Sony WF-1000XM5 ANC Earbuds: Smaller Yet Mightier!

I think we can agree that the ANC earbuds market is pretty saturated at this point, with noise cancellation even available on buds as low as Rs 2,000. However, what earphones do you get if you want the best ANC performance and the best audio quality? Sony is a brand that has become pretty much synonymous with top-notch music accessories. It has been a little over two years since the Sony WF-1000XM4 took the ANC market by storm. And now, the Sony WF-1000XM5 fell into my lap this week, so I took it for a test run. So, how does the new Sony WF-1000XM5 sound over the previous-gen WF-1000XM4? Here is a quick rundown of all you need to know about Sony’s new WF-1000XM5 earbuds.

Sony WF-1000XM5: What’s in the Box 

Before getting to the testing, let’s talk a bit about the basics. For starters, I really liked the packaging, which concealed the WF-1000XM5. Sony has used their proprietary paper-based environment-friendly original blended material for the packaging, which is great. The same packaging was used for its predecessor as well. 

Inside, you get to see a quick start guide, a 360 Reality Audio music service free trial access code, a USB Type-C cable, as well as three pairs of ear tips. With all of this out of the way, let’s get to the interesting bit.

Sony WF-1000XM5: Design & Build

I have with me the Platinum Silver color variant of the WF-1000XM5, and they look stunning. The XM5 also comes in a Black variant, but I personally like the Platinum Silver a bit more. 

Right off the bat, the Sony WF-1000XM5 seems like a more rounded and compact version of its predecessor, the WF-1000XM4. That is quickly confirmed when you pick the case up and the edges don’t dig into your skin. The charging case comes with this papery texture that feels good in hand. 

When you flip open the case to reveal the earbuds inside, you will be taken aback by how it doesn’t look nearly as bulky as the XM4s. They also feature a glossy finish, unlike the XM4s that flaunted a matte finish. That does automatically attract a lot more dust and smudges, so there’s that. However, the WF-1000XM5’s earbuds do look and feel more premium.

Moreover, we also liked how Sony got rid of the flashier LED towards the front of the case and went with something a bit more discreet on the XM5. These subtle choices automatically give a lot more character to the WF-1000XM5, and we are all for it. 

Sony WF-1000XM5: Comfort & Fit

If you are going wireless with your music, you are mostly going to leave those earbuds in for hours on end. When that happens, an earbud that does not come with the best fit for your ears will definitely be painful to wear for that long.  The good thing is that the WF-1000XM5s are not just 25% smaller and around 20% lighter than the XM4s, Sony has also bundled memory foam tips with it for enhanced versatility and an airtight hearing experience. 

To further enhance your experience, there are three additional ear tips of varying sizes in the box. So, in case the default ones are not the best fit for your ears, you can give those a try. Personally, I found the pre-installed ear tips to be very comfortable. 

In addition, we also gave it the compulsory head shake test, and it passed with flying decibels. There is some excellent weight balancing at play with the WF-1000XM5, which makes them sit comfortably in your ears without having to constantly adjust them. 

To top it all off, Sony also claims that the earbuds come with an IPX4 water resistance rating. For those unaware, this means that you can sweat it out at the gym with these earbuds on without having to worry about a thing. The IPX4 rating also ensures that the earbuds can resist splashes and a little bit of downpour too. 

I had these on when brisk walking back home and not only did I sweat profusely, but also met with a sudden drizzle. The earbuds plowed through it all without breaking a sweat and providing uninterrupted music at the same time. Reliable, indeed. All-in-all, Sony has really outdone itself in the comfort department with the WF-1000XM5.

Sony WF-1000XM5: Audio Quality

Since it’s a Sony 1000X series product, I automatically had a lot of expectations in terms of audio quality going in. On paper, it packs all the good stuff like a bone conduction sensor, AI algorithm-based noise reduction, and whatnot. All of these features are backed by Sony’s newly developed Integrated Processor V2 that pushes the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN2e to its utmost potential.

Sony also threw in LDAC and DSEE Extreme support with High-Res audio alongside a Dynamic Driver X to the mix to make for an impressive specs sheet. Moreover, each earbud features a quad microphone setup for improving both noise cancellation and ambient sound capture. So, does the Sony WF-1000XM5 just look good on paper?

That’s not the case, and in fact, I was surprised by how well the on-paper specifications translate into delivering a premium experience in the audio department. Once you get past the tedious app setup (more on this later), it’s all platinum from there. From wearing it in extreme traffic congestion to testing it indoors in noisy environments, I gave the Sony WF-1000XM5 a whirl in practically any day-to-day scenario you can think of. 

The moment you put them on, these earbuds trap you in a bubble that you just don’t want to burst out of. That’s how good the ANC is, and well, I never had to go beyond 60% of my smartphone volume. On my laptop, even lower. I maxed out my volume across multiple devices and there was zero distortion. The clarity was mind-boggling. Moreover, the Transparency Mode on the XM5 is plain splendid.

Not going to lie, I sure did feel like Daredevil when someone right behind me was typing aggressively and the WF-1000XM5 amplified that. Additionally, you can further enhance the audio experience with the 360 Reality Audio feature, using any of the three listed apps within the Sony Headphone Connect app.

The bass, highs, and lows are all very nicely calibrated out of the box. When watching live shows on YouTube, I noticed how nicely both the vocals and instruments were hitting the spot without overpowering each other. So, there’s very little that I had to tweak in the app, which is always a good thing. If you find yourself tweaking the settings constantly, it obviously indicates that you are not satisfied and are just trying to squeeze your money’s worth out somehow. So, good job in providing an already balanced default audio set on the 1000XM5, Sony. 

The cherry on top is the microphone quality that the earbuds bring to the table using the quad microphone setup. I took several calls with these on and no matter where I was, I never got a “huh?” from anyone. I easily derived from this that the other person can hear me crystal clear. So could I, and that was honestly a relief. No matter how noisy the environment, I could always rely on the Sony WF-1000XM5 to isolate unwanted sounds and deliver a top-of-the-line calling experience.

Overall, they deliver and stay true to Sony’s legacy and are certainly better than its predecessor. Not by a mile, but there sure is a noticeable improvement in sound quality.

Sony Headphone Connect App

So, previously, I was talking about how tedious setting up your earbuds with this application was. Let’s talk about that. Mind you, this is not a bad app at all. Signing into any app is easy nowadays, right? However, the Headphone Connect app took me a bit of time as I first had to create a Sony account and then merge it into my Google account. Then finally, I could get to using the Sony WF-1000XM5 in peace.

The overall app experience makes the hassle rewarding. There are 4 primary tabs in the app – Status, Sound, System, and Services. Using the app, you can toggle on/off Adaptive Sound Control. You can also manage Multi-Device Connect (allows you to stay connected to two devices at one time if you have it turned on under the System tab). There’s also an Activity panel in the app that showcases Total Use Time and provides a Safe Volume Control toggle switch as well. In addition, you also get to see Badges that you have acquired upon using the application.

Meanwhile, the Sound tab is where you will mostly find yourself visiting. Here, you can manage ANC and Ambient Sound (Transparency mode) modes. You can also toggle on the Speak-to-Chat feature if you want the earbuds to automatically shift between ANC and Ambient Sound modes. I had it turned on at first, but then turned it off since the earbuds constantly shifting to Ambient Sound mode at the minutest of external sounds was an annoyance. 

The System tab allows you to assign specific actions to double-taps and triple-taps in the Quick Access menu. You can also turn on Head Gesture, which allows you to pick up calls by nodding while declining calls with a horizontal head shake. You can link your Spotify account in the Services tab for quick one-tap access, which is a nifty feature. 

These are a few of the many things you can do with the application, making the Sony WF-1000XM5 all the more a delightful experience. However, I did note that the Headphone Connect app running in the background did significantly cut down my smartphone’s screen on time.

Sony WF-1000XM5: Battery Life & Charging

Sony claims that the WF-1000XM5s can deliver a battery life of up to 8 hours. This goes up to 24 hours with the charging case. Moreover, Sony also claims that the earbuds can deliver up to an hour of battery backup with just 3 minutes of charging. So, I decided to put this to the test. 

With my volume anywhere between 50-60% and ANC turned on, I got somewhere around 5 hours of battery backup, which is pretty good. I’m guessing turning off the ANC will easily deliver the promised backup of the earbuds. Moreover, the case and earbuds do charge pretty quickly so, I didn’t have to leave it plugged in for too long. 

I also like how these earbuds individually showcase every percent of battery they are losing in real-time instead of showing a loss of 10% at one go. The app constantly showed me the earbuds and case battery percentage in my notification bar, which was helpful. Moreover, Sony WF-1000XM5s also pack Qi wireless charging technology, so that worked pretty well too. 

In terms of battery life, the XM5s are pretty similar to their predecessor. The XM4s brought a pretty similar battery performance to the table. So, nothing much has changed on that front. 

Sony WF-1000XM5 TWS: Pros & Cons

Amazing battery lifeApp setup can be a little time-consuming
Super lightweight and comfortable to wear
ANC and Transparency Modes work well

Sony WF-1000XM5: Should You Buy It?

That brings me to the end of this hands-on impression of the Sony WF-1000XM5, which is priced at Rs 24,999 in India. Now, the Sony WH-1000XM5, which is basically the headphone version of these earbuds is available at pretty much the same price in the Indian market. So, it really just boils down to whether you want a headphone or an earbud. 

All things considered, the Sony WF-1000XM5 is one of the most near-perfect ANC earbuds that we have had in quite some time now, making them stand out from the crowd. With the WF-1000XM5, we have to state that Sony is the undisputed king of ANCs for a reason. 

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