Why are these new headphones outperforming their competition?

It is the “must-have” of the moment. 100% wireless headphones (or “True Wireless”) are popular, so that all manufacturers offer them, even brands no name, or Lidl which opportunely launched its own model of headphones discount

To silence the pack, Sony now wants to stand out with its new WF-1000XM4 that 20 Minutes has tested. High-end, and launched at 279 euros, these headphones could well dominate the market by their quality.

A new story

You don’t change a winning model. Or rather if, we improve it. After his WF-1000XM3 which had already impressed (launched at 249 euros, we now find them at 169 euros), the Japanese are driving the point home with his new generation of 100% wireless headphones, the WF-1000XM4. They are available in black or white and this time sold for 279 euros. Not given.

The WF-1000XM4 are available in black or white. – SONY

By taking the two appendages out of their charging box entirely in recycled plastic, we see that the product is not just undergoing an update, but a real evolution. Very curvy, the design has changed and Sony – que 20 Minutes asked – indicates wanting to tell “a radically different story”.

Bass and precision

First on the sound quality for which the headphones are High Res Audio certified. Where the previous generation of headphones from the manufacturer was excellent, we seem to achieve perfection here. You only have to venture on a few titles from different repertoires to be convinced.

The headphones of the WF-1000XM4 with a scalpel.
The headphones of the WF-1000XM4 with a scalpel. – SONY

With jazz to start. Make way for the album Love For Sale by Tony Bennet & Lady Gaga which has just been released. From the outset, we are stunned by the level of bass emanating from the headphones, but good bass, not those that scratch the eardrums and hurt the head by screwing up the music being played. Of those which participate in a muscular sound, certainly, but also carnal, pot-bellied and here sensual. On So in Love, the range of the voice of the veteran Bennet (95 years) reveals all its texture.

With electro pop, of course, to continue. Tunnel, from Polo & Pan & Channel Tres kicked the bass from the headphones into the towers, but still with that balanced audio quality. A few pieces of the same ilk have also revealed the ability of the WF-1000XM4 to broaden the sound field, a bit like having headphones on your head with classic 40 mm diameter speakers, while headphones Sony only integrate 6mm.

The WF-1000XM4 offer a huge range.
The WF-1000XM4 offer a huge range. – SONY

With classical music to finish. We tasted the refinement of the album 24 Preludes and Fugues by recently released pianist Igor Levit. The WF-1000XM4 seem to transport us to the studio. Listening is pure, warm, measured in the treble, but it is possible at any time to take advantage of an equalizer through the Sony Headphones application, undoubtedly the best in the market as the possibilities are numerous.

A complete application

In addition to customizing the audio settings of the headphones, it is possible to activate certain functions here. One, called “Talk to chat”, automatically lowers the volume of the headphones when speaking. Enough to take part in a conversation easily. Another, and not the least, is called “Ambient Sound Control”. This function makes it possible to measure the proportion of external sounds that we accept to hear in the headphones. This is the equivalent of the “HearThrough” mode on Jabra headphones, for example.

Obviously, active noise reduction is on the menu and that of the WF-1000XM4 is excellent. Sony claims a performance improvement of this noise reduction of 40% compared to that of the WF-1000XM3. An impossible statement to verify, but our tests in the Parisian metro revealed an incredible capacity of the earphones to make the silence around them. In particular, the noise of conversations around us seemed lessened compared to the rendering of the WF-1000XM3 a year ago.

The WF-1000XM4 particularly well suited for transport.
The WF-1000XM4 particularly well suited for transport. – SONY

And the Headphones app also acts as a dashboard. In particular to check the state of the impressive autonomy of the WF-1000XM4: up to 8 hours with noise reduction activated, and up to 24 hours with the successive recharges offered by the storage box! Sony even announces up to 36 hours without noise reduction, a figure that we did not have time to verify …

Funny tips

There are still a few small caveats. The WF-1000XM4s remain quite opulent and may not be suitable for small ears. And Sony has opted for no longer silicone tips, as most headphones offer, but polyurethane. This shape-memory material, which may be reminiscent of the noise-canceling plugs that we sometimes put on when sleeping, can be more or less appreciated.

Sony has opted for polyurethane tips, less practical than silicone.
Sony has opted for polyurethane tips, less practical than silicone. – CHRISTOPHE SEFRIN / 20 MINUTES

Headphones are in any case less practical to insert at the entrance to the ears. Three sizes are provided, but it would also have been a good idea for Sony to offer the silicone equivalent for the user to have a choice. Finally, the touchscreen controls on the headphones are not always very convenient to use. This is a constant on 100% wireless headphones: you think you are performing one manipulation while doing another. Some manufacturers prefer them, like us, physical controls.