Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds are official, with new driver for better sound and Bose-baiting ANC

Sony XM5 earbuds are official, with new driver for better sound and Bose-baiting ANC
(Image credit: Future)

The Sony WF-1000XM5 are official, and they should be even better than their Award-winning predecessors. Sony is promising better sound quality, improved active noise-cancellation and a better fit. These could be some of the best earbuds of the year; let's see why.

For this iteration, Sony has focused on two areas: sound quality and noise-cancellation. A new driver, the Dynamic Driver X, provides "wider frequency reproduction, deep bass and clear vocals," says Sony. It is particularly keen to stress the improvement in low frequencies, but this was already a strong suit for the XM4 – in fact, we called it "stunning" in our review. If Sony has managed to make big improvements in this area, we'll be bowled over.

The Dynamic Driver X's diaphragm structure combines several different materials for the dome and the edge, which Sony claims help to reduce distortion. 

Noise-cancellation should be improved thanks to the addition of another two microphones (one on each earbud), making three on each. That total of six mics is two more than the WF-1000XM4's four. Sony promises better noise-cancellation of lower frequencies. It claims this is the firm's "biggest ever step forward in noise cancelling."

There's a new processor, too. The Integrated Processor V2 follows the V1 found in the XM4, and works in lockstep with the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN2e. This promises "unprecedented" noise-cancellation that adapts to your environment. Looks as though the Award-winning Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II could have some competition...

Sony XM5 earbuds are official, with new driver for better sound and Bose-baiting ANC

(Image credit: Future)

Head tracking is also new for the XM5 (though it is limited to Sony 360 Reality Audio tracks and only on Android). This automatically adjusts sound fields to compensate for your head movement, just like Apple Spatial Audio. So if you are watching something on your smartphone and you turn away to look out of the window, say, the sound will stay anchored to your phone. This should be especially effective during mobile games that use augmented reality.

Sony promises the XM5 will deliver the brand's "best ever call quality", with your voice coming across loud and clear regardless of the situation. That's thanks to an AI-based noise-reduction algorithm based on Deep Neutral Network (DNN) processing and bone conduction sensors. And, as on the XM4, the wind-noise reduction structure will minimise any noise from a blustery gale.

The buds have undergone a redesign too. While it's not as drastic as the WH-1000XM5 compared with the WH-1000XM4, it is different enough. There's a new glossy texture, and the earbuds are around 25 per cent smaller and 20 per cent lighter than their predecessors. Which should make them more comfortable to wear for long periods. There is a new SS small size for the earbud tips too, so they should fit the smaller-eared among us.

That's what is new. Some things haven't changed from the XM4, which is no bad thing. The noise-isolation earbud tips are made of the same polyurethane foam material that reduces noise in the high-frequency range. They support the same 'hi-res' LDAC codec (hardly surprising, seeing as it is made by Sony), DSEE Extreme upscaling tech and 360 Reality Audio virtual surround sound. And they have a lot of the same features, such as Adaptive Sound Control, Speak-to-Chat, and Multipoint that lets you pair two Bluetooth devices and switch between them seamlessly. Fast Pair, Swift Pair and voice assistants are all present and correct.

They even have the same battery life as their predecessors (eight hours from the buds, plus 16 from the charging case for a total of 24 hours). Qi wireless charging comes as standard, and the buds are rated IPX4 water resistant.

They will go on sale in August for £259 / $299.99 / €320 / AU$420.

The XM4 are the best wireless earbuds you can buy, so a follow-up was always going to be big news. With claimed improvements in already strong areas, the XM5 could be the buds to beat this year. You can read our full Sony WF-1000XM5 review now.


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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.