Sony WH-1000XM5 are official with new design, better ANC and improved sound quality

Sony WH-1000XM5 are official with new design, better ANC and sound quality
(Image credit: Sony)

The Sony WH-1000XM5 are official! They follow the XM4 – our longstanding pick of the best over-ear headphones – and as such, are one of the biggest headphone launches of the year. New additions include a new design, new noise-cancelling tech and even more advanced audio processing. Let's dig in.

And you can read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review right now.

First up, the active noise cancelling (ANC). This comes courtesy of two processors controlling eight mics (up from five on the XM4) to neutralise background sound. The Auto NC Optimiser tweaks the ANC depending on your surroundings without you doing a thing (previously, you had to run Sony’s NC Optimiser before you changed surroundings to optimise the noise-cancelling). 

Sony's HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 (previously seen on the WH-1000XM4) is aided by the Integrated Processor V1 (which debuted in the Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds) and new 30mm driver unit.

That 30mm driver replaces the 40mm unit seen in the WH-1000XM4, and uses light and rigid carbon fibre for its dome, giving it better high-frequency sensitivity for a more natural sound quality. Sony has also used the same lead-free solder containing gold as seen in its A100 Walkman portable music player to aid connectivity and optimise the circuitry. Like their predecessors, they support Sony's hi-res LDAC music codec, and DSEE Extreme (which upscales music files in real time).

They also play nice with Sony's 360 Reality Audio tech, giving you virtual surround sound.

Sony WH-1000XM5 are official with new design, better ANC and sound quality

(Image credit: Sony)

Call quality has also been given a boost. Sony's Voice Pickup tech uses four beam-forming mics and AI-based noise reduction to isolate your voice, while a newly developed wind noise reduction structure minimises wind noise during calls. All of which will help you hear the person on the other end of the line, and be heard yourself.

The new design promises to be more comfortable than ever, with synthetic soft fit leather ear cups and a stepless slider for adjusting the size. The headband is also a little slimmer than on previous models.

The same Adaptive Sound Control feature as seen on the XM4 automatically adjusts the sound output to your situation (be it a quiet field or busy cafe), recognising your most frequented locations and adjusting the sound settings accordingly. Quick Access lets you resume Spotify playback in two or three taps, without having to dig out your phone, and the Sony Headphones Connect app tells you if your listening volume is too high and could potentially damage your hearing.

So what other features are on board? Speak-to-Chat pauses the music and lets in ambient sound once it detects you talking, so you can have a conversation without taking the headphones off. Take them off, and they pause playback automatically. Handsfree controls come courtesy of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistants.

Like the WH-1000XM4, the XM5 support Multipoint, so can be wirelessly paired to two devices at once. Getting a call? They will know which device it's coming from and automatically connect you to it. And you can switch devices at the touch of a button.

Google Fast Pair comes as standard too, for pairing quickly with Android devices, while Windows devices are catered for with Swift Pair.

Battery life stands at the same impressive 30 hours as the XM4, but turn ANC off and you can eke 40 hours out of them. Just three minutes on charge gives you a remarkable three hours' use too, using USB Power Delivery (though you'll need to supply your own compatible adapter). From the mains, 10 minutes of plug time is good for five hours' use. And the collapsible carry case can be made thinner for easier stowing.

The XM5 are eco-friendly, using recycled plastic materials from automobile parts, and with no plastic in the packaging. The packaging was guided by low toxicity design principles and a green 'Made to be Remade' philosophy. The box uses recycled and sustainable materials developed specially for Sony.

The XM5 will be out on 20th May, with pre-orders live now. They will cost £380 / $399 / AU$549 – that's a little more than their predecessors.


Read the full Sony WH-1000XM5 review

Read our Sony WH-1000XM4 tips, tricks and advice

Here are the best Sony headphones you can buy

Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.