Sony WF-1000XM5 Review: Truly the Best Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds
October 29, 2023 Andrew Cheng

When the Sony WF-1000XM5 was first unveiled, it was touted to feature the “best noise-cancelling performance on the market.” To be honest, I was pessimistic of this claim, but after spending a good amount of time with the wireless earbuds, I’m convinced!

However, although the noise cancelling performance of the WF-1000XM5 is great, it does have some room for improvement in other aspects. But now that the wireless earbuds are more affordable – its price has dropped quite a bit since its debut – the XM5 is an easy product to recommend.

What It Is

The highlight feature of the WF-1000XM5 is certainly the improved noise cancelling. Using a total of six microphones and two separate processors, the XM5 can capture ambient sound more accurately while also delivering “unprecedented noise cancelling quality.” While that’s a lofty promise, I would say the Japanese company actually delivered – more on this further down the review.

Other specifications of the WF-1000XM5 include a new 8.4mm dynamic driver dubbed Dynamic Driver X – it’s said to provide deeper bass, richer vocals, and clear highs – up to 12 hours of battery life (down to eight hours with noise cancellation enabled), noise isolation foam tips, and IPX4 water resistance.

For the Malaysian market, the WF-1000XM5 retails at RM1,399; exactly RM300 more than the WF-1000XM4 when it was first launched on our shores. However, the XM5 can now be gotten for only RM1,199, which is pretty good value for a pair of wireless earbuds of this calibre.

The Good Stuff

I’ve gushed about the noise cancelling performance of the WF-1000XM5 quite a bit already, so let’s talk about that first. Compared to other wireless earbuds I’ve reviewed, the active noise cancellation (ANC) performance of the XM5 absolutely stands out.

Whether it’s the low rumbling of a bus engine or light chatters in the office, the WF-1000XM5 can cancel out these noises very well. On top of that, it doesn’t have much of the “deafening” effect either, which helps with comfort in longer listening sessions.

Evidently, Sony nailed the ANC performance of the WF-1000XM5, though I reckon the foam ear tips help to further improve the noise isolation of these earbuds. After all, the foam material can provide a better seal compared to conventional silicone ear tips.

Speaking of which, I appreciate the fact that the WF-1000XM5 has regular ear tips. In a market where more wireless earbuds are (somehow) opting for proprietary ear tips, this is a great move on Sony’s part. Plus, if you’re into ear tips rolling to get the best fit for your ears for improved sound quality, the XM5 is a great option.

While we’re on the topic, let’s get into the sound tuning of the WF-1000XM5. Not surprisingly, the XM5 has Sony’s trademark sound profile. It is bassy and warm with rolled off highs, lending to a pleasant, inoffensive sound signature. That being said, the soundstage of the XM5 is lacking in width, so it can sound a tad congested on busier tracks.

Nonetheless, if you enjoy Sony’s signature sound profile, the XM5 will be right up your alley. This is especially the case if you like a warm, smooth tuning.

Battery life of the WF-1000XM5 is also very good. With ANC activated, I can easily get Sony’s quoted battery life of eight hours on a single charge. I personally did not test the company’s 12-hour usage with ANC disabled, though I reckon the wireless earbuds can easily achieve this.

Now, let’s get to not so great aspects of the XM5 in the following section.

The Bad Stuff

Although the foam ear tips of the WF-1000XM5 can provide great seal for improved sound quality, it is not particularly…comfortable. On top of that, it doesn’t feel very durable either, given the fact that it is made of foam. On the bright side, at least replacement ear tips can be easily sourced for the XM5, thanks to the fact that it uses standard tips.

Besides that, the shell of the WF-1000XM5 is also quite slippery. Instead of its predecessor’s all-matte design, the XM5 has a more glossy finish. This makes it harder to get a good grip on the individual earbud, and I actually dropped it while I was trying to wrestle it out of the charging case a few times.

Last but not least are the finicky touch controls of the XM5. It doesn’t seem to be able to recognise my inputs reliably enough, and there were times when I was just adjusting the fit of the earbuds in my ears when it recognised that as a touch input.

Is It Worth It?

While I’m not a big fan of its shell design and foam ear tips, I still wholeheartedly recommend the Sony WF-1000XM5. It has stellar noise cancelling performance, very long battery life, and a smooth, warm sound signature with plenty of bass to keep your feet tapping to your favourite tunes.

Plus, now that the WF-1000XM5 can be purchased for only RM1,199 – that’s RM200 off its original launch price – this is an excellent pair of wireless earbuds with good value for money. Sure, it’s not the most affordable earbuds in the market, but the XM5 does deliver on its promise to deliver the best noise cancelling performance.