This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
Sony will release the WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones with noise-canceling features on September 4.
The WH-1000XM4 is the successor to the flagship model WH-1000XM3, which is highly regarded for its noise-canceling performance and sound quality. In addition to noise cancellation and high-resolution sound quality, the WH-1000XM4 is equipped with new AI (Artificial Intelligence) based functions.
We had a chance to try out the WH-1000XM4 for a short period of time ahead of its release on September 4, so we'll give you our first impressions.
It's so quiet that it cuts out the sound of people talking
First, let's start with the noise cancellation performance: the WH-1000XM3 was also able to muffle low-end noise from vehicles and the like, but the WH-1000XM4 is able to cut out this, as well as mid- and high-range sounds such as people's voices and everyday noise.
Incidentally, I compared the noise cancellation between the WH-1000MX3 and the WH-1000XM4 at a press event Sony held for members of the press, and personally, I didn't find that there was much difference in the immersive experience that the noise-canceling feature provided. I also used the WH-1000XM4 at a noisy Starbucks during the day on another day, and not only did it cut out the sound of people talking, but also the sound of the air conditioner and coffee maker running, etc.
Contributing to this noise-canceling performance is the combination of the QN1 noise-canceling processor inherited from the WH-1000XM3 and a newly installed audio SoC, which provides sound environment sensing at more than 700 times per second. This combination of technologies enables real-time noise cancellation processing to be applied according to the acoustic environment at the time, such as the space between the driver unit and the ear or external noise.
Also, after putting on the headphones, pressing and holding the custom button will play a test signal sound and detect individual differences in seconds when wearing the headphones (such as hair type, glasses, misfit, etc.). Sony also says that the headphones use the pressure sensor in the unit to optimize noise cancellation for changes in airplane pressure.
In addition, the Sony | Headphones Connect app allows users to adjust the noise cancellation to 22 levels, from noise cancellation to outside sound capture. The key point is that the noise cancelling characteristics are optimized for each individual user.
Sound quality is not bass-enhanced, but the overall balance is good
As for the essential sound quality, I got the impression that the power of the mid and low range increased, although there was a sense of oppression when the noise cancellation was turned on. On the other hand, when noise cancellation is turned off, we naturally heard external noises and were unable to immerse ourselves in the listening experience.
However, the sound of the WH-1000XM4 is not as bass-heavy as products with an "EXTRA BASS" mode to enhance bass. The mid and high frequencies are reproduced with a nice grainy and sparkling sound, and we feel the overall balance is good.
Like the WH-1000XM3, the WH-1000XM4 is also a model that claims "high-resolution sound quality", and while the 40mm HD driver unit contributes to the sound quality, the WH-1000XM4 is also equipped with DSEE Extreme, which converts sound sources saved in CD or MP3 format to high-resolution equivalent at up to 96kHz/24-bit.
DSEE Extreme utilizes AI that uses deep learning of song data from a variety of genres to analyze songs in real-time, with the help of Sony Music Studio Tokyo. According to Sony, the system brings the sound of space, percussion, and human voices, among other things, closer to high-resolution equivalents than ever before. Although there are limitations to sound sources stored in MP3 format, the sound quality is still improved compared to other music players and smartphones.
In addition, it supports the LDAC codec that can transmit high-resolution music data despite Bluetooth audio of lossy compression, and if it is a transfer from a non-high-resolution or non-LDAC-compatible device, it is upscaled to high-resolution sound quality by DSEE Extreme. Incidentally, Bluetooth codec supports AAC/SBC in addition to LDAC, but it does not support aptX/aptX HD.
Just remove the headphones, the music stops playing and noise-cancellation is turned off
In addition to noise-canceling performance, sound quality and AI technology analysis, the WH-1000XM4 also has a new feature called "Speak to Chat".
Specifically, the feature detects the headphone wearer's speech and automatically stops noise cancellation and music playback. In addition to this, it automatically switches to an external sound capture mode, allowing you to talk to the person you're talking to while wearing the headphones.
According to Sony, the conversation detection algorithm is able to recognize the wearer's voice through advanced audio signal processing that optimally controls five microphones (a feed-forward microphone on the left and right housing respectively, and multi-array microphones on the left housing).
I actually tried this feature by switching it on from the "Sony | Headphones Connect" app, and it instantly stopped playing music and changed to an external sound capture mode when I just started to speak.
Of course, it is clearer to hear a conversation with the WH-1000XM4 off, without the muffled sound caused by wearing the headphones.... Anyway, with the WH-1000XM4, you can talk to people with the headphones on, even when your hands are busy.
When I cleared my throat, the music stopped playing
Many people may find Speak to Chat useful after hearing this much. However, if you lightly clear your throat while listening to music, the music stops playing and you can hear the sounds around you. It can be a bit annoying when you unconsciously clear your throat.
The solution is to turn off Speak to Chat in the "Sony | Headphones Connect" app or set the voice detection sensitivity to "low". It will no longer respond to the slightest whisper or coughing.
Excellent for ease of use
It also includes features such as the ability to connect to two devices at the same time and "automatically switch the connection from the PC to your phone when you receive a call to your phone". This feature will be updated after August 7 and can be used with any combination of Windows/Mac/iOS/Android devices. Note, however, that if the feature is turned on, LDAC will not be available.
The device also supports the Google-developed pairing technology Fast Pair, which allows users to complete pairing simply by tapping the pop-up that appears on the screen. The feature can be used in combination with a device running Android 6.0 or later with this device.
Battery life is 30 hours with noise-cancellation on and 38 hours when used with noise cancellation off. Use while charging is not recommended.
As for the design, hopefully, it would have been available in a new color rather than just two colors like the black and silver of the WH-1000XM3, but it looks cleaner than the WH-1000XM3 model because it has fewer gaps.
The inside of the included case is made of a scratch-resistant material and can be used to store the included cables and an aircraft plug adapter folded together.
The WH-1000XM4 is definitely a great buy for the bargain
With so many features and technologies packed in, but with an estimated market price of ¥40,000 excluding tax, the WH-1000XM4 is a product that is more than worth the price. This is because it has new features such as Speak to Chat and two simultaneous connections while keeping the basic points of the headphone in place. I would recommend the WH-1000XM4 to anyone who is considering introducing headphones to telework in the future.
This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.