Sony’s new wireless noise cancelling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM4, has big shoes to fill. Released last month as an upgraded version of Sony’s impressive 2018 WH-1000XM3 headphones, the XM4 has only a few variations, but they could make all the difference to the discerning consumer.
Chiefly, the key difference between the two headphones is the quality of noise cancelation. Sony made a concerted effort to release headphones with more intuitive and immersive noise cancelation, and they’ve succeeded.
Improved hands-free calling and other new features also help round out the XM4 as an exciting upgrade.
Meanwhile, battery life performance remains unchanged at 30 hours (noise canceling on, continuous music playback), as does charge time, approximately 3 hours for a full charge.
Considering the XM4 is already selling at the same price as the XM3, the choice is logical for customers looking to purchase new headphones. However, if you already own a pair of the XM3, is it worth the upgrade?
We did a full comparison to help you decide.
|HD Noise-Canceling Processor QN1||Yes||Yes|
|Bluetooth Audio SoC||No||Yes|
|Dual Noise Sensor||No||Yes|
|Sensitivities||104.5 dB / mW (1 kHz) (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned on) & 101 dB / mW (1 kHz) (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned off)||105 dB / mW (1 kHz) when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned on) & 101 dB / mW (1 kHz) when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned off|
|Frequency Response||4 Hz - 40,000 Hz (Active Operation) & 20 Hz–20,000 Hz (44.1 kHz Sampling)/20 Hz–40,000 Hz (LDAC 96 kHz Sampling, 990 kbps) (Bluetooth Communication)||4 Hz - 40,000 Hz (Active Operation) & 20 Hz–20,000 Hz (44.1 kHz Sampling)/20 Hz–40,000 Hz (LDAC 96 kHz Sampling, 990 kbps) (Bluetooth Communication)|
|Frequency Range||2.4 GHz band (2.4000–2.4835 GHz)||2.4 GHz band (2.4000–2.4835 GHz)|
|Ambient Sound Mode||Yes||Yes|
|Personal NC Optimizer||Yes||Yes|
|Battery Charge Method||USB||USB|
|Battery Charge Time (Approx.)||3 Hours (Full Charge)||3 Hours (Full Charge)|
|Battery Life (Continuous Music Playback Time)||Max. 30 hours (NC ON), Max. 38 hours (NC OFF)||Max. 30 hours (NC ON), Max. 38 hours (NC OFF)|
|Battery Life (Waiting Time)||Max. 30 hours (NC ON), Max. 200 hours (NC OFF)||Max. 30 hours (NC ON), Max. 200 hours (NC OFF)|
|Weight (Approx.)||8.99 oz||8.95 oz|
What’s New or Improved in the Sony WH-1000XM4
Comparing the specs of each model there appear to be few differences, but the devil is in the details.
The XM4’s new Bluetooth SoC (System-on-Chip) has enabled superior noise cancelation capabilities. Working in conjunction with an updated algorithm and new noise sensors (a microphone on each earcup), it can eliminate more sounds on mid and high-range frequencies, providing a more immersive listening experience.
The XM4 also has 5 built-in microphones for improved phone call quality, a big flaw of the XM3. The new microphones more effectively pick-up and isolate your voice, allowing for clearer phone conversations. If you’ve ever had a phone call while using the XM3 headphones, you’ll know why this is an exciting update.
The Adaptive Sound Control feature has also been improved, detecting where you’re listening to music and adjusting the noise cancellation accordingly. For example, this feature works great when you’re using public transit as the headphones will automatically filter out irritating background noise but still allow you to hear overhead announcements.
The XM4 headphones are not only stronger, they’re smarter. A new feature called Speak-to-Chat automatically pauses your music when it hears you speak to someone, while new proximity and acceleration sensors do the same when they detect you’ve removed the headphones from your ears.
Why Pick the WH-1000XM3
A second-hand set will be cheaper, but otherwise it appears Sony was able to improve on the core features of the XM3 without sacrificing any of the smaller features that made them such a popular set of headphones. The XM4 headphones have everything the XM3 has and more.
While it’s disappointing the battery life hasn’t improved, it’s not surprising, given that the XM3 already offered an impressive life of 30 hours of continuous play.
For new customers deciding between the Sony WH-1000XM3 vs Sony WH-1000XM4, the XM4 is the clear choice. While it was initially offered at a higher cost, you can now purchase a XM4 set for the same price as the Sony WH-1000XM3.
If you’ve purchased a set of XM3 headphones in the past 2 years, it may be a tough decision. Depending on how recently you purchased them, your budget, and how much you value improved noise cancellation and phone call capabilities, you may feel compelled to upgrade soon. If you do, it’s unlikely you’ll be sorry; the Sony WH-1000XM4 is a great set of headphones.