Sony's newest flagship wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM5, have impressed us with their set of features, premium build and superb sound quality. They've even managed to surpass the long-standing WF-1000XM4 favourites, leapfrogging their predecessors when it comes to unearthing absolute detail, clarity and precision.
But there are plenty of ways to eke out even more performance from them, beyond just bunging the buds in your ears straight out of the box. Download the official Sony Headphones Connect app, and you'll find there are plenty of hidden settings that not only unlock plenty of fun features but also ensures you get the best audio quality from these five-star XM5 buds.
We've lived with the XM5 for over a month now, and we've tried and tested this handful of key features that help elevate and fine-tune the sound quality even further. Try out these tips and you'll enjoy your XM5 pair even more.
1. Optimise sound quality (not connection) over Bluetooth
Open the Sony Headphones Connect app, go to the Sound tab and scroll down until you see the Bluetooth Connection Quality section. You have two options here: to prioritise sound quality or a stable connection over Bluetooth.
Naturally, we'd recommend you select the option that prioritises sound quality. The app will automatically select the best available codec for your connected source, too.
It's worth noting that the stable connection option might come in handy if you're in particularly built-up areas with many wireless signals (like London Waterloo Station) where you might experience a connection dropout.
2. Turn DSEE Extreme on
We've encountered Sony's proprietary DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) processing on a number of Sony products over the years, from the XM4 buds to Walkman players like the NW-A306. It's the DSEE Extreme tech that's available in the XM5, which is an intelligent algorithm that upscales low-quality, compressed music (e.g. MP3s, Spotify streams) to near-high-resolution quality. We find it makes a difference to the sound every time it's turned on.
It effectively fills in the gaps in detail, trying to reproduce the original sound quality as close as possible to before the file was compressed. Turn it on, and you'll hear an extra layer of subtlety and nuance elevating any non-hi-res songs you play through the XM5.
3. Do the ear tip fit test (and choose the right ear tip size)
We like it when headphone brands include an 'ear tip fit test' feature with their wireless earbuds – it's so handy. This will help ensure you're using the right eartip size (Sony offers SS, S, M and L options) so that you get the best-fitting seal for comfort, sound quality and effective ANC.
The ear tip fit test takes all the guesswork out of choosing the right eartip for you. You might even find that you'll need a different size for each ear – one size doesn't fit all, after all. Experiment until the app gives the green light (or a tick mark), then you're good to go and enjoy the full effect of the XM5's talents.
Where can you find this test? In the Headphones Connect app, go to the System tab, then select Determines Optimal Earbud Tips.
4. Customise your own EQ setting based on the type of sound you like (Beta version)
There is an Equalizer section in the app where you can select pre-determined EQs (bright, excited, mellow, relaxed, vocal, speech, treble boost, bass boost...) or customise your own manually. But even better is the "Find Your Equalizer" feature that is currently in a Beta version (available for both iOS and Android apps).
"You can find your sound balance by selecting sound while listening to music," says the app. Essentially, play a song you know very well and the app will present numbered bubbles, each option giving you a different subtle effect on the music. It might take a few tries, but go with your instinct and pick the balance that sounds 'right' or best to you. You go through this selection process three times – each time the EQ effect goes even subtler and, truthfully, we struggled to tell the difference at times. However, at the end it shows you the final EQ balance tailored to your tastes. You can even see (and hear) the before and after effects.
We preferred keeping the EQ flat during our testing, but you might find this feature is a pretty neat way to tailor the XM5's default sound exactly to your music tastes.
5. Turn ANC off (and any other extra settings)
Unless you rely heavily on ANC in certain situations, we recommend turning ANC and Ambient Sound Control off if you're after pure music enjoyment. We find this helps the earbuds concentrate solely on delivering the best quality music without the 'effect' of ANC creeping in and affecting the sound (and not only on these Sony buds; we find this happens with every other ANC earbuds, too). With ANC on, the XM5 sound a little closed in and reticent; they breathe more freely and sound richer with it turned off.
Now, this extra step is down to personal preference, but we also find turning off any extraneous processing or features – such as voice control, head gestures, even Speak to Chat – helps to not distract us from enjoying our tunes. Turning those extra features off also saves battery life: you get around eight hours of playtime on a single charge with ANC on; with ANC turned off, this extends to 12 hours. Definitely worth keeping in mind if you want the XM5 buds to last a long trip or commute.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM5 review
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