Earlier in July, Sony announced its WF-1000XM5. Loving the new earbuds isn’t hard, especially if you, like me, found its predecessor, the WF-1000XM4, to be just as elegant and alluring at first glance. With this generation of earbuds, the brand has made some rather significant changes to it, both on the inside and outside.
What Am I Looking At?
The WF-1000XM5 is physically smaller than the 1000XM4s in virtually every way. By Sony’s own admission, the company says that it has managed to reduce the size of the charging case by approximately 25%, while the earbuds themselves have been shrunk down by around 15%. In comparison to their predecessor, of course. The shrinking in size means that Sony also had to get creative with the way the components make for a seamless design all around.
For a start, the microphones of the WF-1000XM5 earbuds are flushed and do not jut out the back, unlike the WF-1000XM4. Internally, each earbud houses a new Dynamic Drive X that reproduces a much richer listening experience and wider frequency coverage. More on that later.
Moving on, the WF-1000XM5 also houses the 2nd generation QN2e HD Noise Cancelling processor and V2 Integrated Processor, allowing for these earbuds to process 24-bit audio and keep distortion low.
The WF-1000XM5 is also the first pair of earbuds from Sony to introduce the Head Gesture control that allows you to answer or reject calls with head movement, support for Spotify Tap, but above all else, support for multi-device connectivity.
What’s Good About It?
Let’s start with the audio quality. With the WF-1000XM5, there is a focus on the highs and mids. They’re much, much brighter compared to the 1000XM4, along with a vibrancy that the previous generation Sony earbuds lacked. This makes them great for an overall listening experience with folk, pop, instrumental, and jazz tracks, such as Matthew Schwanke’s Burning Daylight, or anything by the Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi, or the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
With that previous statement, the bass or low pitch of the WF-1000XM5 are, surprisingly, neither the focus nor the priority here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely there and mercifully, you feel it rattle the back of your skull, rather than hear it pounding into your eardrums. But compared to earbuds from other brands, it effectively takes a backseat with these ones, meaning that the percussions in tracks such as Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelt’s Digging My Potato feel less evocative, while the bass line in Stacey Kent’s Venus de Milo feels less impactful.
The ANC function is also improved, with the sound pressure level (SPL) feeling less imposing and insisting on my ears. It feels…cleaner and more comfortable, but truth be told, they’re not as comfortable as the Technics AZ80 that I tested not too long back. Still on the subject of comfort, once I switched out the ear tips for the biggest pair provided by Sony, I could leave them inside my ears for the working day, only taking them out when I needed to charge them.
The ambient sound function is also improved. When maxed out on the dedicated Sony Headphones app, every sound in my surroundings is clear, to the point that it picks up what would otherwise be near pin-drop noises, if I weren’t wearing the WF-1000XM5.
Then there is the 8-hour battery life that Sony likes to tout with the WF-1000XM5 and the good news is, that posturing is still valid, legit even. What makes them even better is that the endurance last either with ANC or the Ambient Sound function active. On that note, I think it prudent to mention that, unlike the WF-1000XM4, the 3rd “Off” function that you activate by tapping the sensor on the left earbud – you can customise this via the Headphones app but by default, it is always relegated to the left earbud – is off deactivated by default, so you will need to turn it on via the app.
What’s The Catch?
For whatever, Sony decided to go with an all-glossy surface and material when it built the WF-1000XM5. As a result, this makes taking out the earbuds a lot trickier than their predecessor, which actually employs a mix of matte and glossy material. I honestly lost count of the times I have failed to pick them out of their charging case in one fell swoop, let alone fumble them while trying to take them out.
The all-glossy material also makes the WF-1000XM5 absolute finger magnets. Of course, you’re not going to be paying attention to said blemishes, but it is difficult to ignore it when you’re squarely staring at them upon opening the casing.
Also, with regards to head gesture function that the WF-1000XM5 features, the “headshake” only rejects calls but doesn’t end it, which doesn’t feel like Sony made full use of the function but to be fair, there are people who can get rather animated with their gestures during a phone call, and I think the last thing folks would want is their vigorous headshakes accidentally ending a call, especially when they’re getting to juiciest bit of a story.
Lastly, there’s the official price tag of the WF-1000XM5. At RM1,399, these earbuds are RM300 more expensive than when the WF-1000XM4 launched and while I can argue that they are better in terms of audio quality, Sony’s new selling price now effectively puts it up squarely against more premium brands, such as Bowers & Wilkins, Technics, Klipsch, and even Marshall.
Should I Buy It?
If I am to sum up the Sony WF-1000XM5 in just one word, it would be this: refinement. While the WF-1000XM4 gave the world a fresh new spherical design, the 1000XM5 is an improvement on that, and with a smaller footprint to boot. My only concerns about these earbuds if whether or not the conditions of the eartips will deteriorate over time, the same way the eartips of its predecessors did. For that matter, there are also reports that the left earbud may be suffering from the same battery-draining issue as the left earbud of the 1000XM4, but to date, I have yet to experience such problems with my unit.
Nevertheless, the WF-1000XM5 are Sony’s most polished pair of TWS earbuds that I have used from the brand. Then as now, I say unto you: these earbuds are worth haemorrhaging your wallet for.
Photography by John Law.
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