The Best just got Better
by Venoth Nair
The first ever experience I had with noise cancelling technology was back in 2007 when I was gifted a Sony MW-S705F Digital Walkman by my mother (for being a good young man of course). The Walkman itself was pretty impressive both in looks and features but the one thing that blew my mind was the amazing active noise cancelling technology which at that time to me felt like alien technology. That weird deafening silence once the unit powers on the noise cancellation is still a feeling I remember till this day and for the longest time, never experienced again. Until now that is.
Sony has been at the forefront of noise cancelling technology for as long as I can remember. The only other company that has competed closely with Sony was the pioneer of the technology itself, Bose. Though through the years many different iterations of noise cancelling devices have flooded the market, Sony’s 1000X series was always one that just had an edge and now in its latest incarnation does it still do the name proud?
In the box, (and it’s a beautiful box by the way) Sony packs the XM4 headphone in a high quality protective travel case which has a zipper slider in the same copper color as the accents on the headphone. Inside alongside the headphones is a USB-C cable for charging, a regular headphone connection cable if you want to go wired and of course an airplane adapter for the ardent traveler. Right of the bat I must point out that the charging cable is hilariously too short, luckily many new devices utilize USB-C so finding a replacement wouldn’t be an issue.
Fit and finish on the XM4 is just spot on. Every connection and joint is robust and glides effortlessly. The headband adjustment is firm and doesn’t move easily making it fit snugly on the head though I did have a tough time adjusting it while it’s on the head forcing me to remove it to just move it a click or two in order to achieve a perfect fit. The soft foamed urethane material on the headband and earpads envelope the ears perfectly and provide excellent comfort. I used the XM4 for extended periods (3 hours at one point) and not once felt the need to take a break from listening.
The first thing that I picked up when listening to the XM4 is the bass that digs deep and has ample weight to it. It is a little emphasized but not to the detriment of the other frequencies. There’s plenty of snap and bite in the high frequencies which are a little bit rolled off reducing the risk of any harshness or sibilance on the high notes. Tracks like Nils Lofgren’s live performance of “Keith Don’t Go” which can sound a touch too piercing especially during the guitar solo, was easier on the ears reducing the fatigue.
Midrange performance has a good amount of detail and texture that isn’t consumed by that confident bass. The best in this class do produce a more detailed picture overall but the Sony’s aren’t exactly slackers when it comes to this. Personally the sound overall does seem a little veiled which isn’t great if your detail addict but for daily listening, what’s on offer is satisfactory.
The soundstage though not as wide as some of the headphones at this price point is still pretty broad and has excellent imaging which in some well recorded pieces are an absolute treat to listen to. Sony also delivers a satisfying performance when it comes to instrument textures which replicated very well. Vocals tend to sit square in the center of your head and are relatively well communicated, even with background vocals.
Sony has married the well-designed headphone to an equally robust app system that adds more dimension to the flexibility of the XM4. The app allows you to customize the user experience like the noise cancelling levels, turning on or off certain gesture controls and so much more. The list of features available on the headphones is staggering with many clever workarounds to ensure you’re always connected. Take for example the inclusion of a cable with a mini jack connection so you can hook up your XM4’s the old fashioned way to a device or headphone amp.
The gesture controls are also particularly intuitive and take no time at all to master thanks to its rather ergonomic design. The addition of this gesture system also means that the unit itself is clean adding to its slick looks. Simple taps and swipes are all it takes to adjust playback. Additionally the headphones come with sensors that allow the XM4 to cut off music and noise cancellation by simply covering the right ear cup so you can still talk to people when you need to. The XM4 also pause’s the music the moment you take off the headphones so you never miss a beat.
The WH-1000XM4 is truly a great piece of technology with so much to offer. If you’re in the market for a headphone that can provide excellent audio performance, superb comfort, clever ergonomics, stylish looks and keeps all that undesirable noise away while doing all this then the Sony WH-1000XM4 is right up your alley. The Sony WH-1000XM4 is widely available at most electronic retailers and retails for RM 1599.