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Sony WF-1000XM4 Review

If you're looking to make a lot of phone calls using earbuds, these are the choice for you
Sony WF-1000XM4
Credit: Sony
Top Pick Award
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Price:   $278 List | $278.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Call quality, portability, ANC options
Cons:  Very pricey, not too secure, not ideal for exercising
Manufacturer:   Sony
By Michelle Powell and John Giammona Wilber  ⋅  Jul 29, 2021
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 14
  • Sound Quality - 30% 8
  • Comfort - 20% 6
  • Athletic Performance - 20% 6
  • Battery Life - 15% 8
  • Portability - 10% 8
  • Ease of Use - 5% 8

Our Verdict

The Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless Bluetooth earbuds offer quite the phone call experience. Whereas most wireless earbuds offer pretty abysmal call quality, these buds offer reliable, high-quality calls with noise cancellation measures that actually work. The sound quality of these buds in general is pretty good, as is their overall performance. The downsides are that they aren't the most secure, and therefore run the risk of falling out during physical exercise. Further, these are some of the most expensive Bluetooth earbuds we've reviewed. If you're willing to make the investment for superior call quality, these may be the buds for you, but otherwise, the hefty price tag may be too much.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Sony WF-1000XM4
This Product
Sony WF-1000XM4
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $278 List
$278.00 at Amazon
$200 List
$199.99 at Amazon
$199 List
$199.00 at Amazon
$249 List
$197.00 at Amazon
$120 List
$119.99 at Amazon
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Pros Call quality, portability, ANC optionsSound quality, secure fit, water resistance, very portable, battery life, great in-app EQUnique design, sound quality, battery lifeGood sound quality, active noise cancellation, great user interfaceGreat price for high performance, good sound quality, portability, charging case
Cons Very pricey, not too secure, not ideal for exercisingNoise cancellation only averageNo charging case, heavy, no noise cancellationExpensive, Android users lose many of the unique featuresBulky, uncomfortable for long periods
Bottom Line If you're looking to make a lot of phone calls using earbuds, these are the choice for youOur favorite earbuds to recommend combine great sound with a secure fit and impressive battery life to keep up with your lifestyleThese unique high-quality athletically-inclined earbuds are excellent for high-intensity activity without blocking out your surroundingsFor Apple users that are willing to pay a premium for great sound and versatility, these are a great choiceA quality, high-scoring product with a price tag that won't break the bank
Rating Categories Sony WF-1000XM4 Jaybird Vista 2 Bose Sport Open Ear... Apple AirPods Pro Amazon Echo Buds (2...
Sound Quality (30%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Comfort (20%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Athletic Performance (20%)
6.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Battery Life (15%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Portability (10%)
8.0
9.0
5.0
10.0
9.0
Ease Of Use (5%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Specs Sony WF-1000XM4 Jaybird Vista 2 Bose Sport Open Ear... Apple AirPods Pro Amazon Echo Buds (2...
Weight (oz) 0.5 0.47 1.04 0.38 0.47
Waterproof Rating IPX4 IP68 buds
IP54 case
IPX4 IPX4 IPX4
Measured Battery Life (hours) 8.5 9 9.5 5 5
Claimed Battery Life (hours) 8 8 8 4.5 5
Carrying Case? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Charging Carrying Case? Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Wireless Charging Option? Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Microphone? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

While many buds have one area they're specifically designed to excel in, these buds take the approach of offering reasonably wonderful performance across just about every metric. Our only complaint would be how some of the features, particularly some ANC customizations, feel a bit too extraneous and overly complex for what is otherwise comprehensively well-put-together tech.

Performance Comparison


These buds easily snap back into their charging case so you don't...
These buds easily snap back into their charging case so you don't have to worry about them getting separated.
Credit: Laura Casner

Sound Quality


We broke down our sound quality testing to measure for three scores and a microphone test for calls. The Sony WF-1000XM4 buds had a respectable clarity score—they gave us a consistent clean, clear, complete sound during music playback tests. The bass was warm, deep, and smooth but nothing exceptional. Overall, these buds gave us a moderately full sound free from any fuzziness or other quirks that would be too distracting.


We also put these buds through a microphone test, using them to make a phone call and rating the quality both from the end of a caller using the buds and a receiver just using their phone. These earbuds were decidedly the top performers of all we tested when it comes to phone calls. Call clarity here is nearly perfect. That said, no earbuds are perfect for calls just yet. The caller reported being able to hear the buds' automatic adjustment to ambient sound noise canceling which occasionally caused the sound to dip. The receiver consistently reported a clear call but some bizarre abruptness on certain sounds that we attributed to Sony's "Focus on the Voice Feature." These buds were able to perform better on calls than most others, leading us to applaud their use for calls. Ultimately, these buds offer a sound quality through playback and phone calls that is, while not perfect, consistently good and clear enough to not feel frustrated by your buds.

Active Noise Cancellation


These buds offer excellent ANC so long as you can get a good enough fit for the feature to work properly. The ambient sound control feature continuously changes ANC and ambient sound levels to adjust to your activity and noise levels around you. Also interesting is the Speak to Chat Feature which will automatically pause playback and turn on ambient sound when the buds sense that you have started talking.

Comfort


This is the metric where the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds fall the flattest. The buds do not feature ear fins but come with three distinct earpiece sizes that, for whatever reason, had exceptional trouble staying in any of our testers' left ears. While the updated shape of these buds felt comfortable in the ear, they really aren't the most secure. If comfort and security is a paramount aspect of an earbud to you, you may consider opting for a different pair.


While these buds fit super securely in their case, we can't say the...
While these buds fit super securely in their case, we can't say the same for our ears.
Credit: Laura Casner

Athletic Performance


While some of the true wireless earbuds we tested were specifically built with athletic performance in mind, the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds are not of that category. During our movement stability tests, our testers noted how while the buds fit nicely into the concha of their ears, they only had a really secure fit if the ear tips are sized properly for you. With no ear fins or other mechanisms to keep them in place, the buds were liable to become loose fairly easily. If you're doing a higher intensity workout or moving exceptionally quickly, don't be surprised if these buds get dislodged. If you're looking for earbuds specifically to work out in, you're probably better off choosing another model.


Not all people excel in athletic performance and neither do all buds.
Not all people excel in athletic performance and neither do all buds.
Credit: Laura Casner

Battery Life


The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds list a fairly desirable battery life of eight straight hours on a single full charge. In order to test the manufacturer's claim, we fully charged these buds and continuously played music out of them until they died. We actually got an extra half hour out of them as they kept going for 8.5 hours. These buds have the potential to deliver you music or podcasts through your entire workday, and if that's what you're trying to get out of a pair of earbuds, these may just be the right choice for you.


Portability


Weighing in at only half an ounce, the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds are compact and portable. Utilizing a hard-shelled charging case that far exceeds Sony's previous iteration by being able to stand up with the lid open and being small enough to fit in your pocket. The case is only slightly larger than an Airpods case. If you're somebody who is constantly on the move and demands the same of your tech, you won't be disappointed in these buds' ability to pick up and go with you.


These buds are so small, light, and discreet, you might even forget...
These buds are so small, light, and discreet, you might even forget their in your ears.
Credit: Laura Casner

Ease of Use


This is where the Sony WF-1000XM4 model really shines. They feature an intuitive user interface that utilizes touch sensors that work well and are easy to find. We loved how they feature audio feedback to confirm that they've registered a tap so you aren't left guessing if your command went through. You have to use the Sony Headphone App to access the more advanced customization features of these buds; however, they are perfectly ready to use out of the box without the app. Overall, these buds are very easy and reliable to use. We like that you also have the customization features through the app should you desire them.


GearLab testing goes to the beach. These Sony earbuds are pricey and...
GearLab testing goes to the beach. These Sony earbuds are pricey and generally more worthwhile to those expecting to take and make phone calls while wearing them throughout the day.
Credit: Laura Casner

Value


The Sony WF-1000XM4 buds are some of the most expensive we've reviewed. Unless your primary purpose for these buds is going to be taking and making calls (a category where they are an exceptional performer), we don't think that they represent an especially good value. You can get comparable performance from other earbuds for quite a bit cheaper.

Conclusion


The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds offer overall good performance and exceptional call quality. However, they are far from a good value, especially if you don't particularly care about making phone calls using your earbuds.

Michelle Powell and John Giammona Wilber