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First Listen: Sony’s WF-1000XM5 – the New King of ANC Wireless Earbuds?

Sony just released a new flagship in their wireless ANC earbud line. Can it live up to the hype?

Sony WF-1000XM5 ANY earbuds

Today Sony officially unveiled the latest flagship model in its wireless earbuds line. The new WF-1000XM5 ($299.99) improves on the previous flagship WF-1000XM4 with improved noise cancellation, better call quality, and improved sound quality from a smaller, lighter more compact design. We learned about the new model last month and have had a pair on hand for the past few days to do some quality listening.

In terms of operation, after about an hour charging in their sleek black case, I put the buds into my ears and was able to pair them with my Samsung phone in less than a minute. Once connected and listening to music, controls were pretty straightforward: a tap on the right bud/s sensor pauses the track while two taps skips to the next song. Three taps restarts a song and four taps raises the volume. Touching the left bud switches between ANC mode and ambient sound mode. If someone is trying to get your attention, a quick touch and hold on the left bud activates “Quick Attention” mode. This mutes the music and allows external sounds in as long as you keep your finger on the sensor on the earbud. Once you let go, the music starts flowing again.

A cool “Head Gesture” control activates motion sensors to enable you to accept incoming calls by shaking or nodding your head. And a “talk to chat” feature automatically mutes the music once you start talking so you can engage in conversation without any button presses required. These two featured must be enabled in Sony’s Headphones Connect app for iOS or Android. Overall, the controls are fairly intuitive and don’t differ much from the previous model.

Sony’s WF-1000XM5 ANC wireless earbuds come with a charging case and cable as well as three sets of tips in various sizes.

But the XM5 differs from the XM4 in a number of ways. On-board are two proprietary processors that improve noise cancellation. Combining this newly enhanced processing with six microphones (3 on each bud, 2 of which are for ANC feedback) we get improvements not only in noise cancellation (particularly on low frequency noise), but also in voice call quality. I made a few calls with the XM5s and found them to be excellent in this regard. Voices came through cleanly and clearly while external sounds were minimized.

The buds feature precision 24-bit audio processing and high-performance analog amplification for low distortion and “crystal-clear audio reproduction.” Like the XM4s, the XM5s support Sony’s LDAC format for enhanced sound quality on compatible devices. The XM5 also includes a new high-performance driver the “Dynamic Driver X” – this driver is larger than the one in the XM4, with extended bass response yet the company was able to reduce the size of the bud overall, meaning the XM5s are lighter and fit more comfortably in the ears. According to Sony, the the WF-1000XM5 earbud is now approximately 25% smaller and 20% lighter than the WF-1000XM4. This also allows the charging case to be smaller and sleeker than its predecessor.


Once I got the X5s paired, I dove into a few favorite tracks and playlists on TIDAL and Amazon Music. I’ve been listening to more EDM these days, like deadmau5 and Kx5 (“Alive,” “Escape,” and “Bright Lights”). I switched between stereo and immersive Dolby Atmos mixes of these tracks and found the treble detail, midrange clarity and bass extension and impact to be exceptionally good in both the immersive and stereo mixes of the songs. The immersive mixes had more space around the instruments and created a wide and deep soundstage with sounds seeming to come from all around me. But standard stereo tracks sounded full and rich as well, with good image specificity.

I listened to a few tracks in Sony’s own 360 Reality Audio immersive sound format on Amazon Music and TIDAL. Selection is not as robust as with Dolby Atmos, but albums like Pink’s “Trustfall,” Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” and Stewart Copeland’s collaboration with Ricky Kej “Divine Tides” sounded open and immersive in 360 Reality Audio, much more engaging than their stereo mixes. It’s easy to see why “Divine Tides” won a Grammy award for immersive sound: voices and instruments emanate from well beyond the traditional confines of a pair of headphones to create a true hemisphere of sound.

Listening to immersive mixes on the Sony headphones (or really on any earbuds or headphones) pales in comparison to listening out loud over a good set of surround sound speakers, but for listening on the go, the WF-1000XM5s do a good job in simulating an immersive sound or “spatial audio” mix. The XM5s can even support head tracking with select Android devices, which will come in handy if you use these buds for gaming or virtual reality.

Unlike many competitive models, Sony’s WF-1000XM5 include clearly readable markings for left and right buds (red “R” and blue “L”). Thanks, Sony!

What surprised me most was that the WF-1000XM5s were super comfortable right out of the box with the standard tips. The tips are made from a soft and elastic polyurethane foam material which reduces noise in the high-frequency range. They are designed to maximize the contact area between the earbud tip and the ear canal, reducing noise acoustically, so you will get decent noise isolation even if you disable ANC mode. The material also improves adhesion to the ear canal for a more secure, stable fit. Sony includes three additional pairs of tips in the box to assure a snug fit for various ear canal sizes.

Battery life is quite good. Like its predecessor, Sony rates the buds alone for up to 8 hours of music listening with noise cancellation turned on or up to 12 hours with noise cancellation turned off. The charging case can provide up to 16 additional hours of listening with ANC on or up to 24 hours of extra time with ANC turned off.

As part of the WF-1000XM5 launch, Sony is also introducing a new branding campaign, “For The Music.” The company is positioning these buds as the best choice for connecting artists and content creators with music lovers. Over time, the campaign will include more headphones, speakers and professional microphones. Check it out at

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The WF-1000XM5 is available in black or in silver with white accents (pictured).

Some features and functionality require Sony’s Headphones Connect app for iOS and Android. The WF-1000XM5 requires an updated version of this app, which just became available on launch day. With the app, I was able to enable the “Head gesture” (nod to take a call) and “Speak to Chat” features. I was also able to optimize my 360 Reality Audio experience by taking pictures of my ears in the app. This customizes the 360 Reality Audio binauralization feature for your specific ears in order to make 360RA content sound more three dimensional and immersive.

With the Headphones Connect app, you can also customize the left buttons to directly launch “Spotify Tap” or the “Endel” app. You can also customize ANC settings in the app so you can cycle through noise cancellation, ambient noise passthrough or disable the noise cancellation feature entirely. The app also allows you to enable voice control via Google or Amazon Alexa.

The WF-1000XM5s are available to order starting today on Sony’s web site, on Amazon and from other authorized Sony dealers.



Note: Article updated to include details about features enabled by Sony | Headphones Connect app once updated version became available.

Related Reading: Sony WF-1000XM4 Review: The King of Wireless ANC Earbuds



  1. Richard Murray

    July 30, 2023 at 3:36 pm

    Why not add the feature, or a different model, that allows for enhanced hearing for the hearing impaired when not listening to music? There are many cheap hearing aids that sound awful but fill a need for improved hearing. Is the technology of earbuds compatible with in-ear hearing aids. A possible dual purpose package I think would be a hit. I would strongly consider these.

    • Ian White

      July 30, 2023 at 5:15 pm


      Search our recent Sennheiser coverage for a new hearing aid that does just that.


      Ian White

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