Shortly after the Sony WH-1000xM4 noise-cancelling headphones first appeared, the Internet was swirling with gossip of Sony working on its next flagship wireless earbuds, the WF-1000xM4. If its over-ear counterpart is any indication of what’s to come, then expect these next-gen noise-cancellers to build on the legacy of the critically acclaimed Sony WF-1000XM3.
- Check out our Sony WH-1000xM4 review
- Our picks for the best wireless headphones
- Everything we know about the AirPods Pro 2 so far
Now, let’s be clear about two things. Sony has yet to confirm or acknowledge the existence of this product. There isn’t an FCC listing for the WF-1000xM4 either. However, there are some experts that suggest Sony is prepping a follow-up to what we consider the best wireless earbuds for active noise cancellation. And based on the Mark series’ track record, the overall performance of these earbuds should only get better.
Sony WF-1000xM4 release date
Right now, there is no release date information on the WF-1000xM4. All we can do is make a prediction based on previous Sony releases. Seeing that the WF-1000xM3 hit store shelves on August 5, 2019, nearly a year after the WH-1000xM3 came out, all signs point towards an August 2021 release window.
Bear in the mind that the WF-1000xM4 could also experience manufacturing delays because of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is said to have already impacted several other rumored releases, including the AirPods 3. If that’s the case, then a Holiday 2021 or Q2 2022 launch seems more sensible.
Sony WF-1000xM4 price
The original WF-1000x sold for $200, while the WF-1000xM3 launched at $230, though you can currently find it for much less (Home Depot and Newegg have it for as low as $180). We expect the WF-1000xM4 to keep the same MSRP as its predecessor, making it cheaper than the AirPods Pro ($250) and other luxury noise-cancelling earbuds like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 ($300).
Sony WF-1000xM4 design
No sketches or renderings of the WF-1000xM4 have surfaced online, but we suspect that Sony will stick with the series’ elongated and bulky design. The large casing offers extra room to house high-powered internals, and the company has done a solid job of creating premium-looking buds, even if it has been at the expense of fit and style. The WF-1000xM3 didn’t provide the greatest on-ear stability, nor was it flattering to sport when compared to smaller, more chic models like the Jabra Elite 85t.
Sony is likely to copy the formula of its Mark over-ear headphones (WH-1000x), which would be to keep the same form and implement minor aesthetic changes. Any perceptible modifications will apply to the WF-1000xM4’s charging case, an accessory we’re anticipating will be lighter, slightly slimmer, and have stronger magnets that keep the lid shut for optimal storage.
Then again, Sony could pull a 180 on us and revamp the WF-1000xM4’s design completely. We say that to bring attention to a recent patent filed with the JPO and discovered by LetsGoDigital (the same publication that found the patent for the PS5 devkit), showing a new true wireless sporty design for a future model. It’s awkward and doesn’t fit the series’ luxe image, but it could also show details that may end up on the WF-1000xM4, such as ear fins and wider touch sensors.
In addition, this design suggests the future sporty model will be slim enough to wrap underneath and tuck behind your ear, which, in theory, sounds innovative and practical. Imagine how crazy it would be if Sony pulled off this concept with the WF-1000xM4.
It’s also worth noting that on top of the new AirPods models rumored for release, Apple is said to be redesigning its current AirPods line. As reported by Bloomberg, the next version of the AirPods II could feature shorter stems and replaceable ear tips, while the AirPods Pro might be completely revamped and take on a more oval-shaped design similar to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live or Google Pixel Buds 2. That should serve as enough inspiration for Sony to flex its creative muscle and give the WF-1000xM4 an ultramodern look.
Sony WF-1000xM4 specs and features
If you thought the details were scarce on all of Apple’s rumored AirPods models, it’s even scarcer regarding the WF-1000xM4. At the moment, all we can do is examine the definites: what the WF-1000xM3 offers and what was introduced on the WH-1000xM4. We’re also taking into account the few reports out there that hint at potential features and specs.
Let’s start with the givens. The WF-1000xM4 will keep everything available in the Sony Headphones Connect app, including 360 Reality Audio support, an EQ with numerous presets, control customization, and select options to enhance hallmark features such as Adaptive Sound Control. Ambient Sound and Quick Attention are two others you can add to the list since both are already available on the previous model.
As far as improvements, it’s expected the WF-1000xM4 will receive an advanced mic-array system for enhanced call quality (or so we hope), better touch controls, stronger active noise cancellation, and a more fine-tuned soundstage.
For connectivity, Bluetooth 5.1 is looking more realistic, especially as newer models in different price classes embrace the wireless protocol, from the Happy Plugs Air 1 Plus ($99.99) to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($280). Some of the newest perks to come with the technology are direction finding for Bluetooth signals, faster connections, less power consumption, and stronger GATT Caching, which will allow the earbuds to skip the discovery process & directly form a connection. Google Fast Pair should be anticipated as well; the WF-1000xM3 already supports this feature.
Several new features were added to the WH-1000xM4 and will presumably be carried over to its in-ear sibling. Speak-to-Chat is a popular one, using the mics and advanced signal processing to recognize your voice and pause music when speaking. Sound technologies like DSEE Extreme and Edge-AI, which work to upscale compressed music and analyze music in real-time to reproduce more faithful sound, could be a go as well. Let’s not forget multipoint technology, so you can pair to two devices simultaneously and switch between them without disconnecting from either audio source.
One report from CNET suggests Sony’s upcoming earbuds might have one of Qualcomm’s latest processors, which are starting to appear on several new true wireless releases and provide a plethora of performance perks. This includes stronger battery life, call quality, the ability to easily switch between stereo and mono modes, and “hybrid active noise cancellation with a hear-through transparency mode.”
Adding to this speculation, Qualcomm claimed that an upcoming software upgrade for its QCC514X chip would introduce a new feature called Qualcomm Adaptive ANC, which "dynamically adjusts performance" and produces more "consistent sound quality" without requiring a tight seal. This could be a huge bonus for the WF-1000xM4; its predecessor didn’t provide the most reliable seal.
The mobile chip maker has also announced a partnership with Jacoti, a Belgian audio tech company that will bring their hearing enhancement software to Qualcomm’s QCC5100 Series. Algorithms will be used to customize audio playback based on the listener’s own frequency response curve, which will then be loaded into the DSP of the Qualcomm processor that is featured in the wireless earbuds model, optimizing audio performance.
Sony WF-1000xM4 battery and charging case
The WF-1000xM3 set the standard for battery life in the true wireless category when launched. Sony somehow figured out how to squeeze an impressive 8 hours (6 hours with ANC on) into these tiny in-ear monitors. Nothing has been reported as of yet, but our gut tells us Sony will increase playtimes on the WF-1000xM4 by about 2 to 3 hours. Quick charging should also see a slight boost; the previous model generated 90 minutes of use on a 10-minute charge.
Expect little to change regarding the charging case. There is a strong possibility it remains at 32 hours fully charged, but we hope Sony ups this to 35 or 40 hours. One of the coolest, most underappreciated features on the WF-1000xM3’s charging case was NFC, which allowed users to instantaneously pair the buds by placing the case on the back on their Android smartphone. That isn’t going anywhere, nor is USB-C charging. Wireless charging is something Sony has yet to introduce on any of its wireless earbuds, but we’re thinking fourth time may be a charm.
Sony WF-1000xM4: What we want to see
All of Sony’s latest headphones and earbuds offer a ridiculous amount of functionality, but consumers always want more, especially when paying a premium. Based on our testing with several Sony models, including the WH-1000xM4 and WF-1000xM3, we feel there is room for improvement in design and sound, as well as new features. Here is our wish list of upgrades that we want to see on the WF-1000xM4.
aptX HD: Hi-Res Audio support has been rumored to arrive on the WF-1000xM3 via update for months now. We’re still waiting. In the meantime, Sony can go to work integrating the Bluetooth codec into their next-gen model.
A smaller, more practical design: Sony needs to figure out how to cram all of its high-powered components into smaller in-ear real estate. Period. And if that’s not the move, and we’re stuck with the long-shaped frame, then Sony has to enhance the fit drastically. Maybe it can take a cue from the UE Fits, which molds its gel-filled tips to a person's ear in 60 seconds.
Adjustable ANC: Having 20 levels of adjustable ambient sound is cool and all, but in all honesty, our preference sways more towards having adjustable active noise cancellation. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds lets users cycle 10 levels of ANC, and the technology also blends in with ambient listening to make external sounds more distinctive. The results are magnificent. Here is hoping Sony can do the same, or something just as unique.
Enhanced LDAC support: The WH-1000xM4 supports the company’s proprietary high-res codec, but not with multipoint technology. It seems difficult to accomplish, but Sony has plenty of time to crack the code.
More extravagant colors: Black and Silver are cool, but Sony needs to experiment and release more unique, fancy colorways. We feel the WF-1000xM4 could easily pull off the bold-and-shiny look, similar to the Jabra Elite Active 75t. A Mint, Titanium or Navy version with gold accents would be fire.
Sweat and water resistance: Sony never shared the IP rating for the WF-1000xM3, but it has been confirmed that the buds lacked sweat- and water-resistant protection. The company has made strides with its wireless sport earbuds, as demonstrated on the IP55-rated WF-SP800N, so we see no reason why the same can’t be done with the WF-1000xM4.
Wireless charging: Qi-enabled wireless charging is something Sony has yet to introduce on any of its wireless earbuds, but we’re thinking fourth time may be the charm. Even better would be if Sony took a page from Samsung’s playbook and implemented reverse wireless charging to charge up the buds with any Sony Xperia (or Android compatible) smartphone.