March 4, 2024

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Review: The Sony WF-1000XM5 is a winner, but not for business use

Review: The Sony WF-1000XM5 is a winner, but not for business use

Sony’s latest generation of true wireless earbuds convince on almost all fronts.

Sony recently announced the Sony WF-1000XM5 true wireless earbuds. You can see this line as the true wireless counterpart to the WH1000 line, which has also now reached 5G. The WF-1000XM5 is equipped with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and is therefore likely to be of interest to a business user who is on the move a lot. If you have to make a call or a phone conversation on the road, it’s good if you can understand everything well. If you work in a relatively crowded environment, ANC provides much-needed relief.

We were sent a copy of the WF-1000XM5 by Sony and used it as our primary audio device for a week or two, both at leisure and at work.

For music…no video calls

Before we record our experiences, it’s good to state clearly that the Sony WF-1000XM5 earphones are primarily aimed at consumers. This is immediately apparent when you read the new tagline: for music. That in itself makes sense, since Sony has always been a consumer electronics producer. However, we can imagine that there are also a lot of people who would rather not walk around with multiple headphones, headphones or earphones. And so you prefer to have one device that can do it all. That’s why we’re also testing earbuds like these in more work environments, especially Zoom calls and Teams.

By the way, there aren’t a lot of wireless earphones out there that focus explicitly on the business market. The Logitech Zone True Wireless and Poly Voyager Free 60 line float on the surface, but that’s about it. Therefore, it will undoubtedly happen regularly that business conversations or calls are made using earphones that are not developed for this purpose. That’s why we always test this.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 is available in black …

Smaller and lighter: great wearing comfort

The first thing you notice when you take the Sony WF-1000XM5 out of its all-paper/carton packaging is that it’s much smaller than its predecessor, the WF-1000XM4. 25 percent smaller, to be exact, and 20 percent lighter. You notice it very well. The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds sounded pretty good, but they’re quite big and bulky. You notice it in your ears, especially over time. This is no longer the case with the WF-1000XM5. We wore them almost all day for several days, without feeling uncomfortable. In fact, you can hardly feel them, especially if they’ve been in your ears for a while and you’re used to them.

Wearing comfort is very high with the Sony WF-1000XM5. This is a big plus for us. Inside the ears in particular can feel a little intrusive. We don’t have problems with that. It is of course important to choose the right earplugs to achieve this. In addition to the large, medium and small earplugs, Sony now also offers additional small earplugs. This provides more possibilities to achieve optimal wearing comfort.

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A small point of criticism when it comes to the handling of the Sony WF-1000XM5 is that the sides of the earbuds are too soft. This can sometimes be a challenge if you want to get them out of the charging case.

Noise canceling: high level

ANC comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes that’s very good, but it can also be so poorly implemented that you wonder if it’s enabled at all. The latter is certainly not the case with the Sony WF-1000XM5. Sony has invested heavily in this area since entering the ANC market in 2016. Thus, the ANC functionality of both the WF-1000 and WH-1000 line is of a high standard. This is no different with the WF-1000XM5.

Sony itself indicates that it is much better than its predecessors. In practice, it is not easy for us to determine this. It’s a bit like tasting the difference between a $100 bottle of wine and a $110 bottle. Both are very good. It’s not as good as the ANC on the WH-1000 line, which isn’t possible in such a small package. However, we haven’t often seen better ANC than the WF-1000XM5 on a set of true wireless earbuds.

…and in white.

Battery life: budget earphones

In general, there are significant differences in battery life between true wireless earbuds, in our experience. The Sony WF-1000XM5 scores very well on this point. The WF-1000XM4 did and did, but Sony managed to deliver nearly the same battery life in a much smaller size. This is amazing. We can keep the earphones on all day, going through our video calls, regular phone calls, and long walks with music or an audiobook.

If the earbuds need to be charged, you can do so in the charging case. This has an additional 16 hours of battery life onboard the WF-1000XM5. It is also interesting that you can charge this case wirelessly. This is new, the predecessor did not have this yet. It’s not new to the market, Sony is actually relatively late with it. Well, anyway, it’s over for now.

Sound quality: Doesn’t get much better

Going by the slogan “For the Music”, Sony takes great care in making music sound good on the WF-1000XM5. It certainly worked. We won’t get into a big talk here about how the lows, mids, and highs sound. That is why we would like to refer you to colleagues from other platforms.

We’ve listened to and reviewed quite a few audio products in the past decade, so we can of course pass judgment on them. And we can be brief about that. The Sony WF-1000XM5’s sound quality is very good. We use different true wireless earbuds that are essential for all kinds of purposes. These are Sony WF-1000XM4, Logitech Zone True Wireless, Bose Sports Earbuds, Beats Studio Buds, Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC. None of these models come close to the Sony WF-1000XM5’s sound quality. And the WF-1000XM4 doesn’t either. There will undoubtedly be better-sounding earphones out there, but whether that’s necessarily what you’ll be looking for once you hear the Sony WF-1000XM5 (especially with its high wearing comfort), we wonder.

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Call quality: Not suitable for computer video calls

One of Sony’s main promises while introducing the WF-1000XM5 is that call quality will once again improve dramatically. It is important to distinguish here the call quality of phone calls over the phone and video calls over a computer. The Sony WF-1000XM5 is very suitable for the first scenario. Even in very windy environments, we are perfectly audible to our interlocutors on the other side of the line. Noise cancellation also works well here.

However, the call quality of Zoom and Teams calls on a Windows PC is nothing to write home about. That in itself isn’t a problem, as Sony didn’t develop the WF-1000XM5 specifically for this. However, we get a lot of complaints when we use earphones. There are beeps in the screen and there are accusations that we look like robots. We haven’t heard that before. Logitech’s Zone True Wireless and Plantronics Voyager Free 60+ UC are much better at this point. But Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro also performs better. For the best experience, it’s best to use a USB dongle and a good headphone, but that’s an aside. Of course, that’s not what this is about.

It’s hard to assess how much Sony can be blamed for mediocrity in this scenario. First of all, there is of course the previous comment that the company did not develop it for this purpose at all. Additionally, the Bluetooth app within Windows isn’t exactly known for being of excellent quality, to put it mildly. No doubt the specific Windows device and adapter used will also play a role. So it may well be the Sony WF-1000XM5. However, it could have been a little better, in our opinion. It didn’t fare well with the WF-1000XM4 either, but it didn’t get any better.

To end this section on a positive note, Sony equipped the WF-1000XM5 with multipoint Bluetooth from the start. This means that you can connect it to two devices at the same time. In our case, our phone and our computer. Sony only added that to the WF-1000XM4 later. Sony also lagged behind a large portion of the market at this point.

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Others: operation, functions, application

Finally, we take a look at what we haven’t covered above yet under the most important parts for us.

First of all, there is the service. The earphones in this line from Sony usually have a fairly simple look. There are no visible buttons and you can’t press on larger surfaces. However, there are many control options. Both covers are with capacitive coating. By means of clicks and tap combinations, you can accept or reject calls, control music, turn ANC on and off and temporarily let extra audio into the caps.

The latter is useful if you want to listen to an advertisement in an airport or the like. Because of the WF-1000XM5’s smaller size, we had more trouble not accidentally giving a command if we wanted to move the caps slightly at the ears. Moreover, you are not completely free in how you organize the service. Sony works with presets. One ear is focused on controlling playback, while the other is on controlling things like ambient sound. You can position these from one ear to the other, but you can’t adjust them at every click, mixed.

Finally, there’s the app, Headphones Connect. This is a fairly comprehensive application for this type of product. In addition to the general condition, you can also analyze the shape of your ear here. You can adjust the equalizer via the app, but there’s also a function that walks you through some personal preferences, and then the app creates a custom equalizer for you. Moreover, extensive help is available here to choose the right earplugs. Of course you can also go there to update the firmware of Sony WF-1000XM5.

Bottom line: (nearly) perfect wireless earphones

There is not much that can be said about the Sony WF-1000XM5 Wireless Earbuds. This product comes close to the perfect set of lids in this category. However, for business users, there is an Achilles’ heel, performance in combination with computer and video conferencing software. It just doesn’t work well there. Moreover, the Sony WF-1000XM5 is undoubtedly a feast for the ears of the users as well.

At €320 (VAT included), the Sony WF-1000XM5 isn’t a cheap bunch. As a business user, we’d much rather look at the Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC for that amount. Although it doesn’t look as good as the Sony’s, it works just fine in business environments (thanks in part to the included dongle). If you’re already using a different headset for video calls, Sony is by far the better option.