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Sony WH-1000XM4 ANC Headphones Review

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It used to be that if you wanted the top-of-the-line active noise cancelling headphones, there was only one brand to consider, Bose. But once Sony released its WH-1000XM3 over-ear headphones, it blew everyone away with the sound quality and active noise cancellation (ANC).

How does its successor, the WH-1000XM4 carry on the tradition? Sony sent us out a pair to find out for ourselves.

Design

The Sony WH-1000XM4 design doesn’t stray far from the previous model. I guess the approach was, if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it. Although, for a premium pair of headphones, the WH-1000XM4 sure use a lot of plastic. On the bright side, they feel solid and durable.

However, to keep your investment protected, Sony also includes a hardshell carrying case in the box. There is also an airplane adapter, a 3.5mm cable, and a laughably short USB-C charging cable.

As far as ports and buttons go, there is a USB-C port on the left for charging and a 3.5mm port on the right along with the power button and button that can be used for Google Assistant.

Supplementing the physical buttons are touchpads on the left and right ear cup. These work with a series of taps and swipes making it easy to control the playback and volume of your music. I haven’t always been the biggest fan of touch controls, but these work wonderfully and I never found myself accidentally triggering actions.

Comfort

The WH-1000XM4 headphones make use of synthetic leather on the ear cups and headband with urethane foam. I found the padding to be more than sufficient on the headband and never felt any discomfort on the top of my head while using the headphones.

Although, the padding on the ear cups came up a little short. I could feel the interior of the ear cup lightly against my ear while wearing the Sony WH-1000XM4. Thankfully, it barely grazed my ear, and there is a little empty space behind the material which prevented any irritation even when wearing for long periods of time.

User experience

The Sony WH-1000XM4 sets itself apart with a fantastic user experience. For starters, it uses Google Fast Pair, which as the name suggests, makes it quick and easy to pair your headphones with your phone.

Next, the WH-1000XM4 is host to a ton of features. It has Google Assistant support built-in and will read your notifications to you, as well as allow you to reply using your voice. There’s also Alexa support if that’s more your style.

Besides the digital assistant support, the Sony WH-1000XM4 has a lot of smarts built into them. For starters, there’s a speak-to-chat function that will pause your music and let ambient noise in, allowing you to have a conversation without removing the headphones or triggering it manually.

If you prefer to control this manually, speak-to-chat can be disabled and you can enable it by placing your hand on the right ear cup. The WH-1000XM4 also automatically pauses and resumes playback with a sensor that detects when you remove or place the headphones back on.

When listening to music, the Sony WH-1000XM4 also has the ability to enhance it by upscaling compressed digital files for higher quality. Plus, the adaptive sound control automatically adjusts the sound based on your location and changes depending on whether you’re moving or standing still. Noise cancellation is also customized depending on your location and activity.

In short, the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones constantly work to ensure you have the best sound quality and noise cancellation possible, while also giving you convenient features that allow you to carry on with your day while enjoying your favorite music.

App

Behind all these smarts in the WH-1000XM4 is the Sony Headphones app. It’s here where you can change several options, take control of the noise cancellation levels, adjust the equalizer, update the firmware, and more.

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