Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Which Sony earbuds should you buy?

When it comes to the best wireless earbuds on the market — as well as the best noise cancelling earbudsSony’s flagship earbuds are always a contender. And with the launch of the Sony WF-1000XM5, Sony has added another great model to the list. 

But are they better than the Sony WF-1000XM4? After all, the current Sony flagships are phenomenal earbuds with excellent sound quality. There really isn’t a ton of room for improvement.

So let’s put the brand-new Sony WF-1000XM5 up against the already great Sony WF-1000XM4 and see which Sony earbuds you should buy.

Sony WF-1000XM5 versus Sony WF-1000XM4

(Image credit: Future)

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Specs

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Sony WF-1000XM5Sony WF-1000XM4
Wireless charging caseYesYes
ChipSony V2Sony V1
Battery life (rated)8 hours (ANC on); 24 hours (charging case with ANC on)8 hours (ANC on); 24 hours (charging case with ANC on)
Water resistanceIPX4 (buds only)IPX4 (buds only)
SizeNot specified0.88 x 0.87 x 0.93 inches (per bud); 0.98 x 1.97 x 2.49 inches (charging case)
WeightNot specified0.22 ounces (per bud); 2.2 ounces (charging case)
Bluetooth connectivityBluetooth 5.3Bluetooth 5.2
Special featuresActive noise cancellation, transparency mode, customizable EQ, 360 Reality Audio, DSEE Extreme upscaling, LDAC, Head Gestures, Speak-to-Chat, Multipoint connectivity, digital assistant support, quick chargingActive noise cancellation, transparency mode, customizable EQ, 360 Reality Audio, DSEE Extreme upscaling, LDAC, Speak-to-Chat, digital assistant support, quick charging

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Price and availability

Sony WF-1000XM5 and WF-1000XM4 placed side-by-side on an oak beam

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Sony’s latest earbuds do come with a slight price hike. Right now, you can pre-order the Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds from Sony for $299 / £259 / AUD $499. They will ship between July 26 and July 27 for those who pre-order now. The WF-1000XM5 come in black or silver.

The Sony WF-1000XM4, meanwhile, are currently out of stock on Sony’s site. But thankfully, they are still available from Amazon if you’re willing to buy them from a third-party retailer. If you are, you can get them for much less than their $279 / £250 / AUD $348 launch price. 

Right now, you can get the Sony WF-1000XM4 in Silver for just $214.99. You can also get them in Black for just $219.99. It’s unclear if Sony will release additional stock, so if you want the WF-1000XM4 you’ll need to act fast. 

Winner: Sony WF-1000XM5  

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Design

Sony took the design of the Sony WF-1000XM4 and made a notable redesign with the new WF-1000XM5. The Sony WF-1000XM5 are approximately 25% smaller and 20% lighter than the WF-1000XM4 earbuds. Unfortunately, Sony only has dimensions and weights available for the buds in the charging case as a package and not the buds themselves, but we can do some math. 

Sony WF-1000XM5 accessories and packaging

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The tale of the tape for the Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds are 1 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches and 0.2 ounces per earbud. With a 25% reduction in size and a 20% reduction in weight, that means the new WF-1000XM5 buds should measure around 0.75 x 0.6 x 0.6 inches and 0.16 ounces per earbud. Again, that’s just based on some logic and math — not an official number.

But what we can officially say is that the new Sony earbuds feel lighter when you wear them and that makes them very comfortable to wear. Unfortunately, getting the earbuds in your ear in the first place can be a bit of a struggle. Our audio editor Lee Dunkley found himself constantly checking to see if he had the correct eartip fit.

Honestly, that’s a major disappointment, especially given Sony spent a lot of effort in reducing the size and weight of the WF-1000XM5 earbuds. So unless you need to wear your earbuds all day, the older WF-1000X4 may be the better choice thanks to the superior acoustic seal.

Winner: Sony WF-1000XM4 

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Controls

Sony WF-1000XM4 vs. Sony WF-1000XM3

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

You can really go hands-free with the XM5, as they now feature head gesture controls that let accept incoming calls by shaking or nodding your head. Otherwise, controls are largely the same. There’s a Quick Attention mode you can enable in the companion app, removing an earbud will pause whatever you’re listening to, and you can use Google Assistant or Alexa. Speak-to-Chat is also back and allows you to pause music when the earbuds detect you’re in a conversation, though personally, I leave this feature off, as I find it too sensitive.

In short, everything you love (or hate) is back except for the voice prompts and you get the addition of Head Gesture control. That’s enough to give the new Sony earbuds the edge here.

Winner: Sony WF-1000XM5

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Sound quality

Sony WF-1000XM4 enabling LDAC

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Sony’s flagship wireless earbuds are known for producing great sound quality and the new Sony WF-1000XM5 are no different. You get phenomenal detail, wide frequency range, balanced response and dynamic sound. Vocals are also incredibly realistic.

There are some subtle differences — there’s a new dynamic driver that allows for arguably improved stereo imaging. But both earbuds sound excellent. They also both support Sony DSEE Extreme, which boosts the quality of low-fi tracks and Sony 360 Reality Audio, which is Sony’s version of Apple’s spatial audio. 

Our reviewer did find that the 360 Reality Audio setup was buggy to the point of not working, but he was also using a beta version of the Sony Headphones app for the WF-1000XM5. I’m going to give Sony the benefit of the doubt that the official version will fix this issue. And with that caveat in mind, I’m calling this one too close to call. The newer Sony’s may be better sounding, but that’s getting into the subjective rather than the objective. 

Winner: Tie

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Active Noise Cancelation

Sony WF-1000XM4 vs. Jabra Elite Active 75t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Sony claims that the Sony WF-1000XM5 feature 20% more effective noise canceling than the previous generation. It’s tough to measure that ourselves but given that Sony has swapped out the V1 chipset of the WF-1000XM4, I have no trouble believing that the active noise canceling of the new earbuds surpasses the older models.

Not that those older earbuds aren’t excellent when it comes to active noise cancelation. I use them every day and when I travel, and I have no problem shutting out noise at the gym or on a plane. The only place where I find I can’t hear anything is when I’m bicycling, but that’s more down to the design of the earbuds allowing wind noise in rather than a failing of the ANC.

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds worn by Tom's Guide Audio Editor Lee Dunkley

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

However, it does look like wind noise issues have been improved with the WF-1000XM5. Our reviewer found no issues with wind during outdoor runs or while on a windy station platform.

The differences may be small, but the edge has to go to the newer Sony WF-1000XM5. But I wouldn’t let it dissuade you from the WF-1000XM4 earbuds.

Winner: Sony WF-1000XM5

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Call quality 

Sony WF-1000XM4 vs. Jabra Elite Active 75t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Sony appears to have made a big leap forward in terms of call quality. This is good because it's easily the most frustrating thing about the Sony WF-1000XM4. I run into issues all the time on calls, occasionally even needing to ditch my headphones and stick my Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra up to my ear in order to complete a conversation.

But according to our own Lee Dunkley, things are vastly improved. His partner could hear him clearly with no muffling and minimal wind noise. This is due to a combination of improved AI noise reduction and mesh on the feed forward microphone.

This is probably the biggest win for the Sony WF-1000XM5 so far, and it's a significant one.

Winner: Sony WF-1000XM5

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Connectivity

Sony WF-1000XM5

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to connectivity, Sony’s latest earbuds get the advantage of having new technologies available. Specifically, they get Bluetooth 5.3 with Bluetooth LE Audio support, which is a noticeable upgrade over the Bluetooth 5.2 that comes with the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds. This brings connectivity improvements as well as superior energy efficiency, both of which boost the performance of the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds. Plus, you get multipoint connectivity to connect your earbuds to two devices at once, which is missing from the older earbuds.

So, while it may not be fair that the older Sony earbuds don’t have technology that wasn’t the standard when they were launched, it’s the reality of the situation. And it’s a serious advantage for the newer Sony WF-1000XM5.

Winner: Sony WF-1000XM5

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Battery life

Sony WF-1000XM5 buds and case on oak beam

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Sadly, Sony didn’t manage to improve the battery life of its new flagship earbuds. Both the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Sony WF-1000XM4 manage eight hours of music playback battery life with ANC on. Which is great! It’s just not an improvement.

The charging chase remains unimproved as well, though it’s at least a little smaller and sleeker. You can get an additional 24 hours of battery from the charging case and it is Qi-wireless charging compatible.

Winner: Tie

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4: Verdict

Ultimately, the new Sony WF-1000XM5 are better than the Sony WF-1000XM4 — but it's close. The differences for the most part aren't massive, and the older WF-1000XM4 have arguably the superior design despite being heavier and bigger.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Sony WF-1000XM5Sony WF-1000XM4
Price and value (5)44
Design (15)1213
Controls (10)98
Sound quality (25)2423
Active noise cancellation(20)1918
Call quality (10)85
Connectvity (5)42
Battery life (10)99
Total score (100)8982

But in the end, for just $20 more you get a series of incremental upgrades worth the extra money. You also get a serious upgrade in call quality and connectivity, which are the areas where the new Sony earbuds far outstrip their older sibling.

So unless you find a great deal on the Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless noise cancelling earbuds — which for the moment you can — the Sony WF-1000XM5 is the clear choice. 

But even with a great deal on a phenomenal set of earbuds, I'd still recommend the newer Sony earbuds thanks to their superior call quality. It's easily my biggest gripe with my Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds and I'm very happy Sony made some improvements this generation.

If you're an Apple fan or just want something designed to work with your iPhone, make sure to check out our Sony WF-1000XM5 vs. AirPods Pro 2 face-off to see whether you should choose Sony or Apple's flagship earbuds.

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Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.