The Sony WH-1000XM4 deliver excellent noise-cancellation and surprising sound quality all in a lightweight, comfortable design.
While they don’t look significantly different from their predecessors, the Sony WH-1000XM3, a number of new features including multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor all help the WH-1000XM4 claim the title of best headphones in 2021.
By every possible metric, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is a wonderful pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones. They deliver exactly what they promise and then some thanks to their exceptional noise cancellation and cutting-edge codec support.
On top of the adjustments listed above, the Sony WH-1000XM4 support Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format that enables spatial audio on stereo headphones plus the LDAC codec that can send a bitrate of up to 990 kbps. The unfortunate bit there, though, is that it no longer supports aptX or aptX HD, so your Hi-Res Audiosupport mileage may vary.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 are our overall favorite headphones, wireless headphones, and noise-cancelling headphones two years in a row – and not just because they’re excellent at blocking out environmental noise.
They’re great for audiophiles, thanks to aptX HD and Sony’s LDAC, two of the best ways to listen to Hi-Res Audio, and as they’re wireless, you don’t need to mess around with cumbersome wires.
The WH-1000XM3’s also come with Google Assistant integration, and as of 2019, Amazon Alexa integration, which means you have instant access to a voice assistant wherever you are.
This alongside the stellar noise-cancellation capabilities makes the WH-1000MX3s perfect for commuting, whether you need a pair of cans to get your through your daily journey to work, or a long haul flight.
Sony is largely responsible for the rude health of the active noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds market, and with the WF-1000XM4, the company has combined performance, ergonomics, and build quality more effectively than ever before.
Compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless earbuds offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading to, even if they are more expensive.
While other true wireless earbuds surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4 in particular areas – noise cancellation, for example – no other model comes close to offering such excellent quality across the board. That’s why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are hands-down the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today.
For nearly two years, the Sony WF-1000XM3 were best true wireless earbuds you could buy – until they were usurped by the WF-1000XM4.
However, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are still worth considering, not least because you can usually find them discounted to around $170 / £150 / AU$200.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 still manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that’s exceedingly good for a pair of earbuds, fist-pumping musicality, a sleek design, and a decent battery life.
If you can still find these headphones, the older generation of Sony’s noise-cancelling cans are still brilliant – and you may be able to find them slightly cheaper than the third-gen model, the WH-1000XM3.
At around the same price as the Bose QC35, the Sony WH-1000XM2 offer better features, including an ambient noise mode that only lets in mid-to-high frequency tones (announcements over a loudspeaker, for instance) and Quick Attention mode that allows you to let in all outside noise without taking off the headphones.
Like the WH-1000XM3s, they also support aptX HD and LDAC for Hi-Res Audio – in fact, all of the features mentioned above can also be found in the most recent model.
Aside from a few cosmetic changes, the main difference between the two is that the WH-1000XM2s don’t come with voice assistant integration – so if that’s important to you, stick to the the WH-1000XM3s or the newer XM4s
With solid audio, great battery life, and Bluetooth connectivity, the Sony WH-CH510 are excellent bang for your buck. A slightly flimsy build may be a dealbreaker for some, but for most it’ll be a worthy sacrifice at that price.
Sony has been doing very well for itself making a name in the personal audio industry. The over-ear WH-1000XM4 and in-ear WF-1000XM4 are both top of their class when it comes to noise-cancelling and quality sound, but how does the titanic brand’s budget audio products weigh up?
Looking at the Sony WH-CH510, it’s frankly insane that wireless headphones could cost this little, not to mention a pair that has decent sound, a USB-C port, and 35 hours of battery life. So, when reading this review, be sure to keep its price in the back of your mind (just as we had to) when noticing any shortcomings or failings.
No matter what region you’re in, the WH-CH510 are an affordable set of cans. These wireless on-ear headphones will set you back only $59 in the US, £50 in the UK and AU$89 in Australia, and they’re available to buy right now.
First thing to notice – these are on-ear headphones rather than over-ear, meaning that their cups won’t surround your ears but rather rest upon them. This makes them considerably more compact, but arguably a little less comfortable (it also impacts the audio quality, but more on that later).
Aesthetically, there isn’t too much to say about these Sony cans, but their subdued and simple appearance does wonders to broaden their appeal given that the aim here is accessibility. They’re available in a tasteful black, white, or blue, and their shape profile is as close to ‘a straight line with a circle on each end’ as you can get. Apart from the Sony logo on both cups, the only other flourish is a simple diamond grid texture covering most of its exterior.
Perhaps the most obvious and striking reflection of the WH-CH510’s price point is in its structural integrity. The plastic headband, swivel joints, and ear cup housing don’t feel remotely rugged and we’d be remiss to recommend “chucking” them in your bag or treating them at all unkindly.
The headband does seem to have some amount of flex, so it might be more forgiving than we give it credit for, but we really didn’t want to push this theory too far. It doesn’t fold or collapse any further to make for a more compact package (although the cups do swivel 90° and flatten), but the fewer hinges the better in this case as we suspect that will be the first point of failure.
It’s worth noting that, although this particular reviewer has an abnormally large head and often pushes headphone bands to their limit, the WH-CH510 only got about halfway extended before sitting comfortably on both ears. We suspect this will be particularly good news for the large-headed among us, as well as those that like to wear hats and cans at once.
Of course, the upshot of all this is that they’re incredibly lightweight which, coupled with their diminutive size, makes them ultra portable. Thankfully, the padding in the ear cups seems to be of a higher standard than the rest of the unit, so they’re comfortable to wear for extended periods considering their on-ear form factor.
For a control interface, these cans have a Spartan array of three large buttons that are easy to locate, differentiate and interact with. They’re responsible for the usual array of play/pause, volume up/down, and skip forward/back options but they also allow you to activate your device’s voice assistant.
There’s an integrated microphone next to these buttons for this purpose and for taking calls, and while it’s certainly serviceable, it’s not the clearest option out there.
Next to the controls and microphone is the sole port for USB-C charging (audio over USB isn’t supported from what we tested). We’re disproportionately excited to see a budget product adopt this future-proofed port instead of micro USB.
These Sony cans boast 35 hours of playback time, which we’re super-impressed with, and if you’re in a pinch you can top up 90 minutes worth of juice from just 10 minutes of charging from flat.
The absence of a 3.5mm headphone port and lack of audio over USB means you’ll be out of luck if you do run out of batteries on the go, but the impressive battery life and affordability this presumably allows for makes up for it.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but the WH-CH510’s lack of features is one of its strengths. In focusing on more significant attributes – battery life and audio quality among them – costs have been cut on features that its target audience could do without (active noise-cancelling prime among them).
As we’ve already mentioned, the fact that these headphones are in the on-ear format means you won’t quite get the audio quality that over-ear competitors offer. This is largely due to the smaller cups not creating as solid a seal as well as offering less sense of space.
With that said, it’s remarkable how solid these Sony’s still manage to sound, despite their low price and limited form factor. We found the bass to be clear and present, but certainly not overbearing. The higher frequencies were a little more dominant than we’d like, and the mids too suppressed, but the profile was pleasing overall.
While they won’t have the superb clarity, balance, and sense of space that their WH-1000XM3 siblings boast, the sound these on-ears produce definitely belies their size and price. You’ll find most genres perform well here, although tracks that already have low mids and bumped treble might get uncomfortably exaggerated.
In our testing the Bluetooth 5.0 connection never faltered and we didn’t come across any interference or drop-out woes. There’s no app companion that we could find, but we couldn’t think of a need for one, given the unit’s innate simplicity.
If you’re looking for headphones at this price point, you’re likely already willing to make a few sacrifices. Thankfully, most of the compromises Sony has made with the WH-CH510 haven’t been too crucial – the lack of analog input mirrors the loss of the 3.5mm port on most modern smartphones while the lightweight, plastic construction improves their portability and comfort.
For those chasing something that is substantially more sturdy or sporting a 3.5mm port, you’re unlikely to find an alternative at the same price point that’s also wireless, let alone boasts solid battery life and sound.