Technology

Sony WH-1000X M5 headphones review: Design, noise cancellation and battery life

Tech reviewer Elly Awesome says that Sony’s latest WH-1000X headphones are worth every cent – ​​even if they are missing one important feature.

There’s now a new edition of Sony’s beloved WH-1000X noise-cancelling headphones, and they’re more stylish than ever before.

But are they worth the price?

Known as the WH-1000X M5, these 2022, fifth generation headphones have a redesigned look and some techy tweaks, while continuing to include the features you’ve come to know and love.

Unboxing

The WH-1000X M5’s come in silver and black, though the ‘silver’ color seems a lot more like beige. It still looks great – just a weird naming choice. Both look professional and sleek and would suit anyone but maybe your color choice will depend on how they best match your clothing colors or skin tone. I find you can’t go wrong with the black ones, especially if you’re rarely able to keep white tech or light colored tech or clothing clean.

The lightweight headphones come in a fairly rigid, matching color, woven material case. Inside you’ll find a small compartment with a magnetic lid containing a 3.5mm headphone cable in case you want to use the headphones wired instead of wireless (bluetooth) and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable.

The previously included two-prong airline adapter is no longer included. Maybe this is a money saver for Sony or because it’s unnecessary as more people are watching content on their smart devices while travelling?

It’s also encouraged that you download Sony’s free ‘Headphones Connect’ app to use in tandem with the headphones which, although it isn’t necessary for use, is absolutely worth your time as it adds bonus features to the headphones.

Design

Compared to previous models of the WH-1000X, these headphones have less of a boxy, classic look, now appearing more current, rounded and slender.

Unfortunately, I have a love/hate relationship with their new design. I think it looks fantastic and functions well, with new silent sliding arms for adjusting the size of the headphones, and a slimmer headband. However, now the headphones don’t fold.

Previously, you could fold up the ear cups so they rested under the headband in a compact fashion, whereas now these sit in a fixed shape. Additionally, the ear cups can be rotated to keep their footprint slender in a bag but if you’re wearing these ‘correctly’ (left and right ear cups matching your left and right ear) resting around your neck the ear cups won’t sit flat against your chest. I mean, they can, but the ear cups face ‘outward’, which just seems backwards. I’d love to see this tweaked on the next generation.

With these design features in mind, they make them slightly less appealing for people like me who try to pack super light, squeezing everything into one backpack for a business trip.

I loved the compact nature of the previous design but I’ve heard some people comment that the ear cups would “rattle” around (but I can only notice this by shaking them around in the air).

The case they come in is also unfortunately larger than the previous one, however, it makes up some points because it can pack down almost flat when not in use. And look, none of these are necessarily deal-breakers – it’s just important to note if you value a smaller footprint in your backpack or you’re deciding between the M5 headphones and the folding M4s.

Touch controls

One of my favorite legacy features of the WH-1000X, which has carried over to the fifth generation, is the intuitive touch controls.

For example, to increase the volume on the headphones you can swipe up (or swipe up and hold) and to skip between tracks you can swipe your finger in a forward or backward motion. They also have Quick Attention Mode, where if you cover the right ear up with your hand they will mute your content and let in ambient sound so you can hear an announcement or have a conversation.

The headphones can also sense when you take these off and can pause your content when you do so. The previous generation could do this but this function used to have a visible sensor in the ear cup but now it’s hidden.

Noise cancellation and battery life

In my opinion the WH-1000X range has always had the most incredible noise-cancellation available. And in the latest addition it’s only become better.

With a more powerful noise-cancelling processor and now eight built-in microphones, Sony says its noise-cancelling ability is approximately 50 per cent better than the previous generation. And I do think it’s improved.

There’s also an adaptive noise-cancelling mode which optimizes the amount of cancellation based on your surrounding sounds, which I found to work really well.

And I’ve got to say, I find it challenging to travel without these when going on an airplane now. They drown out a ludicrous amount of plane noise, while offering excellent high resolution audio.

Side note – the built-in microphone is pretty good for calls too.

Their battery life is also impeccable, which makes them great for travelling. These have an insane quick charge feature where just 3 minutes of charging (with a compatible USB-C wall charger) can give you three hours of playback.

And overall, when fully charged, the headphones offer 30 hours of battery life. This is definitely accurate as for all the years I’ve used any version of the WH-1000X, and now the M5s I feel like I rarely need to charge them, which is so refreshing in a world where you’re always charging something!

Should you buy these?

In all honesty, I might still be packing my M4s over the M5s when traveling light, but hands down, I can say that these headphones are the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever used, with their seriously cushy foam ear cups. And the noise cancellation is top notch.

However I do wish they’d still fold up and hope the ear cups’ rotation will be altered.

I will admit I think they’re expensive for the average consumer, costing $548 on Sony’s website, but like any of the WH-1000X models, I also think they’re worth every cent.

So if you’re loving the look of these, are content with all my review points and have the cash, I can safely say they’re seriously awesome.

Elly Awesome is an Aussie tech and lifestyle vlogger. | @elyawesometech | Youtube

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