Our trained testers put the Sony WF-1000XM4 earphones through their paces in our dedicated lab, using a sample purchased through regular retail channels, and I conducted an additional real-world evaluation using the same sample.
The best reason to buy the WF-1000XM4 earphones is their excellent sound quality. The earbuds’ other features work well, although in some cases they’re a little chunky or otherwise fall a bit short of their cheaper rivals in terms of functionality.
Sony’s matte black body feels quite premium, and it’s charged with a USB-C port. The earbuds are significantly larger than most, with a slightly chunky body that’s touch-sensitive. I found it easy – too easy – to mute my music while adjusting the earbuds. I prefer the solid click of a button found on some other earbuds, like those from Beats.
The ear tips on the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds are made from compressible foam instead of the silicone you find in earbuds Apple AirPods Pro. The buds form a tight seal and when I first used the Sonys the right earbud got stuck in my ear and I had to go to an emergency room to have it removed. The process only took a few seconds, but cost an additional $30. I’ve been more careful about removing the Sonys since then, and it hasn’t happened again.
On a positive note, the noise cancellation on the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds is whisper quiet, with no background hiss. Ambient mode also worked well, allowing me to hear oncoming traffic while walking. The Talk to Chat feature automatically pauses your content when you start speaking. It’s a neat idea, although I’ve found that a cough or even a giggle at a joke on a podcast would usually pause the music randomly and I had to touch the earbud to resume it.
If all of this seems like condemning the Sonys with faint praise, let’s be clear that none of these flaws are deal breaker. And that’s because of the immersive sound these earbuds deliver.
One of the dirty audio secrets is that the same qualities that make headphones exciting in the short term — sparkling highs, booming bass — can make them annoying in the long run.
But the Sony WF-1000XM4 earphones deliver exactly the opposite. Her virtues are slowly revealed. Initially, these earbuds don’t catch your attention, so if you’re not listening carefully, it’s easy to put them on and ask yourself, “What’s all the fuss about?”
But spend a little time with these Sony earphones and your favorite music and their excellent balance coupled with their ability to deliver detail will come into focus. On “Go homeLeonard Cohen doesn’t exactly sing, but the Sonys make him hear every syllable e-nun-ci-ate. You can even hear the sound of Lenny’s lips parting. But that almond-eyed view doesn’t distract from the music; You can still keep time to the steady shaker in the far right of Cohen’s voice. But even on less intimate (and frankly less good) recordings, that balance of detail and musicality shines through with the Sony WF-1000XM4 earphones.