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Sony WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4 (2022): What’s the Difference?

In this Sony WH-1000XM5 review, we’re going to compare the company’s new noise-canceling headphones with its predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM4. Generally, the WH-1000XM4 is considered as one of the best of its kind, and topping it isn’t an easy feat, even for the pair that’s next in line.

On that note, the WH-1000XM5 promises better active noise cancellation or ANC and sound quality, but all that adds up to a higher price tag. For most folks, the WH-1000XM4 is more than enough, and in fact, it might even be better in some ways depending on your preference. The questions then are: Is the WH-1000XM5 worth getting over the WH-1000XM4, which is easier on the budget? And is the WH-1000XM5 worth upgrading to from the WH-1000XM4?

Sony WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4 Comparison Chart

ModelSony WH-1000XM5Sony WH-1000XM4
 Sony WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4Sony WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4
PriceCheck Price at Sony.comCheck Price at Sony.com
Frequency Response4Hz – 40kHz4Hz – 40kHz
Driver30mm40mm
Active Noise CancellationAutomatic Personal NC OptimizerManual Personal NC Optimizer
ProcessorQN1, V1QN1
Microphones84
Bluetooth VersionBluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.0
Supported CodecsSBC, AAC, LDACSBC, AAC, LDAC
Battery LifeANC off: Up to 40 hours
ANC on: Up to 30 hours
ANC off: Up to 38 hours
ANC on: Up to 30 hours
Quick Charging3 minutes for up to 3 hours of playback10 minutes for up to 5 hours of playback
Weight250g254g
ColorsSilver, BlackSilver, Black, White

Design and Build

The Sony WH-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM4 look similar, but each one has a distinct enough design that makes it easy to distinguish from the other.

Sony WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4 Design and Build
The Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) and WH-1000XM4 (right) in their carry cases.

Between the two, the first thing that’ll likely jump out at you is the new case. The WH-1000XM5’s is bigger and has a different shape, which potentially make it more cumbersome to carry around. But on the bright side, you’ll know right away how it should fit inside as opposed to the WH-1000XM4 where you have to fold it in a certain way first. Speaking of, the WH-1000XM5 doesn’t fold up, but it does still fold flat. Also, its case flattens when it’s empty, so it’s easier to keep inside your bag if you’re wearing your headphones.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the two are similar in that they’re both obviously from the same range of Sony headphones, but they’re different enough that you can easily tell them apart. The WH-1000XM5 has a sleeker form factor overall, and like the previous model, it has a matte finish that prevents smudges. Moreover, it has pretty much the same memory foam ear cushions, but this time around, they’re covered with a new synthetic leather that feels like it breathes better, not to mention that they seem more durable and conform better.

The WH-1000XM5 is a few grams lighter at 250g, but despite that, the WH-1000XM4 may still be the better option if you travel often since it’s foldable. At launch, the WH-1000XM5 is expected to come only in two color options: Silver and Black. Meanwhile, the WH-1000XM4 is available not only in Silver and Black but also White.

Audio and Noise Canceling

The Sony WH-1000XM5 has better specs than the WH-1000XM4, allowing it to cancel noise more effectively and even sound better.

Sony WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4 Audio and Noise Canceling
The Sony WH-1000XM5 (in photo) has more microphones and audio processing units for better ANC.

Compared to the WH-1000XM4, the biggest changes are under the hood. Instead of one processor, the WH-1000XM5 uses two, namely QN1—which is what its predecessor uses—and V1. Also, it has eight microphones in total, boasting twice the number of microphones than the WH-1000XM4. All that is designed to enhance ANC and further reduce treble frequencies, particularly minimizing people’s voices, as well as wind noise.

Notably, the WH-1000XM5 has an Automatic Personal NC Optimizer. The WH-1000XM4 also has this optimization feature, and for the uninitiated, it adjusts the ANC based on the ambient noise of where you are. To do this, you activate it via the accompanying app, but in the WH-1000XM5’s case, it works automatically (hence the name) to give you the best ANC anytime, anywhere.

Now the WH-1000XM5 has a smaller 30mm driver than the WH-1000XM4’s 40mm one. While that seems like a downgrade at first glance, it really isn’t since the WH-1000XM5 actually sounds better. It delivers punchier bass and clearer details overall, but even though the difference isn’t that significant, it’s still technically an improvement. At any rate, both more or less have a consumer-friendly sound (i.e., they boost bass), so they’re good for genres like pop and hip hop.

With all that being said, the WH-1000XM4 isn’t bad. After all, it’s regarded as one of the nicest-sounding ANC headphones way before the WH-1000XM5 was even conceived. It’s just that its successor does a better job in the audio and noise-canceling departments.

Battery Life and Other Features

The Sony WH-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM4 are similar in a lot of ways, with both featuring Speak-to-Chat, multipoint connection and more.

Sony WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4 Battery Life and Other Features
A closer look at the Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) and WH-1000XM4 (right) side by side.

Between the two, there’s not much of a difference in battery life. Both can go up to about 30 hours with ANC on, and when the feature’s off, the WH-1000XM4 can last up to 38 hours and the WH-1000XM5 up to 40 hours. 

However, the WH-1000XM5’s quick charging has the edge. In only three minutes, you can get up to three hours’ worth of playback. But that’s not to say that the WH-1000XM4 doesn’t charge fast since you can get five hours of runtime in 10 minutes. For the record, there’s still no wireless charging.

Elsewhere, the two are similar. Both have multipoint connection, 360 Reality Audio support, Speak-to-Chat and Quick Attention, as well as the same touch controls and voice assistants. However, the WH-1000XM5 does have support for the “OK Google” wake word, which tilts the scales to its favor a bit.

Connectivity-wise, the WH-1000XM5 has the newer Bluetooth 5.2 as compared to the WH-1000XM4’s Bluetooth 5.0, but that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. They support the same codecs as well, namely SBC, AAC and LDAC. And by the same token, there’s still no aptX support.

Verdict

There are many reasons to get the Sony WH-1000XM5, but there are still some reasons to choose the WH-1000XM4 over it.

Now that this Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Sony WH-1000XM5 face-off is coming to a close, it’s safe to say that the newer model primarily builds on the previous one with improved noise canceling and slightly better sound. That includes faster quick charging and the more efficient Bluetooth 5.2. In short, it’s obviously the better pick from a performance perspective.

Trading up your WH-1000XM4 for the WH-1000XM5 could be worthwhile, especially if the improvements in ANC are important to you. But for the budget-oriented, the WH-1000XM4 can go a long way. After all, with the release of the WH-1000XM5, its price has nowhere else to go but down.

FAQs

📌 When is the Sony WH-1000XM5’s release date?

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is already available, and it’s expected to start shipping out on May 20.

📌 What’s the difference between the Sony WH-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM4?

The Sony WH-1000XM5 brings a slew of improvements, including eight microphones instead of four, two audio processing chips as opposed to only one and expected updates such as Bluetooth 5.2. But unlike the WH-1000XM4, it’s not foldable.

📌 How long does the Sony WH-1000XM5 last?

Like its predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is rated to go for up to 30 hours with noise canceling on. It can also provide up to three hours of playback in only three minutes.

📌 Can I wear the Sony WH-1000XM4 in the rain?

Unfortunately, the Sony WH-1000XM4 isn’t waterproof, so it may be damaged when worn in the rain.

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Vincent Lanaria

Senior Editor, researcher and writer passionate about running, cooking, and how technology mixes with the two.