Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless Active Noise Canceling Headphones Review: A New Benchmark

sony wh1000xm5 review logo sony

Sony has had its 1000X line-up since 2016 when the MDR-1000X wireless headphones came out. Since then there have been four successors to the MDR-1000X, with the latest launching in mid-2022, about two years after the launch of the Sony WH-1000XM4. The Sony WH-1000XM5 is the latest in the now-iconic and well-known line of flagship wireless headphones, and promises improvements across the board in terms of design, audio quality and active noise cancellation performance.

Price Rs. 34,990, the Sony WH-1000XM5 promises a significantly refreshed design and better performance. However, with the trend towards the more convenient form factor of true wireless earphones, do full-size over-ear headphones like these still have a place in the premium segment? Find out in our review.

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The Sony WH-1000XM5 has a refreshed design, although many aspects remain the same as the WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Design and Features

Sony used a fairly similar design on the 1000X series from generations one through four, but the WH-1000XM5 sees a significant redesign. The changes are visible on the headset with the ear cups, hinges, headband and foam padding, all looking completely different. The result is a headset that looks more ‘modern’, but the familiarity of the old style will certainly be missed by some.

The overall size and shape makes the Sony WH-1000XM5 lighter at 252g and perhaps slightly more comfortable too. The soft padding of the ear cups and the underside of the headband feel great and make for a snug and noise-isolating fit. Wearing glasses interfered with the noise isolating seal somewhat, affecting the quality of the active noise cancellation, but the drop in performance when playing music was small enough to ignore.

The headband adjustment on the Sony WH-1000XM5 is different, the adjustment system now moves freely instead of grooves set into the track. One major drawback of the new design is that the headphones don’t fold completely inward like the WH-1000XM4. Although the included carry case can hold the headphones as is, it’s not as compact as the previous model for travel.

As before, the controls on the Sony WH-1000XM5 are a combination of physical buttons and gestures on the touch-sensitive exterior of the right ear cup. The gesture set is fixed and includes tap, swipe or touch-and-hold. You can also set double-press and triple-press control for the NC/AMB button using the app.

sony wh1000xm5 review buttons sony

Power and ANC controls rely on physical buttons on the Sony WH-1000XM5

Helpfully, there’s a wear-detection sensor that plays or pauses music when the headphones are put on or taken off, respectively. You can also place your palm on the right ear cup, which instantly activates Audible mode, which lowers the volume and turns on the ambient sound setting to hear what’s around you.

There are only two buttons on the left side, which control power and noise cancellation or surround sound features, while playback and volume controls are operated using gestures. The left ear cup has a 3.5 mm socket for wired connectivity, while the right ear cup has a USB Type-C port for charging.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 has a ‘Speak to Chat’ feature, which pauses playback and activates ambient sound mode when the headset hears you speaking. There is native support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistant, with the ability to make hands-free calls to both with just wake commands. Other features include support for Google Fast Pair, multi-point connectivity for two devices simultaneously, and support for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio sound format.

Sony WH-1000XM5 App and Features

The Sony Headphones Connect app is part of the experience with most of Sony’s headphones and earphones, and naturally works with the WH-1000XM5 as well. The app provides access to controls and settings based on the WH-1000XM5’s feature set, neatly sorted into four main sections.

These include Adaptive Sound Control for ANC customization based on location and surroundings, displays for accurate battery levels and operational codecs, equalizer settings, Bluetooth connection quality, DSEE Extreme Mode, customization of some controls, and other features like multi-point. Connectivity, voice assistant selection and setup, and Spotify tap setup.

sony wh1000xm5 review app sony

The Sony Headphones Connect app can be used to adjust various functions and settings on the WH-1000XM5.

I generally found the WH-1000XM5’s natural sonic signature to be ideal and didn’t feel the need to tweak the equalizer settings at all, but many will appreciate the option to do so. The Bluetooth connection quality setting also felt redundant as stability was significantly improved with the LDAC Bluetooth codec. It is worth noting that multi-point connectivity will disable the LDAC Bluetooth codec and can only be used with the AAC codec.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 uses Bluetooth 5.2 for primary connectivity, although you have the option of connecting a stereo cable and using it as a wired headset. SBC, AAC and LDAC Bluetooth codecs are supported and the headphones have 30mm dynamic drivers with a frequency response range of 20-40,000Hz when using Bluetooth connectivity with the LDAC codec. It also has a rated sensitivity of 102dB.

There are a total of eight microphones on the headphones for ANC, four of which are used for voice communication. The Sony WH-1000XM5 uses a V1 integrated processor with a QN1 noise canceling processor that specifically enables ANC functionality. The sales package includes a new collapsible carry case for the headphones, a USB Type-A to Type-C cable for charging, and a stereo cable for 3.5mm wired connectivity.

Sony WH-1000XM5 performance and battery life

Given how good (and highly relevant) the Sony WH-1000XM4 still is, I wonder how much better the Sony WH-1000XM5 can really get. Interestingly, Sony has managed to make small but meaningful improvements to the sound quality and active noise cancellation on the headphones. However, the general approach remains the same, and the upgrades feel more incremental and less generational.

As before, what makes the Sony WH-1000XM5 sound so good is the sonic signature that’s simultaneously detailed and out-and-out fun. The full-size ear cups and large drivers give the WH-1000XM5 a noticeable advantage in sound, providing a spacious, flexible and detail-focused approach that feels healthy and incredibly satisfying to listen to.

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The Sony WH-1000XM5 has 30mm dynamic drivers

The sonic signature is somewhat V-shaped with the bass and treble more audible than the mid-range, but the spacious nature of the sound means that the mids don’t sound dull or drowned out at all. Listening to When I Get There by Big Wild, the intro sounded beautifully rich and powerful, before segueing into the tight, punchy and aggressive bass of a down-tempo beat. Through the various stages of this diverse track, the Sony WH-1000XM5 proved to be smooth and surprisingly quick to react to changes.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 easily played every type of music I listened to; Whether fast or slow and easy, the headphones adapt to the track almost intuitively. Listening to Living On Video (Claptone Remix), the headphones raised the energy level while keeping the track’s pace fairly easy, while Nick Jonas and Nicki Minaj’s slow, pop-infused Bum Bidi Bum sensitively focused. Sensual beat and rhythmic vocals.

As expected, the Sony WH-1000XM5 performs best when operating with the LDAC Bluetooth codec and good quality audio tracks. However, when I used it with an iPhone with the AAC codec working, things were fine, with a slight loss in sound detail and magnitude. The flexibility and adaptability of the sound remains, as does the pleasing and well-tuned sonic signature.

Active noise cancellation on the Sony WH-1000XM5 is slightly better than the WH-1000XM4 both indoors and outdoors, and I found the internal microphone to work a little better than before. It took a few seconds for the ANC to properly adjust to the environment, and the noise cancellation performance gradually improved as the internal microphones adjusted to what I was hearing. This helped when I was wearing my glasses, as the ANC could adjust to the slight gap between the noise isolating seals.

On its own and with no music playing, noise reduction levels were impressive indoors, with the WH-1000XM5 decently muting noise from my ceiling fan and even a lot of traffic humming through an open window. Outdoors, the headset was fairly effective against wind noise. With the music playing at a very moderate volume, I could barely hear any ambient sounds.

Call quality and connection stability were good on the Sony WH-1000XM5, with the headphones working seamlessly between smartphones and headphones at a distance of up to 4m. The LDAC Bluetooth codec stream was stable even at 990kbps bitrate at reasonable distances. Battery life on the Sony WH-1000XM5 is very good, lasting around 28 hours on a single charge with ANC on and medium volume.


Sony has long been a leading brand for high-end wireless headphones, and the WH-1000XM5 helps retain that title. With small improvements in sound quality and ANC performance, along with reliably good battery life and connectivity, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is one of the best wireless headphones you can buy right now, if the over-ear form factor appeals to you and you’re okay with the price.

There isn’t much competition in this segment, but there are some decent options to consider, including the Yamaha YH-L700A and the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones. If you’re an iPhone user, you might want to check out the (much more expensive) Apple AirPods Max. Regardless of your source device, however, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is a capable and reliable pair of active noise-canceling headphones and well worth considering.


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