Skip to content

Sony XM5 vs XM4: A Detailed Comparison to Help You Decide

Sony‘s WH-1000X series has dominated the wireless noise-cancelling headphones market for years. The Sony WH-1000XM4 has been a top pick but now faces stiff competition from its successor, the new Sony WH-1000XM5.

Both headphones boast excellent sound quality, comfort, battery life and smart features. But with a higher price tag, has Sony done enough to justify upgrading to the XM5? Or does the older XM4 still represent better value?

This in-depth guide examines all the key differences to help you decide which Sony headphone is the better pick for your needs and budget.

Headphone Specs Compared

While the XM5 and XM4 share common technology like Bluetooth 5.2, their audio hardware differs in a few key areas as shown in this comparison table:

Sony WH-1000XM5 Sony WH-1000XM4
Driver Unit 30mm dome type 40mm dome type
Frequency Response 20–40,000 Hz 20–40,000 Hz
Sound Pressure Level 102 dB/mW 110 dB/mW
Codecs Supported SBC, AAC, LDAC SBC, AAC, LDAC
Wireless Standard Bluetooth 5.2 Bluetooth 5.0

A few takeaways – the XM5 utilizes a smaller yet more advanced driver design with a lightweight rigid dome compared to the traditional dynamic driver in the XM4. Frequency response remains very wide across both though.

The XM5 also has slightly lower sound pressure level (loudness) possibly due its revised driver and amplification needs. And while codec support stays the same, upgraded Bluetooth should provide superior wireless transmission of audio signals.

Audio Quality Compared

Both headphones deliver extremely well-balanced, textured sound out of the box. Each does a commendable job reproducing orchestral scores, vocal harmonies, rhythmic basslines and sparking highs.

However frequency response measurements give the Sony WH-1000XM5 the edge – its 30mm driver and integrated amp produce tighter low-end and a flatter, extended profile overall:

Bass heads may actually prefer the slightly warmer, amplified lows on the Sony WH-1000XM4. But for purity the newer model has less coloration.

Sound stage also feels a touch more spacious on the XM5, with better left/right channel separation contributing to a wider head-field effect. This benefits live recordings and orchestral movie soundtracks.

Both are highly customizable via the Sony Headphones Connect app which provides multiple genre-based equalization presets to tweak sonic characteristics.

Key Audio Enhancements in the XM5

So what exactly accounts for the WH-1000XM5‘s audio improvements over its predecessor? A few key hardware and software upgrades make the difference:

  • The lightweight yet rigid 30mm carbon dome driver is tuned for optimal transient response across the spectrum.
  • A new precision casting technique allows tighter diaphragm tolerances for distortion-free amplitude control.
  • The integrated amplifier adds definition with careful staging that prevents unwanted resonance.
  • Upgraded acoustic components match phase coherency for better harmonics and dynamics handling.
  • Additional signal processing via the new V1 processor enables better equalization, mixer and filter performance.

These enhancements combine to expand both micro-detail and three-dimensional soundscape fidelity – especially important for high-resolution streaming content.

Price and Value

Being the latest and most advanced Sony headphone, the XM5 debuts at a higher price than its predecessor. The XM5 originally retailed for $399 compared to the XM4‘s launch price of $350.

However over time the XM4 has become more affordable – you can now pick it up for as little as $250. So there‘s a significant price gap, with the elder XM4 now representing better value for money overall.


There‘s a definite contrast in aesthetics and wearing-style between the XM5 and XM4.

The XM5 sports a boldly redesigned look with a slimmed-down headband and smoother oval earcups. This lightweight construction folds flat into a more compact size for travel. It looks elegant but feels more delicate and less rugged than its predecessor.

Meanwhile the XM4 retains a familiar bulkier profile with thick synthetic leather headband and swivelling earcups that fold up into itself. So not as sleek but built solidly and able to take more abuse.

Sony WH-1000XM5

  • Weighs 250 grams
  • Soft fit leather earcups
  • Comfortable clamping force
  • Slim, lightweight headband
  • Folds flat
  • Prone to scuffs

Sony WH-1000XM4

  • Weighs 254 grams
  • Padded synthetic leather
  • Tight but zeros-in over time
  • Thick sturdy headband
  • Folds into self
  • Durable build

You can see the design divergence – the XM5opts for a lightweight comfortable fit, while the elder XM4 offers time-tested robustness. This translates into wearing experience as well.

Both models offer ample padding and high-quality materials for all-day listening comfort. But the XM5 does look and feel more premium on the head.

Noise Cancellation

Sony headphones are renowned for their active noise cancellation capabilities, which electronically nullify ambient sound around you.

Noise cancelling performance comes down to a combination of microphone technology, on-board processing and software tuning. In the XM5 Sony has iterated on past success in a few key ways:

Improved microphone setup

Where the XM4 had two outward mics on each earcup, the WH-1000XM5 houses 8 total mics with extra rear and beamforming microphones. This expanded sensor array gathers more positional data to feed into filtering calculations:

Those additional inputs provide more complete environmental mapping – especially important for voices which the new beamforming mics can pinpoint and suppress.

Upgraded Signal Processing

At the heart of any noise cancelling headphone is its audio processor doing real-time sound analysis and adjustment. The Sony XM5 boasts Sony‘s new V1 processor which builds on past QN1 performance.

Sporting an enhanced algorithm, V1 can handle over 4000 times more calculations per second. This allows it to react faster and more selectively to unwanted noise picked up by the WH-1000XM5‘s extra microphones. Only with such speed and complexity can it effectively model then subtract such a range of ambient interference.

Automatic Adjustments

All that number crunching wouldn‘t mean much without smart software to direct operations. Sony‘s new Integrated Processor V1 adds an artificial intelligence element not present in previous Sony ANC headphones.

Instead of relying on manual noise cancelling optimization, the WH-1000XM5 automatically tweaks its own settings based on the current environment and activity thanks to an embedded neural network.

This Auto NC Optimizer constantly adapts signal filtering in real-time for best possible damping without colorizing the sound. Users don‘t have to do anything – your music simply stays pure and disturbance-free as you go about your day.

Together these interrelated upgrades allow the XM5 to outperform its already extremely capable predecessor in silencing everyday racket.

Battery & Connectivity

With up to 30 hours playback per charge and quick charging support, both the XM4 and XM5 are evenly matched when it comes to battery performance.

This amount should cover most users needs for multi-day travel or long days at the office. Keep an eye on battery levels to avoid being caught short during critical listening sessions.

Sony WH-1000XM5

  • 30 hours playback time
  • USB-C charging
  • 3 minute quick charge = 3 hours play
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Supports SBC, AAC codecs

Sony WH-1000XM4

  • 30 hours playback time
  • USB-C charging
  • 10 minute quick charge = 5 hours play
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Supports SBC, AAC codecs

A notable connectivity upgrade is that the XM5 adds Bluetooth 5.2 support. This latest wireless standard transmits over longer distances with higher throughput and lower latency compared to the XM4‘s older Bluetooth 5.0.

This directly improves audio streaming stability from compatible devices. You‘ll experience fewer dropouts or sync delays watching video for instance.

Verdict: Sony WH-1000XM5 vs WH-1000XM4

The Sony WH-1000XM5 brings meaningful improvements like enhanced sound, better noise cancellation and useful functionality gains.

As Sony‘s newest flagship it can demand a premium price, which puts it out of reach budget-wise for some buyers. This is where the elder Sony WH-1000XM4 still shines as a very capable noise cancelling headphone availabile at generous discounts.

So while the XM5 is technically superior and sets a new standard for wireless over-ears, last year‘s model remains a tempting option that will satisfy many users.

Ultimately context matters. If you want the absolute best and cost isn‘t a concern, grab the XM5. Otherwise the venerable WH-1000XM4 still delivers huge value at lower prices for shoppers chasing premium features without cutting corners.


What‘s the difference in comfort and fit?

The XM5 is lighter and its soft fit leather should contour snugly for most. Clamping force is modest. Its slimmer design may suit smaller heads best.

Conversely the XM4 is heavier with thicker padding that cradles more aggressively. Users report both feeling very comfortable for extended use.

Can I use the XM5 for gaming or calls?

Yes, the XM5 works great for voice chat and online gaming thanks to Bluetooth 5.2 compatibility and built-in beamforming microphones that focus on speech.

Is the XM5 suitable for working out or sports?**

No. The XM5 lacks sweat or water resistance. Opt for rugged workout headphones instead if you need protection from moisture exposure.

How often does Sony release new headphone models?**

Sony typically iterates its premium headphone lines every 1-2 years. Expect a Sony WH-1000XM6 successor in late 2023 or 2024 based on past release history.