the headband is much thinner and the hinges are more discreet. Visually, it is close to the Bose NHC 700. The features of the headset seem more refined and it gives it a more premium look than the previous model.
Nevertheless, the Sony WH-1000XM5 looks very comfortable. I didn’t wear it long enough to have a definitive opinion, but I didn’t feel the pressure of the headband that was found on the XM3 or XM4.
The ecru color, a kind of beige, is very successful and reminds a bit of the sober and minimalist color code “à la Scandinave” that almost all manufacturers of wearables and other connected objects have adopted for some years. But the matte coating, although very pleasant to the touch, really catches too many fingerprints.
On the black version of the headset, it bothered me a lot. I spent more time rubbing the headset with my colleague Ezequiel’s chamois leather for our photos and videos than actually using the headset. It’s inconvenient, especially since the right earpiece houses all the touch controls and you’re bound to leave marks on it.
I also think it’s a shame that the Sony WH-1000XM5 can’t be folded up to carry it more easily. Here too, Sony is imitating Bose, but I would have preferred it if it had not. Too bad. Sony also made a lot of noise about its eco-friendly packaging that does not use any plastic. Bravo to them!
Audio Quality: Familiar warm sound
As far as sound goes, the Sony WH-1000XM5 stays in line with its lineup, with a warm audio signature that I really like.
- The warm, encompassing sound that flatters the bass and midrange.
- The highs a little behind but precise.
- The LDAC codec and the DSEE Extreme mode.
- aptX and aptX HD codecs not supported.
On the technical side, we find 30 mm speakers. That’s smaller than the 40 mm ones of the previous model. But Sony explains that they are more rigid with reinforcements in places, supposed to make the sound more precise.
Personally, I’m a fan of Sony’s audio signature. During my hands-on with a not-for-sale display model, I found the sound warm, encompassing. It especially emphasized the bass and midrange. The stereo scene is also very well reproduced, it is enough to stretch the ear a little to distinguish the various instruments.
The headphones can also cover a fairly wide frequency range, from 20 to 40,000 Hz via the LDAC codec and up to 4 to 40,000 Hz in wired (20 to 20,000 Hz in SBC/AAC, classic). Let’s talk about codecs. The WH-1000XM5 is obviously compatible with the Sony LDAC and the basic SBC and AAC. But Qualcomm’s aptX and aptX HD are not supported.
This was already the case on the previous model and it’s still a shame since many devices use these codecs from Qualcomm more than the Sony one. It’s silly to limit the options for listening to HD music (CD or Flac quality). But for mp3, it doesn’t matter much. Especially since the WH-1000XM5 has Sony’s DSEE Extreme technology on board, to “upscale” the tracks and improve the sound quality.
ANC: Still the king of silence
In the wireless headphone market, Sony and Bose have been competing for the podium of the best active noise reduction for a few years now. One step Bose, one step Sony, etc. But this year, the WH-1000XM5 is supposed to make a real leap forward, according to Sony.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 incorporates eight microphones, twice as many as in the XM4. Of these eight microphones, four are responsible for managing ambient noise.the headset also embeds two processors dedicated to noise reduction. The QN1 that we already know and that Sony integrates in all its recent audio products with ANC.
But also the V1 which allows to better manage the ambient noises by analyzing the incoming and outgoing return while limiting the distortion of the audio signal.
Personally, I can’t really give you a relevant opinion given my too short experience with the product. But just with the passive isolation, so just wearing the headset without ANC, I could hardly hear my colleague filming me.
Autonomy: A very fast recharge
The Sony WH-1000XM5 can achieve 30 hours of battery life with ANC enabled, according to the manufacturer. Without ANC, the battery life is increased to 40 hours.
Also according to Sony, the headset can recover 3 hours of battery life after only three minutes of charging and up to 10 hours with 10 minutes of charging. The Sony WH-1000XM5 charges via USB-C and supports the USB PD (Power Delivery) standard. The manufacturer did not specify which version, but if it is the latest one, Power Delivery 3.0 we can expect an efficient fast charging.
Of course, I couldn’t stay in the Sony Center in Berlin for 40 hours to check these figures. So we’ll have to wait until I receive the test model before I can tell you more about this.
Sony WH-1000XM4 technical specifications
Conclusion: My first impressions
My first impressions on the Sony WH-1000XM5 are quite positive. But I have to remind once again that my experience with the product is very limited. Limited in time but especially in substance, since the model I tried was not intended to be commercialized. So please take my opinion with the usual pinches.
Just remember that if you had the XM4 or XM3 version, this Sony WH-1000XM5 is not very different. On the one hand, this is not necessarily a bad thing since I like Sony’s signature audio, the customizability of the experience via the companion app and the overall quality brought to the sound.
But I really hope that the progress on ANC touted by the manufacturer will be verified in my test. Because apart from the very nice design, I find that the Sony WH-1000XM5 doesn’t bring many new features.
What do you think of the Sony WH-1000XM5 on paper and after this test?