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Sony WH-1000XM4 review roundup: Best noise cancelling headphones ever?

Sony WH-1000XM4
(Image credit: Sony )

Reviews for the hotly anticipated Sony WH-1000XM4 are starting to go live, and things are looking very promising indeed, The previous Sony WH-1000XM3 is a stellar pair of headphones, only beaten by the Bose 700 on our best noise cancelling headphones list.

But the Sony WH-1000XM4 is shaping up to be the new active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones champ. And there are precious few negatives to these over-ear headphones. 

The Sony WH-1000XM4 reviews have a lot of praise for the sound quality and the ANC capabilities, as there was for the WH-1000XM3. Critics also like the overall comfort, improved call quality and convenient features like Speak-to-Chat, which lets in ambient noise when you start talking.

But a few negatives come in the form of fiddly touch controls and no support for aptX HD. Read on for what the critics are saying about the Sony WH-1000XM4, and check back soon for our own review. 

What Hi-Fi?

This Sony WH-1000XM4 review comes courtesy of What Hi-Fi?, a sister site of Tom's Guide. It praised the WH-1000XM4 once again for its sound quality and lightweight comfortable fit. But a lack of aptX support and an IP rating were also marks against Sony’s new headphones. 

Pros 

“Listening to a wide range of tracks, it’s soon apparent that Sony has somehow managed to squeeze out even more performance from the WH-1000XM4. The soundfield appears wider, with the headphones able to use the extra headroom to uncover even more detail.” 

“We weren’t sure if Sony could improve on the XM3s, but somehow the WH-1000XM4s have managed it: they’re as comfortable as ever; they introduce useful features that elevate the user experience; and, more importantly, you’re getting a serious hike in sound quality for the money.” 

Cons 

“The fact the headphones still don’t have an IP rating (for water and dust resistance), we wouldn’t recommend using them during exercise.” 

Wired 

Simon Lucas from Wired notes that the Sony WH-1000XM4 once again sets a high standard for ANC capabilities, and like others he praised the headphones for their comfort, fit and overall sound quality. But he was also unimpressed by the lack of aptX support and noted some criticisms with the way the headphones handle treble. 

Pros 

“Noise-cancelling... is every bit as successful here as it was in the XM3. Some of the ‘new! improved!’ noise-cancelling features could be perceived as just a bit gimmicky, but on a fundamental level the Sony is a complete success.” 

“With improvements across the board, the Sony XM4s are our new favorite headphones bar none and, most importantly of all, they’re still an absolute joy to listen to. It seems that all our headphone recommendations need updating, pronto.” 

Cons 

“There’s no sign of the aptX HD codec the XM3 supported, though, which seems jarringly retrograde considering it's held up by many brands as the current pinnacle of Bluetooth technology.” 

“The XM4 sounds assertive, crisp and bright – but there’s only the slightest suggestion of hardness or a lack of substance to these treble sounds.” 

Laptop Mag  

Audio enthusiast and editor-in-chief Sherri L. Smith from Laptop Mag heaped praise on the WH-1000XM4. Sherri really liked the sound quality, comfort and battery life of the headphones among other things, but wasn’t that impressed with the touch controls. 

Pros 

“Sony’s not taking any prisoners with this one. The latest revamp to its flagship wireless noise-cancelling headphones, the WH-1000XM4, has improved upon its predecessor’s key complaint –– call quality. It’s now crystal clear whether you’re in or outdoors.” 

“If you’re looking for some of the smartest headphones on the market with excellent audio and powerful active noise cancelling, the Sony WH-1000xM4 headphones should be at the top of your list.” 

Cons 

“The touch controls can take some getting used to. You can’t indiscriminately swipe as you’ll accidentally activate the wrong command. There were several instances where I accidentally skipped tracks when I was trying to adjust the volume.” 

Tech Radar

Tech Radar’s review of the Sony WH-1000XM4, penned by Geral Lynch and Nick Pino, praised the multipoint pairing of the new headphones, as well as the smarter features for detecting conversations and auto play/pause abilities. Criticism was placed on the doorstep of less-then-perfect call quality and a lack of design changes. 

Pros 

“The best of the new WH-1000XM4 features ... are those that pander to convenience. They’re simple and effective additions. A sensor in the earcups will recognize when you take the headphones off, and pause music accordingly, resuming playback automatically when you replace them.” 

“Most impressive is a new Speak-to-Chat feature. With this option switched on, the headphones’ microphone will intelligently recognize when you’ve started talking, and pause your music while ramping up ambient noise being funnelled into the cans.” 

Cons 

“Though the Sony WH-100XM4 have added a slew of new components inside the headphones themselves, there’s not a major difference between them and their predecessors in terms of aesthetics. In fact, put them next to each other and you’d have a hard time telling the 1000XM3 from the 1000XM4.” 

“Although they certainly could help you tune out the grunts of the person next to you at the gym, the WH-1000XM4’s looser fit and lack of water-resistance should make you think twice before putting them inside your gym bag.” 

Engadget 

You may be getting the impression that the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are very impressive and a review by Engadget’s Billy Steele does nothing to shake off that feeling. Steele praised the new features and improved ANC, as well as the slightly tweaked design. He did note that the headphones’ Adaptive Sound Control requires location sharing.

Pros 

“Sony also redesigned the earpads so that 10 percent more surface touches the side of your head. This helps relieve some of the pressure that ANC headphones need to create a good seal on your dome.” 

“The M3 was already a near-perfect set of ANC headphones, and the M4 edges closer to the pinnacle. A refined design, improved audio and new features firmly plant WH-1000XM4 at the top of our best headphones list right out of the gate.” 

Cons 

“Speak-to-Chat is also sometimes activated by a cough or sneeze, and it takes 30 seconds to resume the audio after you finish talking.”