Sony makes slightly more than just incremental changes for the WH-1000XM5

Same principles, but with a new look, new yoke design and new drivers.

by Justin Choo

The Sony WH-1000X series of headphones are one of those gadgets that you can more or less recommend blind, budget considerations aside. It’s one of those instances where incremental changes generation upon generation sounds like a good idea, because for the most part you have a fairly clear idea of what to expect, only better.

But for its fifth iteration, the <strong>WH-1000XM5</strong> , goes a little further. It finally receives a new look: an all-new ’noiseless design’ paired with soft fit leather and a stepless sliding mechanism, which is designed to reduce the pressure off your ears without compromising the headphones’ noise isolation properties. Its accompanying carrying case has also been updated; it’s made collapsible to improve portability.

Sony worked to improve noise-cancelling capabilities on its latest WH-1000X. At its core, the XM5 is powered by Integrated Processor V1 (same as the WF-1000XM4) and HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1. The XM5 uses two processors to control eight microphones that Sony claims will dramatically reduce noise, especially in the mid-high frequency range. The headphone also uses four beamforming microphones paired with an AI-based noise reduction tech to isolate your voice and minimise wind noise during calls. The physical housing has also been optimised to minimise the microphone’s exposure to wind.

In addition, it now sports an Auto NC Optimiser that can actively optimise noise cancellation depending on environmental conditions. The Personal Noise Cancelling Optimiser analyses granular factors like your ear or head shape, with or without glasses to automatically adjust noise-cancelling characteristics. The Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser detects and automatically adjusts to changes in atmospheric pressure, making it very useful for air travel.

On top of that, there’s the familiar Adaptive Sound Control that recognises your most frequented locations and adjusts the ambient sound settings accordingly.

What’s markedly different is the use of a 30mm driver unit instead of the familiar 40mm; typically, manufacturers tend to move up in size when it comes to upgrades. But apparently, there’s more to this unusual move on top of the usual aims of improving audio clarity and bass reproduction. Sony says that the new driver also features a soft TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) edge that helps to enhance noise cancelling, along with a light and rigid dome made with a carbon fibre composite material that improves high frequency sensitivity, which results in more natural sound quality.

You’ll also notice some unique touches seen more recently in the Walkman range, such as the use of a premium-lead free solder that contains gold for excellent connectivity and optimised circuitry. It’s a Sony thing, no doubt.

But a big part of the appeal of the WH-1000X series headphones lies in the tech: High-Res Audio support, DSEE Extreme upscaling, 360 Reality Audio for supported content, and LDAC wireless. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, there’s no official support for aptX, so that is a bit of a bummer if you’re hoping that this high-tech powerhouse would be the One Ring of transmission codecs. The upside is that these says, headphones are so well optimised in terms of sound quality that the lack of codec support is less of a deal-breaker.

Other features include configurable touch controls for quick access to reduce reliance on your smartphone, safe volume listening notifications triggered by measurements of your sound pressure, Speak-to-Chat to automatically pause music for a quick conversation and automatically resume when it is over. The XM5 also supports Google’s Fast Pair, and can be paired with two devices at the same time.

The battery life doesn’t look to have changed much though it seems like the battery capacity has increased – 30 hours with noise-cancelling activated – although maximum playback time without noise-cancelling has increased from 38 hours to 40 hours, while charge time has increased by half an hour (3.5 hours).

The WH-1000XM5 headphones will be available at selected retail shops and online stores from mid-June 2022. You can pre-order from now till 8 June 2022 and receive a free handphone stand with charger, while stocks last. And from now till 30 June 2022, trading in selected 1000X series headphones can get you a further $80 off.