Review: Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless earbuds deliver outstanding audio and noise-cancelling

Daniel Rutledge reviews Sony's WF-1000XM4 earbuds for Newshub.
The WF-1000XM4 is releasing in New Zealand in mid-July. Photo credit: Newshub.

Sony has unveiled its latest truly wireless headphones model, the WF-1000XM4, set to be released in New Zealand next month.

The Japanese tech company's 2021 earbuds are a premium priced product that offers a few improvements over the previous WF-1000XM3.

But how well does it compete among the increasingly crowded earbuds market?

I've been using the Sony WF-1000XM4 for the past week and here are my thoughts.

The good

These are the best sounding set of earbuds I've used so far. They sound absolutely fantastic.

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 is the only rival I've reviewed that has audio quality about as good as the WF-1000XM4, but to my ears this latest release from Sony outperforms even those on the bass front. It's noise-cancelling is also better.

Sony is one of the best audio brands in the world and this is the very latest in their headphone range, boasting a few new innovations in the noise-cancelling and sound quality realms.

Sony WF-1000XM4 in ear headphones.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Specifically, promotional materials point to a newly designed Integrated Processor V1, LDAC high-resolution audio technology and the WF-1000XM4's new 6mm driver unit with a 20 percent increase in magnet volume as important factors in its improved sound.

The full tech specs and audio tests will be online soon for you audiophiles - but for the more casual user, rest assured that there's a massive amount of tech in these things that means they sound very, very good. 

Get the right ear tip of the three sizes provided and the noise-cancelling is as close to over-ear headphones as I've experienced with earbuds, too.

Pretty much the only major complaint about Sony's previous earbuds release was around the battery life and that has been satisfyingly improved upon.

The WF-1000XM4s give you around eight hours with a full charge, with another 16 from the case before you need to charge that.

Sony WF-1000XM4 review.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Helpfully, the app now tells you when case is below 30 percent, too. Wireless Qi charging technology has also been thrown in.

Similarly to Sony's over-ear wonders the WH-1000XM4, there's wind noise reduction and voice amplification tech in these buds that mean having phone calls with them sounds clearer on both ends, even if you're in a noisy situation.

They're also nice and comfortable in pretty much any setting - perhaps with the exception of lying on your side with them on in bed. That's certainly not unbearable, but I could definitely feel them. 

Trendy new '360 Reality Audio' technology is also thrown in, which I'm not 100 percent sold on yet, but it's there if you're into it.

Sony WF-1000XM4 charging case.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The bad

The price is right up there - this launches for around $500 in Aotearoa. However you look at it, that's a lot of money for earbuds.

The WF-1000XM4s are nice and comfy, but I'm not convinced they're secure in my ears. A friend lost a set of previous generation Sony earbuds by having one pop out as she stopped by a busy street and I'm always a little worried about that happening with these.

They also only have an IPX4 rating, which will theoretically protect against a light rain - but heavy rain, a super sweaty workout or an accidental fall into a drink could stuff them. 

There are plenty of other earbuds on the market that offer greater protection from liquids and dust, so if durability is more important to you than overall quality, look elsewhere.

The basic touch functionality also isn't as good as some other earbuds in that it doesn't offer volume control as a default.

Touching the left ear cycles between active noise-cancelling and ambient sound, while the right stops and starts music, or skips forward tracks.

New Zealand release and price of Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds.
Photo credit: Newshub.

You can map volume up and down to the controls through the Sony Headphones Connect app, but that's a step you have to take that you don't with other brands.  

If I can get even pettier with my bad points in this review, one thing I always struggle with is the naming conventions of Sony devices.

Honestly, the Bluetooth section of my phone's settings is all just a mishmash of weird codenames: XAV-68BT, MHC-V73D, WH-1000XM4, WF-1000XM4 - you get the idea.

Compared to 'Daniel's AirPods', that's a bit of a mess.

The verdict

Sony's latest earbuds deliver the brand's best audio quality and active noise-cancelling (ANC) it's yet achieved with in-ear headphones.

The WF-1000XM4 costs a lot, but it is very much a premium product.

If it's in your price range and you value audio quality over everything else, you won't be disappointed.

Newshub was supplied a pair of Sony WF-1000XM4s for this review.