We are not yet being bombarded to death with wireless in-ears and on-ears and over-ears. Every manufacturer has a pair. Not to mention the brands from Asia. Who makes the best pair of calming in-ears? That’s a good question. The fact is that Sony is almost always mentioned when it comes to high-performing in-ears with noise cancellation. We tested the latest version of the much vaunted WF-1000 series: the Sony WF-1000xM4. At 280 euros, not a cheap pair… How well does it perform? The names that Sony gives to its products are not particularly rich in imagination. Then again, this is often the case in our industry. In fact, it’s more common to see a number than a cool name like: Morpheus or Terminator. A bit more fun to say during a birthday party than Sony WF-1000xM4…. Anyway.
The two – quite substantial – caps contain a 6mm unit that has a range of 20 Hz – 20 kHz. And that at a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz with normal Bluetooth transmission. And with Sony’s LDAC transmission it is 96 kHz sampling rate (and 990 kbps). So LDAC must really sound better. Unfortunately we do not have a ‘real’ mobile player with LDAC at hand at the time of testing.
Sony’s DSEE Extreme is also supported; this is a kind of upsampling for lossy formats. But then ‘on steroids .
What strikes us is that AptX is not supported and neither is AptX HD. It does support SBC, AAC and LDAC and then A2DP, AVRCP, HFP and HSP profiles. This is a remarkable choice, since AptX is a worldwide standard. And among Android users the most used anyway. Apple users will go for AAC and that’s okay, but why the Sony WF-1000xM4 does not support an AptX codec is a real mystery to us.
Fortunately it is possible to switch to LDAC in the Sony app (menu ‘sound’ and then choose a preference for sound quality). It does take more battery and in a ‘noisy’ bluetooth environment dropouts can occur. It really does sound better than SBC by the way. The in-ears play for about 8 hours with ambient noise reduction. 12 hours without it turned on. The storage box has about two charges for the in-ears. In short: you can get through 24 hours. Charging takes about 1.5 hours.
The Sony WF-1000xM4 in-ears really offer loads of features. We have briefly touched upon the advanced codecs (and the lack of AptX). However, the xM4s also support 360-degree audio, speech recognition so you can just talk to the in-ears; the music dims and the ambient sounds are let through. Surely, that’s quite nice. Furthermore, everything can be adjusted via the app: touch control, equalization, noise cancellation, et cetera. In short: plenty of possibilities.