Sony WH-100XM5: The King Of Silence Returns

They are headphones designed more for traveling or for use at work than for a walk or a race.

Not long ago, the recommendation when buying noise-cancelling headphones was simple. Except for very few cases, making a mistake with the Sony WH-1000XM3 was almost impossible. The Japanese brand found a good balance of performance and functionality in that model. So much, in fact, that almost the best thing about its successor, the WH-1000XM4, was that it lowered the price of the first ones.

And it is difficult to evolve this type of product. What do you do when you have an almost perfect one in your hands? This year Sony has tried to answer the question with the fifth generation of these headphones, which is called, as you might expect, the WH-1000XM5. They reach a market that is extremely saturated with offers and in which the most interesting seems to be spent in the field of smaller headphones, wireless in-ear button or rod type, such as AirPods.

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Here Sony also has its contenders -and I will talk about them soon-, but the proposal of the WH-1000XM5 (from now on the M5, for short), is that of headphones designed more for traveling or for use at work than for a walk or a run.

Tehnologijaviews been testing them for the last ten days and they definitely make a perceptible jump in noise cancellation quality, which was already legendary. Perhaps more important is that they also give it in the 'transparency' mode, which Sony calls Ambient Sound, and that lets through the noise of traffic in the city, for example, or of a conversation.

They sound great, but that's something that could be said for their predecessors as well. They tend to give excessive prominence to the bass but it is something that can be modified in the app that accompanies them and that includes several equalization controls. Sony has changed the 40mm drivers. for about 30 mm. but it is not something that is noticeable in everyday use. Something that is new and that we really liked, however, is that its design has wider cups. If, like us, you have big ears, it is something that is appreciated. It not only avoids discomfort but also isolates better passively.

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The design is very comfortable and it contributes to this that they weigh only 250 grams, which is much less than what is usual in these products. Many have asked me these days how they compare to the AirPods Max. It is a difficult comparison because we think that for users who live in an Apple ecosystem, the Max offers advantages that are impossible for Sony to replicate, such as fast pairing or automatic jumping between devices.

But, in return, although they are also comfortable, the Max are also quite heavy. 136 grams heavier, to be exact. And it seems not, but the difference is noticeable on a five-hour flight. In terms of sound and microphone quality, we think both are quite on par. The M5 excels more in voice capture clarity during a phone conversation but both have rich and immersive sound. The new transparency mode of the M5 is competitive with that of the Max. All that, in addition, in cheaper headphones. For those using Android, the comparison is even easier. Those of Sony offer quick pairing on the platform and fit better with the ecosystem of these products.

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The only but that we can put to the M5 is that with the new design the folding system is different and does not allow the headphones to be as compact as the previous versions. It is not something terribly serious but when you travel with them what you want is for them to take up as little space as possible in your suitcase or backpack. Even so, the transport case is compact and sufficiently rigid.

The M5s can be used wired or connected via Bluetooth 5.2. They can be connected to two devices simultaneously, too. The controls are similar to those of previous models. There are only two buttons, power and ambient noise cancellation activation, but the cups include touch sensors that allow you to increase the volume or pause simply by sliding your finger. If the palm of the hand rests on the cup, the transparency mode is automatically activated. It's a good shortcut to quickly talk to someone without having to turn off active noise cancellation.

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In the app that comes with the M5 you can make some additional settings, such as specifying the level of transparency you want for Ambient Sound or allowing only the voice to be heard and not necessarily the traffic noise. There are also some experimental features, such as transparency mode being activated automatically when it detects that we are talking. Our experience has not always been good with this mode, and on occasion it has jumped without me saying anything, but it is a secondary function in the experience of using the headphones.

The internal battery of the headphones is approximately 30 hours with active noise cancellation mode, more or less a week of sporadic use. Plus, it takes advantage of the higher capacity of a USB-C connection to charge the internal battery faster. Just three minutes of charging is enough for about three hours of listening if the battery is completely depleted.

Overall, the WH-1000XM5 are what you'd expect, excellent headphones with very good ambient noise cancellation and transparency mode. They are highly configurable thanks to the app that accompanies them and the design is very comfortable, although somewhat bulkier than that of previous models. They are somewhat expensive, with a price of 449 euros, but good headphones are a worthwhile investment and these, without a doubt, are good.

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