The heat in the earphone market just turned up a notch today with Sony’s announcement of the WF-1000XM4, the brand’s latest true wireless earbuds. Sony says the new WF-1000XM4 earbuds have industry-leading noise-canceling and improved sound quality. Unlike the previous WF-1000XM3 model, the earbuds also look less bulky and Sony says the shape of the earpieces has been designed to fit every ear.
The WF-1000XM4 feature a new Integrated Processor V1 with improved noise cancellation that uses less power than the previous model. The earbuds have two noise-sensor microphones fitted in each earpiece that pick up ambient sounds before analyzing and removing the unwanted noise from the audio signal.
Sony has opted to use a 6mm dynamic driver that has 20% more magnet volume than the old model which also improves the WF-1000XM4’s noise-canceling capabilities. The increase in magnet volume coupled with a high compliance diaphragm that delivers improved performance in the low frequencies while enhancing noise canceling by generating a high-precision cancellation signal to the low-frequency range.
The ear tips provided with the WF-1000XM4 feature an improved fit thanks to a polyurethane foam material that is both soft and elastic. The tips maximize the surface contact area between the tip and the ear canal. This eliminates gaps for better sound isolation and reduced noise. The new tip material improves adhesion to the ear canal for a more stable fit while Automatic Wind Noise Reduction mode can detect when it’s windy and automatically suppress the noise.
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The WF-1000XM4 earbuds support Hi-Res audio thanks to Sony’s LDAC high-end audio codec. LDAC can transmit approximately three times more data (at the maximum Bluetooth transfer rate of 990 kbps. The result is a sound that’s closer to the quality of a wired pair of earbuds, but you do need a device that supports LDAC, which rules out Apple iOS devices. Additionally, the earbud can switch to AAC codec for devices that don’t support LDAC.
Also included in the earbuds is Speak-to-Chat. This was first introduced on Sony’s WH-1000XM4 model and enables the user to have short conversations without taking their earbuds out. As soon as the wearer speaks to someone, Speak-to-Chat kicks in by pausing the music and enabling ambient sounds to be fed through to the earpieces, making conversations easier. Once the chat is over, the music resumes automatically.
‘Quick Attention’ is another special mode available on the WF-1000XM4. If the user wants to listen to an announcement or say something briefly to someone else, they can simply place a finger over the left earbud to decrease the volume instantly and enable ambient sound to be relayed to the earpiece.
Another feature on the WF-1000XM4 is Adaptive Sound Control. This senses where a user is and what they are doing, whether that be traveling, walking or waiting. The mode adjusts the ambient sound settings for the ideal listening experience. Users can even choose to have Adaptive Sound Control learn to recognize places they frequently visit, such as an office, gym or a favorite café. The earphones will then tailor the sound to suit the situation when they arrive.
The new earbuds have instant pause and play simply by taking an earbud out of an ear. The music stops, thanks to a proximity sensor that detects if a user is wearing one or both earbuds. The music starts again as soon as the earbud is replaced in the ear.
Sony also says hands-free calling is now better on the WF-1000XM4 thanks to Precise Voice Pickup Technology. By combining Precise Voice Pickup Technology with a bone-conduction sensor, the WF-1000XM4 can pick up the user’s voice clearly and accurately for better quality hands-free calls. Beamforming microphones are calibrated to only pick up sounds coming from the user’s mouth.
With an improved signal-to-noise ratio, Sony claims the microphones can catch every word, even when there’s lots of ambient noise. The bone-conduction sensor only picks up vibrations from the user’s voice and doesn’t register any ambient sound which means clearer phone calls. The noise-canceling function adds to the calling experience so the user can hear the person on the other end of the call more clearly, even in noisy situations.
Since introducing the world’s first in-ear headphones in 1982, Sony has analyzed huge amounts of data concerning the shape of the human ear from all over the world. The WF-1000XM4 earbuds are a product of that research, combining a shape that matches the ear cavity with a new ergonomic surface designed to create a more stable fit.
The Sony Headphones Connect app can take the user through a few simple measurements to work out the ideal size of Noise Isolation earbud tips to use for the best sound quality and isolation. The WF-1000XM4 are also smaller and lighter being up to 10% smaller than the previous generation earbuds without compromising on sound quality or battery life. The charging case has also been on a diet and is now 40% smaller than its predecessor.
The advanced wireless connection that the WF-1000XM4 uses can sync audio with what is seen on screen thanks to low-latency transmission. Optimization of the transmission algorithm using the Integrated Processor V1 has made the Bluetooth connection more stable and Sony claims it’s less prone to skipping, even when there is RF interference.
The WF-1000XM4 can play for up to eight hours before they need topping up from the charging case which has two full charges onboard. That’s a total of 24 hours of playing time before the charging case needs recharging. A five-minute burst charge can provide up to 60 minutes of playing time while the Headphones Connect app notifies the user when the charging case drops below 30% capacity. Charging the case is via a USB-C cable or with Qi-compatible charging mat.
Thanks to a water resistance rating of IPX4, the earbuds can resist splashes of water and sweat. The earbuds also support Google’s new Fast Pair feature which enables quick Bluetooth pairing with Android devices using a single tap. Google’s Fast Pair feature can also help a user locate where they left their earbuds. The earbuds can work with Microsoft Swift Pair, which makes it easy to connect with Windows 10 devices.
To control the WF-1000XM4 there are touch control settings for convenient control of the music and earbuds. The touch controls can be used to activate Noise Cancellation, Ambient Sound, Quick Attention mode or simply skip, pause or play songs. They can also trigger voice assistants such as Google, Alexa or Siri.
Finally, 360 Reality Audio can be listened to when using streaming services that support the surround sound format. The 360 Reality Audio s designed to immerse the listener in the music and it can optimize the sound for an individual user using Sony’s Headphones Connect app.
Pricing and availability: The Sony WF-1000XM4 are available in Black and Silver finishes and will be priced at approximately £250 / €280 / $280. They start shipping this month.