Sony WF-1000XM4 Review
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|Pros||Call quality, portability, ANC options||Sound quality, secure fit, water resistance, very portable, battery life, great in-app EQ||Good sound quality, active noise cancellation, great user interface||Good sound quality, very secure athletic fit, long battery life||Great price for high performance, good sound quality, portability, charging case|
|Cons||Very pricey, not too secure, not ideal for exercising||Noise cancellation only average||Expensive, Android users lose many of the unique features||Can be uncomfortable when worn for 2+ hours, relatively large charging case||Bulky, uncomfortable for long periods|
|Bottom Line||If you're looking to make a lot of phone calls using earbuds, these are the choice for you||Our favorite earbuds to recommend combine great sound with a secure fit and impressive battery life to keep up with your lifestyle||For Apple users that are willing to pay a premium for great sound and versatility, these are a great choice||Our favorite model for hard charging activities, but not great for all-day use||A quality, high-scoring product with a price tag that won't break the bank|
|Rating Categories||Sony WF-1000XM4||Jaybird Vista 2||Apple AirPods Pro||Beats by Dre Powerb...||Amazon Echo Buds (2...|
|Sound Quality (30%)|
|Athletic Performance (20%)|
|Battery Life (15%)|
|Ease of Use (5%)|
|Specs||Sony WF-1000XM4||Jaybird Vista 2||Apple AirPods Pro||Beats by Dre Powerb...||Amazon Echo Buds (2...|
|Waterproof Rating||IPX4||IP68 buds
|Measured Battery Life (hours)||8.5||9||5||11.25||5|
|Claimed Battery Life (hours)||8||8||4.5||9||5|
|Charging Carrying Case?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Wireless Charging Option?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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