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Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless earbuds review: The best non-AirPod buds

Updated Aug 24th, 2021 11:11AM EDT
Sony WF-1000XM4 Review
Christian de Looper for BGR

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AirPods Pro

are easily the most talked-about premium true wireless headphones, and arguably for good reason. They sound pretty good, offer an excellent fit, easy-to-use controls, and more. But there are other options too. Notably, Sony has been dominating in the headphone world for some time — which is why the Sony WF-1000XM4 headphones are so exciting.

The headphones are the smaller sibling to the much-loved Sony WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones. They offer premium features, noise-cancelation, and more. But are they worth the $280?

I’ve been using the headphones for a few weeks now to find out.

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Sony WF-1000XM4 design

The Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless headphones aren’t as unique-looking as the AirPods Pro, but they’re still definitely recognizable, despite the fact that they look nothing like their predecessors. The headphones come in the same black-and-gold and silver color schemes as the over-ear model, and they look great.

Sony WF-1000XM4 BudsImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The earbuds themselves are small and circular, with a small arm that protrudes into your ears. On the ends of those arms, of course, are the ear tips, and the headphones come with a solid selection of tips. That includes a new kind of tip that Sony developed. These new tips are made of polyurethane, and seem a bit like a cross between foam and silicone. According to Sony, they help make for a better fit, and can better block out noise. There are three tip sizes to choose from, and you should be able to buy more if you need them.

The matte finish, combined with the gold accents around the sensors on the buds, help ensure that they look very premium.

On the face of each earbud is a touch surface that lets you control your audio, and you can customize the settings of that surface in the Sony Headphones Connect app. The surfaces allow you to control playback, volume, noise cancelation modes, and so on. It takes a bit of getting used to controlling them, but it’s not bad.

Sony WF-1000XM4 In CaseImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The charging case that comes with the headphones is relatively small and pocketable. It’s not quite as tall as the AirPods Pro case, but it is thicker. Still, it’s much smaller than many others out there, and should be easy to take on the road. The USB-C charging port can be found on the back of the charging case, however, it also supports wireless charging.

Sony WF-1000XM4 features and battery

Of course, as you would expect from Sony, the WF-1000XM4 headphones come packed with features. Unfortunately, though, they don’t offer quite as many as the over-ear WH-1000XM4 headphones.

For starters, the headphones offer the speak-to-chat feature that allows you to enter transparency mode just by talking. It’s a pretty cool feature, but perhaps not for those who sing along with the music, for example. Thankfully, you can adjust the sensitivity of the feature.

One major feature missing from these headphones is Sony’s Bluetooth Multipoint feature, which allows you to connect the headphones to two sources at once. It’s one of the best features of the WH-1000XM4 headphones, so it’s a bit disappointing that you won’t get it here.

The headphones do have Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control, which can come in handy. This feature changes settings like noise cancelation, depending on your location. For example, you might not want noise cancelation in your quiet home, but you do when you’re on the go. It works relatively well.

The battery life on these headphones is very good. You’ll get an impressive eight hours of battery from the earbuds themselves, along with an additional 16 hours, or two full charges, from the charging case. If you turn noise cancelation off, you’ll get a hefty 12 hours on a single charge, and 24 hours from the charging case. That’s huge.

Sony WF-1000XM4 comfort

The WF-1000XM4 headphones are generally quite comfortable, and the new ear tips definitely help ensure that the headphones remain in your ears for longer listening periods.

Sony WF-1000XM4 ComfortImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

You may need to experiment a little with the different sizes of ear tips to find the ones that fit best in your ears. Normally, the medium-sized ear tips work fine in my ears, but for these headphones, I had to go for the smaller tips. It is a bit unfortunate that there are only three sizes, but those three sizes should be large enough for most.

Generally, I found that these headphones were more than comfortable enough for long listening periods.

Sony WF-1000XM4 sound quality

Perhaps the most important feature on offer by AirPods is how well they integrate with your other Apple devices. That’s not the case with the WF-1000XM4 headphones though. Instead, the most important thing to consider here is audio quality. Thankfully, these headphones sound awesome.

Bass response on offer by the headphones is quite good. They’re able to deliver decently punchy bass, without getting muddy. There is a slight bass boost out of the box, but it’s not over the top — and if you don’t like it, you can tweak the EQ in the app.

Mids are well-tuned as well. There’s enough warmth to go around, and enough bite in the high mids to help make things like guitars and vocals stand out.

Sony WF-1000XM4 CaseImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The highs are what really set these headphones apart from some other true wireless headphones though. Highs are crisp and detailed, helping make music sound exciting and responsive. It’s really nice to hear, and a definite step up from the last-generation Sony WF-1000XM3 headphones.

Noise cancelation here is excellent. Now, it’s not quite as good as the over-ear headphones, but it’s still better than any other true wireless headphones we’ve tested, including the AirPods Pro, which were already pretty good.


The Sony WF-1000XM4 headphones are an absolute win for Sony. The company rolled the dice on a major update over the last generation, and it really paid off. These headphones sound awesome, look great, and offer industry-leading noise cancelation tech.

The competition

Perhaps the biggest competition in the true wireless space comes from Apple’s AirPods Pro. Ultimately, the Sony option sounds better, but if you’re deep in Apple’s ecosystem, you may still prefer the Apple option. Frankly, after this review was over, I found myself reaching for the AirPods Pro again, because of how good they are at switching between my Apple devices.

Should I buy the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds?

Yes. If you’re an Android user, or someone who prioritizes audio quality over tech features, then these are the true wireless headphones to beat.

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Christian de Looper Senior Reviews Editor

Christian de Looper is based in sunny Santa Cruz, California. He has been expertly reviewing tech products for more than 8 years, and brings experience in deep technical analysis of consumer electronics devices to BGR's reviews channel.