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Sony WH-1000XM4 review: almost perfect headphones

Two years after the excellent WH-1000XM3, Sony returns with the WH-1000XM4, its new active noise canceling headphones, eagerly awaited by fans.

In the family of active noise canceling headphones, I ask for the WH-1000XM4. Two years after the excellent 1000XM3 Sony is putting the table back on track with the WH-1000XM4, a model brought up to date and sold for 379.99 euros.

For the Japanese, the challenge is considerable. The 1000XM3 had received the praise of all the specialized press when it was released and then experienced phenomenal commercial success for this type of product. The M3 was close to perfection, so we wondered how Sony could do even better.

Its answer: the 1000XM4, an audio headset that has exactly the same hardware configuration as its predecessor, sprinkled with new processing algorithms. Does Sony succeed in achieving perfection? Spoiler alert: almost.

Design and ergonomics of the Sony WH-1000XM4

Never change a winning team. The 1000XM4 looks (almost) in every way to the 1000XM3. Available in black or silver, the new version is distinguished by its matt plastic (glossy on the previous model) and its slightly larger cushions providing more comfort.

The physical buttons (power and noise reduction) and the 3.5 mm jack are positioned identically (left earbud), the touchpad still hidden behind the right earbud is also pleasant.

The only real novelty is the integration of a proximity sensor in the left earcup. The latter detects when the headphones are removed and automatically mutes the music. The touch panel will then pause to avoid unintentional touches. If you don’t put the headphones on within five minutes, they will turn off permanently to save power.

Otherwise, it’s all the same, and that’s good. Without artifice, Sony delivers excellent quality headphones, very comfortable and with impeccable finishes. Lightweight, it is suitable for all body types.

Companion app
Like its predecessor, the WH-1000XM4 comes with the Headphones app available on iOS and Android. Sony performs flawlessly and provides everything one would expect from this kind of companion app.

Headphones is divided into three sections. The first “Status” indicates the remaining battery, the environment in which you listen to your music (eg at home) and the track played. A classic but successful appetizer.

The “System” section allows you to manage all the technical aspects of the helmet. For example, you can allow simultaneous connection to two devices, activate or deactivate touch controls or pause the music as soon as you remove the headphones.

Unsurprisingly, the “Sound” tab is the most extensive of the three. In addition to the “talk to chat” function (activate, deactivate, choose the level of detection), the noise canceling optimizer (adapts to each ear canal) or the 360 ​​Reality Audio configuration, this section allows you to choose from 11 audio profiles. Listening: Lively, Enthusiastic, Calm, Relaxed, Singing, Augment. treble, Augment. Bass, Speech, Manual, Custom 1 and Custom 2. Each is fully customizable thanks to a 5-band equalizer as well as a bass adjuster (Clear Bass).

Audio quality
With the WH-1000XM3, Sony already delivered almost perfect headphones. The 1000XM4 stands out as its worthy successor. From a material point of view, nothing (or almost) changes. The headset still incorporates 40mm drivers, the same QN1 processor, DSEE Xtreme technology as well as HiRes Audio, HiRes Wireless Audio and 360 Audio certifications.

Small detail that is still important: the 1000XM4 only supports LDAC, AAC and SBC codecs. The aptX and aptX HD are therefore going by the wayside for an unknown reason since many devices embed these Qualcomm codecs. An insignificant lack since aptX only has HD in name.

The main new features therefore lie in the integration of improved and above all multipoint Bluetooth (finally!) As well as better optimization of the on-board equipment (according to Sony).

In fact, regulars of the 1000XM3 will hardly detect any difference between the two models except for the treble a little more present. But make no mistake, Sony’s signature sound is present, with a dominance of midrange and bass for a rounder and warmer sound.

For the rest, the sound is still as balanced, the dynamics still as striking. The distortion is perfectly contained and the 1000XM4, like its big brother, shines with its versatility. Whether you are lovers of classical music, rock, rap, jazz, metal (in short, any type of music), you will live a delicious experience. Lovers of films, series or podcasts will not shy away from their pleasure either.

This Sony WH-1000XM4 therefore stands out as the worthy successor of the 1000XM3. In short, it borders on perfection.

Active noise reduction
The same goes for active noise reduction. However, Sony claims to have improved the processing algorithm now capable of adapting its parameters up to 700 times per second according to ambient sounds. In a few figures, Sony promises a noise reduction improvement of 15% for continuous noise (moving vehicles such as a car, train, bus, plane) and 20% for variable noise (a horn, a ringing , a laugh, a cry etc.).

In fact, once again difficult to see any difference with the 1000XM3. Not to be offended as the big brother established himself as the benchmark in the matter. The X1000XM4 therefore allows Sony to retain its place on the throne.

For conversations
Like any recent headset, the WH-1000XM4 supports telephone conversations. Sony promises that the microphones to manage noise reduction also serve to filter out ambient sounds when you receive a call.

In fact, the headset is particularly effective in a quiet environment with clear and intelligible sound. In noisy environments, results vary with decibels. Conversations remain clear in a pedestrian street but become completely incomprehensible in a cafe or in a busy street.

Autonomy and recharging
The WH-1000XM4 follows on from the 1000-XM3. Count on 25 hours of battery life with noise reduction permanently activated and listening to music in high definition at a volume of 75%. You can edit up to 35 hours without noise reduction, listening to your music on Spotify (or other non-HD streaming service) with a volume ranging between 50 and 60%. It’s just great.

The WH-1000XM4 charges with a USB-C cable. Charging time will depend on the power supply used. Sony advertises 3 hours for a full charge. I used to go around 2 hours with a fast 18 W charger. I therefore recommend recharging during the night to start again fully in the early morning.

My opinion
With the WH-1000XM4, Sony is one step closer to perfection. Always so comfortable to wear, it still delivers exceptional sound quality and enjoys active noise reduction unmatched on the market. Add to that a very complete companion app and you have one of the best headphones around, if not the best. Still, this 1000XM4 does not provide significant enough improvements to justify the replacement of the 1000XM3, which is already almost perfect. On the other hand, if I had to recommend only headphones for a first purchase, this WH-1000XM4 is definitely the one I would recommend with my eyes closed. A real favorite!

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