It is arguably the best under Rs. 30,000

Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones review: Arguably the best under Rs. 30,000

Nov. 22, 2022, 06:45 p.m
8 minutes to read

Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones review: Arguably the best under Rs.  30,000
Sony WH-1000XM5 can be purchased in India for Rs. 29,990

Sony’s WH-1000X series of headphones have been incredibly popular over the years. I’ve had the good fortune of experimenting with the Sony WH-1000XM4 for quite a while. It’s been over two years since I reviewed it, and now its successor has arrived. Unlike smartphones, the XM4 is still available in India, and most importantly, it is still relevant thanks to its excellent sound quality and Active Noise Cancellation (ANC).

No wonder Sony didn’t bother releasing its successor in a hurry. While the new product will have to deal with the stress of improving on its illustrious predecessor, we’re all excited to see what the Sony WH-1000XM5 brings to the table. So without wasting any more time, let’s jump right into the action and learn about Sony’s new wireless headphone as much as we can.

It looks a little different from its predecessors but is just as comfortable

The design of the Sony WH-1000XM5 is noticeably different from the XM3 and XM4, but it still feels like part of the series. It’s made of high-quality plastic with a smooth matte finish, and is available in black and white shades; The company prefers to call the latter Silver. The plastic body helps keep the weight down to around 250g, but the build quality is very solid. Thanks to the clever weight distribution, they will feel even lighter when you wear them.

The ear cups are well padded and the headband has ample padding with a smooth height adjustment mechanism. There are wear-detection sensors to pause the sound when you take the headphones off, and resume when you put them on again. A stylish looking carrying case is included to store the headphones. Although the earpieces can be turned over and flattened, they cannot be folded, thus taking up more space in the bag.

The back of the right earcup accepts some touch gestures. A USB-C port for charging, two physical buttons, and a 3.5mm headphone jack can be found on the earcups. The power button also serves as a Bluetooth pairing button, and the other button can be used to switch between noise-canceling modes. If the headset runs out of charge, you can use it as a wired headset using the included aux cable (or any cable).

The Sony WH-1000XM5 feels comfortable on the ears. The earcups aren’t large enough to completely cover your ears, but the padding is perfect. The earcups apply just the right amount of pressure to stay firmly in place and not cause any discomfort. I did not feel tired in the ear even after wearing it for a few hours straight. The earpads provide more than decent passive noise isolation even when ANC is not turned on.

Features and specifications

ANC, LDAC support, touch controls; There is everything except ingress protection

While the WH-1000XM4 has a single processor to manage audio and ANC, you can get a dedicated processor to handle both here. The V1 and QN1 processors take care of business without interruption. As with most Sony audio products, the Sony Headphones app allows you to further configure the product. You also get a multi-band equalizer in the app to change the sound profile; It is highly unlikely that you will need it though.

These Bluetooth 5.2 headphones support SBC, AAC, and LDAC codecs, and can be paired with two devices simultaneously. However, if you are using a multipoint connection, you cannot use the superior LDAC codec and must settle for AAC, which is relatively lower. The wireless range is good with the headphones maintaining a solid connection at a distance of 10 meters with a clear line of sight.

The ear cushions are equipped with 30mm drivers each, which are smaller than the 40mm drivers used in the XM4. Fortunately, it doesn’t negatively affect audio output at all. You also get eight microphones on this headset for calling and ANC. Although the list of features is extensive, there is one thing that is missing. You don’t get any ingress protection on the XM5, and so I wouldn’t recommend wearing it during heavy exercise or in the rain.

The touch controls on this speaker have been cleverly implemented. A double tap on the back of the right earcup allows you to play/pause a track or answer/end calls. Moving a finger from bottom to top increases the volume, moving it in the opposite direction decreases it. Likewise, moving it horizontally lets you go to the next or previous track. If you need to talk to someone while ANC and music are on, just place your palm on the right earcup to bring down the volume and let ambient sounds pass through. The moment you raise your palm, things go back to the way they were.

Not neutral but quite sound, and great active noise cancellation

The sound quality of the Sony WH-1000XM5 is excellent and enjoyable across all genres of music. As with its predecessor, the sound signature isn’t entirely neutral, nor does it pretend to cater to purists. The lows are slightly boosted to provide the extra warmth in sound that many love without blocking the mid-range frequencies. Despite the boost, the bass is tight and compressed.

The reproduction of the mids is quite clear with excellent vocal clarity and good instrument separation. The highs have ample luster but are toned down to perfection, and don’t look yellow. The detail in the audio is excellent, the imaging is on the money, and the soundstage is very wide, giving the audio a nice, airy feel. The WH-1000XM5 is equally fun to watch in movies, with great clarity of dialogue and a good amount of wow in action sequences. There was no appreciable lag between audio and video either.

While the sound quality is impressive, another surprising thing is the ANC. If you’ve used Sony earphones/headsets for the past two years, this won’t surprise you. It would be safe to say that the company has consistently delivered the best ANC performance in the segment, and the legacy continues with the XM5. The XM4 has the best ANC among headphones in this price category, and the XM5 raises the bar even further thanks to a dedicated processor and additional microphones.

In addition to eliminating low-frequency ambient noise such as the buzz of air-conditioning, it can now reduce some mid-frequency sounds as well, such as voices. Auto NC Optimiser can further adjust noise reduction based on your surroundings. Thus, you can enjoy your music quietly even in a crowded and noisy place. When you want to be aware of your surroundings, turn on transparency mode to let ambient sounds through so you never miss important announcements.

Surprisingly good call quality, great battery backup, fast charging support

Call quality on or above most earbuds is average at best, but that on the Sony WH-1000XM5 is surprisingly good. It shouldn’t come as a surprise given the number of microphones this device has. Your voice transmits with good clarity to the person on the line, and the array microphones greatly reduce background noise. Also, the wind noise was almost inaudible to the other person even when I was outside, which was nice.

Another impressive aspect of the XM5 is the battery backup. Sony claims 30 hours of battery life with ANC on, which is about the same as the XM4. On the surface, it may seem like there’s no improvement in this department, but matching those numbers with the extra processor, extra microphones, and no noticeable weight gain is commendable. During my test run, I was able to get close to about 28 hours with the LDAC codec and ANC turned on the whole time.

On about three hours of daily listening and not many calls, the XM5 lasted nine days in the shade. With ANC off, it might last two weeks at that rate, but why bother! This headset also supports fast charging. When empty, just a three-minute charge gives you nearly three hours of playtime, which is a blessing when you’re in a hurry. A full charge takes just over three hours, something you need to do once a week or two, or maybe you do it overnight.

It is arguably the best all-round wireless earphone under Rs. 30,000

The official price of Sony WH-1000XM5 is Rs. 34,990, but it can be purchased for Rs. 29,990 with a one-year warranty. As I mentioned at the beginning, the previous model, the WH-1000XM4 is still one of the best speakers out there, and it’s never been easy to beat it. The XM5 offers improvements big and small in nearly every department, but most importantly, it’s not inferior on any front. Whether it’s comfort, sound quality, active noise cancellation, battery life, or even call quality, the WH-1000XM5 ticks a lot of boxes.

The sound output isn’t completely neutral, but it’s detailed and most importantly, quite enjoyable. So who should buy this product? If you have a budget close to Rs. 30,000, the XM5 will satisfy most people. Only if you belong to one of the following three can you avoid this – if you’re looking for a totally neutral sound, if you’re into bass (as you can get plenty of bass-heavy wireless headphones for a lot less), or if you’re Own a Sony WH-1000XM4, you won’t need to upgrade yet. The rest can go ahead and invest in the Sony WH-1000XM5.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless Headphones Review at a Glance

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is one of the finest premium wireless headphones with detailed and enjoyable sound output, a powerful battery backup, and best-in-class active noise cancellation.

Detailed and enjoyable sound output

Great backup battery. Support fast charging

Wear detection, smart controls

The non-foldable design takes up more space in the bag