Wireless connectivity is via Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC, and high-resolution LDAC codec compatibility, as well as multipoint connectivity. Lower resolution content can be processed by Sony’s DSEE Extreme algorithm, which is said to be able to upscale lossy audio files in real time.
The WF-1000XM5 is compatible with Sony’s Dolby Atmos – distracting “360 reality audio” and features head-tracking technology that adapts the sound field to your head movement. Augmented reality games can also benefit from this technology.
Three mics per earbud, including a pair of feed-forward mics, take care of telephony, voice assistant interaction, and noise-cancellation. Call quality is enhanced by bone conduction sensors, a special structure designed to reduce wind noise, and some neural network-based AI algorithms that also attempt to cancel out wind noise.
Whether you’re listening to music or podcasts, playing games, or making or taking calls, audio is delivered by two newly designed drive units. At 8.4mm each, these new drivers are quite a bit larger than the 6mm drivers the WF-1000XM4 had to settle for – and the name Dynamic Driver X makes them seem rather mysterious too.
When it comes to designing all the hardware to do what you want, Sony – as is the company’s standard operating practice – has gone to great lengths. The WF-1000XM5 has more features, more customization, and more functionality than we all could patiently discuss at length. As a foretaste, here are some of the highlights:
Control is via a large, responsive capacitive touch surface on each earbud. All common operations can be performed in this way, and the exemplary Sony headphones control app also allows for some customization of its functions. (And while the app itself was in beta during this test, it was an absolute paragon of stability and functionality.)
It allows refinement of the “Ambient Noise” side of active noise cancellation, including the ability to focus entirely on voices using the “Voice Passthrough” setting. There’s also Speak to Chat, which will pause playback if your voice is recognized by the earbuds. With it, you can prioritize either the stability of the Bluetooth wireless connection or the sound quality.
It features a five-band EQ with nine presets and the ability to save some of your own. It has an on/off setting for the aforementioned DSEE Extreme (frankly, the difference between the two settings isn’t as great as Sony would like you to believe) and it’s dying to get a photo of each of your ears to tweak its 360 Reality Audio capability.
It allows you to answer calls with a nod (or, more importantly, reject them with a shake). And there’s activation for Spotify Tap and for Endel (the latter plays a series of sounds designed to help you relax or fall asleep). This allows you to toggle low latency on or off – it’s very handy when you’re watching videos or playing games.
There’s more, and there will be more when the app is complete, but the gist is already clear: the Sony WF-1000XM5 has functionality that no nominal competitor can match. Oh, and there’s rock-solid compatibility with your source player’s native voice assistant, too.
And when it comes to the most important aspect of performance – playing music – there’s no apology to be had for the WF-1000XM5. They may not have the tone to satisfy even the most dedicated bassist, but listeners who value dynamics, accuracy and direct fidelity will have little to complain about here.