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Monday, October 19, 2020

Sony WH-1000XM4 review: Noise cancelling goes smart

Is Sony WH-1000XM4 one of the best noise cancelling headphones? Here's our review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Rs. 29,990
Written by Nandagopal Rajan | New Delhi | Updated: September 18, 2020 12:20:26 pm
Sony WH-1000XM4 review (Express photo: Nandagopal Rajan)

There was a time when we wondered what Sony was doing in the noise cancelling segment where there was a clear overlord. A few years down the line, the upstart has almost kicked out the incumbents and is making a cushy throne for itself. Sony’s confidence with headphones has been evident for some time and now it has come to a point where there is something new every other month. The latest is the Sony WH-1000XM4, the successor of the WH-1000XM3.

Sony WH-1000XM4

The Sony WH-1000XM4 looks a lot like its predecessor. The only major design change I could spot was how the matte finish has given way to a softer exterior that is pleasant to the touch. The headphone rests well and is perfect for listening to music or binge watching a show for long hours. The band and the ear cups offer the right amount of cushion. But it does get a bit hot inside the cups when it is sultry outside.

The headphones can be folded flat and even knocked in for storage. Under the left ear cup is the power button as well as the voice assistant — you can configure the assistant of your choice. The panels are touch sensitive and you can tap and swipe to navigate.

The headphones can be folded flat and even knocked in for storage.

As soon as you wear the Sony WH-1000XM4 and switch on power, you realise the capabilities of the headphone. The drone of the decade old fan in my living room just vanishes, leaving just a faint trace of the soap my wife is binge watching on her weekly off day. While the Sony WH-1000XM4 is meant for those who travel a lot by air, that is now a dream sequence that does not seem to be coming back to real life anytime soon. For now, this is a great silencer for those working from home and trying to think above the din of the household.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is also smarter than earlier versions. In fact, as you start to speak, the noise cancellation goes off and you move to aware mode. Let’s say you are at an airport lounge and walk up to a coffee shop to place an order, with this headphone you can just speak normally and your music will pause for the duration of your conversation. This is a very useful feature and often you are juggling with bags and other stuff while at the airport.

Sony WH-1000XM4 offers one of the more balance audio profiles in the Sony series and has a slightly tamer bass.

However, on the flip side, this activates even while you are clearing your throat while listening to a song or podcast and can be a bit irritating. So switch off the mode in the Sony Headphone Connect app when not using. You also switch off the noise cancelling by keeping your hand on the earcups. I also liked how the headphone stop playing as soon as you take it off your head.

The audio quality is not something I need to talk much about as that is a given with a Sony headphone and almost as dependable as the heavy bass. In fact, the Sony WH-1000XM4 offers one of the more balance audio profiles in the Sony series and has a slightly tamer bass. So, this is perfect for listening to Sam Smith’s vocal heavy Too Good at Goodbyes as well as the bass heavy Dhuniya Sharma Jayegi from Khaali Peeli. The audio profile can be amped up by switching on the DSEE Extreme mode on the app and fine tuned with the equaliser.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 also stands out for the variety of customisations available. Even the noise cancelling in optimised according to the user. The headphone also does some stuff on its own. For instance, the ambient sound mode is enabled based on what you are doing. Also, you can configure the headphone to understand which location you are in and switch on a preset mode, like noise cancelling as soon as you reach the office.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 looks a lot like its predecessor.

The headphone battery lasts really long despite whatever you are doing with it. From my experience so far, this headphone can work on a round trip from Delhi to San Francisco on a full charge. For me, it was a week or work from home use for calls and zoom calls and silence when I wanted to work or think in peace. I loved how the headphone can connect to two devices at the same time and switch seamlessly. So I could go on mute during a zoom call and take a phone call without actually touching the headphone even once. There is quick charge too, juicing up the headphone for about five hours of use in just ten minutes.

Overall, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is now one of the best noise cancelling headphones you can invest in. While the audio profile is pretty good, the smart functions take this one a step ahead of the competition. Till travel is grounded, the Sony WH-1000XM4 will be ideal for those working from home with many calls and callings to take care of.

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