Review: Sony WH-1000XM4 – Enjoy the Silence – Nieuws

There are still certainties in life: the taxes, the rising water level and … the fact that Sony releases a new version of its top headphones with noise canceling every so often. Model four listens to the sexy model number WH-1000XM4 and Data News did the test.

There are those gadgets that make you wonder: what the hell is there still room for improvement? We had that feeling when we put the WH-1000XM3 to the test in 2018. Or better: let go on the ears. Sony had already perfected its wireless over-the-ear headphones with noise canceling to such an extent that a successor did not even seem necessary.

Extra wearing comfort

Maybe it was. But: standing still is going backwards, and the competition (especially Bose, in this market segment) is of course also not thrilled. And so Sony prepared the WH-1000XM4 behind the scenes. In terms of design, very little has changed – at most a few small adjustments for even more comfort. For example, the ear cups would offer ten percent more space, so that they feel more pleasant and there is also a little more ventilation in the shells possible (read: a smaller chance of sweat development). Despite this change, the 1000XM4 is in its entirety a fraction lighter and more compact than its predecessor – a matter of grams and millimeters. The wearing comfort is again top, although we have the impression that our glasses are pressed a little more firmly against the head than with the previous model.

Sony WH-1000XM4. © Sony

The heart of the noise cancellation on the 1000XM4 is again formed by Sony’s HD Noise Canceling QN1 processor. Although it now uses an improved algorithm. With noise canceling, an opposite muting signal is generated via microphones on the headphones – also known as ‘anti-noise’. What remains is the music, against a background of silence. The microphones also make the XM4 suitable for hands-free calling and for putting the Google Assistant to work.

The QN1 chip is assisted by a new Bluetooth Audio SoC. This not only helps to optimize the sound quality, but also adds ‘multi-point connection’ for the first time. In plain English: you can easily connect the headphones to two Bluetooth devices at the same time, for example a notebook and a smartphone. When a call comes in, the headphones will automatically connect to the correct device. The user can of course also switch between two devices himself, with a simple tap on the touchpad on one of the ear cups.

Sony's HD Noise Cancelling QN1-processor., Sony
Sony’s HD Noise Cancelling QN1-processor. © Sony

Brush off sharp edges

The difference with the predecessor WH-1000XM3 is not only barely visible, but also barely audible: the sound quality was already of a sublime level last time, as was the efficiency of the noise suppression. How can you make the music sound even better? Sony came up with a revamp of the audio signal itself. To this end, the Japanese tech giant, together with Sony Music Studios Tokyo, developed the Edge AI audio system. This technology restores the quality lost in digital compression of audio tracks, using a large database of music tracks. Edge AI analyzes the music in real time and recognizes instruments, genres and individual elements of an audio track. “High tones lost in compression are restored for a richer listening experience,” said Sony.

For the rest, the new 1000XM4 mainly offers more features in terms of ease of use. Speak-to-Chat, for example, can be activated via the (very) extensive app for iPhone and Android devices. Once turned on, music playback will pause automatically when you start talking. Handy to order a coffee on the go without having to take off the headphones or pause the music in the classic way.

Another smart thing is wearing detection. Thanks to two distance sensors and two motion sensors, the headphones stop playing when the device is switched off. The music will automatically resume when the user sets up the 1000XM4 again. Such a function was already on the previous model, but now works clearly a bit more reliably.

Sony WH-1000XM4., Sony
Sony WH-1000XM4. © Sony

Discover your spot

Not new, but still worth mentioning: via the aforementioned Sony’s Headphones app you can thoroughly personalize the sound of the WH-1000XM4. The application houses an equalizer, a tool to analyze the ear shape and – above all – a setting called Adaptive Sound Control.

This function detects fully automatically where you are (a quiet place, on an airplane or train) and whether you are sitting, walking or running at that moment. Depending on those parameters, the best or safest noise cancellation is set: for example, you will continue to hear traffic on the street, and you will not miss any important announcements at the airport. With the 1000XM4, this function is even self-learning: via the GPS function of the smartphone, the headphones gradually learn to recognize your most visited locations, such as a gym or station, and then automatically set the best noise cancellation for that location.

The excellent battery performance of the predecessor has not changed: the WH-1000XM4 still sings it out for thirty hours with noise cancellation, or 38 hours without noice cancellation. A short charge of ten minutes is also sufficient for another five hours of listening pleasure.

Conclusion

The WH-1000XM4 approaches perfection a bit more than Sony’s previous over-the-ear headphones with noice canceling, but the search for very large differences is in vain. The added value is mainly in handy gadgets such as Speak-to-Chat, the improved wearing dection and the possibility to connect the gadget to two Bluetooth devices at the same time. Downsides? Not really, but there is something else to take into account: predecessor 1000XM3, still available here and there, has since fallen in price considerably. In some stores, that model is currently up to 150 euros cheaper than the newcomer. We would personally opt for that competitive deal. Although the WH-1000XM4 is technically superior, it will undoubtedly get a little better with firmware updates in the coming months and years.

Target price: 380 euros (including storage cover, available in black and silver)

There are those gadgets that make you wonder: what the hell is there to improve on? We had that feeling when we put the WH-1000XM3 to the test in 2018. Or better: let go on the ears. Sony had already perfected its wireless over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones to such an extent that a successor didn’t even seem necessary – perhaps it was. But: standing still is going backwards, and the competition (especially Bose, in this market segment) is of course also not thrilled. And so Sony prepared the WH-1000XM4 behind the scenes. In terms of design, very little has changed – at most a few small adjustments for even more comfort. For example, the ear cups would offer ten percent more space, so that they feel more pleasant and there is also a little more ventilation in the shells possible (read: a smaller chance of sweat development). Despite this change, the 1000XM4 overall is a fraction lighter and more compact than its predecessor – a matter of grams and millimeters. The wearing comfort is again top notch, although we have the impression that our glasses are pressed slightly more firmly against the head than with the previous model. The heart of the noise reduction in the 1000XM4 is again formed by Sony’s HD Noise Canceling QN1 processor. Although it now uses an improved algorithm. With noise canceling, an opposite muting signal is generated via microphones on the headphones – also known as ‘anti-noise’. What remains is the music, against a background of silence. The microphones also make the XM4 suitable for hands-free calling and for putting the Google Assistant to work. The QN1 chip is assisted by a new Bluetooth Audio SoC. This not only helps to optimize the sound quality, but also adds ‘multi-point connection’ for the first time. In plain English: you can easily connect the headphones to two Bluetooth devices at the same time, for example a notebook and a smartphone. When a call comes in, the headphones will automatically connect to the correct device. The user can of course also switch between two devices himself, with a simple tap on the touchpad on one of the earcups. The difference with predecessor WH-1000XM3 is not only barely visible, but also barely audible: the sound quality was previous times already of a sublime level, just like the efficiency of the noise reduction. How can you make the music sound even better? Sony came up with a revamp of the audio signal itself. To this end, the Japanese tech giant, together with Sony Music Studios Tokyo, developed the Edge AI audio system. This technology restores the quality lost in digital compression of audio tracks, using a large database of music tracks. Edge AI analyzes the music in real time and recognizes instruments, genres and individual elements of an audio track. “High tones lost in compression are restored for a richer listening experience,” said Sony. Otherwise, the new 1000XM4 offers more convenience in terms of ease of use. Speak-to-Chat, for example, can be activated via the (very) extensive app for iPhone and Android devices. Once turned on, music playback will pause automatically when you start talking. Handy to order a coffee on the go without having to take off the headphones or pause the music in the traditional way. Wearing detection is another smart thing. Thanks to two distance sensors and two motion sensors, the headphones stop playing when the device is switched off. The music will automatically resume when the user sets up the 1000XM4 again. Such a function was already on the previous model, but now works a bit more reliably. Not new, but still worth mentioning: via the aforementioned Sony’s Headphones app you can thoroughly personalize the sound of the WH-1000XM4. The application houses an equalizer, a tool to analyze the ear shape and – above all – a setting called Adaptive Sound Control. This function detects fully automatically where you are (a quiet place, on an airplane or train) and whether you are sitting at that moment. , walk or run. Depending on those parameters, the best or safest noise reduction is set: for example, you will continue to hear traffic on the street, and you will not miss any important announcements at the airport. With the 1000XM4, this function is even self-learning: via the GPS function of the smartphone, the headphones gradually learn to recognize your most visited locations, such as a gym or station, and then automatically set the best noise cancellation for that location. nothing has changed of the predecessor: the WH-1000XM4 still sings it out for thirty hours with noise cancellation, or 38 hours without noice cancellation. A short charge of ten minutes is enough for another five hours of listening pleasure.The WH-1000XM4 approaches perfection even more than Sony’s previous over-the-ear headphones with noice canceling, but the search is in vain for major differences. The added value is mainly in handy gadgets such as Speak-to-Chat, the improved wearing dection and the possibility to connect the gadget to two Bluetooth devices at the same time. Downsides? Not really, but there is something else to take into account: predecessor 1000XM3, still available here and there, has since fallen in price considerably. In some stores, that model is currently up to 150 euros cheaper than the newcomer. We would personally opt for that competitive deal. Even though the WH-1000XM4 is technically superior, it will undoubtedly get a bit better via firmware updates in the coming months and years. Target price: 380 euros (including storage case, available in black and silver)

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