Review 191: 07.07.2021 at 06:00 pm
Hi guys, how are you today? your Coffee and let’s start our review, I’ve been testing out Sony’s new XM4 truly wireless earbuds and I’ve gotta admit that these things have blown me away in a few different areas compared to Apple’s AirPod Pros that I’ve heard many times.
And once that’s pretty clear to me at this point is that we’re getting really really close to peak earbuds, or at least what earbuds were always meant to be, and even though the XM4’s aren’t perfect, and I’ll explain exactly why and how in this review, they’ve definitely gone a long way.
So before I get into my favorite features about these earbuds and why I actually think they’re worth the hefty 279 usd price tag, I want to go back to the roots of these Sony earbuds, and truly wireless earbuds in general, to show you guys just how far we’ve come and how we got here.
As we all know, wireless earbuds like this have been the standard for so long already that many of us, especially the younger generation, have forgotten how they used to be.
Almost a decade ago, every single pair of earbuds were wired, and for many years, the majority of people would be buying cheap earbuds like the JVC Gumy’s, which were considering budget at around $7 a pair, or they’d just be using whatever came in the box with their smartphones, like the newly updated Apple Earpods that came with the iPhone 5.
And then, in 2013, we finally started seeing wireless headphones like the Motorola Buds which came with a neckband, housing the battery and bluetooth chip, with wires going up to the earbuds, and then that quickly evolved to wireless earbuds like the Jaybird BlueBuds X which were much more compact, ditching the bulk headband, but of course, still requiring the cable connecting both sides because it was the most reliable way to make sure the audio between both ears played perfectly in sync.
And then, of course, in 2016, Apple revealed the original AirPods with their new W1 chip that perfectly synced the audio and pushed the entire industry forward with new features like auto-pause when you take an AirPod out of your ear, and the ability to just use one earbud at a time while the other one is charging in the case, which was also revolutionary at the time.
But now shifting over to Sony’s part of the story, the same month that Apple released their AirPods, Sony launched their MDR-XB50BS wireless earbuds for $80 which still came with a cable that rested on the back of your neck.
It wasn’t until the following year that Sony came out with their WF-1000X earbuds, being the very first pair of fully wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation, something that the AirPods didn’t have at the time, and of course, they came with a pretty massive charging case.
However, the noise cancellation apparently still sucked, barely making a difference compared to passive noise isolation.
But a year later, Sony released their best-in-class WF-1000XM3’s, the earbuds that held the crown for having the best noise cancellation, even better than the AirPods Pro which were released later that year. But these new XM3’s definitely weren’t perfect.
The charging case was still absolutely massive compared to the AirPods Pro and it didn’t even support wireless charging. The buds themselves were quite a bit more bulky and they offered zero sweat or water resistance compared to iPX4 on the AirPods Pro.
And now, in 2021, we finally have Sony’s brand new XM4’s, and like I said in the beginning of this review, these earbuds have basically reached their peak by fixing so many of the previous issues, all in one update, so let’s get right into everything that’s changed.
First up, the charging case has been totally redesigned, now less than half the size of the previous one, allowing you to finally be able to fit it into that little mini-pocket that comes on most pairs of jeans. And because of the flat bottom, it can now sit upright and finally support wireless charging. The finish got an update as well, with a new matte texture that’s much more scratch resistant compared to the XM3’s.
The inside of the case now looks much more clean and modern, no longer featuring blatantly visible rectangular magnets, with them now tucked underneath the plastic casing. And I also noticed that the magnets are now more powerful, giving you a satisfying snap when you place them into the case, as well as keeping them perfectly secure so they won’t fall out if you drop the case.
As far as the earbuds themselves, they’ve also been completely redesigned with a more round, bulbous shape, a new matte finish and some new design details that really make them look and feel more premium than before, and I really like how the new foam eartips perfectly match the color and texture of the earbuds.
The flashing LED light on the XM3’s is now gone, which I actually prefer because it made them look a bit cheesy, and I really like how the new XM4’s now sit perfectly within your outer ear instead of sticking out the like old ones do, and I’m glad they removed the Sony logo from the face, giving them a more clean look.
However, I did find that this new fit isn’t as comfortable as the old ones because it can sort of press against your ear, and on top of that, the new foam tips are a little annoying since you have to squish them each and every time you put them into your ears and then wait for the foam to expand before removing your finger.
And because of all of that, these Sony’s are nowhere near as comfortable as the AirPods Pro, especially since they’re heavier and they don’t feature a venting system to relieve pressure from the inside of your ears like the AirPods Pro have.
So even though these new XM4’s feature an incredible 8 hours of listening time with ANC enabled compared to 6 hours on the old XM3’s and only 4.5 hours on the AirPods Pro, you absolutely cannot listen for 8 straight hours because your ears will start hurting after just a couple.
But thanks to the foam eartips, you get an incredibly good seal which helps the XM4’s achieve the best noise cancelling that I’ve ever heard on any earbuds, destroying the AirPods Pro and removing so much noise that I can hear subtle creaks and pops inside of my own head as I look around, instead of the blaring A/C noise in our office which I can’t hear at all.
These things are literally rivalling the noise cancellation of the AirPods Max which cancel almost every bit of noise on an Airplane flight.
They also have an ambient mode for the times when you need to hear something or talk to someone, which you can enable by tapping the left earbud, or you can use the speak to chat feature within the Sony headphones app, which automatically switches to ambient mode when you speak, and it works surprisingly well!
However, the ambient mode isn’t the best since it introduces a bit of extra white noise, so it’s nowhere near as good as the AirPods Pros transparency mode which basically makes it seem like you don’t have anything in your ears at all, but the Sony’s definitely get the job done.
The touch controls work much more reliably than before, and they’re fully customizable for each ear within the app, which also comes with an equalizer with easy to use controls for different frequency bands. And as far as the sound quality, I’m completely blown away, even coming from the AirPods Pro.
The high notes, even in the bright preset which I recommend, are incredibly clean and not too sharp where they hurt your ears, which is something that I’ve experienced with the AirPods Pro, which unfortunately don’t support EQ customization.
The mids and vocals on the Sony’s are also just so clear and full, with not even a hint of distortion anywhere, with very impressive separation of frequencies, allowing you to hear the subtle notes from various instruments without having it all clash together like on some other earbuds.
And as far as the bass, it’s really enjoyable, being very deep, punchy and tight, all at the same time, being kept together nicely even while high notes are simultaneously playing.
I honestly can’t say the same for the AirPods Pro, that do have great bass reproduction, but lack a bit of that extra bass volume that the Sony’s give you. I’m just extremely impressed, especially since they’ll last up to 8 hours with noise cancelling enabled.
So as far as comparing the Sony XM4’s to the AirPods Pro, they outclass them in terms of the overall sound quality, the noise cancellation, and the battery life, which are three of the most important features for fully wireless earbuds.
And on top of that, the other less important features now match up much better compared to the AirPods Pro, like getting a smaller case with wireless charging and finally getting IPX4 water resistance.
The only downsides include the Sony’s being way less comfortable and not supporting multi-connect which is a bit weird considering the last main downside which is the higher $279 price tag compared to $250 for the AirPods Pro, but given the fact that the Pros are on sale right now for only $190 on Amazon, it does make the choice a bit more difficult, but I think I’ve figured it out.
🤡 If you’re an Android user, seriously just pay the extra cash for the Sony’s because you won’t be getting anything from the Apple ecosystem with the AirPods Pro, and the Sony’s also absolutely destroy the competition, including Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro, But if you’re an iPhone user, you’ve gotta choose what you’d like more, comfort, price and convenience with the Apple ecosystem with the AirPods Pro, or better sound quality, better battery life and the absolute best noise cancellation.
And to be completely honest, after hearing how good these Sony’s are, I would probably go with these over the AirPods Pro, even though I have an Apple bias, and that says a lot about the Sony XM4’s.
So hopefully you guys enjoyed this review, and we’ll see you in the next reviews and news!👋