Reviewing is a fickle game if you think it needs to satisfy a particular audience.
Which is why I don’t try to pander to any audience, and the review probably turns out for the worse in that case! But that’s the thing right? It’s about empathy. Finding a way for the reader to relate to your experience, and seeing if you can make them reflect on their own. I mean, I’d like to think we’ve all had some form of headphone in any capacity!
The WH-1000XM series though?
Lush. Premium. The recommendation I’ve had from many audiophile friends. Yet I never got around to picking them up. I’m not sure why, as I’ve picked up the likes of the Jabra Elite series chasing some kind of best case solution for wireless listening at its best. And then suddenly my TikTok algorithm was all about the WH-1000XM series. I have no idea why, but if it was some kind of phantom campaign by Sony then job well done. You got me.
So I contacted my pals at PriceSpy and said “Hey, can I review these?”. While that sounds easy enough, it was more akin to standing in front of the Board and breaking down the why, how and the return on investment. AND THEN I could review them.
And that’s how I ended up with the WH-1000XM5’s.
I originally said I’d check out the 4’s, but they suggested the 5’s because they are the latest model. A totally rational call to make, and who was I to decline really. Opening the frankly lush yet minimally designed box, you’re greeted by a beautiful carry case. Unzipping this reveals the headphones, and a small sealed compartment holding a USB charging cable and 3.5mm jack because people still do use those! As for me, I was taking on this review from the wireless perspective.
Out of the box these suckers already had 70% charge. I wish I knew how long they were on-shelf for because that is an impressive amount of charge to hold. So it means I could set them up immediately, which lead to everyone’s favourite out of the box experience these days:
Downloading the aptly named ‘Headphones’ app by Sony, you’ll use this to update and configure your headphones for use. The update took around an hour to run, and then I used them for around an hour on first use and they’d only lost 10% of their charge! This is impressive, because a hearty update is basically asking the device to overclock itself as it rewrites the code it uses to work. And then I just used them on my PC to get a feel for them for ANOTHER HOUR. ALL WIRELESSLY.
The connection process was RELATIVELY painless, though I did have some issues at first. Because it was bound to the Power button, the sequencing for when that button would put it into a scanning state for Bluetooth was after its off state. This makes sense, because you wouldn’t want to put it into scanning THEN turn it off, but I just kept missing the timing. From there though, it’s a piece of cake as it picked up nearby devices immediately, and was recognised as a connection type for the likes of Google Assistant and Spotify.
And you can connect it to 2 devices at the same time.
So I was running it through my PC for meetings, while running music from my phone to test how it responded. While it would control volume for the device in use, it was easy enough to just turn my volume down on the phone or PC if needed. And the mics are CLEAN. Picked up effortlessly by the apps, the other end could hear me fine, all while their voice and my music was being output. And even better, the headphones MUTE the audio and disable noise cancelling if you start speaking outside of a call, or if you lift them off your ear.
Audio output is well…delectable. I guess there was a reason the WH-1000 series was so popular, and it’s in how well it delivers audio. Bass was the first frequency I noticed. It was coming through loud and clear, with no noticeable thin or metallic sounds. Which means overall they have a great depth to them, and have quickly become my primary pair to use.
This is where comfort comes into play.
I’ll admit I can be a bit fickle when it comes to comfort. Other headsets have been fine, but what about 4 hours fine? The memory foam on the WH-1000XM5’s do a great job of compensating for the amount of time worn. While they built up a bit of heat, compared to previous headphones this was pretty much a non-issue. And when compared to some previous Plantronics devices I’ve used, the XM5’s are practically clouds on my ears!
An unfortunate side-effect of how good the foam pieces are, is the faux leather cover. They are SLIPPERY boys when a good amount of sweat or moisture has accumulated on them. But there’s probably worse problems to have than that.
By day 4, we were still at around 20% battery with me guesstimating I was using them for around 4 to 6 hours a day. If we did the math, that’s almost 24 hours of use meaning the advertised time of 40 hours may actually be on the ball! Which is outstanding when you want to be unencumbered as much as possible.
So what’s the catch?
On release they were closer to $700 than the current $600. While the price for them hasn’t fluctuated too badly, they’ve definitely sat within a premium range and for good reason. While they don’t climb as high as say, the Apple AirPod Max headphones, it’s definitely a range outside most comfortable purchases for consumers. Hell, I’d even be willing to throw myself in that category. So what else can buyers do? Well the WH-1000XM4 headset still retails at around $430. And their smaller in-ear siblings, the WF-1000XM4‘s are $70 less than those at around $360. And if look at the Galaxy range, with the Buds Pro and Buds 2, those shave a hefty amount off! The Pro’s go for around $200 while the 2’s are around $240 but can be found for even cheaper!
It’s the classic game of keeping an eye out for the best price. While historically they’re not moving too much, we’re right on the doorstep of Christmas which is typically lead by sales periods like Black Friday and more! So you bet I’m gonna remind you to use PriceSpy and especially their excellent apps on the Play Store and App Store.
As for my overall review?
I get the prestige now. From the sound to its exceptional noise cancelling options, and their comfort alongside the robust build, mean their a damn worthwhile set of headphones to invest in. I get it now Sony. I get it.