Sony WF-1000XM6: release date prediction, price speculation, and 5 things on our wishlist

Sony WF-1000XM5 true wireless earbuds in white with their charging case on a table
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Sony WF-1000XM5 have been out for less than a year, but we're already thinking about their successors. Too soon? We don't think so. Sony usually launches a new pair of flagship true wireless earbuds every two years, so chances are the XM6 are a little over 12 months away. That's not that long, given the significance of the WF-1000XM range.

The big question is: what will Sony do next? Its true wireless earbuds have continually pushed the boundaries of what's possible, and that sense of innovation and sheer quality has now filtered down to its more affordable earbuds. The Sony WC-C500 and WF-C700N both picked up 2023 What Hi-Fi? Awards in their respective price categories (alongside the WF-1000XM5 at the high end, of course). To improve on the WF-1000XM5, Sony will have its work cut out.

But don't worry, we're here to help. As well as the latest rumours doing the rounds, we've compiled a list of what we'd like to see in Sony's next flagship pair to help make the best even better. You're welcome, Sony.

A Sony WF-1000XM5 lifestyle shot showing a woman taking one earbud out of the charging case

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony WF-1000XM6: release date speculation

As of yet, all we have to go on is a little brain power and the current Sony release schedule for its WF-1000XM range. The WF-1000XM3 were released in August 2019, followed by the WF-1000XM4 true wireless earbuds on June 8th, 2021. In 2023, the XM5 made their proud debut on 24th July. 

You don't have to be a Harvard maths professor to figure out the pattern here. Sony tends to release its premium true wireless earbuds every two years, usually in the summer months. That would mean that a new pair, the hypothetical WF-1000XM6, would arrive sometime between June and August 2025. That feels like a lifetime away.

It also makes sense considering how many spinning plates the Sony audio department has to deal with. Interspersed with the premium WF-1000XM range, there's also the small matter of the over-ear WH-1000XM headphones, usually released every two years, not to mention potential budget and mid-range earbuds (the follow-ups to the WF-C700N and WF-C500, for instance) to boot. Sony has a lot on its plate, so don't expect the WF-1000XM6 to arrive any time soon.  

Sony WF-1000XM5 in white with one earbud held in front of the carry case and the other bud on a table

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Sony WF-1000XM6: price prediction 

At launch, the WF-1000XM5 set you back £259 / $299 / AU$419. Those prices have dropped – we've seen them as low as £219 – but only momentarily. Most of the time, you'll pay full whack.

They're a little more expensive than the WF-1000XM4, which arrived in mid-2021 at a retail price of £250 / $280 / AU$450, while the preceding XM3s were tested at £220 / $230. 

Prices, then, have steadily risen, though not by so much as to make this flagship range utterly unaffordable. It's going to be interesting to see what happens next and whether Sony sticks to this price range or if the trajectory will tend towards even further upwards. If it does, Sony will have to make sure the quality and features the next buds offer match up to the price point.

It's also worth keeping in mind how much Sony's rivals in this premium earbuds category cost, too. The Apple AirPods Pro 2 retailed at a similarly hefty £249 / $249 / AU$399, yet those buds crucially didn't increase their price from the original AirPods Pro model. Bose, meanwhile, launched the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds at £300 / $299 / AU$450, making them the priciest of our favourite premium pairs.

Sony WF-1000XM5 with their carry case on a copy of What Hi-Fi? magazine

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Sony WF-1000XM6: five things we'd like to see 

There weren't many what you'd call "disappointments" with the Sony WF-1000XM5 – it's a pretty compelling package. There were, however, a few areas that could be improved upon...

1. A slightly better fit
Despite a lighter build and smaller profile (which offers more comfort than the XM4), one of our main quibbles with the XM5 was the way that they fitted. This varied from person to person, yet there were enough members of our in-office review team who felt that the premium buds didn't quite sit in their ears as snugly as they'd have liked, especially when compared to the lighter, and better-fitting, budget Sony WF-C700N in-ears. Whether it's a case of using a different material for the eartips themselves, offering an even larger eartip size, or a different mechanism for locking the fit in, we think these are subtle ways the XM6 could improve to give a better fit for all.

2. Dynamic head tracking for Apple users
The XM5 were the first Sony buds to support dynamic head tracking on Sony's 360 Reality Audio immersive tracks, via Tidal and Amazon Music, although this only works on Android devices. Ideally, we'd love to see this made available to iOS devices, too, even if Apple has its own Spatial Audio tracks with the same feature via Apple Music.

3. Boost the battery life
The battery life of the XM5 was by no means a disgrace, but we think it can be improved for the next iteration. The XM5 buds themselves offered eight hours of life with Bluetooth and ANC, with 24 hours in total including the charging case. Those are the same figures boasted by the previous XM4, and while those aren't bad numbers, we'd expect the XM6 to take battery life to the next level. Two subsequent generations without a change would seem a little like stagnation.  

4. Bring back the fun
Okay, this really is the definition of "have your cake and eat it", we accept. Not only are the Sony XM5 a stunning-sounding pair of buds, but they're also a surprising break from the sonic signature of the XM4 (and XM3 before it). While they deliver plenty in terms of punch, dynamism and energy, the XM5 focus more heavily on clarity, space and detail to a quite mindblowing degree. We do love how the XM5 sound, especially after getting used to the change, but a request to inject a bit more fun and fluid musicality back for the XM6 alongside the newfound clarity and analytical approach really is asking for the best of all worlds. In the immortal words of Tony Stark, though, "Is it too much to ask for both?"

5. Better colours and aesthetics
Our favourite part of using the Sony WF-1000XM5 was, obviously, listening to them. That said, we were a little underwhelmed with how the new pair looked, especially with regard to the limited colour scheme of black and 'silver'. The latter is closer to
a grey that hovers somewhere between what various members of the What Hi-Fi? team have dubbed either "hearing aid beige" or "aeroplane in-flight entertainment grey". While the buds themselves feel premium in build quality, we'd like to see these flagship Sony pairs available in more luxurious, stylish hues.

Sony WF-1000XM5 next to the Apple AirPods Pro 2 in their charging cases

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

You can tell how excited we are to see where Sony is going to go next with its acclaimed WF-1000XM line of wireless earbuds. The XM5 feel like they've altered the paradigm, overhauling Sony's sound profile while delivering new levels of detail and precision we've not heard before in wireless buds. That, in itself, makes the next step for the XM6 intriguing.

Let's not forget, either, that Sony isn't just competing with its own shadow. Competition at this price comes from Apple's immensely popular AirPods Pro 2, Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds Ultra and a host of alternate offerings from JBL, Sennheiser and Technics, meaning the XM6, when they do arrive, will need to fight hard to keep Sony at the top of the tree.


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Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.

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