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Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones: My 3 favorite and least favorite features

Recounting the best and worst things about Sony's flagship ANC headset.
By
November 28, 2022
Sony WH 1000XM5
Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

I’ve been using the Sony WH-1000XM5 for several weeks now. I’ve tested them on the go at noisy airports, bustling streets, quiet rooms, at night in bed, and while writing up a storm here at Android Authority. I even recently wrote about how I ditched my Bose headphones for Sony’s flagship wireless cans. Needless to say, I found a lot to like about the WH-1000XM5.

If you want a more in-depth look at the headphones, you can head over and read our review, which covers everything from noise-cancelling performance to battery life, sound quality, and more. But if you need a quick fix before you press that buy button, I’m going to list the best and worst qualities of the Sony WH-1000XM5 based on my personal experience. I feel most regular headphone users like me would care about these points, and I hope they help you make an informed decision.

Sony WH-1000XM5: My favorite features

Comfort and design

We tested the Sony WH-1000XM5 in the lab with state-of-the-art equipment
Chris Thomas / Android Authority

The Sony WH-1000XM5 have to be one of the most comfortable set of headphones I’ve ever worn. Reviewers across the board will also tell you that the cans feel extra special on your ears thanks to the large earcups Sony has provided. Big or small, your ears will be engulfed by the XM5 to create the perfect environment for noise cancellation.

The XM5 will engulf your ears to create the perfect environment for noise cancellation.

I had no issues using the headphones for long stretches thanks to the soft vegan leatherette coating on the earcups. The headband is also cushioned to perfection and comes with an adjustable slider design that clicks into place at different levels to provide the perfect fit. If you’re looking for headphones that sit just right on your head, the XM5 won’t disappoint. It’s my favorite thing about the headset.

Also see: The best Cyber Monday deals on headphones, tablets, smartphones, and more

Touch controls and Speak to Chat

A finger tapping the ear cup of a Sony WH-1000XM5 worn on a head.
Zak Khan / Android Authority

I’ve long been a fan of Sony’s touch controls on the WH-1000X series. The XM5 feature the same intuitive touch controls that are easy to learn after just a few minutes of using the headphones. You can swipe forward to go to the next track, back to hear the previous one, and up/down to adjust the volume. It’s as simple as that.

You don’t even have to worry about fingerprints messing up your headphones. The surface of the earcups is smooth and doesn’t attract prints. It’s also large enough for the gestures to register correctly. I know that some people may prefer button controls like the ones on the Bose QC 45, but in my opinion, there’s always a bit of a guessing game as far as physical buttons are concerned, especially when you lack visibility and fumble to find where the buttons are or which ones to press. If touch controls are easy to learn, there’s nothing like them, and the WH-1000XM5 are a great example of that.

I find it so convenient that the XM5 pause playback every time I start a conversation with someone.

The headphones also pack a number of smart features, of which the Speak to Chat function is probably my favorite. I find it so convenient that the XM5 pause playback every time I start a conversation with someone. There’s no need to fiddle with the controls. Just start talking, and the music or whatever you are listening to automatically pauses with the help of microphones on the headphones that detect your voice. A few seconds after you stop speaking, the WH-1000XM5 will automatically exit ambient mode and resume playback. The feature makes using the headphones so natural, something that’s hard to find in its competitors.

Unparalleled ANC and reliable battery life

Angled view of the Sony WH-1000XM5 power and noise cancelling buttons
Chris Thomas / Android Authority

I’ve used many Active Noise Cancelling earphones and headphones, and the Sony WH-1000XM5 are definitely up there with the best. They are great at isolating the ears thanks to the earcups’ design, but ANC performance is pretty good too. I’ve used the Bose QC 35 II and the more recent QC 45, and Sony’s cans are notably better than them both. If you have people talking around you, the headphones make it as if you’re sitting in a room alone. Bigger sounds like traffic, train engines, and construction drills also drop down several notches to make listening interruption-free.

Related: Sony WH-1000XM5 vs Bose QuietComfort 45

That said, good ANC is of no use if the battery life takes a hit. In the case of the Sony WH-1000XM5, this is not a problem. I easily clocked over 30 hours of listening with ANC turned on. For a regular user like me, that’s over a week’s worth of battery life. Even if you’re a heavy listener, you should be able to get through 5-6 days on a single charge. With ANC switched off, you get a super battery boost, with a playback time of well over 50 hours. Sony definitely deserves some bragging rights for that.

Sony WH-1000XM5: My least favorite features

They don’t fold and aren’t compact

Sony WH 1000XM5 vs Bose QC 35 2 1
Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

For all the build quality praises I’ve given the Sony WH-1000XM5, one thing I don’t like about them is that they aren’t easy to carry around. Unlike Bose’s QuietComfort range or even these Marshall headphones my colleague Rita likes so much, the Sony cans don’t ball up to fit snugly in a backpack or a purse. It’s probably got to do with the slider headband mechanism I mentioned before, but if compact headphones are what you’re looking for, these might not serve your purpose. That said, it’s not like the XM5 are super bulky or heavy. They just lack the ability to fold, something I miss after using Bose headphones for many years.

The app is complicated

Sony gives you a plethora of options and settings to tinker with on its Headphones Connect app. You can customize and personalize almost everything on your headphones, like setting up adaptive sound controls based on your location and activity, tuning the equalizer, choosing your preferred voice assistant, and much more. However, I feel the app could have a better layout and design. Controls and options are hidden in menus and tabs, which can confuse some people. Overall, the interface could do with a rejig to make it more user-friendly.

No IP rating

Right ear cup of the Sony WH-1000XM5 placed flat on table
Chris Thomas / Android Authority

The lack of official IP ratings means that the Sony WH-1000XM5 can’t be trusted around water or dust. If you’re looking for headphones for the gym, these are not for you. Sony itself recommends you don’t sweat into the cans or use them in the rain. That’s definitely a bummer for someone like me who is out and about quite a lot. If you live in a location that is especially humid or moist, you may end up having some issues with the XM5. For the price Sony is asking, the headphones should have carried these missing protections.

Sony WH-1000XM5Sony WH-1000XM5
Sony WH-1000XM5
ANC performance • Outstanding microphone • Useful app features
The king of the ANC pack extends its reign
Although its predecessor set the high water mark for excellent performance, the Sony WH-1000XM5 pushes it ever higher. Now featuring new drivers, it's an intriguing set of headphones among the flagship active noise-cancelling (ANC) devices on the market. Not only is it full of useful features, but it also excels in travel or at the office, in particular.

Despite their shortcomings, which are far and few, the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones are easy to recommend. Their sound quality is impeccable, their ANC performance is great, they can connect to two devices simultaneously, and they have several intelligent features that make using them a pleasurable experience. For all of this, a few little compromises aren’t too tough to ignore.

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