Sony WH-1000XM5 Review top

The fifth generation heir to Sony’s premier range of headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5 are over ear headphones that feature active noise cancellation and lush upholstery with your choice of powered and passive modes and either wired or wireless listening.

At RM1,799, it’s certainly at the pricier end of the spectrum for consumer headphones and after testing it for several weeks, our Sony WH-1000XM5 review sums up our findings of their latest flagship pair of cans.

Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones gray

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review – Build and Design

In keeping with Sony’s recent drive towards sustainability, the Sony WH1000XM5 features fairly minimalist packaging with a cardboard outer shell wrapped in paper that holds the headphones, a protective carrying case made of toughened fabric, a gold-plated L-shaped stereo mini plug with a 1.2m length cable attached to it along with a short USB-C charging cable rounding off its contents.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review box contents

The carrying case is well built and the external shell is sufficiently rigid to survive a modest crushing force like being stuck in the bottom of a backpack. The interior of the case has a form fitted cutout that precisely and securely stores the headphones. It also features a tiny cubbyhole with a flap to neatly store cables in without them flying about.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review interior case

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review – The provided carrying case has special cutouts that precisely fit the headphones along with a special recessed section to store the provided cables.

My Sony WH-1000XM5 review sample came in a shade of what they call Platinum Silver which translates into a matte light grey finish. The headband is done up in rigid polycarbonate but the portion that rests on your bonce is lushly upholstered with faux leather and generous amounts of padding to hold up the headband’s 250g weight. Both cans are extendible to some degree to offer a better fit and both are also generously upholstered with tons of padding and the same faux leather. 

There’s some concerns over the long term as this kind of faux leather has a tendency to flake off in Malaysia’s humid weather but my Sony WH-1000XM5 review sample has thus far weathered significant use both outdoors on the commute and indoors without any untoward effects or flaking.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review comfort

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review – Each of the cans and the headband are upholstered with plush padding and covered in faux leather.

Controlling the headphones is primarily via the provided downloadable app and also via a fairly intuitive set of touch panels on both cans with most of the important stuff emplaced on the right can that’s achieved by a series of swipes and taps. 

Swiping up and down increases and decreases volume while swiping forwards and backwards across the right touch panel moves tracks forwards and backwards. Double tapping it gets you to play or pause tracks but cupping the control surface swaps the headphones over to Ambient sound mode which allows for external ambient audio to pass through.

The left set of earbuds features a 3.5mm jack as well as a pair of buttons with one to turn it on or off as well as to fire up pairing mode. The other button cycles through active noise cancellation (ANC) on and off and activates Ambient sound mode.

Overall build quality is excellent and the addition of a precisely fitted casing is welcome but some care needs to be taken with the Sony WH-1000XM5 as they’re not waterproof or, for the  matter, water resistant. This means it likely won’t survive the typical rain showers encountered in Malaysia at inopportune moments nor would it survive a stint at the gym. 

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review – Specifications

In terms of hardware, the headphones are come with the following hardware:

Specifications
Price RM1,799
Drivers 30mm neodymium
Impedance 48 ohm (1kHz) wired and unit turned on
Frequency response 4Hz – 40,000Hz
Sensitivity 102dB (1kHz)/mW
Battery 30 hours music playback (ANC on)/ 3.5 hours charging time (quoted)
Weight 250g

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review – Setup and Performance

After a cursory charge to full, the headphones were able to pair up in a matter of seconds with a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. While it’s able to work straight out of the proverbial box, you’ll need to download their Sony Headphones Connect App that’s free for download on the Google Play store and Apple app store to get the most out of it.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review equaliser

The Sony Headphones Connect App enables them to push updates and offers access to customisable equaliser settings and their vaunted 360 Reality Audio which necessitates you to take pictures of each of your ears and which then creates a personalised sound profile unique to you alone.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a white elephant as it’s only usable with a select number of music services which don’t have a major presence here in Malaysia like 360 by Deezer, Artist and Tidal. Fortunately, the equaliser settings are comprehensive and you’re also able to select from predefined settings to suit your tastes. 

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review 360 sound

Oddly enough, the app asks for an incredible amount of personal information and requests to record your activities including how you use them and learn of locations you frequent to enable it to adjust headphone settings to best suit the area you’re in. This is fortunately entirely optional and it works fine in lieu of all these settings.

Acoustically speaking, the WH-1000XM5 with its 30mm drivers on its default sound signature emphasises bass a bit more than usual which is to be expected seeing as its primarily intended as a mass market headphone though it’s not something a judicious tweak or two in the equaliser settings can’t fix. If you’re leery of tinkering with the settings you can just opt for the predefined ones which do the job handily. 

After tweaking it to taste, it really showed its magic with good detail and delightful vocals with an ability to tackle especially subtle work like Vaughan Williams’s ‘The Lark Ascending’ and which made Joanna Wang’s sublime vocals in Vincent sound fantastic. It was also a relatively dab hand at movies and gaming too with visceral results with every eliminated player in Squid Games on Netflix along with some pleasing audio when firing rounds downrange with a hefty, beefy kick with an AK-series rifle.

Active noise cancellation for my Sony WH-1000XM5 review sample is among the best on test with the ability to mute out all but the sharpest, jarring noises so it’ll make the hustle and bustle of a busy train station, the clattering of a busy dimsum joint, the conversations in a coffee shop all fade to a dull murmur which is gratifying to say the least.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review rear

In terms of battery life, my Sony WH-1000XM5 review sample was outstanding and with ANC on, it easily managed to last over a week of use with a couple of hours each day of music with plenty left in the tank. On paper, the headphones are rather for a staggering 30 hours of battery life with ANC on which is monumental and if you elect to use it with ANC off, it’ll last well till the cows come home. 

Should you buy the Sony WH-1000XM5

The Sony WH-1000XM5 hits all the high points as to what a pair of headphones ought to be with superb comfort, excellent ANC and great sound performance.

Editor's Choice Hitech Century

Throw in excellent battery life and this makes for an easy recommendation for most users though the lack of water resistance and inability to fold it for easy transport makes it better suited for indoors use.

Sony WH-1000XM5 review sample courtesy of Sony Malaysia. For more details and to purchase please visit  https://www.sony.com.my/electronics/headband-headphones/wh-1000xm5

Sony WH-1000XM5
4.3
  • Design
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Value
  • Comfort

Sony WH-1000XM5

The fifth generation Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones offer superb sound paired with decadently comfortable cans as well as impressive battery life though the lack of water proofing means that it’s of less utility for outdoors use and for fitness enthusiasts.

Pros

Decadently upholstered cans

Excellent ANC

Great sound quality

Fantastic battery life

Cons

No water resistance

USB-C connection only for charging and not music playback

Not foldable