Happily, Sony's new flagship wireless in-ears have outstripped their predecessors, easily earning a 2023 What Hi-Fi? Award and forging their own sonic identity in the process. Sadly, they're not the cheapest pair of buds on the market, so any deal you can find should be snapped up as a matter of priority.
What makes the WF-1000XM5 such a compelling buy? In short, they improve on the XM4 in pretty much every way, which is quite a feat considering the quality of the outgoing model.
First off, the design. Sony has slimmed down the XM5, making them smaller and lighter than their predecessors, making them more comfortable to wear and less of a strain on your ears. They fit better, too, thanks to the addition of an extra-small size of eartip and a rather nice composite tip material.
The design helps with performance, too. Because they're slimmer, the XM5 pick up less wind noise, which means less interference with calls and music. There are noise-cancelling mics to help with this as well, with Sony adding an extra mic to each earbud to make three in each. Combined with the new HD Noise Cancelling processor QN2e, it grants a 20 per cent improvement in noise cancelling compared to the XM4.
The new bids have all the same features as the XM4 – including support for Sony's higher-quality LDAC audio codec and 360 Reality Audio virtual surround sound – but they add some new abilities to the mix. Head-tracking for spatial audio tracks, for example, anchors the sound to the device it's coming from (great for augmented reality mobile games), while calls can now be answered with a nod of the head. You can also stream LDAC files while maintaining a Bluetooth Multipoint connection, so you can switch seamlessly between devices without having to re-pair your headphones.
Improved controls are also the order of the day. The XM5 let you operate playback, sound modes and volume all at the same time through the earbuds. With their predecessors, you were restricted to only being able to operate two out of the three at any one time.
And the sound? Glad you asked. Sony hasn't just tinkered with the sound profile but overhauled it entirely – gone is the XM4's rather playful approach in favour of a more analytical, more hi-fi audio performance. It might lose a little energy in the low end, but the extra level of detail it manages to unearth is phenomenal.
Naturally, they're more expensive than their predecessors, launching at £259 / $299 / AU$419, but those figures will fall during sales periods and the run-up to Christmas. If any deals are available now, you'll see them here first.
Read our original Sony WF-1000XM5 review
Sony WF-1000XM5 vs Apple AirPods Pro 2: which five-star earbuds are better?
Here are the best wireless earbuds: budget and premium