Technology

Sony Updates Headphones With Sleeker Look, 30 Hours Of Listen Time

Sony has revamped the flagship model of its audio headphone line with a serious makeover and a still-not-very-sexy name, the WH-1000XM5 (?). The XM5, which just hit shelves May 20, comes with longer battery life, more comfortable construction, larger audio drivers and a sophisticated new noise-cancelling system. It’s a significant improvement to its worthy predecessors in many respects.

The XM5s are the latest descendant of the groundbreaking WH-1000X, which helped change the game for consumer-facing high-end headphones with active noise canceling, or ANC. The most recent previous model, the WH-1000MX4, had plenty to recommend itself, but the competition had caught up, sending Sony back to the drawing board.

The result is the WH-1000XM5, featuring an all-new design that’s both sleeker and more comfortable than the XM4. The headphones weigh just over half a pound, light enough for extended listening without discomfort. Sony touts a 30-hour battery life, which my testing suggests may be roughly accurate. Your mileage may vary.

The noise cancellation is top notch, powered by two processors and a total of eight microphones spread around each of the earpieces to properly pick up ambient noise from all directions.

The new, larger 30mm drivers in each earpiece provide improved sound quality with support for Hi-Res audio. Audiophiles may want to check out Sony’s 360 Reality Audio service, which features sound mastered an immersive, all-around sensation. The XM5s have been optimized for the format, and Sony includes its trial subscription coupon with the headphones.

The headphones also paired painlessly and quickly by Bluetooth to my MacBook Pro and iPhone 13, and various played genres of tracks streamed on Apple Music with good separation and punch.

Once connected, they delivered everything from the crunchy, rolling rock of I’m the Ocean by Neil Young and Pearl Jam to the lambent delicacy of Yolanda Kondonassis’ solo harp work on her just-released Hear the Dust Blow, recorded in the Hi-Res Lossless and Apple Digital Master formats common on Apple Music.

The headphones come in a sleek black or silver color way, with a matching case. The XM5’s redesigned wedge-shaped case is larger and somewhat bulkier than its oval predecessor, but also a bit more useful. It includes a nifty internal flip-top container that holds the included matching 1/4-inch audio cable and a very short USB-A to USB-C recharging cable.

The new can have much to offer, but they have some limits. Most particularly, Sony warns they shouldn’t be worn in the rain, or during sweaty workouts. That’s not ideal for some potential buyers, but if you’re spending almost $400 for a high-end audio experience, you probably have a cheaper water-resistant alternative you can use during your workouts.

Overall, the WH-1000MX5 headphones are winners, a strong competitor in the higher-end market for noise-cancelling, stylish, and great-sounding consumer headphones. They deserve a listen when you’re looking for the best way to block out office noise, an airplane’s engines, or traffic down the street, while delivering great music and audio experiences for hours at a time.

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