The Sony WF-1000XM4 is the brand’s 3rd iteration of TWS earbuds, as well as its latest audio product up on offer to the masses. The follow-up to 2019’s WF-1000XM3, the earbuds sport an all-new and entirely different design from its predecessor, along with an array of new and improved features, to boot.
While a fresh new look isn’t unwelcome, the bigger question is: has Sony managed to retain the elements that made the 1000XM3 good with these earbuds?
What Is It?
Just as the 1000XM3 was an overhaul of Sony’s horrifying 1st generation WF-1000X, the 1000XM4 is essentially a complete redesign and “do-over” of the TWS earbuds. Of course, like the 1000XM3, these earbuds come build with Sony’s full suite of top-notch features, including improved active noise cancellation (ANC) and proprietary audio technology too.
On another note, the 1000XM4 marks Sony’s departure from its typical garish packaging methodology, and taking its first steps into reducing its carbon footprint. Unlike the 1000XM3, the new earbuds are neatly packed inside a compact box that is made entirely from recycled material.
Is It Any Good?
From a design standpoint, the 1000XM4 is certainly a looker, especially with its earbuds. This time around, Sony has opted for a more rounded and spherical look, but it’s also kind of functional design. In contrast to its predecessor, the new earbuds look and feel solid, beefier even. On another note, the touch control area on both earbuds also have a larger diameter, for easier gesture interaction.
Even the eartips have been changed, with Sony foregoing soft silicon-based eartips and instead going all in with memory foam eartips that work very well at physically blocking out the environmental noise, while also doing a bang-up job in reducing the amount of noise bleeding that usually occurs from ill-fitting eartips that ever so slightly dislodge from your ear canals.
The 1000XM4 is also support by Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control and then as now, the feature uses AI-based technology in order to learn a user’s listening habits and well…adapt its functions to them.
On the subject of ANC, the new V1 Integrated Processor housed in both earbuds do a bang-up job in isolating any and all audio streaming from them, while effectively cancelling out any other noise, ambient or speech. Seriously, besides hearing my own ramblings, every other sound within my immediate vicinity is rendered mute. On top of that, the sound pressure level (SPL) generated is definitely a lot more comfortable and doesn’t kick up an uneasy feeling in my equilibrium.
As for the battery life of the 1000XM4, compared to its predecessor, the level of endurance with these earbuds is like the sun and moon. With either ANC or the ambient sound mode active, the earbuds give me nearly eight hours of juice on a single charge. Switch both functions off, and Sony says that its lifespan jumps up to 12 hours, but my ears were calling it quits by the seventh hour already. Not for lack of comfort, but because I was in need of a break from music by then.
The Sound Quality. Speak To Me.
As it is with nearly all of Sony’s premium, high-end audio products, the audio performance of the 1000XM4 is a moderate improvement, thanks on no small part to its V1 Integrated Processor. The volume ceiling is audibly higher, while sound staging remains just as accurate as the 1000XM3.
Overall harmonics are noticeably richer too, with highs and mids once again balancing each other out, while still taking centre stage. This is especially apparent with tracks like Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelt’s Digging My Potato and Kathy Brier’s Some of these Days.
As for the lows, this may come as a surprise to some of you – I know it did for me – but the pitch is actually more subtle and less impactful than the 1000XM3, if that is even possible. By that, I don’t mean that Sony has dialled it down to a point of non-existence; out of the box, you can feel the “oomph” of the bass in songs like Nina Simone’s Feeling Good or the Nascent track from Austin Wintory’s score for Journey. But ultimately, it doesn’t rattle the back of my skull, in the same way the Klipsch T5 II or Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds do.
The Bad Stuff. Tell Me.
While the earbuds and casing of the 1000XM4 certainly look more appealing than its predecessor, there are some features that aren’t making a comeback. One of the more obvious features that are absent is the NFC function that allows for one-tap connectivity, but honestly, I can’t say that I miss a feature that I barely used, even on the 1000XM3.
There is also the new Speak-to-Chat function that seems to have been thrown into the pot at the last night, but unfortunately, Sony hasn’t done anything to improve the feature since its introduction with its over-ear WH-1000XM4. It’s still extremely sensitive and simply clearing my throat or just mumbling to myself is all it takes to set it off.
Another caveat of the 1000XM4 that I take issue with are the limited gesture controls options. I see no reason why Sony isn’t making an effort to at least combine all the controls into both earbuds, just like Sennheiser does with its current generation earbuds. But no, instead it chooses to continue segmenting them and limiting each earbud to one specific function. Oh, and they still don’t support Qualcomm’s aptX HD audio technology.
Another issue with the 1000XM4? It’s RM150 more expensive than the WF-1000XM3, retailing at RM1099.
Should I Buy It?
If the WF-1000XM3 are considered Sony’s comeback kid, then the WF-1000XM4 is an overhaul of what was already an impressive set of earbuds. Rather than come out with an exact replica, the 1000XM4 boasts a new design, a new casing, and noticeably better audio quality over its predecessor.
At RM1099, there is no argument that the WF-1000XM4 errs towards the side of pricey. Having said that, Sony’s latest earbuds are certainly worth emptying your wallet for.