Sony’s WH-1000XM4 was widely considered as one of the best pairs of noise-canceling headphones for most people since their launch in August 2020, and we at Ars have recommended them in various buying guides during that time. On Thursday, Sony announced the next iteration of these leading wireless headphones: the WH-1000XM5. They will arrive on May 20 for $ 400which is an increase of $ 50 compared to the existing XM4.
Overall, the WH-1000XM5 – which remains full of name – is not a big change from its predecessor, and interestingly, Sony will continue to sell the previous XM4 along with this new pair. However, there are some important changes. The most noticeable changes are in the design department: Compared to the XM4, the XM5 has a thinner headband and wider earphones, which should fit better with those with larger ears. The earphones use a softer synthetic leather material, and the slider used to adjust the fit of the headband now has a smoother action without jagged lines.
I have XM5 on hand for only about a day from the moment of writing, which unfortunately is not enough time to give a more definite impression. At first glance, however, the fit looks more spacious and lighter on the head, although it weighs only 4 grams less than XM4 (at 250 g, compared to 254 g before). The XM4 was already comfortable, but the XM5 seems to distribute its weight a little more evenly, putting less pressure on the sides of your head without letting in a ton of external noise. They are closer to Bose’s QuietComfort 45 in this respect, though not as spacious.
The overall design is somewhat reminiscent of Bose 700 noise canceling headphones, although the XM5 is still largely made of smooth and strong plastic, not the metal coating of the Bose pair. There’s still a button to quickly switch between active noise canceling modes and ambient sound on the side, and swiping and touching on the side of the headphones still allows you to take calls, adjust the volume and change songs. The headband is also still well flexible. The headphones also continue to have a headphone jack and a wired listening cable, and you can use the headphones passively without battery power if needed (although you will lose noise reduction and other features in this case).
The big trade-off is that you can’t fold the XM5’s headphones up, just flat. As a result, the headphones will take up more space on your desk when you’re not using them, and the included carrying case is significantly larger than the XM4’s. This may not be an obstacle for most, but it is an inconvenience.