Sony WH-1000XM4 Review: The Best Noise Cancelling Headset?

Melvin Jones

Melvin Jones

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August 30th 2020

Two years after launching the highly acclaimed active noise reduction headset WH-1000XM3, Sony finally launched a new generation of WH-1000XM4. To be honest, Sony WH-1000XM3 has done very well in all aspects, whether it is noise reduction, sound quality or wearing feeling, it has reached the peak of the industry.The birth of Sony WH-1000XM4 is more user-friendly in terms of user experience, and it continues to increase its design, operation, sound quality and noise reduction. 

Rocking Review will do a detailed analysis of Sony WH-1000XM4. I hope after this review, readers will have less confusion and more confident to decide whether to buy Sony WH-1000XM4 or not.

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The left is XM4 and the right is XM3. Although it is not obvious, the bracket of WH-1000XM4 is changed from the metallic luster of WH-1000XM3 to matte.

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The nameplate on the head beam of WH-1000XM4 (left) is also changed from the metallic luster of WH-1000XM3 to matte

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The WH-1000XM4 button on the left is matte, and the WH-1000XM3 is piano paint finish

If you don’t look closely at WH-1000XM4, it’s difficult to distinguish it from WH-1000XM3. Especially the black that I got this time is more difficult to distinguish in appearance. However, Sony has changed the previous generation of matte color with metal texture treatment. The original headband model nameplate and frame bracket are treated with metal texture. The whole machine uses a single matte color, and also changes the NFC label from the printing font to the engraving pattern. Change the shiny side to matte.

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The WH-1000XM4 pad on the left looks thinner than the WH-1000XM3 on the right, but it distributes the overhead forces more evenly

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The angle of the WH-1000XM4 earmuffs on the left has been fine-tuned to make it more comfortable and fitter than the WH-1000XM3 earmuffs

This time Sony has also redesigned the head support pads and earmuffs for wearing comfort. The shape of the top support has been re-adjusted. The earmuffs use new filling materials and synthetic leather, and the shape and angle of the earmuffs have been adjusted. The previous generation fits the head better, which not only improves the sound insulation ability, but also enables it to share the support more evenly. It is more comfortable to wear for a long time than WH-1000XM3

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The busbar of WH-1000XM4 on the left is less obvious than that of WH-1000XM3, and the assembly gap of parts is also smaller

In addition to the changes in details, WH-1000XM4 has essentially redesigned many small parts. After adding many new features, the weight is slightly reduced compared to WH-1000XM3. At the same time, the re-molded small parts are more refined and have a better overall texture. The previous generation is more refined. My colleagues who have been using WH-1000XM3 for a long time saw that they immediately found that the texture of the detailed assembly was significantly improved.

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Distance sensor located in the left ear

WH-1000XM4 also conforms to the current trend, adding a distance sensor inside the left ear, with a gyroscope function, WH-1000XM4 can detect the behavior of removing and re-wearing the headset, and can automatically pause and resume music playback. The sensor makes the shape of the tuning material special. I am not sure whether I can replace the third-party earmuff accessories of WH-1000XM3 by myself. At the same time, you can choose to turn off the LED indicator after wearing it to reduce unnecessary power consumption. After all, the function of the LED is mainly to remind whether to turn on the headset and confirm the pairing status before putting on the headset.

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WH-1000XM4 uses the 40mm LCP unit of WH-1000XM3, but the tuning is more neutral

Although the WH-1000XM4 unit specifications follow the WH-1000XM3 40mm LCP liquid crystal molecular diaphragm unit, but to meet the needs of consumers, this original tuning reduces the low-frequency sense of volume. After all, the characteristics of active noise reduction headphones should be reduced Uncomfortable low frequency, but the previous generations of low frequency settings inevitably affect the comfort of long-distance travel, so WH-1000XM4 reduces the low frequency, but consumers can still enhance the low frequency volume through EQ adjustment.

The circuit design is also a key project of WH-1000XM4. Although the QN1 noise reduction chip is maintained this time, due to the new Bluetooth TWS5.0 chip, the performance of the noise reduction operation using two chips simultaneously is better than using QN1 alone. Good computing performance. At the same time, for consumers with call needs, the new generation of Bluetooth chips can reduce call noise, which can obtain better call quality, especially for remote office and video conferencing. The improvement of call quality is absolutely effective upgrade.

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Through three-microphone radio and AI judgment technology, WH-1000XM4 can provide a new fast chat mode

Also because of the increase in AI computing power, Sony has also added more AI-based marginal computing functions to WH-1000XM4. One is wearing perception. Now WH-1000XM4 will not only pause music playback when the headset is removed, but also set it in the app. Select the function of suspending the touch panel at the same time to avoid accidental touch and cause continuous power consumption.

Another brand-new AI application is the Speak to Chat fast chat mode. This feature is similar to the active version of the fast focus mode. It uses the headset microphone and AI to detect whether the user is trying to talk to others. Once the user speaks Meet the trigger condition of AI detection, that is, enter the fast chat mode, and the music playback will be paused at this time. This is different from the fast focus mode, which only reduces the music volume. It is preset that the music playback will resume after interrupting the conversation for 15 seconds; but the author found that This mechanism is also triggered when the office coughs occasionally, but music playback can be resumed by the touch panel.

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WH-1000XM4 can adjust EQ when using LDAC

The last brand new AI function is used to improve audio reproduction. This time the original DSEE HX is upgraded to DSEE Extreme; compared to the long-used DSEE HX, which can’t take into account the performance of human voice and mid-low frequency, it uses the deep learning framework of DSEE Extreme. Furthermore, AI analysis methods are used to improve the reduction ability of mid-to-high frequencies and make the sound closer to the lossless sound quality. This also allows the huge ecosystem of the Sony Group to construct this DNN framework suitable for terminal AI on portable devices.

However, it should be emphasized that although the general perception of AI can continue to evolve through learning, the AI ​​of WH-1000XM4 is a marginal AI inference application and does not include the learning function, so there will not be a complete AI technology. The more evolved features, but the advantage is that it can be used at least out of the box, and there will be no shortage of initial functions. Even if the factory settings are restored, the AI ​​performance will not be affected.

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The multi-band ambient sound mode inherits the function of WH-1000XM3

Also due to the higher computing power than previous models, the WH-1000XM4 can finally adjust the EQ in the LDAC high-sound quality connection mode this time. It is used to pay attention to the sound quality but also hope to be able to adjust the sound characteristics of the WH-1000XM4 to a certain extent. It is good news that the new version of the Bluetooth chip also eliminates the support of Qualcomm's high-quality encoding aptX, and only provides encoding support such as SBC, AAC and LDAC. Rich personalized settings can be made.

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Available for rich personalized settings

At the same time, the WH-1000XM4 can also be paired with two devices at the same time due to the multi-point connection function, for example, now you can connect a mobile phone and a laptop at the same time, or have a personal and a company phone, in use If there is an incoming call in one of the devices, you can switch to mobile phone calls without re-pairing. This mode needs to be enabled in the app. At the same time, due to factors such as bandwidth, LDAC encoding cannot be used in multi-point connection mode.

In addition, WH-1000XM4 also has a new version of the flexible sound control function in the app, which can switch profiles according to GPS positioning. This function is quite disapproving at first, but after using it, I feel that it is really good for people who can listen to headphones at home and office environments. The user is very convenient. For example, I will adjust the EQ to soft in the office so that the music will not affect the mood at work, and turn on the quick chat mode function, while at home, I change the EQ to cheerful and turn off the quick chat to enjoy the music; This function will start after a few seconds after connecting the headset. It is not switched on and off. At the same time, the matching mobile phone needs to install the app.

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WH-1000XM4 earmuffs and top padding bring a more comfortable wearing feeling

Although it is difficult to notice the change of WH-1000XM4 from the appearance, after wearing it, you will feel that Sony's self-detail adjustment does improve the overall wearing feeling. Compared with WH-1000XM3, the fit of the earmuffs is better, not inferior to the author's long-term use , Replace the MDR-1000X of American Dekoni artificial leather, and the pressure distribution of the top cushion is also better, and it is much more comfortable to wear MDR-1000X in the office all day.

Secondly, the tuning part is more in line with the author’s preferred style. The previous generation of WH-1000XM3 emphasizes low frequency performance. Although it is suitable for pop music lovers, it is also prone to hearing fatigue. I used it for a long time overseas on business trips. Active noise reduction headphones are less suitable, and the previous generation cannot adjust EQ as long as LDAC is turned on, but WH-1000XM4 can have both high-quality encoding and personalized music style.

If the preset tuning style of WH-1000XM3 is closer to MDR-1A, the low-frequency volume is more sense, and the sound pressure is more direct-vibrating eardrum, then the tuning of WH-1000XM4 is more similar to MDR-1AM2, the low frequency is more convergent and The overall balance is higher, but it is also less dynamic. At the same time, if you carefully compare WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4, the details of WH-1000XM4 are more complete under the same music, the same LDAC encoding, and the DSEE function disabled.

It is difficult to feel the evolution of WH-1000XM4 from the appearance and specifications, but there are significant upgrades from mechanism, tuning to function

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Our Verdict

Although compared to WH-1000XM3, it lacks aptX encoding support, but most Android mid-to-high-end models using Qualcomm platform can support LDAC. Even if only AAC encoding can be used, after DSEE Extream correction is turned on, most listening situations are also quite good. As for Apple users basically don't hurt or itchy, after all, Apple still only provides AAC format at this stage, and whether it supports other high-quality agreements will not affect it.

If you only look at the specifications and exterior design, you might think that it took Sony two years to launch the new version of WH-1000XM4. It doesn’t seem to be too amazing, but the actual experience and comparison will give you a sense of Sony’s details. Tuning and wearing feeling improve the shortcomings of WH-1000XM3, and use AI technology to provide a more convenient and caring use situation, especially the introduction of fast chat mode, which is also more convenient for users such as in the office or with family Talk to the outside world.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article. please do not forget to share.

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