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Sony WF-1000XM4 Review: Best TWS Earphones Money Can Buy
Sony is known for a lot of things; it makes high-end cameras, gaming consoles, and even earphones. The company recently brought its most expensive TWS (truly wireless stereo) -- the Sony WF-1000XM4 earphones to India, which currently retails for Rs. 19,990.
- Best-in-class ANC
- All-day battery life
- Plenty of features
- Eco-friendly packing
- No option to switch between two devices
Considering the price, the Sony WF-1000XM4 competes against the likes of the Apple AirPods Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. Is the Sony WF-1000XM4 worth the money and better than the other premium TWS in the market? Here is my review of the Sony WF-1000XM4, which possibly answers all these questions and more.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Specifications
- Driver Unit: 6mm
- Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20,000Hz(44.1kHz sampling) / 20Hz - 40,000Hz(LDAC 96kHz sampling, 990kbps)
- Supported Codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
- Waterproof Rating: IPX4
- Bluetooth Version: 5.2
- Weight: 41 grams
Sony WF-1000XM4 Design: Unique And Practical
While most TWS earphones usually mimic Apple AirPods in one way or the other, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is one of the few designs that look unique and still does not compromise on any of the features that one might look for on a wireless earphone of this class.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is available in two colors -- black and silver with a hint of rose gold or gold, giving the earphone a two-tone finish. Both variants have a matte finish, and I have been testing the silver color variant of the Sony WF-1000XM4. Although it says silver, it looks light brownish-grey.
The case of the Sony WF-1000XM4 matches the earbuds with the Sony logo on the top. It also has a USB Type-C port for charging and also supports Qi wireless charging. There is also an LED indicator on the charging cradle which shows different colors, depending on the charge percentage.
Coming back to the earphones, when compared to most in-ear TWS earphones, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is slightly on the larger side, as they pack a large battery, capable of delivering eight hours of battery life on a single charge. There are no LED indicators on the earphone, which is something I really prefer.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 also comes with eco-friendly packing, which is made using recycled paper. In addition to the earphones, the retail package also includes two additional pairs of ear tips (small and large) and a short USB Type-C cable for charging.
I was not a huge fan of the Sony WF-1000XM3, which looked slightly generic in my opinion. However, the Sony WF-1000XM4 looks unique and is definitely one of the best-looking TWS earphones in the market. Even the ear tips call for a special mention, which uses foam-like material, which helps to offer a better seal, improving the ANC effect.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Features: Everything Thing That One Might Expect From Premium TWS
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is definitely one of the most feature-rich TWS earphones I have tested so far. Unlike an AirPods Pro or the Galaxy Buds Pro, the Sony WF-1000XM4 works well with both Android and iOS devices, hence no matter which smartphone you have, you will be able to explore all the features of the Sony WF-1000XM4 via the Sony Headphones app.
Speak-To-Chat Works As Advertised
One of the unique features of the Sony WF-1000XM4 is the speak-to-chat feature, which will pause the music or the audio as soon as you start talking. Although I enjoyed this feature at first, being someone who sometimes hums a song while playing ended up disabling this feature as the music would stop as soon as I started to hum.
However, pressing the left earbud for a second will enable the quick attention feature, which also pauses the music as long as you hold onto the earbud. This is one feature that I mostly used when I was outside and wanted to make a quick conversation, that too without pausing the music or taking the earbud out.
Multiple Touch Gestures
One of the really interesting aspects of the Sony WF-1000XM4 is that the touch gestures are programmable. Although I mostly stuck with the default settings, where the right earbud can be used to pause, play, and skip music, and the left earbud can be used to switch between ambiance and ANC mode.
Do note that, you can also customize these settings with the Sony Headphones app to get volume controls on the earbuds. A single tap on the right earbud will pause or play, a double-tap will play the next song, and a triple tap will play the previous song. Long pressing the right earbud on the Sony WF-1000XM4 will trigger the Google Assistant.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Ambient Sound Review
The ambient sound mode on the Sony WF-1000XM4 lets you hear the sound from the surrounding. What's interesting is the fact that although I was listening to a computer-processed noise, it sounded natural, and there is even an option to choose the amount of ambient sound that one wants to listen to, which ranges from 1 to 20.
This feature is useful for those, who might want to listen to music when jogging or rubbing and still want to be aware of the things happening around them. This will let you listen to your music or podcast while still not blocking the sound from the surrounding.
Sony WF-1000XM4 ANC Review
ANC or active noise cancellation is pretty hard to implement, especially in the TWS format, as they don't cover the ears fully. However, after using the Sony WF-1000XM4, I felt that the ANC on this earphone is better than the AirPods Pro. I tested both earphones with the iPhone 12 Pro, and the ANC effect on the Sony WF-1000XM4 was far superior.
Do note that, although it does a good job of blocking the external noise, the noise cancellation is not as good when compared to the over-the-ear headphones. If you are keen on getting the most effective headphones for ANC, you might have to choose something like the Sony WH-1000XM4, which is also in a similar price range.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Audio Performance
Sony products are always known for stellar audio performance, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 is no different. The earphones have enough bass and offer clear low and mid and do not sound muddy even at the higher volume level. What is more interesting is the fact that the sound quality remains the same even in the ANC and ambiance sound mode.
There are also various audio profiles such as vocal, which highlights the mids, relaxed, which almost has a flat curve, mellow, which is again similar to relaxed, excited which has high treble, bright, a mode with an emphasis on mids and highs. Similarly, there are two fully customizable profiles to fine-tune the sound just the way you like.
I mostly tested the Sony WF-1000XM4 earphones in the equalized mode, which tends to offer a lot of clarity on the mids with plenty of thumping bass. My next favorite equalized profile was the treble boost, which, as the name suggests boosts the treble, which will let you hear a bit more from your regular music.
While the Sony WF-1000XM4 also supports 3D audio technology on apps like Artist Connection and nugs.net, I really didn't feel much of a difference from the regular stereo music. Besides, there is also an option to analyze your ear by taking pictures of your ear.
If you are an Android user, you can also select between sound quality and stable connection. For better quality, the earphones use the LDAC codec, which is not supported on iPhones. However, most mid-range and high-end Android phones support LDAC, which offers a higher data transmission rate when compared to something like AAC. This also gives a lot of control to users when it comes to audio quality and stable connection.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Microphone Review
The Sony WF-1000XM4 has four microphones with two on each earbud. I have talked on calls hours via the Sony WF-1000XM4 and had no issues when it comes to sound quality or eve connection. I also recorded plenty of voiceovers using the Sony WF-1000XM4 in the ANC mode, which also does a good job of recording my voice and removing the surrounding sound.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Battery Life
The Sony WF-1000XM4 claims to offer eight hours of battery life on a single charge. In my use case, the earbuds set to 100 percent of the volume easily delivered around five and a half hours of battery life with a mix of ambiance mode and ANC mode while music playing in the background for the majority of the time.
The case can offer additional 16 hours of battery life, or the earbuds can be charged twice using the case. For most users, the earbuds can easily last for an entire working day without any issue. On top of that, they also come with a quick charge feature. Charging the earbuds for 5 minutes can deliver 60 minutes of battery life. Overall, they last more than the AirPods Pro without any issue.
Verdict: Power-Packed TWS With Almost No Compromise
When I first took the Sony WF-1000XM4 out of the box, I was really worried if these earbuds will cause ear pain, given their massive size. However, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is definitely one of the most comfortable earphones that I used so far, as they are very comfortable, especially if either of the ear tips offers a snug fit. For me, the medium-sized ear tips just worked fine.
At an asking price of Rs. 20,000, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is definitely not for everyone. One can easily find a TWS for less than a quarter of this price and could get most of these features. However, if you want all these features and want a reliable and premium TWS, then the Sony WF-1000XM4 is one of the few options, which is definitely at par if not better than the AirPods Pro.
There is one caveat, where you cannot switch between two devices or connect to two devices simultaneously. If you want to switch to another device, say from a smartphone to a laptop, the earphone has to be disconnected manually and connect to the new device.
Almost every feature on the Sony WF-1000XM4 works as advertised and this is probably the best cross-platform TWS that works well on both Android and iOS devices. If you are in the market for a premium TWS, then definitely check out the Sony WF-1000XM4 before considering the other options.