Audio Gear

How Sony made its flagship wireless noise-cancelling headphones even better

Building upon the success and popularity of its WH-1000XM3 wireless noise-cancelling headphones, Sony has revealed the fourth generation WH-1000XM4. The new flagship wireless ANC headphones feature additional intelligent features for more personalisation and music control, improved noise cancellation, and automatic ambient sound adjustment based on your preferences.

Considered the best wireless noise cancelling headphones in the market, the WH-1000XM3 has been a crowd favourite (and critically-acclaimed) thanks to its design, long battery life, and industry-leading noise cancelling performance. Can the WH-1000XM4 be any better?

Apparently so.

Right off the bat, it will be tough to differentiate the third and fourth gen headphones because they look identical right down to the copper accents. Aside for several visual clues under scrutiny, you could easily mistake one for the other. The obvious be the WH-1000XM4 model number imprinted on the headband. Next is the embossed NFC logo on the outer cup, as opposed to printed on the older model. Formerly labelled the NC/Ambient button on the previous generation, it is now called “Custom.”

Sony has made several subtle design tweaks: the head cushion has been slimmed down, the ear pads are 10 per cent larger to fit your ears better; the headband has been fine tuned; and finally, there’s a new sensor inside the left ear cup.

The new sensor detects when you remove the headphones so your music automatically pauses.

That pretty much sums up the design tweaks Sony has done to its new headphones.

The big practical changes lies underneath.

Finally, the WH-1000X series can be paired to two Bluetooth devices at the same time. It will also smoothly switch to either devices at the touch of a button.

A new Bluetooth Audio SoC debuts on the WH-1000XM4, working together with the familiar HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1. Sony explains the pair senses and adjusts to music and noise signals, as well acoustic characteristics between the 40mm driver unit and ears, at over 700 times per second. The previous generation was fantastic at hushing ambient noise like airplanes, buses, trains, and other constant sounds. This time around, Sony has tweaked the noise cancellation algorithm to better cancel out mid- to high-frequency sounds like voices and everyday ambient sound. You should hear an improvement when you’re in a crowded public area like a café, or in an office.

If you loved the WH-1000XM3s, you should find the sound quality and signature on the WH-1000XM4s the same.

Also, if you’re listening on an Android device, you may want to use Sony’s proprietary LDAC codec which can stream audio wirelessly at a higher quality compared to AAC on an iPhone. Caveat: LDAC is not available if you’ve enabled the new “connect to two devices simultaneously” option.

Also, using Edge-AI (artificial intelligence), DSEE Extreme (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) upscales compressed digital music files in real time to help restore high-range sound lost in compression.

That aside, 360 Reality Audio, a new immersive audio experience, can be enjoyed on the headphones when combined with an Android smartphone or iPhone that has a participating streaming service installed.

Another new feature is Speak-to-Chat where your music will pause when you start speaking. This is especially useful when you want to keep your headphones on or when your hands are occupied. Thanks to Precise Voice Pickup Technology working in tandem with the five microphones built into the WH-1000XM4s, the headphones is always ready to recognise and react to you voice. Once you’ve stopped talking, your music will start playing again automatically.

The WH-1000XM4 features the same touch panel controls that are optimised for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Battery life is the same as its predecessor—up to 30 hours on a single charge with a quick charging function that gives you up to five hours of wireless playback from 10 minutes of charging.

Pricing and availability

Available in Black and Platinum Silver, the Sony WH-1000XM4 will be available in Malaysian from August 2020 at MYR1,599.

Sony is offering an early bird exclusive from now until 31 August 2020 with early bird buyers receiving a 1000X limited edition headphone stand and a Starbucks gift card worth MYR50, available at Sony Store The Curve and KLCC, Sony Store Online, and all authorised dealers.

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By Vernon

Vernon is the founder and chief editor of A graphic designer by profession, he has a deep love for technology, cars, gadgets, food, and travel. He tweets too much and is also known as a caffeine bacterium ("life's too short for bad coffee"). Bleeds Blue (go Chelsea FC!) and considers BMW, Porsche, Alfa Romeo cars to have in the garage--for true petrolheads, that is.

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