Sony WH-1000XM4 review: Minor but meaningful upgrade with improved utility

The Sony WH-1000XM4 looks similar to the WH-1000XM3; its design is minimal and the headphones have matte texture all around for a premium profile
In 2018, Japanese electronics maker Sony launched the WH-1000XM3 wireless headphones that became audiophiles’ favourite for their mature sound signature and industry leading active noise cancellation capability. Now, the company has refreshed the headphones with minor but meaningful upgrades. Named WH-1000XM4, the wireless headphones are identical to the predecessor but gain better microphones for quality conversation over voice calls, and the ability to connect with two devices simultaneously. Do these upgrades add any utility to the already capable headphones? Let’s find out:

Design

 

The Sony WH-1000XM4 looks similar to the WH-1000XM3; its design is minimal and the headphones have matte texture all around for a premium profile. The headphones are lightweight, sturdy and comfortable to use. Its ear cups feature Sony branding in bronze finish, which is appealing and attracts attention.

The left ear cup features a power-cum-pairing button and another one to enable/disable noise-cancellation. It also features a 3.5mm port for wired connectivity. The right-side ear cup has just the USB type-C port for charging. Though free from buttons and other visual distractions, the right ear cup nestles the touch-capacitive panel for basic headphones controls -- play, pause, skip track, and volume.

Overall, the WH-1000XM4’s design is similar to the predecessor, and it should not be a point of concern to anyone interested in it because it still looks absolute marvel. The lack of water and dust resistant in a 2020 model is, however, a point of concern that one should take note of.

Features and performance

The WH-1000XM4 might be an incremental upgrade over its predecessor but the performance upgrades are apparent and noticeable. Starting from the headphones’ ANC, it is still one of the best you get in any headphones available in the market yet.

With ANC enabled, the headphones manage to filter the external noise completely, delivering the best noise-cancelling performance one expects from premium headphones. Moreover, the ANC intensity is customisable through Sony’s Headphones app, which lets you set the ANC profiles for different locations (indoors and outdoors). The headphones also have in-ear detection sensors, which pauses the music as soon as you take off the headphones, and resumes if you wear them again.

Besides ANC profiles and modes, there are other value-added features too. For example, you can hear ambient noise without disabling ANC by covering the right ear cup with fingers and gently pressing it. Similarly, there is a ‘Speak to Chat’ feature which pauses the music if it detects you are speaking to someone. Interestingly, it picks up the chat quickly and pauses the music almost instantly. It is so sensitive that it sometimes pauses the audio track if you singalong while listening to it.

 

The headphones connect with two devices at a time and work fine in most conditions. This is one of the upgrades that the WH-1000XM4 brings over its predecessor. I used the headphones with a phone and a tablet and it was easy to pick any device to listen to music or watch a web series.

Coming on to the sound quality, it continues with the Sony sound signature and there is no apparent change here from the predecessor. It still sounds perfect with deep bass, clear vocals and refined trebles. There are equalisers too, if you need to set one basis your preferences from the Headphones app.

Voice calls were not the WH-1000XM3 forte and it is still a no-go with the WH-1000XM4 despite getting better microphones. The headphones deliver better in-call experience but not the perfect one. That said, you can attend calls on the headphones and might not get into any trouble in most cases. But, not always. The microphones, at times, do not pick voice and you need to repeat sentences more often. Sometimes, it picks the voice but the person on the other side hears muffled noise.

Battery

 

Sony claims a 30-hour on-battery time with noise-cancelling enabled and around 38 hours with ANC disabled, and the on-battery time figures seem about right. The headphones take roughly three hours to charge. There is a fast-charging feature, which can get you about five hours of battery from 10 minutes of charge.

Verdict

 

Priced at Rs 29,990, the Sony WH-1000XM4 still reigns supreme in the premium ANC headphones segment. The headphones are available at a special price of Rs 28,490, however, this offer is valid till 30 th September 2020.

The headphones make a perfect companion to enjoy music, audio, podcast, movies, shows, etc. It is, however, not the best for voice calls. Moreover, the lack of any ingress protection is another downside. Therefore, consider these earphones for industry leading ANC, sturdy build, premium design, perfect sound output, and impressive on-battery time.



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