Sony WF-1000XM4 Review

₹ 19,990

Taking on the AirPods Pro is no mean feat, even if you actually do have better sound quality. The immense appeal of seamless switching between devices, magical pairing experience and decent ANC adds to the allure, but Sony has always been hot on the heels of its competition and eventually surpasses it. They did it with Bose with the WH series and now they do it against Apple with the WF series of TWS in-ears. 
Although this new-gen M4 model took its time to come to India, it’s much improved over the M3 boasting of a new V1 processor, 10% smaller earbuds and a charging case that is an incredible 40% smaller! This makes a huge difference in its portability quotient and then there is the wireless charging case that also adds convenience and the WF-1000XM4 rapidly starts making more sense than any of its competition, at least on paper. But how do they sound?

Design: Smaller but smarter

Before we get into the sound, it’s important to understand the design that leads to the sound. Sony has upgraded the ear tips to newer designs, and they’re supposed to fit better. They do, at least in my ears, but it’s also not as easy as just popping them in. Getting the right seal is imperative to unleash its true potential or you’ll be left scratching your head wondering what the hype around these in-ears is all about. You do an extra pair in the box so experimenting is key. 
Once you do get them to sit right (and tight), the smaller design is definitely tangible, making them easier to have in your ears for longer and with Sony’s handy Speak-to-Chat feature, you don’t have to worry about taking them off and on again if someone wants to have a quick word. Its sensitivity can be controlled via the Headphones Connect app so you don’t accidentally pause the music every time you’re humming along to a song. The Sony Headphones Connect app also guides you to get the perfect fit from the ear tips, so if you’re unsure of your own hearing, you could trust Sony engineers.

What has consistently set Sony headphones apart is its use of the LDAC codec to transmit music wirelessly and promising Hi-Res support while at it. Of course, there is some slip between the cup and lip if you want to spend the next three months reading whitepapers on the tech, but the simple fact is, LDAC does allow for higher bit rates and while not the maximum that Hi-Res Audio is capable of, it does preserve the upper extremes of the frequency range without clipping the signal, so technically, you will hear more of your music via LDAC. Since it works only on Android phones, if you’re an Apple Music subscriber with only an iPhone as your primary source, you may continue suffering in silence. Until Apple announces its own wireless Hi-Res codec that is. 
The WF-1000XM4 also gets an all-new processor dubbed the V1 that helps in optimising the transmission efficiency of LDAC and also 360 Reality Audio, which is Sony’s answer to Dolby Atmos, at least for the Android users, but it honestly is a WIP with a poor selection of music and limited app support. On the hardware side, the new 6mm driver has a larger magnet, higher excursion and a new algorithm to produce the cancellation signal for low frequencies. It also uses bone conduction to predict when you’re about to talk a fraction of a second before you actually utter some golden words and along with beamforming mics, it aims to improve voice quality on calls, especially in windy situations. In our tests, it performed without issues, though wasn’t as clear as the AirPods Pro for calls.

Sound: Setting new standards

If you’re an audiophile keeping tabs on Sony’s product line-up, chances are you may have already read everything there is to read on the WF-1000XM4, because they have been around in the international market for more than six months now. So what I was interested in was to compare them to the AirPods Pro for ANC, the AirPods (Gen 3) for battery life and the AirPods Max for sound quality. The short answer is that Sony almost beats Apple on all counts with the WF-1000XM4! It has a sound that is tonally so well judged that you’ll never want to use an EQ again and although the Headphones Connect app offers a lot of customisation options, I was perfectly satisfied with keeping EQ on flat and using the Clear Bass control at +1. 
With ANC on or off, the timbre of the instrument never loses its authenticity and Yumi Matsutoya’s “We’re All Free” exemplifies the open-sounding nature of these TWS in-ears. The midrange is smooth, making her voice simply float around in your head, making it easy to forget that you’re wearing any earpieces at all. With an improved low-end, the bass has weight without sounding boomy or overpowering (like it can on the AirPods Max) and the highs have sparkle and clarity that ensure every detail is heard, especially on Hi-Res music using LDAC.

Ironically, Apple Music Hi-Res sounds better through Android phones than with iPhones paired with the WF-1000XM4! The Weeknd’s “Sacrifice” is a great test for speed and rhythmic abilities and the Sony’s excel at drawing you inside the mix and letting you appreciate the production. Dolby Atmos content still has an edge on Apple’s own hardware ecosystem but for straight up Hi-Res stereo, these will be unbeaten Apple, Bose or Sennheiser go back to the drawing board.
Once you get the fit and comfort right, the Sonys can be very comfy over long hours of listening. The ANC is extremely effective without making you feel alienated from the surroundings, and Sony’s variable control of the ambient noise level also helps in dialling just the right amount of ANC that is appropriate for your environment. So, in a quiet domestic or office environment, you could keep it at the halfway mark and even extend battery life further.

Now that’s an area where the WF-1000XM4 beats the competition hollow, again. The buds hold about 6-7hrs of charge with ANC before they need to be popped back in the case and together, you can avail of 20 plus hours of combined use and charge cycle. Much more than 25 hours if you go without using ANC! For something that sounds this good, fits in your coin pocket and offers so much functionality…it is deeply impressive as a feat of engineering. 


Adding an IPX4 rating and compatibility with Alexa and Google makes the Sony WF-1000XM4 a well-rounded package that doesn’t leave you wanting for anything really. Except for maybe more choices of ear tips, but that’s highly subjective too. In a world where ANC is a term loosely used even sub-Rs. 5000 TWS in-ears, Sony shows them how it’s really done. Improving on size, battery life and most importantly, sound quality, the WF-1000XM4 is a towering achievement in the miniaturization of tech.

Stuff Says

A late entry in India but with its bold and brilliant package, the Sony WF-1000XM4 goes straight to the top of the TWS ANC pile!
Good stuff
Bad stuff
  1. Sonic integrity that reeks of control and refinement

  1. Fantastic battery life for the size

  1. App can allow for a lot of customisation

  1. LDAC sounds even better

  1. Fit can be fiddly for some

  1. Dolby Atmos works only for music

Driver size: 6mm
Battery life: 5.5hrs (ANC), 6hrs (ANC Off)
Bluetooth Version: 5.2
Frequency Response: 20 Hz–40,000 Hz (LDAC 96 kHz sampling, 990 kbps)
Charge time: approx 1.5hrs
Supported audio formats: AAC, SBC, LDAC
Waterproof: IPX4
Weight: 41g