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Sony WH-1000XM4 release date, price, pre-order and leaks

Sony WH-1000XM4 are set to succeed the Sony WH-1000XM3
Sony WH-1000XM4 are set to succeed the Sony WH-1000XM3 (Image credit: Sony)

If you have noisy neighbours or like to listen to music without any background audio creeping in, then the upcoming Sony WH-1000XM4 could be the noise-cancelling over-ear headphones you’ve been waiting for. They have yet to be officially revealed, but a few leaks, including a couple of very comprehensive chunks of information, indicate that the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are in the works. 

They are set to follow in the footsteps of the rather excellent Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones. A combination of class-leading noise cancellation, a neat design, comfortable ear pads, and very impressive audio saw the Sony WH-1000XM3 make their way onto our best wireless headphones list. So we are expecting the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones to follow suit and offer a good handful of tweaks and improvements to a formula that has already proved to be a success. 

All this means the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones have to bring something a bit special to the table to be a significant step up from their predecessors. So here’s what we know about the Sony WH-1000XM4 so far and whether we think they’ll be a worthy successor to the Sony WH-1000XM3.  

Sony WH-1000XM4 release date  

There’s no firm release date for the Sony WH-1000XM4. In fact, all we have so far is an FCC filing that would suggest the launch of the new headphones is rather close. 

The Sony WH-1000XM3 arrived in August 2018, so it's possible that the Sony WH-1000XM4 will arrive around roughly the same time this year. However, given that COVID-19 has delayed many other product launches, it wouldn't surprise us if Sony's headphones were pushed back, too.

Sony WH-1000XM4 price and pre-order

The Sony WH-1000XM4 will likely replace the Sony WH-1000XM3, which would mean it is likely to have roughly the same launch price as its predecessor. The WH-1000XM3 has an MSRP of $349, which is by no means cheap but reflects the quality of the headphones. 

A leak on Walmart has the Sony WH-1000XM4 priced at $348. While this looks like a placeholder price, it would track with what we'd expect the Sony WH-1000XM4 to cost; there's an outside chance they might cost a little more if they bring in some advanced features. On the flip side, you should be able to find the Sony WH-1000XM3 for a nicely reduced price tag once their successors arrive. 

No holding pre-order listings have gone live yet either. That would suggest that retailers don't know exactly when the Sony WH-1000XM4 will arrive yet and that the price may not be set in stone. 

Sony WH-1000XM4 leaks and news

Following the expiration of a confidentiality agreement between the Federal Communications Commission (FFC) and Sony, information about the Sony WH-1000XM4 has been added to the agency’s database. And that information somewhat confirmed what other leaks and rumors have claimed so far pertaining to the headphones’ design and specification. 

But the FFC’s data has revealed that the Sony WH-1000XM4 has dropped support for Qualcomm’s aptX and aptX HD codecs. Instead, the headphones will support the AAC, SBC, and LDAC codecs, the latter being Sony’s proprietary audio coding tech that delivers high-quality streaming over Bluetooth connections. The reason for this change appears down to Sony swapping Qualcomm chips for MediaTek chipsets.

Sony WH-1000XM4 FCC design photos

(Image credit: FCC)

Given the FFC information notes that the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones will support LDAC at up to 96kHz and 990kpbs, the loss of aptX and aptX HD shouldn’t really yield a loss in audio quality capabilities for real-world music, podcast and other audio use.

Furthermore, the FCC contained photos of a teardown of the Sony WH-1000XM4, which The Walkman Blog noted shows that the upcoming headphones will be very similar to their predecessors. So the Sony WH-1000XM4 are looking more like an iterative upgrade over the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM4 design 

From the leaks we’ve heard so far, the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are going to look very similar to their predecessors; you might not even be able to tell the two models apart at a glance. That’s no bad thing, as the Sony WH-1000XM3 are a decent looking pair of headphones. 

The only reservations we had with the design of the Sony WH-1000XM3 was they have a less premium feel than their predecessors. More plastic was used in the band rather than metal, which lacked the more solid feel of the Sony WH-1000XM2. But the use of plastic materials allows the Sony WH-1000XM3 to be lighter and more comfortable to wear, so we’d expect Sony to stick with plastic for the Sony WH-1000XM4.  

Sony WH-1000XM4 specs and features  

Sony WH-1000XM4 design

(Image credit: The Walkman Blog)

Given that the design of the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are set to be the same as their predecessor, we’re not expecting to see a massive jump in audio specs. The Sony WH-1000XM4 are slated to come with the same 40mm drivers as the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones, and the cushioning on the earpads could be tweaked a little to ensure better physical noise isolation. 

Support for Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and the Google Assistant are all expected, as well as the ability to summon the virtual assistant by pressing a programmable button on the left earcup. Speaking of controls, the touch-sensitive panel on the right earcup found on the Sony WH-1000XM3 should also be present on the Sony WH-1000XM4. We hope Sony has improved the gesture recognition on the panel, as it can be a little hit or miss with the WH-1000XM3.  

It’s on the inside where we’ll probably see the biggest suite of changes in the Sony WH-1000XM4 compared to their predecessor. We’re hoping that the active noise cancellation is further improved, hopefully with Sony figuring out how to cut out some of the higher frequencies that the WH-1000XM3 can occasionally let in. 

A detailed leak, courtesy of Twitter users JustPlayingHard, explores how the Sony WH-1000XM4 will have smarter features when it comes to handling active noise cancellation and the filtering of ambient noise. And the Walmart leaked listing for the headphones also confirmed a lot of the features 

A feature called "Smart Talking" will allow for the ambient sound mode of the headphones to trigger automatically when a person’s voice is detected, meaning the wearer will be able to have a conversation with someone without removing their headphones. This’ll likely be handy when you want to stop and buy a coffee on your way to the office, but don’t want to pop your headphones on your neck or in a bag. 

Another new feature detailed in the leak is the ability to automatically adjust the Sony WH-1000XM4 settings based on the wearer's location or when they enter a preset location by using Google Maps data. That would be a solid upgrade over the WH-1000XM3, which requires you to register ambient noise locations manually.

Sony WH-1000XM4 will come with some smart features on the inside

(Image credit: The Walkman Blog)

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are also expected to get a feature called DSEE Extreme, which will build upon the DSEE HX sound upscaling found in the WH-1000XM3. That should mean audio being streamed from various sources gets an aural improvement. However, the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are expected to stick with Bluetooth 5.0 for connectivity rather than the latest Bluetooth 5.1 standard. 

Perhaps the neatest feature the Sony WH-1000XM4 are rumored to have is the ability to connect to two devices at once and allow the wearer to switch between them on the fly. Such a feature would remove the faff of pairing and unpairing the headphones from a device each time you want to listen to a different audio source. There’s one caveat in that the WH-1000XM4 are set to lose the ability to use the Hi-Res Audio LDAC codec when pairing to multiple devices, but the quick switching should compensate for that. 

Ideally, we’d like to see the Sony WH-1000XM4 be able to pair with the upcoming PS5, which is set to have some slick 3D audio tech for more immersive sound. 

The Sony WH-1000XM3 can’t be paired wirelessly with the PS4 and when they are plugged into the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller, the headphones’ mic can’t be accessed. That's something we'd like to see fixed on the new model. And when it comes to microphones, it wouldn’t be amiss if Sony could boost the call quality of the WH-1000XM4.  

Sony WH-1000XM4 battery life

Wireless noise-cancelling headphones are no good if they run out of battery after a handful of hours. But according to the Walmart leak, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are expected to last up to 30 hours on a single charge. And when that battery starts to run low, five hours of battery life can be had from a 10-minute charge. That'll be handy if you need to juice up your headphones in a hurry with enough power to survive a tedious commute.

That gives the Sony WH-1000XM4 a similar battery life to the 27 hours of their predecessor. And that's ok, as 30 hours of battery life is enough to get you through hours of daily music listening for at least five days. 

Sony WH-1000XM4 outlook  

Don't expect the Sony WH-1000XM4 to be radically different from the Sony WH-1000XM3

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Evolution — not revolution — is what we can expect from the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones. And that’s no bad thing, as Sony's current noise-cancelling headphones are some of the best you can buy.

However, competition is tight in that headphones arena, given that the Bose 700 currently tops our list of the best noise cancelling headphones

And Apple is set to enter the fray with its rumored AirPods Studio over-ear headphones, which could mix the great audio of the AirPods Pro with some of the tech smarts Apple has under its belt. 

Nevertheless, we’re excited for the Sony WH-1000XM4, which promise to keep the likes of Bose and Bowers & Wilkins working on ever more impressive headphones to stay competitive.