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Sony WH-1000XM4 noise cancelling headphones review – smart with excellent sound

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  • VERDICT

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are not only one of the best sounding headphones you can buy, they are also one of the smartest. They allow you to be in a world of your own with excellent noise cancellation or part of the conversation while you’re still wearing them.

Sony’s new WH-1000XM4 noise cancelling headphones are not only a huge improvement in audio quality but also include a range of intelligent features that take into account where you are, what you’re doing and even when you’re talking.

Priced at $549.95, the fourth generation of Sony’s premium headphones offer an impressive level of personalisation to improve your listening experience and adjust the sound and level of noise cancellation based on your surroundings and if you’re sitting, standing or walking.

The new Speak-to-Chat feature is a game changer.

While listening to music, the user just has to start speaking and the music will pause without the need to press a button or remove the headphones.

The microphones recognise your voice and stop the music and lets in ambient sound.

This means can walk up and order a coffee, walk in to the gym or have a conversation and clearly hear everything without taking the headphones off.

After 30 seconds the music starts up again. But that’s a long 30 seconds – be better if it was just 15 seconds.

Design-wise, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are almost identical to the previous model with a soft leather finish and soft foam on the earcups and headband so they are quite comfortable.

Sony has managed to find a new level of noise cancellation with the WH-1000XM4 thanks to the onboard Dual Sensor technology which can detect outside noise and pass the data onto the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1.

Then the Bluetooth Audio SoC (system on chip) swings into action and adjusts the music accordingly with more than 700 calculations per second.

This noise cancellation processing is calculated in real time thanks to a new algorithm so the user can listen to their music with no interruptions.

Sony also uses Edge-AI with DSEE Extreme which can rebuild audio lost during digital compression to give listeners a higher fidelity experience.

To achieve this Edge-AI is able to analyse music in real time and even recognise instruments, music genres and individual elements of a song to rebuild the sounds lost in compression for a more complete and richer sound.

Sony worked with Sony Music to develop this technology and to learn how specific music signals are composed.

All that adds up to stunning audio quality with a noticeable improvement over the excellent predecessors – the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones.

Apart from the improved noise cancellation, the new Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones also manage to achieve a new level of clarity and scale with the same solid level of bass of last year’s model.

The new headphones also offer 360 Reality Audio which is supported by streaming services like Tidal, 360 by Deezer and nugs.net.

It’s like surround sound for music with the usual left and right separation along with other directional movement so music appears to come from behind you, in front and even above you.

It’s a remarkable, immersive sensation that’s demonstrated within the Sony Headphones Connect app.

Speaking of the app, we would have to say it is one of best companion apps to a pair of headphones or earphones we’ve ever seen.

There are so any controls and settings at your disposal to optimise the audio quality to your ears.

Your ears come in to play when optimising the noise cancellation – and we’re not talking about your hearing. We actually mean photographing your ears.

It’s all done through the app which can automatically capture an image when it detects your ear after turning your head left or right .

The images are sent to a Sony server so the shape of your ears can be analysed and used in the noise cancellation optimisation calculation.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones also have Adaptive Sound Control which can detect whether you’re sitting, walking, running or on public transport.

The app can then apply adjustments to ambient sound control of the level of noise cancellation.

For example, if you’re walking or running you’d like to be able to hear your surroundings and nearby traffic.

Quick Attention mode is activated by placing your hand over the right earcup to lower the volume and allow ambient sound in.

And when you take off the headphones, the proximity sensors and two acceleration sensors immediately detect it and pause your music until you put the headphones back on again.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 include Precise Voice Pickup Technology which utilises five microphones to pick up voices clearly for phone calls and the Speak-to-Chat feature.

The calls we made during our review were loud and clear and we were also coming through loud and clear for our caller at the other end as well.

Another handy feature of the headphones is the ability to connect two Bluetooth devices at same time so you can have a listening session with a friend.

The battery on the Sony WH-1000XM4 can run for up to an amazing 30 hours on a single charge. It also has quick charging so you can get up to five hours of listening time after just 10 minutes of charging.

The headphones also support Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa which are just a command away.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones will be available this month and will be priced at $549.95.

VERDICT

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are not only one of the best sounding headphones you can buy, they are also one of the smartest. They allow you to be in a world of your own with excellent noise cancellation or part of the conversation while you’re still wearing them.