Sony WH-1000XM5 review: Close to perfection 1
If you're looking for an amazing pair of over-ear noise canceling headphones, Sony is still the best all-around

Sony WH-1000XM5 review: Close to perfection

These brilliant headphones can be controlled with a wave of the hand

Sony WH-1000XM5 review
Bottom Line
If you're looking for an amazing pair of over-ear noise-canceling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is still the best all around. They offer excellent sound quality, top-of-the-line noise cancellation, all-day comfort, incredible battery, upgraded 8-mic technology, and features galore, and they're an absolute joy to wear and use.
Still, the best combination of audio + noise canceling + comfort
Huge improvement in the microphone
Phone calls are very clear with no background noise
Auto-play/pause wearing detection
Connect two devices at once
Custom equalizer in-app
3 hours of battery on a 3-minute PD charge
Includes hard case &standard headphone cable
No longer collapsible for better portability
Not water resistant
No more NFC pairing
ANC is noticeably worse when wearing glasses

Sony has dominated the premium noise-canceling over-ear headphone space for years now. The company’s Sony WH-1000XM5 are the headphones that nobody asked for because its predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM4 already sounded and felt perfect, but we’re glad they’re here.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 comes with a fresh new design, dramatically improved microphone tech, active noise canceling, a more impressive battery, and speakers.

If you’re curious about how these headphones fared under our scrutiny, stick around for a detailed Sony WH-1000XM5 review.


Sony’s WH-1000XM5 has a much different look and feel than the XM4 and XM3. It’s cleaner with a more simplistic design now. We don’t think it necessarily looks better, just a little more Apple-y. The earcups are still as large and very comfortable with the headphone’s memory foam cushioning covered in soft faux leather. They’re maybe even a drop bigger and softer than the predecessor.

The boldest design change on Sony’s part was getting rid of the folding design. The earcups swivel in, but they no longer collapse for better portability. We assume this was done to help support a simpler and lighter design, but it’s a notable drawback.

This new design is supposed to be “noiseless”, so there’s no creaking or squeaking from the hinges. This is an issue we used to notice in previous models but that hasn’t been the case with the XM5. The headphones come with a nice carrying case, but that’s extra bulk to travel with.

Notable features

We were just going to rave about how much lighter the XM5s felt compared to the XM4 and then discovered that there’s only a 2-gram difference. The actual earcups are notably lighter, which means the headband is heavier.

The headphones feel ultra-light on your head since the headband flexes more easily and there’s not as much pressure on your ears. They’re still secure but the fit is not as tight as the XM4s.

This looser fit is not necessarily better— in theory, it should make the headphones more comfortable for longer periods of time, but at the cost of some extra noise isolation. Both the XM4 and the XM5 are so comfortable and well cushioned that the different fit just comes down to personal preference.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 has the same controls as its predecessors. There are a couple of hard buttons: one for pairing/power and the other is for toggling noise cancellation. The right earcup is a touchpad that supports taps and swipes.

It took us a long time to come around, but now we love swiping back and forward to navigate tracks and swiping up and down for volume. It can be a lot more seamless and smooth than trying to find and press a button.

It has taken us a while to get used to it, and accidental swipes still mess us up when we take them off or put them on. The right earcup also has a neat feature — if you palm it, the ambient aware turns on so you can quickly hear your surroundings, like for a transit announcement.

How long does it take to charge Sony WH-1000XM5?

The battery lasts for a very impressive 30 hours. It charges with USB-C and comes with a USB-PD cable. This special Power Delivery cable allows you to get 3 hours of playback on only 3 minutes of charging — crazy! The standby time is also very good so you can realistically get weeks of play before charging them.

Historically, Sony’s weakest feature has been the microphone on this lineup. The XM4 was a big improvement over XM3, which we found to be mostly unusable. Sony absolutely nailed it this time. The XM5 has 8 microphones being controlled by two processors.

Not only do voices come in very loud and clear, but the background noise is virtually silenced. There’s another quirk that Sony fixed — they no longer play ambient noise in your ear while on phone calls. Phone calls on these headphones are as good as it gets now.


The Sony app is great and helps you get way more out of your headphones. Our favorite feature for all headphones is the ability to tune the EQ. Sure enough, there’s a custom equalizer and multiple presets to tune the sound profile to your personal perfection.

The next thing we look for is the ability to customize the buttons, which you can do to some extent. For additional optionality, you can set up Alexa as your default voice assistant, and there’s a quick access feature to play Spotify with button presses. All-in-all, the Sony app has a bunch of features and Sony is good about firmware updates so these headphones should keep getting better.


For audio quality alone, this Sony WH-1000 line is still among the best… but when you factor in the premium noise cancellation, comfort, and custom EQ tuning these are almost impossible to beat. Out of the box, the audio quality is so rich and detailed.

You can hear the subtleties of every instrument, and the mid-range vocals shine. The bass is a tad light by default — but that’s just a quick setting away. With minimal tuning, we can get the XM5 to be beautifully balanced.

Every genre sounds excellent and they’re very fun to listen to. Compared to the XM4, which already sounded incredible, we can’t tell much of a difference. Unless you’re a serious audiophile, you could swear these are the best-sounding headphones that exist.


Sony’s noise canceling is still the best. We’re always impressed with how clean it is and how much background noise it can eliminate. There’s no sound or hiss when active noise cancellation is on. If I’m on the treadmill with these headphones I can’t hear it, allowing you to get so much more out of your music.

This also means you don’t have to listen to music as loudly as is usually the case, which your ears will appreciate. The headphones remove what sounds like 80% of the subway and airplane noise when traveling.

While there are some documented upgrades to the active noise canceling in this new model, we didn’t find it noticeable. There were times we thought the XM4 sounded better and other times that the XM5 sounded better.

The XM5 noise canceling automatically adapts to your environment whereas the XM4 seemed to just be consistently on max. While a bit different, both headphones still offer some of the best active noise canceling available.

Is Sony WH-1000XM5 waterproof?

One of the drawbacks of the Sony WH-1000XM5 is the fact that it is not water-resistant.

Unfortunately, the XM5 does not support NFC pairing unlike its predecessor, the XM4.

The real question is whether to buy the Sony XM5 over the previous XM4 model. We found the microphone and call quality to be the most notable improvement, so if phone calls aren’t a priority we’d opt to save some money and go for the XM4.

Are Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones worth it?

If you’re looking for an amazing pair of over-ear noise-canceling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is still the best all around. Between the excellent sound quality, the top-of-the-line noise cancellation, the all-day comfort, the incredible battery, the upgraded 8-mic technology, and features galore, they’re an absolute joy to wear and use.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones come in black or white and are currently available for $398 on Amazon. The previous model, WH-1000XM4, is currently available for $348 on Amazon, but you can also find an occasional deal on these.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones
$399.99 $348.00

The Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones offer excellent sound quality and noise cancellation, all-day comfort, incredible battery, and upgraded 8-mic technology. They're an absolute joy to wear and use.

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11/24/2023 04:04 pm GMT
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