Sony WF-1000XM4 – the next level of BT, ANC, earphone perfection (first look)

Sony WF-1000XM4

The Sony WF-1000XM4 is its 2021 update to the highly successful 2019 WF-1000XM3. They are top-draw earphones at a reasonable price of $389.95, including shipping.

First impressions count, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 (website here) look superb. A more rounded shape with distinctive copper highlights taken from the WH-1000XM4 headphones (review here 9.8/10) and a departure from the paddle-shaped WF-1000XM3 (review here 9.2/10). Don’t ask what the round copper things are (hint, they are mics).

We have a set for review, but that takes time – we like to use them for at least two weeks, so please take this as a first look. Yes, we have fired them up, downloaded the app, updated firmware and started listening. We will say that if you thought the M3 was good, you will be delighted with the M4.

Here is an overview of the Sony WF-1000XM4

Key features

  • ANC tech with V1 processor, dual noise sensor mics and a bone-conduction sensor on each bud
  • Auto wind noise reduction and beamforming mics for clear hands-free
  • Speak to Chat, and Quick Attention pauses the music and lets in ambient sound
  • Adaptive noise cancelling – travel, walking, quiet times and can learn the places you visit
  • Sony proprietary polyurethane foam ear tips for passive noise isolation
  • Improved app includes ear tip sizing
  • BT 5.2 and True Wireless connections
  • Up to 8 hours with ANC and an extra 16 hours in the case – recharge 1.5 hours
  • Qi wireless and USB-C charge
  • SBC, AAC and LDAC (no Qualcomm aptX variants)
  • DSEE Extreme (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) upscales compressed digital music files in real-time
  • Supports Sony 360° reality audio
  • Voice assistant Google and Alexa
  • IPX4

GadgetGuy’s take

We will be reviewing the Sony WF-1000XM4 over the coming weeks. Initial impressions are great frequency response even using SBC (20Hz-20kHz 44.1kHz), and we are experimenting with LDAC (20Hz-40kHz, 48/96kHz, 330/660/990kbps).

ANC wise, it is effective, but as international jet travel is off the menu, we will be using other tests.

I love the speak to chat. Why hasn’t someone done that before?

On price – note that the Press Release states $449.95 from mid-July. The AU website shows $389.95, so you have a right to insist on that.

Quick assessment:

Like its predecessor, it does not support Qualcomm aptX and its variants, which may be a deal-breaker for some buyers. LDAC is both a lossy and lossless codec and depends on the resolution of the audio content, e.g., if it gets ripped MP3 or 16-bit/44.1kHz CD quality, it will play at that. DSEE Extreme upscales, but audiophiles will tell you that you can’t add detail that is not there.

It is not the best I have heard in the ANC area, but what defines is the best?

Overall, I think you will be hard-pressed to find a better overall package – some brands do some things better.