The Sony WF-1000XM4 have received massive buzz since their release, with many hailing them as the best true wireless earbud on the market. While this is a hard title to claim, I have been meaning to put these $279 (recently marked down to $249) earbuds to the test for quite sometime. Today, we’re going to take an in depth look at the WF-1000XM4 and see how they perform, in addition to how they compare to similarly popular and priced earbuds, namely the Sennheiser Momentum 2 and the Bowers & Wilkins PI7.
Look and Feel
The WF-1000XM4 are a peculiar fit, as they don’t have the most welcoming shape or size. Their large circular casing and generally bulky build suggest that these will feel heavy and unruly when placed in your ears. However, much to my surprise, I did not experience this. While it can be slightly awkward positioning the WF-1000XM4 at first, once they're in place, their fit feels quite like any other standard-comfort earbud fit. At times, they slid out of place a bit and their outer edges started to uncomfortably rub up against my inner ear, but this was usually easy to fix.
When it comes to looks, the WF-1000XM4 don’t quite match the visual luxury of their competitors, but also don’t appear cheap or unsightly. Aside from their large size, the matte black body of the WF-1000XM4 and its small copper embellishments do not distinguish it from any other true wireless on the market. While it’s always nice to admire a more flashy earbud, those that take a hands-off approach to style do suggest that sound is their focus and selling point, which is reassuring.
the WF-1000XM4 offer 8 hours of battery life with noise canceling activated and are IPX4 water resistant. Two noise sensing microphones are utilized in addition to Sony’s integrated “Processor V1” to achieve maximum noise cancellation. The left ear can be tapped to activate ambient noise while the right ear is used for noise cancellation.
the WF-1000XM4 may have some of the best noise cancelling abilities of any true wireless on the market. While I personally found they didn’t seal on my ears quite as tightly as some models, this didn’t seem to matter, as when noise cancelling was activated, there was almost a disorienting silence created. For example, the background air conditioning noise was completely eliminated, and while voices or cars in the background could still be detected, their sound was very thinned out.
When it comes to imaging, this was one of the WF-1000XM4’s most impressive qualities. These earbuds offer a ton of width and depth, offering an immersive, live performance feel.They separate elements better than most bluetooth earbuds I’ve heard, giving distinctive spaces to each element and leaving substantial air in between. If you’re looking for tight, exact, engaging imaging, the WF-1000XM4 are right on the money.
The WF-1000XM4 have a good body to their low end that takes a nice approach to the tastefully pumped up, crowd pleasing bass sound most listeners want from earbuds these days. They stay at bay in their leveling, and don’t overwhelm the listener with a ton of sub or a disproportionate amount of impact. This being said, the WF-1000XM4 still deliver a lot of punch and energy to their low end, allowing you to get a pseudo-physical feel from percussion etc. They do a great job at driving bassy rhythmic elements and bringing out a dynamic, nuanced performance. If you want a bass heavy earbud, the WF-1000XM4 lean more towards balance. However, there’s still a considerably serving of low end going on.
The mids on the WF-1000XM4 are fairly neutral, but have a bit more bite to them than you might expect. They do a good job at pushing presence while still maintaining balance. These do have a much less subdued, thinned midrange than, say, a pair of Apple AirPods, and avoid scooping out much from this area in favor of giving music a solid sonic core. What I liked most about the mids on the WF-1000XM4 were how natural they felt; there wasn’t an obvious modulation going on, but mostly a transparent, clear feel that let the music speak for itself without trying to paint it a new color.
The WF-1000XM4’s highs depart slightly from its overall natural, clear feel. The highs have a nice leveling, they’re not overly-bright and they have an extremely soft touch to them. However, I at times found them to feel a bit metallic and synthetic, not giving me the same transparency and breathing room offered by the mids. This qualm wasn't a major one for me, I got past it quickly. It just felt like the one vice of an otherwise stellar performance. Either way, the high end on the WF-1000XM4 is only a few steps away from perfect, leaving many true wireless earbuds in its tracks.
Compared to Bowers & Wilkins PI7: The PI7 has a much more rumbling, overwhelming low end. Some may find this makes for a fuller sound, but others may feel the PI7 is much less balanced compared to the WF-1000XM4. The PI7 doesn’t have quite the intensity of brightness of the WF-1000XM4, and has a more subdued, smoothed mid range. The PI7 seems to have about an equally wide soundstage to the WF-1000XM4, but is at times weighed down by its bass response.
Compared to the Sennheiser Momentum 2: the Momentum 2 is a midpoint between the WF-1000XM4 and PI7 in some ways. Its low end leveling and punch sits between the two, being more intense than the WF-1000XM4 but not as powerful as the PI7. Its mid range sits closer to the WF-1000XM4, with a more noticeable bite, and more coloring to it. The Momentum is a fair amount brighter and less natural sounding in its highs than the WF-1000XM4, making a more obvious sheen. The WF-1000XM4 seems to have a tad less width than the momentum, but outdoes it in terms of depth.
I see where the hype for the WF-1000XM4 comes from: they have a balanced, natural feel, they perform well across nearly all genres, and they’re fairly comfortable and appropriately priced. I wouldn’t call them the be-all-end-all of true wireless earbuds, but I would name them a worthy contender that should definitely be on anyone’s radar who’s on the hunt for some high quality bluetooth listening right now.
You can purchase the Sony WF-1000XM4 here.