When it comes to headphones with ANC, two names usually come up, Bose and Sony. Both have strongly promoted active noise canceling and are the market leaders in this area.
With the WH-1000XM4, Sony has now introduced the latest headphones in its high-end series. These should again score with improved noise canceling, as well as with an improved sound and a new chipset.
In terms of design, Sony has made little changes to the WH-1000XM4. The WH-1000XM4 are very sleek, simple and elegant headphones. The back of this is made of a smooth and very simple plastic. Sony has done without a conspicuous logo or pattern, which makes the headphones look a bit more “business-like”. I can well imagine that the Sony WH-1000XM4 can also be worn by “suit wearers” on the way to an important meeting without them appearing out of place. I just want to say that the headphones exude a simple elegance.
The only thing that stands out is the small bronze-colored Sony logo on the upper edge of the suspension.
We can see the choice of material a bit more critically, because Sony largely relies on plastic. Only the headband is reinforced with a metal bow. Basically, the Sony WH-1000XM4 doesn’t seem cheap or badly built. These are certainly not super massive, but they do match the competitors from Bose and B&W.
On the side of the connections we find a USB C port as well as a normal 3.5mm input. The latter is for example for airplanes etc. The USB C port is for charging the headphones and also supports fast charging. After only 10 minutes of charging time, 5 hours of music playback are possible. The general battery life is 30 hours, including the use of ANC. I can also confirm this value + -.
Basically, Sony has done a lot right when it comes to wearing comfort! The auricles are big enough, the padding is nice and soft and the contact pressure is pretty ideal.
However, since Sony tries to passively suppress so much noise, the headphones are of course completely closed. This can make them warm when you wear them! Especially at 30 degrees + outside temperature you will sweat easily under the Sony WH-1000XM4.
Nevertheless, I would rate the wearing comfort as good! I am also not aware of any “airier” headphones with a comparable ANC.
Sony and Bose are the kings when it comes to active noise canceling and the WH-1000XM4 also show that! With active noise canceling, microphones are used in the headphones to record and actively compensate for ambient noise. Think of sound waves as waves on water. What we ultimately perceive is only the difference between sea level and the top of the wave. ANC headphones now send out waves that “neutralize” the external sound waves (see white noise). As a result, the outside noises are not immediately eliminated, but we no longer perceive them.
ANC traditionally works much better with low-level noises such as motors, fans, etc. than with high-pitched and complex noises such as voices.
The ANC of the Sony WH-1000XM4 is world class! I cannot say otherwise. The humming of motors or the whirring of fans is practically no longer audible with the headphones. But also voices, birds chirping, any crackling etc. are massively reduced. No, you will continue to hear a screaming child right next to you, but even this would be muffled by a few steps. I haven’t heard a better ANC than the WH-1000XM4!
The Sony Headphones Connect app is not absolutely necessary to use the headphones, but I would recommend you to use them! Among other things, because the app offers an EQ to adjust the sound. This allows you to massively adapt the sound of the headphones to your needs and, if necessary, correct a few weaknesses. For this test it is of course absolutely impossible to look at all EQ settings, so I will concentrate on the general sound and basic setting.
Let’s start here, as usual, at the heights . The Sony WH-1000XM4 inherently offer good, but not outstanding, highs. These are generally more than sufficiently brilliant and “clean”, but the lower heights in particular often seem a bit more distant. The lower highs just seem less “clean” and direct than with some other high-end headphones. This is not to say that the highs are terrible, but at almost € 400 I have to be a little more critical. On the other hand, the upper highs are flawless and you can still rework a bit via EQ. In general, I like the WH-1000XM4 a bit better than the WH-1000XM3.
The middle I would classify as normal. Warm voices and instruments are reproduced well so far. The WH-1000XM4 tend to use a “V” or bathtub sound signature, which is not overly pronounced, but is easily revealed.
The bass of the Sony WH-1000XM4 surprised me a bit! The predecessors of the WH-1000XM4 were always a bit warmer headphones, but the WH-1000XM4 are a bit more powerful and a bit more clearly defined in the bass! No, these are not absolute bass bombers either, but the slightly raised depths are already noticeable. The bass is not only a bit raised from the crowd, the bass quality is also very good. The WH-1000XM4 have a very good depth and a nice bass volume.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 sound quite warm again, but less sluggish than the older models. With a few EQ adjustments, the headphones are really fun or can play a little more neutral if desired. I was a bit surprised by the high maximum volume, which is clearly above average.
the earphones would reproduce audio signals 1 to 1 without coloring or “falsifying” them. However, this is only common with studio / reference headphones. You can roughly divide the diagram into three areas, left = lows / bass, middle = Mids and right = highs. If one part is higher than another part, this frequency range is tonally more emphasized than another. For example, if the frequency curve on the left is very high, this means a bass boost. It is not possible to break the sound down to the frequency curve, but this still provides neutral information about the sound.
With the WH-1000XM4, Sony has once again improved its high-end headphone series. The ANC is the star of the show again! I already had a lot of Bluetooth headphones in my fingers and I can say with a clear conscience that the WH-1000XM4 have the best active noise canceling I have ever heard! Deeper noises such as motors etc. are blocked almost 100% and even more complex noises such as voices are massively reduced. No other headphones can do this better at the moment.