Sony WH-1000XM4 Quick Review: Better Than Ever
October 21, 2020 Andrew Cheng

The Sony WH-1000XM3 was one of the best wireless headphones with active noise cancellation, and the successor, the Sony WH-1000XM4, adds some notable features and upgrades. I’ve been using the XM4 for a few weeks now, and as an existing XM3 owner, I’m really impressed with the improvements.

If you’re looking to get one of the best noise-cancelling headphones in the market now, look no further than the WH-1000XM4. Not only does it offer excellent audio quality and features, it’s also surprisingly affordable now.

What It Is

Even though the WH-1000XM4 looks practically identical to its predecessor, it does come with a number of added features. For starters, it can now connect to two audio sources at the same time thanks to Bluetooth multipoint. This makes it a lot easier to switch between two different devices. With the XM3, I would have to unpair from the current device before I can connect it to a different audio source.

Aside from that, the XM4 also sports better noise cancellation and audio quality, but more on these in the next section.

The Good Stuff

Since the XM3 was known for its excellent noise cancellation, let’s talk about how the XM4 improves upon this. While the former did a very good job silencing ambient noise, the XM4 does it even better. The moment I put on the headphones, I feel completely isolated from the outside world. Even voices can be muted by the XM4 more effectively than the XM3, as per Sony’s claim of better noise-cancelling with mid-high frequencies.

What about audio quality? Though both the XM3 and XM4 have similar sound profiles, the XM4 has a wider soundstage, lending to a more comfortable, less fatigue-inducing listening experience. In contrast, the XM3 has a more narrow soundstage with stronger bass response, which may not be to everyone’s taste. Personally, I prefer the audio quality of the XM4 ever so slightly.

Comfort is also another one of the XM4’s strong point. The overall fit of the headphones has been revised here and there for a more snug fit, and the larger earcups feel noticeably more comfortable. This is especially evident in prolonged usage; even after hours of use, I don’t feel like the headphones are applying too much pressure on my head.

Speaking of long hours of use, the XM4 still has ridiculously long battery life. I’ve used the headphones (easily) in excess of 25 hours, and it’s still going strong. Sony quotes a total usage of up to 30 hours, and I’m confident I can get this level of battery life easily, even with noise-cancelling enabled.

There’s also one other new feature of the XM4 that I really like. Whenever I take the headphones off, my music will be automatically paused. The moment I put it back on, it will resume my music playback. This is possible with a proximity sensor inside the left earcup and two acceleration sensors that detect whether I’m wearing the headphones or not.

Yes, this is not exactly a groundbreaking feature, but it’s a very meaningful quality of life improvement for me personally.

The Bad Stuff

Overall, there are no big issues with the WH-1000XM4, but there are some small niggling issues here and there. The “Speak-to-Chat” feature, for one – which automatically activates ambient sound mode whenever I start speaking – takes a bit too long to deactivate after I’m done with my conversation. Granted, I can always just double tap on the right earcup to resume playback quicker.

Besides that…there really isn’t any aspect of the XM4 that I don’t like. Okay, it would’ve been nice if it gets more obvious styling changes over the XM3, but it’s not like there’s any huge issue with the design of the two headphones in the first place anyway.

Is It Worth It?

If you’re not an existing owner of the WH-1000XM3, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is definitely worth it. While the XM4 improves upon its predecessor in meaningful ways, it’s not exactly a big enough leap to warrant an upgrade. Sony is refining an already great pair of headphones with the XM4.

What makes the XM4 even more attractive is the fact that it’s actually quite a bit more affordable now since it was launched here back in August. Originally retailing at RM1,599, you can easily grab the wireless headphones for well below that asking price during promotions. Of course, you’ve got to wait for the right time, but what’s certain is the fact that you won’t have to pay retail price for the XM4 anymore.

If you can get a good deal, the WH-1000XM4 is a fantastic buy. It has excellent active noise cancellation, it offers great audio quality, and it has incredibly long battery life. What more can you ask for from a pair of wireless headphones at this price point?

Li Jin Soh contributed to this article.