It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Sony has been one of the most recognizable names when it comes to true wireless earbuds in the market for a while now, and it isn’t just because of their name in the audio industry from decades but also what the company brings to the table for TWS. The Sony WF-1000XM5 are the latest pair of wireless buds in the WF-1000 series that is priced at Rs. 21,990 (pre-booking offer price, otherwise Rs. 24,990) and go against the likes of Apple and Bose. Do they justify the price tag and what all the improve compared to the predecessor, let’s try and find out:
Design: the buds are now lighter and a little smaller than before. The outer shell is more glossy now while the touch control button area is matte. There are three mics on each bud now. The eartips are a bit more flexible as per Sony and they pack in an extra pair of small size in the box. Oh, and the packaging box is made from recycled paper.
The charging case is all semi-matte finish with LED light on the front and USB type C plus physical pairing button on the back. There’s Sony branding at the top and the rest is all plain black except for regulatory print at the bottom. The case, too, is smaller in size compared to the previous model.
The buds are comfortable to wear and I didn't have to twist or adjust their placement too much in order to fit them in the ears even for the first listen. They didn’t feel jarring and bulky even when worn for over an hour.
Sound quality and features: The earbuds support Bluetooth 5.3 (with LE audio) along with SBC, AAC, LC3 and Sony’s own LDAC audio codec (no aptX or aptX HD here).
You can connect the buds to two devices and jump between one and another as required without too much fiddling required and this feature works pretty well. These also support auto pausing when an earbud is removed from the ear, and you can also choose to use one bud at a time.
You can use Sony’s Headphones app to choose EQ profiles, switch between ANC and transparency mode, enable 360 Reality Audio and update the firmware. You can also try Sony’s Autoplay app that sets up listening sessions based on your location or current activity.
Coming to the sound check, the WF-1000XM5, the pair features upgraded 8.4mm drivers and are powered by dual processors – main processor V2 and the HD noise cancelling processor QN2e. I found the buds to have deeper bass now compared to the previous model, at least trying out default sound settings. These offer really clear and full vocals without sacrificing on the instruments played alongside. There’s good headroom given to treble and midrange with more prominence given to lows (as mentioned earlier). Worth adding that overall soundstage and details seem a bit better than the predecessor with spatial audio and 360 audio realitcy enabled, though it would heavily depend on your source app, too.
Active noise cancellation is a headline feature of this series and it would appear the WF-1000XM5 continues that with really compact cancellation of low to mid pitched noises on most occasions without too heavy of a toll seen on audio quality. There’s ambient sound mode where you can opt to hear some external sounds (transparency mode). You can, of course, choose to switch both these modes off and listen to your music in regular mode, which would probably give you the “least filtered” sound from the buds.
Battery life and other bits: The buds last about 7-8 hours when used with ANC switched on and a 2-3 hours more with ANC turned off, which is really good for the TWS category. Add the charging case and you can expect to get twice more juice on the go. Charging the case completely plus buds in one go can take a little over two hours. The charging case also supports Qi wireless induction charging.
Call quality including mic from the buds is decent enough and usable for outdoor use. Sony says they have added AI noise cancelling for calls on the go, though I am not sure i noticed any significant changes there, but call and mic quality aren’t bad in the first go for a wireless pair of earbuds.
I found pairing these with Android and iOS devices to be a no-hassle process and didn’t see any significant lag when used for watching high resolution videos on phones.
Verdict: Sony’s WF-1000XM5 are quite a pricey pair of TWS that do offer a lot of good stuff for it. They offer top notch active noise cancellation, full and detailed sound for a TWS pair and don’t sacrifice on looks or battery life, importantly, to top it off. So, if you’re looking for a premium pair of wireless earbuds and care about noise cancellation along with sound quality, this offering from Sony might well be worth a look.