Sony WF-1000XM5 Review – The best TWS earbuds money can buy

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Sony WF-1000XM5 Review – The best TWS earbuds money can buy
Digit Rating8.3
Features
7.2
Performance
8.6
Build
8.4
Best Buy
8.7
PROS:
  • Well-rounded sound signature
  • Excellent ANC
  • Refined fit and finish
CONS:
  • Taking the buds in and out of the case might be an issue for some
  • Case lacks a metallic hinge, affecting the durability

There are certain products which you think are perfect and next year, the brand comes out with something that is even better. You know the feeling of getting your hands on it and going like – ‘How did they manage that?’ Well, the Sony WF-1000XM5 is exactly that product. Granted, the WF-1000XM4 were a pair of TWS earbuds that were not perfect, but the improvements that Sony brought in with the XM5 were enough to invoke that feeling in me and everyone else around the Test Centre who used it. I got my first taste of the improvements when I went for the official India launch of the earbuds. And, when I got to testing them, every step of the way, my mind was blown, except for one instance, where I was like – Ah, this could have been better.

Well, before I spill out all my feelings for the winner of the Digit Zero1 Award and the Digit Best Buy Award 2023 in the Premium TWS category, let’s dive into the review of the Sony WF-1000XM5. Starting with the build and design –

Sony WF-1000XM5 – Build and Design

The build and design of the Sony WF-1000XM5 is the first area where you see massive improvements come in with these earbuds. The size of the earbuds, their fit, and the size of the case have decreased significantly. From my experience with the 1000XM4, this is a massive upgrade. Now, I do not feel that the earbuds will fall off my ears because they are smaller and also come with better-fitting foam ear tips in the box. The design has gotten much sleeker, with Sony ditching the edgy and boxier design of the earbuds from the 1000XM4. The same is with the case for earbuds. It is much smaller than its predecessor’s and fits beautifully in the small pocket of my jeans. That is something I always look for because that is the only instance when I am actually using that pocket.

Leave apart why I love the reduced size of the case; as you can see, it is almost the same size as that of the Apple AirPods Pro Gen 2 case, which has been considered by many across the industry as the ideal case size for an earbuds case. With size reduction, you also get weight reduction, with the 1000XM5 weighing 2.8 grams less than the 1000XM4. However, the battery life of the case has gone up, and the drivers are bigger, too, with the 1000XM5 packing in 8.4 mm drivers compared to the 6 mm drivers of the 1000XM4.

As for the build quality, Sony’s push for using recycled materials carries through into the 1000XM5. Both the case and the earbuds are built well, with the case not picking up any scratches during my extended time of use. Mind that I often tend to keep my keys in the same pocket as the earbuds, which inadvertently scratches the case of the buds that I am using. However, the Sony WF-1000XM5’s case did not pick up any scratches during my time of use, which is impressive. The four different sizes of foam ear tips do pick up gunk. However, they can be cleaned very easily, and the double layer of protection on the nozzle also helps prevent clogging if you are someone whose earbuds are prone to it.

Sony WF-1000XM5

This is where my two gripes with these earbuds come in. I understand that Sony is pushing for the earbuds to be made out of 100 per cent recycled materials, but the lack of a metallic hinge on the case takes away a lot of confidence when I am snapping the lid open and closing. Just that bit, if it was metallic, would have been great, especially considering the price of the earbuds, which sits at ₹24,990. Second is the glossy finish on the buds. Now, given the way that these earbuds sit in the case, the glossy finish on the side of the buds, often led to my fingers slipping off the buds and me dropping them when I was taking them out of the case. The magnets holding the earbuds in are strong. They prevent the earbuds from dropping off in cases where I accidentally opened the case upside down. However, when it is the right side up, I find it difficult to take off without being extra cautious. A notch on the buds or a grippier finish, like that on the WF-1000XM4, would have definitely helped in this case..

Sony WF-1000XM5 – Pack plenty of features

In my testing, the Sony WF-1000XM5 ticked almost all the boxes on the test sheet. I will keep this section short. These earbuds have the best in class ANC, which I will detail later in the review; the controls are responsive and intuitive and add to the overall experience of using the earbuds. The app going with these earbuds is the Sony Headphones Connect app. If you have read any of our reviews of a pair of Sony TWS earbuds, you will know that we are fans of the app. It allows for an unparalleled level of customisation and features that will help you make these earbuds truly your own.Sony has added features like Ambient Sound control, which adjusts the ANC depending on the environment you are in and head gestures, which allow you to accept and decline calls by moving your head. There are a ton of features which I honestly would not like to spill the beans on. Just know that they are great and you will enjoy them when you find out about them one by one. One thing I would not want you to miss out on is the DSEE Extreme. This upscaling tech is one of the best I have seen in an app, and it does a really good job of making sure that the details in the songs, when you are streaming, are of lower quality. Talking about the sound quality while streaming, you have support for Sony’s LDAC CODEC, which allows you to stream high-quality music. However, when I was using these earbuds on my PC, I experienced noticeable latency when gaming or taking calls. But if you are on your phone, then that is not an issue at all.

Sony WF-1000XM5

The on-ear detection and multipoint connectivity worked like a charm on my all-Apple setup at home, which I think is a testament to the fact that Sony has all its bases covered well when it comes to quality-of-life features on these earbuds. With that said, I do not have anything to complain about with the features part of these earbuds. They are loaded with features that have been implemented well. I would expect nothing less from a pair of flagship TWS earbuds from a brand like Sony. And they deliver on all the promises made. Now, let’s look at the improvements made in terms of the features.

Best-in-class performance

In terms of performance, there was nothing that came close to the Sony WF-1000XM5 this year. The earbuds sport a slightly bass-heavy sound signature. As you can see, there is a subtle boost in the lows, which is fairly apparent when you are listening to the earbuds. The mids come pretty close to our reference flat response of Pink Noise. In the highs, there is a boost as well, which rounds up the sound signature fairly well. These earbuds won the hearts of everyone at the Test Centre. Across genres, the sound was pleasant, and with some tuning in the Sony Headphones Connect App, you can get results that ensure that you won’t have any problems when listening to podcasts, heavy metal music, or bass-laden EDM tracks. The boominess in the bass is not overwhelming, and there is no concerning sibilance in the audio in the high end.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Sound Signature
Sony WF-1000XM5 Sound signature compared

When compared to the WF-1000XM4, the last-gen Sony flagship TWS earbuds, the 1000XM5 have brought in tons of improvements. I would like to borrow a line from my Zero1 Awards article here – These earbuds, with their well-rounded sound signature and ANC, both of which have seen an improvement over last year’s 1000XM4, outclassed the competition by a mile. When you have ANC turned on, there is a minuscule change in the sound signature. However, it is nothing that would bother you a lot.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Foam Tips

Coming to the ANC, Sony has outclassed itself with these earbuds. The only other pair of TWS earbuds that I can think of, which blocks off sound, as well as the Sony WF-1000XM5, are the Bose QC Earbuds II, which are widely regarded as the industry leaders in this performance metric. The ANC on the 1000XM5, coupled with the improved fit, thanks to the smaller size of the buds and the foam ear tips, definitely improves the overall user experience. Now, given that both ANC and the sound signature depend heavily on the fit of the buds, their reduced size is something that a lot of people would appreciate. There are some sharp frequencies which the Sony let in when I was in traffic; especially those of the shrill-sounding vehicles and horns. That is something I would love brands in general to work more on in terms of cancellation. Other than that, no complaints from my end in terms of the ANC of the WF-1000XM5. 

Sony WF-1000XM5 Battery Certification

As for the microphone on these earbuds, it held its own, even in challenging conditions. In the office, the buds did not face any problems in terms of cancelling out the sounds of the AC and people talking in the background. Even in games, these earbuds did not cause any issues in terms of audio latency or my audio not being heard clearly by my teammates.

Battery life

The Sony WF-1000XM5 boasts 8 hours of battery life on the earbuds, with 16 hours of battery in the case. In my testing, with ANC on and volume set to 90dB SPL, the Sony WF-1000XM5 lasted about 8 hours and 5 minutes, which is over the claimed battery life of the buds.

Sony WF-1000XM5 USB-C

Sony is over-delivering the promises that they made. Always a win-win. The Headphones Connect app sends out a notification when the battery level stops below 30 per cent. And, if you are out of charge, a three-minute charge, as claimed by Sony, gives you 60 minutes of playback.

Verdict

The Sony WF-1000XM5 are one of the best pairs of TWS earbuds available in the market today. They build up on the legacy of their predecessors, the WF-1000XM4, and make sure that you get the worth of the money you are spending on them. That is why they clinched the Digit Zero1 Award and the Best Buy Award 2023 in the Best Performing Premium TWS earbuds category. The only alternative to these earbuds that I can recommend is the Bose QC Earbuds II. They are also well-rounded in terms of sound signature and ANC performance, but one front they lack on, is the features. So, the Sony makes for a more holistic user experience, while the QC Earbuds II are what I would recommend to the more hardcore performance enthusiast.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Key Specs, Price and Launch Date

Release Date:
Market Status:Launched
 
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