I love the Sony WF-1000XM5 but there’s one thing I would change (and it isn’t the noise-cancelling)

Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds with case, eartips and charging cable
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

It’s hard not to be impressed by the Sony WF-1000XM5. Nor is it difficult to put them in the list of the best wireless earbuds I've ever heard. After all the speculation and leaks, when I finally saw them, I was particularly excited to see how different they looked compared with their predecessors, the WF-1000XM4.

You see, the more I have used the XM4 and compared them with rivals from the likes of Bose and Apple, the more I have found them a bit too bulky and a little too uncomfortable. So to see a new-look pair with a smaller, more streamlined design filled me with joy.

I've tested hundreds of pairs of wireless earbuds over the years and I've experienced a lot of good but also a lot of not-so-good designs. And, after using the Sonys for a few weeks, I’m pleased to say the new discreet design that blends in with your ears better is a big hit – and I know multiple members of our review team agree.

Another byproduct of the new design is that they are also much more comfortable. The old model used to exert more pressure on my (*Googles parts of the outer ear quickly*) Tragus, which the new version doesn’t do. I can listen to the XM5 for a train journey or two, or a whole day in the office without any aches or pains.

But more comfortable doesn’t mean most comfortable; nor does it necessarily mean they are automatically more stable. I still think Sony can do better. Here’s why.

Let’s twist again

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds out of their cases

For me, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II get the fit just right. (Image credit: Future)

During my time with the WF-1000XM5, it has felt like I have spent too much time trying to get the fit right. Too much time twisting and untwisting to get the earbuds in place. Too much time questioning the quality of the seal and whether the buds wouldn’t lose it at the first sign of any turbulence.

This slight lack of confidence has led to me second-guessing on more than one occasion. Sony’s fit test (available through its Headphones Connect app) has confirmed all is ok, but there is still some lingering doubt.

It feels like a small bump in the road, mainly because I don’t seem to have a similar problem with rival pairs of noise-cancelling earbuds, such as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. Their eartips don’t burrow. The way they are designed to interact with the opening of your ear means they are wide enough and pliable enough to create a seal without the need for any major manipulation. They are literally ‘plug ‘n play’.

New tips, please

Sony WF-C700N wireless earbuds in the palm of a hand

In my experience, the ear tips on Sony's cheaper WF-C700N deliver a great seal. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

So where do I think the source of my angst lies? It’s quite simple; I think the type of ear tips used in this model (and the WF-1000XM4 before them) just don’t suit me as much as more traditional designs. They are made from polyurethane and act in a similar way to memory foam in that you can squeeze the tip and slide it into place where it should expand, thus creating a better seal.

Perhaps it’s as simple as having a bigger ear tip option. The WF-1000XM4 offered only three different sizes of tip; S, M and L. With the WF-1000XM5 Sony has introduced a new smaller SS tip, which is good news for those of us with small ear openings.

But if Sony is going to stick with this material moving forward, I would argue that a larger XL tip might be useful too. Not everyone needs it, but I think my ears would appreciate it. Ironically, I feel like I get a better, more consistent seal with Sony’s cheaper WF-C700N earbuds which use more traditional silicone eartips. Here, the largest set of tips on offer works perfectly.

Sony WF-1000XM4 and WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds out of their case next to each other

The new WF-1000XM5 (right) are much smaller and more comfortable than their predecessors, the XM4 (left). (Image credit: Future)

Also, the surface of the tips is quite smooth, which I don’t think is necessarily conducive to getting a good grip on the inner part of your ear. Perhaps a slightly more textured surface might give the earbuds a slightly better grip? It's just a thought.

Now I realise this is a bit of a first-world problem, that everyone’s ears are different and that the C700N don’t sound anywhere near as capable as the WF-1000XM5 across the board; I just find it interesting that out of all the premium wireless earbuds I have tested it’s the Sonys that require more manipulating than most.

Do you own a pair of XM5 (or XM4 for that matter)? How do you feel about fit and comfort in general when it comes to wireless earbuds? Let us know with a comment below.


Our pick of the best wireless earbuds

I spoke to Sony's audio experts about how they tune the WF-1000XM5 earbuds' stunning sound

5 sound settings you shouldn't ignore on the Sony WF-1000XM5

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs Sony WF-C700N: which five-star wireless earbuds reign supreme?

Sony WF-1000XM5 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: which should you buy?

Andy Madden

Andy is Deputy Editor of What Hi-Fi? and a consumer electronics journalist with nearly 20 years of experience writing news, reviews and features. Over the years he's also contributed to a number of other outlets, including The Sunday Times, the BBC, Stuff, and BA High Life Magazine. Premium wireless earbuds are his passion but he's also keen on car tech and in-car audio systems and can often be found cruising the countryside testing the latest set-ups. In his spare time Andy is a keen golfer and gamer.

  • antych
    That's exactly my experience. The right earbud always feels off in my case, unless I move it around. It left a bad initial impression, but doesn't affect useability or sound quality so I got used it by now.
  • Frankle
    Sadly this was my problem too, spent so much time trying to get the right fit I sometimes just didn't bother & went to the gym without them. A larger ear tip would be great. I can't fault the sound or the anc or anything about them only the tip fittings, in the end I sent them back. I bought the Bose quite comfort II instead, different shape to the ear tip & fits like a glove.
  • RichAB
    I wholeheartedly agree even to the point I thought it was my ears. Early reviews spoke so highly of these earbuds that I thought I must be missing something when I found them very difficult to wear. On several occasions they have simply fallen out when walking. No way would I ever dream of exercising with them in ear. So I’m left wondering why everyone rated them 5 stars when the one key ingredient .e.g. actually wearing them is flawed? Surely that must feature as part of any review? If they had not cost so much money I would replace…..
  • Claws mayhem
    Exactly my issue. They were so bad I’d always be losing them out my ear. Which with dogs around were a pain!
    Aftermarket ones from Amazon were far better for me.
  • Chippy_boy
    It's pretty clear to me that the level of fit and comfort you might experience is entirely down to your own ears.

    I am not particularly insensitive or tolerant - quite the opposite in fact - but in contrast to the posters above, I find my XM5's to be extremely comfortable (as were the 4's before them). I can wear them on an 11 hour transatlantic flight and forget I am even wearing them.
  • drmcclelland
    Claws mayhem said:
    Exactly my issue. They were so bad I’d always be losing them out my ear. Which with dogs around were a pain!
    Aftermarket ones from Amazon were far better for me.
    Which aftermarket earbud tips did you find that worked best for you?
  • Skuz007
    AZLA sednaearfit max standard 2 possibly the best silicone ear tips with vent holes in the front. No messing a perfect seal Everytime
  • Binmaninnz
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    I still think there’s room for improvement with one aspect of Sony’s five-star earbuds.

    I love the Sony WF-1000XM5 but there’s one thing I would change (and it isn’t the noise-cancelling) : Read more
    They are driving me dingbats to the point I am giving them away. The N/C is almost non existent. I have changed the tips, returned the earphones to Sony who said they are fine and completed a correct fit test on the app. The app continually reports ear tips too small. I am using the largest tips! I have compared them in various environments and against my Bose Ultra and Jabra 10 Elite. These Sonys are seriously flawed and should not be advertised as noise cancelling. I don’t believe I should be hunting down larger tips with wax guards. The Bose are impressive and the Jabra not bad at all.
  • Willhiro
    I had the same issue. I also had the same issue with the X4s. The solution was to ordered a replacement tips from Amazon. I used the Comply TruGrip Foam, and it works great. I ride my road bike for a few hours and they do not fall off. I also go to the gym with them. So far so good