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Sony Noise Canceling WH -1000XM4 is Released ! Is it worth the upgrade?

WH-1000XM4 headphones with fingertip control

In this pandemic year of 2020, we have seen a rise in the demand for smartphone accessories and the section of the audio accessories has seen a large rise in the demand. The True Wireless (TWS) earphones have been the major hit after Apple introduced the Airpods couple of years ago! And it took the competitors a couple of years to make that tech budget friendly and now everyone has jumped on to the bandwagon of these TWS earbuds. Due to the Work from Home (WFH) scenario, many office goers are tied to their homes and some times require a quite surrounding to be able to focus on their work. For that they are interested in the real deal! The Active Noise Cancelling over the ear Headphones! And there have been 3 major companies that are battling in this domain - Sony, Bose and Sennheiser! This year Bose introduced the successor for the QC35 II model - the Bose 700 headphones! And Sony thought - alright that's a fair upgrade .. here's ours that might probably slam it ! 

Sony WH 1000 XM3 was rated as the Best ANC (Active Noise Canceling) Headphones by many of the critics while some sided the Bose QC35 II. It was pretty close competition and I personally did side the 1000 XM3. This year they have launched the Sony WH-1000 XM4 which is the evolution of the 1000 XM3. What's new you ask ? Here's what's new in this one !
1. Design : 

The WH-1000XM4 pretty much retains the same the design as 1000XM3 except for a few details. The ear cups have become more soft and cushiony. The headrest padding has been reduced slightly to reduce the strain on the head. The earcups also have become slightly more wider. These differences you would notice only when you compare them side by side. Rest of the body is the same the WH-1000XM3. 

WH-1000XM4 headphones in a carrying case with cable

2. Noise Cancellation : 

I'm pretty sure most of us would be interested in this part and then straight jump to the price. So, let me tell you about what has improved. The noise cancellation on the WH-1000XM4 has become smarter I would say and sort of understands when to reduce the noise reduction and when to keep it static. So, it has got an algorithm upgrade in audio processors of the QN1 Sony Proprietary Chipset. The noise cancelling can also be adjusted much more fine through the Sony Headphones app. The headphones have a dedicated sensors in the ear cups that you can very clearly see when the ear cups are facing towards you. These sensors are used to detect whether one is wearing the headphones or has taken them out. This was one of the most demanded feature by the fans and I think Sony has really listened to them this time. 

One other problem that I had with the WH-1000XM3 was the sudden noise cancellation the moment you turn the "noise" cancelling feature on and it would make you feel bit uneasy - something that fades away over time. But, yeah it takes some time to get used to. In the WH-1000XM4 they have made it bit more gradual, so you don't feel the sudden vacuum in your ears. Overall, the noise cancelling quality seems to have added bit more finesse over the WH-1000XM3 which to begin with were already the industry best. 

It has a new feature where in , if you're talking to someone in the middle of the music, it automatically detects the same and reduces the music volume/ANC. This is a cool feature which was kind of there in the WH1000XM3 except you need to place your palm on the right side of the headphones to make it work. So, this feature on the WH-1000XM4 is non obtrusive and seems smart! Though, there are cases when it can lead to false positives and that's why Sony has given you an option to you turn it off on the App.

3. Audio Quality : 

In the WH-1000XM3, I noticed that in some types of songs the Lows needed bit more of uplift and the bass was on the higher side. In the WH-1000XM4 it looks to be more or less the same, but it's some thing that you can adjust using the SOny Headphones app and is basically an individual preference. The audio clarity on these pair of headphones is truly amazing and the voice and the instruments can clearly be distinguished. If you try a simple experiment , you could probably appreciate the same. Listen to any song on a speaker of laptop, then listen to the same song using wired earphones, then listen to it on the TWS earphones, next try it on the headphones without ANC and finally try it on the WH-1000XM4 with ANC On. The Wired Headphones audio quality and the Wireless Headphones quality was always something of a debate and the way the Bose 700 and WH-1000XM4 perform, I think that gap has narrowed to a thin line. 

Close-up on WH-1000XM4 headphones ear cupWH-1000XM4 headphones with quick attention

4. Comfort : 

Most people thinking about buying the over the ear headphones have this notion of hurting their head or ears if used for prolonged duration. Believe me, I was skeptical of this before purchasing a pair of headphones too. But, I think I was totally proven wrong. The Sony WH-1000XM4 sit well on the ears and the head and don't feel like something is pressing hard on your ears. After some time, I even forgot the headphones were put on and absolutely felt no pressure in the ears or the head. The downside for these closed back type of headphones is that your ears get completely closed like really locked on. So, after sometime you can feel them sweating. It's not excessive but once you take off the headphones you will feel as if you have freed your ears. This is an issue with most headphones, but I wish there was a way the manufacturers could tackle that. Bose, Sony and Sennheiser hope you're listening! 

5. Microphone and Battery : 

Microphone quality has been an issue on almost all types of wireless audio products and it just needed to be addressed by someone. Thankfully, Sony and Bose have tried to address it but still not there quite yet. The noise cancellation during the Calls has been improved on the WH-1000XM4 and it no longer sounds weird. Although, you can still notice the sudden change in the quality of the music to the call. I somehow wish it to be the same and seamless. 

35 hour battery life logo

Battery wise, I think with all these additional features it can still manage to go upto 30 hours with Noise Cancellation and upto 38 hours without Noise Cancellation. That means you can forget about charging the headphones for about week or so even if you use them 4 hours per day! Further they also bring the Quick Charging support and can give you 5 hours of playback with just 10 min of charging. 

Price : $349 USD ( INR: Rs.30,000 )

Verdict : 

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are a great pair of headphones and are perfect for long usage. However, if you are thinking of an upgrade from the WH-1000XM3 I would say you could probably wait for the next edition as there are not lot of new features that would really make difference to your experience. If you're a first time buyer, I would definitely recommend these for the price and overall experience. If design and comfort are considered I would lean on to the Bose 700 headphones. 

Let me know what do you think about the Sony WH-1000XM4 

Until then stay Safe. 

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