Review: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Premium Noise Canceling Overhead Headphones – Best Noise Canceling Headphones
Published on May 6, 2023, 5:39 p.m.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are Sony’s latest flagship wireless noise canceling headphones. I tested the silver color version of these headphones to see if they live up to the hype and high expectations for Sony’s premium noise canceling headphone line. After extensive testing, I found the WH-1000XM4s deliver excellent sound quality, top-tier noise canceling, increased comfort, and useful smart features that make these headphones one of the best on the market.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is the successor to the popular WH-1000XM3 wireless headphones. The WH-1000XM4s retain a similar design with some small but meaningful updates. The headband pad and ear pads use softer synthetic leather for increased comfort during long listening sessions. The ear cups now have sensors to detect when the headphones are taken off, automatically pausing playback.
For sound, the WH-1000XM4s feature 40mm drivers and use Sony’s HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1 chip which provides exceptional noise canceling. Wireless connectivity is provided by Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC one-touch pairing. The headphones also have a USB-C port for charging and a 3.5mm audio jack for wired use. Battery life is rated at 30 hours of playback.
- Industry-leading noise cancellation using Sony’s HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 and dual noise sensor technology
- High resolution audio support with LDAC codec
- Touch sensor controls on right ear cup to control playback, volume, calls, activate voice assistant
- Speak-to-chat technology pauses music to let in ambient sound during conversations
- Adaptive Sound Control adjusts ambient settings based on activity and location
- Sony Headphones Connect app for Android and iOS allows customization of sound, noise cancellation and features
- Fast charging provides 5 hours of play time from 10 minutes of charging
- Up to 30 hours of battery life for all-day power
Design and Comfort
The WH-1000XM4 retains the same basic design as the previous model, with some small enhancements. The synthetic leather on the headband and ear pads feel softer which improves comfort for long listening sessions. Clamping force is moderate and the headphones stay secure on the head without too much pressure. The ear cups now detect when the headphones are removed from your head, automatically pausing music for added convenience.
Overall the WH-1000XM4 headphones are very comfortable. The soft padding prevents any hotspots forming on the head or ears. The headphones stay comfortable even when worn for multiple hours. Glasses can also be worn without any issues.
The WH-1000XM4 headphones deliver superb sound across all types of audio content. Music sounds excellent, with clear mids and highs and deep punchy bass when called for. The soundstage has good width for an immersive listening experience. Vocals come through cleanly and the instruments have space to shine. Whether you like jazz, classical, rock or pop, the WH-1000XM4s handle it with aplomb.
Movies and videos are also enjoyable, with clear dialogue and good stereo imaging. The headphones bring out subtle audio details in films while delivering powerful bass for action sequences. Gaming audio is similarly impressive, with accurate positional audio for detecting enemies and a fun sound profile. In all, the WH-1000XM4s offer one of the most enjoyable listening experiences on a wireless headphone.
The noise canceling performance on the WH-1000XM4s is simply outstanding. Using a new noise canceling chip and multiple microphones, the headphones almost completely eliminate ambient noise like traffic, airplane engines and AC systems. Voices are also significantly reduced so you can focus on your music or calls. You can adjust the level of noise canceling in the app if desired. Overall the ANC on these headphones sets a new bar for performance and immersion.
Features and Connectivity
The WH-1000XM4 headphones connect wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC and Sony’s LDAC codec. Pairing is a breeze with NFC one-touch on Android devices. AAC provides solid connectivity on iOS. LDAC can transmit higher resolution audio if your source device supports it. I found the Bluetooth range to be very good, able to travel multiple rooms away from the source without dropout.
Sony has loaded these headphones with smart features to enhance the user experience. Precise voice pickup improves call quality in noisy environments. Wear detection pauses playback when removing the headphones. Speak-to-chat automatically lowers volume during conversations. Adaptive sound control adjusts ambient sound settings based on your activity. All these features work well and can be disabled if not needed.
The Sony Headphones Connect app lets you customize the sound, noise canceling, and smart features. There is built-in support for Alexa and Google Assistant for voice commands. While the touch controls take some practice, you can control music, calls and volume right from the headphones. Overall the features elevate these headphones beyond just great sound.
Battery life is rated at 30 hours of continuous playback, which is very good for noise canceling Bluetooth headphones. During my testing I easily achieved the 30 hour rating at moderate volume levels with noise canceling on. You can quick charge the headphones, getting 5 hours of playback from a 10 minute charge. The WH-1000XM4 headphones will last for days of moderate use between charges. Frequent travelers will appreciate the long battery life.
The WH-1000XM4 headphones are ideal for:
- Frequent travelers who want to block out engine noise on planes and trains
- Commuters who want their music undisturbed by noisy traffic
- Work-from-home professionals to focus on calls and music
- Audiophiles who appreciate high-resolution audio playback
- Phone call users who need to reduce background noise on calls
- Anyone who wants an immersive listening experience anywhere
The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are highly rated by users across multiple reviews. Here are some trends seen in user reviews:
Noise Cancellation - The active noise cancellation consistently receives rave reviews. Users say the ANC performance is best-in-class and eliminates ambient noise very effectively. Many mention the noise canceling as a key reason for purchasing.
Sound Quality - Users praise the audio reproduction as clear, detailed and realistic across different genres. Bass quality is cited as deep and impactful when called for without muddying the mids and highs. The sound profile appeals to audiophiles.
Comfort - The plush earcups and lighter weight provide very comfortable long term wear for most users. The clamping force is described as gentle yet secure for staying put on your head. Users with glasses also report good comfort.
Smart Features - Clever extras like speak-to-chat, wear detection, adaptive sound control and transparency mode enhance the utility according to users. The features make the headphones adapt well to different environments.
Battery Life - The close to 30 hour battery life meets user expectations for all day power. The quick charging adds convenience for when you forget to charge.
Cons - The most common complaints are high price and lack of water/sweat resistance. The touch controls have a learning curve but improve with practice per users. Some report sound leakage at high volumes.
Pros and Cons
- Industry leading noise cancellation
- Excellent audio fidelity
- Very comfortable for long sessions
- Clever features like speak-to-chat and wear detection
- Great battery life up to 30 hours
- Expensive price point
- Lack of water or sweat resistance
- Touch controls have a learning curve
The WH-1000XM4s command a premium price of $350, but deliver a first-class listening experience making them a good value for frequent users. The combination of sound quality, noise cancellation, comfort and features is unmatched. For those who live on their headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM4s are worth the investment. More casual listeners may want to consider cheaper options.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless noise canceling headphones deliver excellent all around performance. The sound quality, noise canceling, comfort and smart features combine to make these best-in-class headphones. While expensive at $350, the WH-1000XM4s deliver a premium listening experience that makes them worth the investment for frequent users. Audiophiles, music lovers, travelers and anyone else looking for top-tier wireless ANC headphones should have the WH-1000XM4 high on their list.
- Driver Unit: 40mm dome type
- Frequency Response: 4Hz–40kHz
- Battery Life: 30 hours (NC on), 38 hours (NC off)
- Charging Time: 3 hours (NC on), USB-C quick charge
- Weight: 254g
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, 3.5mm audio jack
- Supported Audio Codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
- Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE)
- Touch Sensor Controls
- Voice Assistant Support: Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri
- Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones
- Carrying case
- 3.5mm audio cable
- USB-C charging cable
- Airplane adapter
To get started, download the Sony Headphones Connect app and follow the on-screen instructions to pair with your device via Bluetooth. Customize noise cancellation, sound profiles and smart features in the app. Use the touch controls to manage music playback, volume and phone calls. Charging is done via the included USB-C cable. For wired use, connect the 3.5mm audio cable. Refer to the user manual for complete instructions.