The Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones are by a long way the best headphones I have ever used. There are a few compromises of course, and some ideas that have not been perfectly executed. But overall these sound as could as I could hope for, the noise-cancelling is saving my ears and some of the smart features are really handy.
– Excellent sound quality
– Carrying case is really handy
– Noise cancelling is the best I have experienced
– They look sleek, subtle and other than the rose gold/copper accents I really like the look of them
– Incredibly comfortable
– Speak to chat is a big miss for me
– The touch panel takes some getting to used to but once you get the hang of it it works well
– The automatic mode changing was very frustrating before I turned it off
So the packaging for the headphones was great and pretty much what I expected with the price tag for a company like Sony. The carrying case is surprisingly good, it is a great combination of durable, soft and light and everything fits in perfectly, even with marking so you know how to fold the headphones to get them to fit perfectly. The headphones themselves, from the first touch they ooze quality, the plastics are high quality and have a really nice matte finish, and the cushioned parts are extremely soft and luxurious feeling.
So I want to start by saying these are roughly twice the price of what I normally spend on headphones, and I still remember the first time I tried headphones that cost over £100 and that was coming from mainly ones that had been bundled with devices or cheap £20 ones. And I remember being blown away by how they sounded, I still have that pair and I was using them when working from home until these arrived. So I was really hoping these would blow me away in the same way and unfortunately, that just was not the case, these sounded very good and the clarity is incredible but blown away I was not. But now writing this review I decided to compare these to those old headphones and the Sony’s have ruined that previous pair for me, they sound really bad in direct comparison. For those interested, the previous pair were Skullcandy Aviators. I use the Sonys on the ‘excited’ equaliser, in an attempt to make them sound as similar as possible to my Beats X, which I use when these are too big or intrusive.
So probably the biggest selling point of these is the noise-cancelling, which really is top of the industry and I have never experienced anything as good as this. So when having them on with the noise-cancelling active you can still hear loud irregular sounds, but humming sounds are removed completely and all sounds are greatly reduced. But once you start playing some music it does not have to be loud to completely cover the sounds that do make it past. I work in a busy office with lots of people talking and these with music playing at about 25% volume completely removes all other noises even people talking to me.
Speak to chat – this was a big disappointment for me as it was a flagship feature, but the trouble is that it means that if you are alone and talking to yourself (as I often do for work) or singing along to a song then it triggers accidentally and completely breaks any flow you had. The other flaw in the idea is that for the most part, I do not want to keep my headphones on while talking to someone, if I initiate a conversation I will take them off to talk to them out of respect, so this is only really useful if someone starts talking to me, which it does not detect.
Wearing Detection – works perfectly and stops and starts every time I want it to, the only thing I will highlight is that the sensor is only in the left ear cup so if you lift that cup say to scratch and itch then it will pause and if you lift the right cup nothing will happen.
Touch panel – So I really struggled with the touch panel at first, I am pretty sure that it is because I was using the tip of my finger to try and control it which I’m guessing does not provide enough surface area for it to detect. But once I realised this and I now use the side of my finger it works almost perfectly. It would be nice for a couple more controls such as pulling down and holding should lower the volume until you let go, as currently the steps are so small it is annoying to make large adjustments. I ability to completely cover the panel to lower the volume and let in outside noise is great for working out what is going on around you and listening in to something less.
Multi-Device – One of the things I was really concerned with going to these from Beats was losing the ease of changing devices that the apple system provides, but Sonys multi-device pairing does a really good job of handling this, as long as you only want to pair to two devices. Once set up, which is a bit of a pair needed to add the app to each device and pair them with the headphones. It is easy to change between the devices using IOS’ standard output selector.
Automatically Changing Modes – This was possibly one of the biggest annoyances I had with these at first, as I often work from home and that means I get up to go make a coffee or whatnot, but it does not mean that I am at risk of being hit by a car in my home or anything like that, so I had no need for it to change to transparency mode every time I got up from my desk. I understand that this might be useful for some users, but it has been firmly turned off on mine.
The battery life is pretty good, I am not getting the quoted 30 hours, but I am not sure if that is using the full power noise-cancelling and dependant on what is playing at what volume, I am able to make it roughly 2 workdays before needing to charge them, I might get 3 at a push. So 16-24 hours roughly.
Overall I am incredibly happy with these and once tweaked to how I like them they are pretty much perfect for me.