Sony's WF-1000XM5 earbuds are great — once you ditch the included earbud tips

Sony WF-1000XM5
(Image credit: Future)

There's no denying that Sony's new WF-1000XM5 headphones are some of the best wireless earbuds currently available, sporting a sleeker design, new processors, an additional noise cancelling mic, and the largest drivers the series has seen to date.

Of course, all of these advancements are rendered moot if you can't get a proper ear seal, and that's exactly the issue I had with the redesigned ear tips that come included with the WF-1000XM5.

Described as being "somewhere between a rubber and a polyurethane" by Andrew Hughes, Audio Product Specialist at Sony Australia, the new tips are intended to provide improved blocking of high frequency sounds.

Given the increased density of the new tips, that seems entirely plausible. However, I can't personally attest to this, as I was completely unable to achieve any kind of seal with them after numerous attempts.

At first glance, you may expect the XM5's new tips to provide a similar fit to the memory foam tips made famous by companies like Comply. But while those tips are designed to slowly expand inside your ears after being squeezed, the XM5's earbud tips bounce back into their intended shape almost instantly.

Just the tips

As someone who's tested his fair share of in-ear headphones over the years, I'm usually able to achieve a good seal with either medium or large size tips. 

Sony's WF-1000XM5 earbuds come with four different tip sizes (SS, S, M, L), so I was fairly certain I'd find a good fit with at least one of them. Since the WF-1000XM5 comes with M-size tips pre-installed, I tried those first.

Immediately, I could tell the seal with my ear canals wasn't there, no matter how much twisting and pushing I did. And, if you've ever used a pair of in-ear buds without achieving a proper seal, you'll know just how distant and weak music can sound.

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbud tips

All four sets of earbud tips included with the Sony WF-1000XM5. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

"No worries," I thought to myself, "surely they'll sound better with the largest tips." Unfortunately, the exact same thing happened again after moving to size L. Not only did they still seem too small, they weren't really reshaping themselves to fit my ear canals.

And while I knew there was no way that the SS or S size tips would remedy the situation, I tried them anyway. Just as I'd suspected, these smaller tips barely stayed in my ears at all.

While I must give props to Sony for including more ear tip sizes than usual with the WF-1000XM5, none of them provided the right fit for me, resulting in surprisingly tinny audio out of the box.

An instant solution

In my desperation to hear what Sony's pricey WF-1000XM5 earbuds were truly capable of, I decided to search through some storage boxes for a compatible set of silicone ear tips from an older pairs of buds.

After finding and trying several pairs of buds with incompatible tips, I eventually found my old Beats Powerbeats Pro buds, and the tips from those fit onto Sony's buds like a charm.

Thankfully, I was able to achieve a proper seal with these silicone tips immediately — and what an enormous difference they make! Sound quality on the WF-1000XM5 improved by leaps and bounds, delivering excellent musicality and wonderful clarity, along with the rich bass I was looking for (after a bit of EQ tweaking).

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbud tips

Sony's L size tip (left), Beats' L size tip (right). (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Admittedly, I do wonder if the switch to silicone tips has had a meaningful impact on the XM5's noise cancellation, as the new tips were designed to block more outside sounds — while I can still hear faint, high pitched voices with ANC on, the buds nevertheless do a very good job of blocking exterior noise, so the trade-off is more than worth it in my estimation.

So if you've also had difficulty achieving a good seal with the Sony WF-1000XM5's included ear tips, the solution might be as simple as finding a silicone or memory foam replacement. 

Thankfully, Sony has kept the ear tip size identical across the WF-1000XM3, WF-1000XM4, and now the WF-1000XM5 buds. This is also one of the more common sizes that ear tips come in, so chances are you already own some suitable tips from an old pair of earbuds. If you don't, you'll find some compatible (and affordable) options on Amazon US, Amazon UK and Amazon AU.

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Stephen Lambrechts

Stephen Lambrechts is the Managing Editor of Tom's Guide AU and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming for the last 15 years. Before Tom's Guide, he spent several years as a Senior Journalist at TechRadar, had a brief stint as Editor in Chief at Official Xbox Magazine Australia, and has written for such publications as APC, TechLife Australia, T3, FilmInk, AskMen, Daily Telegraph and IGN. He's an expert when it comes to smartphones, TVs, gaming and streaming. In his spare time, he enjoys watching obscure horror movies on physical media, keeping an eye on the latest retro sneaker releases and listening to vinyl. Occasionally, he also indulges in other non-hipster stuff, like hiking.