While Sony may not be great with their naming techniques (I mean, “WF” and “WH” – both the prefixes for noise canceling devices and then 1000???) but they are great at technology. Their WF-1000XM3 noise canceling earbuds were already pretty good but it appears that the XM4 models have made big improvements.
The New Sony WF-1000XM4 Noise Canceling Earbuds – Apple AirPods Pro Killer?
Link: Sony WF-1000XM4 Noise Canceling Earbuds – $278 (this is an affiliate link that supports the site)
Before we start, let me clear up some confusion for anyone wondering – Sony has their noise canceling headphones and their top models are named the (bolding mine) WH-1000XM4 while their noise canceling earbuds are named the WF-1000XM line. That’s right, just one letter separates two separate kinds of ear devices.
Ok, now that this is out of the way, let’s take a look at the new Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds to see what’s new (I will be reviewing them soon). If you want to see my earlier review of the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds, check it out here.
While I really liked the XM3 models, there were a few things that I thought could be better after I used them for a while. One of them was fit and this is not a knock against Sony as they had included six different tips in the packaging (3 is standard with many earbuds) but my ears just did not work great with them. This is why I didn’t fault Sony for this because ear fit is a very subjective thing.
Another thing was the size of the charging case. Apple has really done a good job with their charging cases for their AirPods and AirPod Pro earbuds – small even though they include wireless charging. The Sony earbud charging case was something larger. Not terrible but certainly not something that fit as comfortable as the Apple ones do in a pocket.
The last thing was that it wasn’t water and sweat resistant. Again, it wasn’t being marketed as such but with a pricey pair of earbuds that work great as lifestyle earbuds (having noise cancellation, able to take and use anywhere and good battery life), it was a disappointment to not have sweat resistance for things like workouts or even just sweating while walking.
However, for me, I don’t even find the AirPods Pro great for running so have another pair that I think is the best fitness earbuds ever – I will have a two year review coming up soon. 🙂
What is New with the Sony WF-1000XM4 Noise Canceling Earbuds?
Early reviewers say that the noise cancellation on the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds are much improved with The Verge saying it comes close to even competing against over-ear headphones. That is quite a claim and something that could definitely set the Sony above other competing earbuds. This is likely due to Sony’s new V1 chip that works to create a better noise canceling experience.
Another thing is that they are now IPX4 rated which means having resistance against water and sweat proof. In reality, it covers against splashes but you aren’t going to be dunking them in water or the pool.
In the fit category, they may well be a better fit for many as Sony has ditched their previous design choice on the XM3 earbuds and have gone with more of a slight in-ear design that is 10% smaller though users say it seems even smaller than that. Speaking of size, Sony shrunk the charging case as well, making it 40% smaller than the previous case. Definitely a win and a case that should fit inside pockets. Also, they have added wireless charging to them.
The battery life is better, too, with a rated time of 8 hours for noise cancellation during audio playing. If you shut the noise cancellation off, you will get 12 hours. Both of those are huge leaps ahead of competitors like Bose and Apple.
Lastly, Sony has again tuned these earbuds for sound quality so if you like how Sony handles sound quality (and they have an app that lets you tune the audio for yourself), you should really like these.
One thing that is a bit of a disappointment is that it doesn’t support multi-device pairing. You can pair to different devices but you don’t get the ability to seamlessly switch between two different devices, something the big headphone brother, the WH-1000XM4, does have.
Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Apple AirPods Pro
Now, this isn’t entirely fair to say since the AirPods Pro are now almost two years old and a new model is rumored to be out next year. But, I can say a couple of things that make this current matchup a winner for the Sony and likely a winner against even the next version of Apple AirPods Pro.
First of all is the use of USB C charging. Almost every thing electronic I have charges via USB C. It makes traveling and charging super easy. This list includes my tablet, laptop, camera, headphones, running earbuds – that’s all stuff that can charge from a single USB C cable. What doesn’t? My iPhone. AirPods share the same charging port, the lightning port, so that means you can use your iPhone charging cable but I really wish that Apple would move away from that. I understand still using that for iPhones since accessories are built around that connector but it makes no sense to have their audio devices charge with it also.
Another thing that Sony has Apple beat at is the app. Apple chooses to go with the simplicity model with their audio devices so you are not able to really get into an app and adjust the sound and tone to your preference. Sony has a great app that can be set on automatic to allow it to sense your movement and position to dial in the appropriate noise cancellation. You get none of that with the Apple devices, even the high-priced AirPods Pro Max headphones.
Battery life is something that I see Sony retaining the crown on. Apple has showed that they prefer to build different features/function into their wearable devices without increasing battery duration. I would imagine that this would be the same with the next edition of the AirPods Pro. They may squeeze an extra hour out but they will not sacrifice the look for battery life so Sony will continue to dominate here.
Cost is one way that Apple beats the Sony. The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds are out of the gate at the price of $278 while the AirPods Pro can often be had for $199, down from their retail price of $249.
I have tried most of the earbuds available and I can say that my current favorite has been the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. Those are not even a year old and I found the fit to be extraordinary since it uses multi-point touch to ensure a tighter fit. Yet, they were comfortable and Bose’s app is still better than the one Apple does not have.
But, this new release by Sony could make their noise canceling earbuds be at the front of a crowded pack of noise canceling earbuds – and for a while.