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Sony WF-1000XM5: Everything we know and what we want to see (Updated: March 2023)
Update: This article was updated to include information regarding the Sony WF-1000XM5 leak. These leaked images reveal the shape of the WF-1000XM5 earbuds and their case.
Sony’s indisputable audio success lies with the hugely popular WF and WH series of true wireless buds and over-ear headphones. The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds lead by example when it comes to high-quality listening in a compact form factor. With much talk of a brand new WF-1000XM5 version on the horizon, it begs the question — what does Sony have in store for the WF/XM line?
There are a lot of gaps still to fill in at the moment, but we can make some pretty good assumptions based on rumors, previous models, and Sony’s proprietary technology. There are also a lot of features among the WF/XM series that we’d like to see the WF-1000XM5 earbuds improve upon. Read ahead for what we know and want to see in these buds.
Will there be a Sony WF-1000XM5 series?
Sony has released plenty of earbuds over the past two years. From the slightly wobbly WF-L900 to the vastly updated LinkBuds S, Sony remains a formidable powerhouse when it comes to high-end audio.
Yet despite a recent flurry of releases, Sony is typically much slower to refresh its flagship WF-XM line. Sony hasn’t confirmed the existence of the WF-1000XM5 yet, but given the popularity of the WF-1000XM4 and the rapidly evolving nature of the high-end audio space, we’d be very surprised if Sony doesn’t follow up with a release sometime in 2023.
Sony’s FCC filing from February 22, 2023, describes a “wireless noise cancelling stereo headset,” which is all but confirmed to be the WF-1000XM5. On March 15, 2023, Sony WF-1000X5 images leaked, revealing the design of the case and earbuds. The FCC ID and model number on the images of the leaked case match the FCC ID and model number in the FCC file.
From the images, we see rounded earbuds with Sony branding. The earbuds appear to have more angled nozzles than the WF-1000XM4, which could improve comfort. The glossy plastic looks cheaper, but this could change with the final product.
The leaked images also show us a more rounded case design for the Sony WF-1000XM5, compared to the XM4 earbuds’ case. You won’t find the LED indicator on the seam of the case where the lid meets the body. Instead, the LED rests on the front of the case, like the AirPods.
Another change: Sony drops the XM4’s three-pin connectors for two-pin connectors in the XM5 case. Despite fewer pins, we could see faster charging speeds for the earbuds. A 5V ⎓ 230mA spec is stamped on the bottom of the leaked XM5 case. This is greater than the Sony WF-1000XM4 case (5V ⎓ 140mA).
A teardown of the case indicates that it will support Qi wireless charging just as the XM4 case. We also see a teardown of the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds. There are contacts for a wireless antennae and proximity sensor. There are also two sets of contacts for drivers and MEMS microphones.
When will the Sony WF-1000XM5 release date be?
- Sony WF-1000XM3 series — August 5, 2019
- Sony WF-1000XM4 series — June 8, 2021
Sony has already released two LinkBuds models in the past year, including the LinkBuds WF-L900, but the flagship WF-1000XM models have historically been released bi-annually during the summer months. Based on the series’ history, the next-gen upgrade would be due sometime in the summer of 2023. There’s still a while to go, but it isn’t too early to start getting excited about the next step in the WF/XM line.
The only thing that might stand in Sony’s way is the global microchip shortage. Provided that doesn’t pose too big of a problem, we could be looking at a June to August 2023 release window for the WF-1000XM5 earbuds.
What features and specs will the WF-1000XM5 have?
In the absence of official details, here’s what we can gather from the rumors and expectations so far.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds look somewhat similar to the newer and much more affordable Sony WF-C500 buds, so this seems to be the design language Sony is sticking with. This improved design is in contrast to its pill-shaped predecessor, the WF-1000XM3. Although both were comfortable designs in their own right, the outdated pill shape of the XM3 was a little clunky. The fact that the XM4 sports a more rounded shape ensures a secure fit and good isolation from outside environmental noise.
It’s also a more up-to-date and recognizable aesthetic for Sony buds. There’s no denying it would be a step backward if Sony reverted to the bulkier design of the past. The rejuvenated shape of the XM4 was one of the best improvements Sony made to the XM3. It’s pretty safe to speculate that the WF-1000XM5 will assume a roughly similar rounded design to the WF-1000XM4 and WF-C500 buds.
Specs and features
One of the features that make the WF-1000XM4 buds a truly excellent choice is their superior ANC and isolation capabilities. Droning sounds from 50Hz upwards are rendered effectively mute, and the memory foam tips seal tightly even with oddly shaped ear canals; these elements combined make for a very pleasant listening experience. As you can see in the SoundGuys comparison chart above, the Sony WF-1000XM4 noise-cancelling is significantly better than the Sony WF-1000XM3, so we can expect another ANC performance bump with the WF-1000XM5.
Audio quality is also a benchmark of Sony’s WF/ XM series earbuds. There’s a slightly enhanced bass boost on the XM4, but this is common among most earbud manufacturers to cancel out rumbling noises. Where Sony differs from the rest is the inclusion of its proprietary DSEE Extreme feature. This boasts the ability to upsample compressed audio formats, which is useful for those of us who listen to a lot of lossy music. Seeing as the WF-1000XM4 buds host this feature, it would be pretty surprising if the WF-1000XM5 didn’t.
High-end buds are now on Bluetooth 5.3; Sony should really follow suit.
We’d also expect to see next-gen buds connect to your chosen device via Bluetooth 5.3. Apple’s AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro have paved the way for this capability already, so Sony will likely follow suit. This would provide users with longer battery life and a more seamless connection. We expect the WF-1000XM5 will support all Bluetooth codecs in the stack, including the LE audio LC3 codec. What we know for almost certain is that the buds would contain Sony’s own high-quality LDAC codec. This has proved to be a worthwhile, high-end option for those using devices that support it.
The XM4 earbuds boast a battery life somewhere around the seven- to eight-hour mark, so we’d expect similar for the newer model unless there’s a larger battery in tow. Sony’s cases have historically supplied an additional charging capacity of around 12-24 hours. Ideally, the WF-1000XM5 charging case would supply somewhere at the higher end of that spectrum.
Sony already boasts impressive ANC and spatial audio credentials that are sure to stick around.
If you’re looking to take advantage of spatial audio, it’s highly likely that the WF-1000XM5 will host Sony’s proprietary 360 Reality Audio feature. Supported by TIDAL, Deezer, and Amazon Music HD streaming services, users will be able to immerse themselves fully in a 360 spherical sound field.
Sony’s Headphones Connect app also allows listeners to hone their preferred equalization. This is a very helpful feature for the WF-1000XM4 buds, given their out-of-the-box sound is a little wonky. We suspect Sony will want users to be able to customize their sound whilst using the WF-1000XM5 buds, too.
What will the Sony WF-1000XM5 price be?
- Sony WF-1000XM3 — $230
- Sony WF-1000XM4 — $280
- Sony WH-1000XM2 — $349
- Sony WH-1000XM3 — $300
- Sony WH-1000XM4 — $349
- Sony WH-1000XM5 — $399
As you can see from the table above, Sony’s over and in-ear headphones prices have been trending upwards. They were already considered premium compared to other headphones on the market, though the WF series usually comes in cheaper than its WH over-ears. Unfortunately, the outlook doesn’t seem to be getting any brighter in the short term.
On May 20, 2022, Sony released its latest over-ear headphones, the WH-1000XM5. At launch, these came in at $399. Truth be told, they’re a cracking pair of headphones. However, compared to other versions released in the past, they come with a pretty inflated price tag.
That’s not all. Sony’s most recent earbuds, the WF-1000XM4, were $50 more than their predecessor upon release. More than likely, there are some external factors at play here that need to be addressed. Most obvious is the current increase in the cost of raw materials and scarcity of microchips. Some of the inflated overheads in sourcing these materials will inevitably be passed down to consumers.
There's a good chance the Sony WF-1000XM5 could be priced at more than $280.
There’s a good chance that by the time mid-2023 comes around, we’ll still be dealing with rising costs globally. We could see the WF-1000XM5 priced at more than $280, likely above $300. Only time will tell.
Sony WF-1000XM5 series: What we want to see
It’s true that the WF-1000XM4 mark a milestone in Sony’s development of high-quality earbuds. They’re an impressive piece of kit and stand as a genuine alternative to Apple’s AirPods Pro. While that is no easy feat, there’s always room for a little bit of improvement. Here are some things we hope Sony will adopt in 2023.
A pair of extra-small ear tips
The inclusion of extra-small ear tips for buds, like Apple’s AirPods Pro, makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 earbuds lucked out against their main competitor there.
Aside from the discomfort of forcing a large ear tip into a small ear canal, you also miss out on forming a perfect seal. As mentioned earlier, that was one of the areas where Sony’s XM4 excelled, thanks to the fit test in its Headphones Connect app. It can only be considered a missed opportunity for Sony not to accommodate people with smaller ears. Hopefully, with the anticipated release of the WF-1000XM5 earbuds, this will be something Sony will include this time around.
Improved microphone quality
Sony’s WF-1000XM4 microphone is good but not excellent. It has the ability to boost your in-call audio signal and can differentiate between speech and background noise. But despite these handy features, it lacks in other areas.
Most notably, it struggles with windy or office environments. The microphone can become distorted and can’t always isolate your voice perfectly. Connection robustness also suffers when using the AAC Bluetooth codec.
The WF-1000XM5 could improve upon its predecessor by having a more stable connection. Either way, if Sony wants to keep up with its competitors, it’ll want to bring its microphone quality up to scratch.
Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity
As briefly mentioned earlier, Apple and Samsung, two of Sony’s biggest rivals, already feature Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity in their latest earbuds. It promises better short-range wireless connections, lower latency, and improved anti-interference. The standard also attempts to consume as little power as possible — a feature always welcomed by smartphone users.
Can Sony capitalize on this newest tech? We’ll have to wait to find out.
An IPX5 or higher water-resistance rating
Sony’s WF-1000XM4 boasts a water-resistance rating of IPX4. That’s pretty standard and should protect the buds from everyday splashes and sweat whilst working out.
There have been instances, though, where Sony’s charging cases have been damaged due to water. We’re not necessarily expecting the WF-1000XM5 to compete with Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro’s impressive IPX7 rating, but it would be a good choice if Sony introduced an IPX5 rating, especially for its charging cases.
Bluetooth Multipoint connection
In the fall of 2022, Sony announced that a firmware update would add multipoint connectivity to the WF-1000XM4 earbuds. However, as of January 30, 2023, Sony has yet to add this functionality to the WF-1000XM4. Multipoint allows users to connect to two different Bluetooth-capable devices at once. With multipoint, you can automatically answer a phone call on your mobile whilst listening to music on another device, such as your music player or computer.
Having the ability to connect to more devices at once is an extremely useful tool and something that we hope the new WF-1000XM5 will incorporate out of the box.
And that’s it, folks! That’s everything we want to see from the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds.