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Sony WH-1000XM5: Revisiting the King of ANC 

It’s been almost three months since I reviewed the Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones and over a year since owning them, so here is my long-term update.
Sony WH-1000XM5

It’s been almost three months since I reviewed the Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones and over a year since owning them. There has been a firmware update since my review, and the Headphones Connect app has also been updated a couple of times, adding new features. So here is my long-term update on the Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones.

Portability

Sony WH-1000XM5

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is still as portable as ever. I’ve found the lay-flat design much better than the fold-up design of the WH-1000XM4. It makes putting it into my bag or luggage simpler and more space-efficient. These are my go-to headphones when traveling or out and about, so space efficiency and ease are paramount for me.

ANC

The ANC performance has also held up incredibly well. The WH-1000XM5 is a perfect companion when flying, blocking out engine noise and rumble without affecting sound quality. Even the Ambient Sound mode, which is similar to Apple’s Transparency mode, is implemented very well. I’ll give the edge to Apple, though, as they have tuned their Transparency mode extremely well, boosting external sounds such as voices, footsteps, and vehicles when it matters, making for a more natural-sounding environment. 

Sony does give you the option of Voice passthrough, which filters in voices while suppressing other noise. It works well enough, but the AirPods still implement it better.

Build Quality

Sony WH-1000XM5

Physically, the headphones have held up very well. The plastic is still prone to finger smudges, especially if you have oily or sweaty hands, but otherwise, there are no signs of wear. The travel case has also held up very well. Sony did a great job with the build quality of the headphones and case, so if you are a frequent traveler, you should have no worries there. The clamping force of the Sony WH-1000XM5, which I found to be just right, also hasn’t changed through the dozens of hours of use I have put them through.

New Features

The latest firmware update as of the time of this writing, version 2.0.2, added some new features.

Multipoint Connections and LDAC

Sony has updated the WH-1000XM5 to allow you to connect to two devices simultaneously while using LDAC, which is impressive given the bandwidth requirements for LDAC. In my limited testing of this feature, I encountered no issues, and it worked perfectly every single time. 

Head Tracking

This feature is similar to Apple’s head tracking with spatial audio. On any supported device and Android OS version, you will get head-tracking support with the Sony WH-1000XM5. I have never been a fan of this feature, even when using Apple’s products, but I can say it works as expected.

Find Your Equalizer

The latest version of the Headphones Connect app introduced the ability to create a custom EQ using a guided interface. The feature is still considered in beta, but basically, you play music, start the guide, and pick from several buttons on the screen. Each button has a different sound, and you select the one that sounds the best to you and then move on to the next screen. 

It actually does an excellent job of guiding you through picking a sound that is pleasant for you. It also eliminates the tedious work of fine-tuning frequencies when setting an EQ. I still prefer my custom EQ from my original review, but this is a good option for less tech-savvy users. Especially considering that, in my opinion, these headphones need EQ to reach their fullest potential. 

Overall Sound

The sound quality has stayed the same since my review in July. The overall sound is well-balanced, but the bass is often overpowering and muddy, which can be fixed with EQ, as mentioned before. The sound profile for these headphones is not super detailed; instead, I would describe them as dynamic. Meaning if you want critical listening, then these headphones are not for you, but if you want to just sit back and relax to your favorite music, then you will be in good company here.

The one disappointment is the audio performance when using the headphones with a 3.5mm wired connection. Plugging the headphones into a device using the 3.5mm wired connection when the headphones are powered off gives you an atrocious, weak, mediocre sound that is unlistenable. And obviously no ANC, just passive sound isolation. Turning the headphones on and using the 3.5mm connection is much better. Unfortunately, since your EQ profiles are stored in an app and not in the headphones themselves, you don’t have any EQ options unless your source device has an Equalizer. Even then, you would have to configure them from scratch.

Final Thoughts

Sony WH-1000XM5

Are the Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones still a contender for the best wireless ANC headphones in 2023? The answer is a resounding yes. They have some very stiff competition in this category, notably the Apple AirPods Max, Bose 700, Sennheiser Momentum 4, and the newly released Beats Studio Pro Wireless. Even with that competition, Sony has continued refining the WH-1000XM5 through firmware updates and giving additional functionality and features using the Headphones Connect app. I can confidently still recommend the Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones in 2023 if you are looking for a great-sounding pair of ANC headphones.

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