After having used my wife’s Bose QC45 occasionally I wanted to have my own pair of noise canceling headphones. At first I tried the Sennheiser Momentum 4, but unfortunately they turned out to be not my cup of coffee. Now it is time to see if the Sony WH-1000XM5 can give me enough satisfaction.
Why noise canceling?
I already have a very decent send of cans; the Sennheiser HD660s but these are open style headphones. I really love them as they are very neutral and let me enjoy my music at the fullest when i’m behind my pc. I mainly use these in combination with a Topping DX3 Pro+ dac.
But sometimes I just want to escape the world around me and don’t get distracted by the sounds of outside, the ventilation, the washing machine or whatever. Having a mild form of Autism, an ANC headphone can be a big relief.
Bose and my first Sony
Sony and Bose have been the champs of wireless headphones using ANC for quite some time now. They aren’t the only ones using Adaptive Noise Canceling but they are the brands that give the best results. Personally I didn’t try any of the Sony’s before but I do have experience with the Bose QC45 and QC35 II. The main reason choosing Bose over Sony was comfort; when trying these against former iterations of the Sony headphones at the store the Bose reigned supreme for me. The Bose also had a sound that my wife really likes, namely a rather warm and easy sound signature with just the right amount of bass. Since I didn’t want the exact same as her and both the Sennheiser and Bose 700 didn’t meet my expectations I decided to try my luck with Sony’s XM5’s.
Specs of the Sony WH-1000XM5
BATTERY LIFE (CONTINUOUS COMMUNICATION TIME)
Max. 24 hrs (NC ON) , Max. 32 hrs (NC OFF)
Battery Charge Method
Battery Charge Time
Approx. 3.5 hrs
Battery Life (continuous music playback time)
Max. 30 hrs (NC ON), Max. 40 hrs (NC OFF)
Bluetooth Specification Version 5.2
2.4 GHz band (2.4000–2.4835 GHz)
A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
Supported Audio Format(s)
SBC, AAC, LDAC
Supported Content Protection
approx. 3.94 ft
1.18 inches / 30mm
4 Hz–40,000 Hz (JEITA)
Frequency Response (Active Operation)
4 Hz–40,000 Hz
Frequency Response (Bluetooth® Communication)
20 Hz–20,000 Hz (44.1 kHz Sampling) 20 Hz–40,000 Hz (LDAC 96 kHz Sampling 990 kbps)
48 ohm (1 kHz) (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned on), 16 ohm (1 kHz) (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned off)
Stereo Mini Jack
Gold-plated L-shaped stereo mini plug
102 dB (1 kHz) / mW (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned on), 100 dB (1 kHz) / mW (when connecting via the headphone cable with the unit turned off)
Ambient Sound Mode
Ambient Sound Mode
Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing
Personal NC Optimizer
Auto NC Optimizer
Size & Weight
Approx. 8.82 oz
The build is mostly made of (recycled) plastic. Which is fine by me to be honest. Headsets like the Airpods pro definitely feel very premium but I’d rather have something more lightweight. The top and ear cushions are made of a (vegan) faux leather material. Thew materials feel nice and soft, though not as comfortable as the Bose QC45 does. The earcups aren’t as deep either but they are sufficient for me. Some people complained about the wear sensor of the previous model sticking out too much which could irritate people’s ears. No such thing here. Adjusting the headphones is easy with a sliding mechanism, it is smooth but doesn’t give that lock and click feeling. One thing you will need to consider is that the XM5’s aren’t foldable like its predecessors. I knew this beforehand so i’m fine with it. I do find it a bit of a downside that when you want to take them off and rest them around your neck, the open part of the cups is always up.
Sound-wise the Sony is a pleasant headphone with a good soundstage. Compared to my Sennheiser HD660S this is more of a “pleasure” style headphone. Bass is more pronounced but vocals are still nice but not the most natural. The sound out of the box wasn’t exactly what I like myself. Thankfully there is an equalizer to be found in the Sony headphones app. Just don’t expect the sound to get all natural. If you don’t want to trouble yourself with a custom equalizer, you can always choose one of the provided presets. After trying out some different combinations I settled on my own settings. I listen to all kinds of genres and got a pleasant experience overall. DSEE is also provided which should improve the overall quality of digital music.
Despite the earcups not being as deep as the Bose QC45 I really enjoy wearing these cans. The earcups are nice and soft and while not being angular shaped inside they don’t give any discomfort to my ears. The headband is soft as well and clamping force is just right for me. Despite not being to slimmest person out there the Sony’s fit my dome just fine.
Call quality has been amazing for me so far. I can clearly hear other persons and I have had nothing but positive feedback so far. People said my voice sounded natural and when I tried the Sony XM5’s in a coffee bar the person on the other end of the conversation said he could still hear me very well. The Sony was also very good at blocking out wind and car noise during my call walking outside next to a busy road.
Now this is the main thing for me. I have my open back headphones for when I want to listen to music in a natural way. But when I want to escape in a world without distraction I need a pair of ANC headphones. Up until now the Bose QC45 has been my favorite pair of headphones giving me absolute quiet when I need it. But Sony is even better. I wouldn’t say the ANC is that much better on itself though, they are quite evenly matched. It’s the passive isolation that is better with the Sony wh-1000XM5 for me. I also like the fact I am able to switch it off entirely while the Bose only gives me the option of ANC or Hearthrough.
When I tried to Sennheiser Momentum 4 I was immediately frustrated about the touch controls. They just didn’t work well. I said to my wife I would just buy another pair of Bose headphones for myself. I did want to give Sony a try thought because there must be a reason they still use touch controls on their XM series, right? Well turns out touch controls can work decently on a wireless headset. Weather its the double tap to pause or play, or holding my fingers or hand on the right cup for hearthrough, it just works! Same goes for swiping up and down for volume or left and right for back and forward! The only thing that worries me is how this will work when the weather outside will get colder or when rain starts to come down. For me personally this is not the biggest issue as I use earbuds outside.
The Sony app has a lot of options, a bit too much if you ask me. There are things that are very welcome like the equalizer, presets, ANC and wear detection. But do we really need things like 3D sound where you need to connect to third party apps to even use it? To me this feels like more of a gimmick. A lot of people also complain about the Auto-ANC and the lack of customising this yourself. I get where people come from but I must say I didn’t have a very bad experience with it. I would like to see Sony shave a bit off its options like the 3D sound and keep the good stuff. There is still hope though as it seems Sony keeps updating the software.
Should you buy the Sony WH-1000XM5?
For me personally the Sony WH-1000XM5 is a fantastic headset. Whenever I want some peace and quiet I tend to grab them. Weather it’s some ambience music for relaxing, an audiobook, some loud rock music or easy pop songs, the Sony delivers. I even use them at night in my bed. They feel very comfortable and reliable to me. For me they have been worth the price I paid, I did get them during a sale though. Normally the Bose QC45 was around €130,- cheaper and to me they aren’t €130,- better. for the price difference of about €70,- they were worth it for me. I do recommend picking up the white/grey version though because the black one shows all your skin oils.