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Thoughts on my first wireless earphones: Sony WF-1000XM5

My thoughts on the new Sony WF-1000XM5 - detailing design, sound quality, comfort, and technology features.
Sid Metcalfe

Cartesian Mathematics Foundation


November 16, 2023


I recently got my hands on the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds. As someone who’s tried numerous earbuds, I was curious about Sony’s latest offering in the high-end market. I was particularly interested in their noise-cancelling abilities and how they’d stack up against my current go-to pairs. I’ve always found that the right pair of earbuds can be a game-changer for daily commutes, workouts, and work sessions.



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First Impressions and Design Aesthetics

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As a bit of an earbud aficionado, the anticipation of receiving the Sony WF-1000XM5 was akin to an itch I couldn’t quite reach. When they did arrive, I was struck by the premium feel of the packaging—a good start. Sony evidently pays attention to the tactile and visual appeal, giving the unboxing experience a touch of ceremony that sets the stage for the product within.

Upon first glance, the design aesthetic of the earbuds themselves is slick, a nod to modern minimalism with a glossy finish that mirrors my tech-savvy inclinations. The case is noticeably smaller than its predecessors, a welcome change for those of us who value pocket space. It’s also surprisingly lightweight, suggesting portability won’t be an issue.

Handling the earbuds, however, I was met with a slight frown. The piano black sheen, while visually striking, resulted in a somewhat slippery grip. I found myself gingerly navigating them into my ears, careful not to let them tumble to their doom. This is not to say that they feel cheap—on the contrary, there is a heft to them that whispers quality—but the form factor, combined with the high gloss, poses a risk for butterfingered users.

The fit is a different beast altogether. Here, I discovered both delight and dismay. On one hand, the inclusion of the ‘SS’ (super small) ear tips is a thoughtful addition for those with more diminutive ear canals. Sony’s deliberate choice in sizing ensures a likelihood of finding a snug fit; yet, for me, achieving that “perfect seal” proved elusive. Achieving a secure fit without frequent adjustments can be a trial, and you might find yourself fiddling more than you’d like.

Connectivity-wise, I faced no obstacles. Pairing with my various devices was a seamless affair, evidence of Sony’s understanding that we live in a multi-gadget environment and desire simplicity in syncing our tech.

As for durability, it’s too soon to tell, but if Sony’s track record is anything to go by, I have high hopes. A minor criticism would be the lack of a trackable feature, which seems like an oversight in a world where we can locate almost everything with our smartphones. The decision to omit this can be a deal-breaker for the more absent-minded consumer. It’s not all about sound; peace of mind has its own value.

On the software front, the Sony Headphones Connect app is dense, juggling a plethora of features that can either be seen as a smorgasbord of customization or a maze of unnecessary complexity, depending on your tech tolerance.

Finally, the battery life is respectable, holding true to Sony’s claims thus far. I haven’t had to recharge more often than expected, and the quick-charge feature is certainly a lifesaver in pinch situations.

In summary, the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds present a handsome, compact design with a case that’s the right amount of small. While the high-gloss finish is a fingerprint magnet and a tad slippery, the overall aesthetic is on point for tech enthusiasts looking for that slice of the future today. The fit may take some trial and error, but once you’ve found that sweet spot, you’re in for an immersive experience—assuming of course, you don’t lose them due to the lack of trackability.

Audio Performance and Noise Cancelling Experience

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When it comes to the audio performance of the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds, I have to say, I’m quite impressed. The sound quality is undoubtedly one of the strongest aspects of these earbuds. Highs, mids, and lows all come through with clarity, and the bass is punchy without being overpowering. It’s a sound profile that’s versatile enough to handle anything from classical music to heavy metal and everything in between. I attribute much of this auditory pleasure to Sony’s V1 integrated processor, which you can read more about on Sony’s official site.

Noise Cancelling (ANC) on the XM5s also deserves a mention. It’s effective at drowning out low-frequency hums, like those of an airplane or office air conditioning. Now, while it does a decent job, I’ve noticed that the ANC isn’t quite the show-stopper when dealing with inconsistent, higher-frequency sounds—something that others have also noted and possibly an area where competitors like Bose seem to have an edge. Additionally, the effectiveness of the ANC is heavily dependent on achieving a perfect ear seal, which can be challenging, according to several user experiences, including my own at times.

I further tested the ANC capabilities by using, which showed that while the XM5s are good, there’s still room for improvement, especially when compared to some of the upper echelon ANC headphones available today. The “Ambient Sound” mode is a useful feature, allowing me to hear my surroundings without taking out the buds—an important safety feature for outside runs or if you need to be aware of your surroundings.

Sony’s inclusion of DSEE Extreme (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) has piqued my interest. It’s designed to upscale compressed digital music files in real-time, restoring high-range sound lost in compression. This function is tricky to assess without a high-quality sound source as a control, but subjective listening suggests an improvement in sound richness and detail.

There’s a satisfaction in customizing my listening experience through the Sony Headphones Connect app, fine-tuning the equalizer, and employing features like 360 Reality Audio. It’s worth checking Sony’s 360 audio to understand the technicalities behind it—it’s all about giving you a personal, immersive sound experience.

Let’s not forget the multi-point connection, a godsend for those, like me, juggling multiple devices. Being able to connect to my laptop and phone simultaneously saves hassle and makes it easy to switch between a video call and a phone call without manual re-pairing.

These earbuds aren’t without their quirks, though. The reflective surface looks sleek but becomes a bit of a fingerprint magnet. The touch-sensitive controls require a knack for precision or can result in frustrating mispresses. Sony’s choice to require multiple taps for volume control is a design decision I find perplexing and cumbersome.

Ultimately, the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds strike a balance between high-end sound and practical functionality, albeit at a premium price point. They aren’t without drawbacks, and the fit can make or break your noise-cancelling experience, but they largely deliver on their promises with a few extras to boot. It’s a step forward in the right direction for true wireless in-ear technology, even if it’s a modest one when compared to its predecessors.

Comfort and Fit for Extended Use

When it comes to the comfort and fit of the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds, I have to start with the sheer range of ear tips that come packaged with these buds. It’s rather rare to find SS-sized ear tips in the box, which caters to those of us with smaller ear canals. Sony seems to have considered a wider audience this time, which I appreciate. After experimenting with the different sizes, I settled on the medium tips, as they offered a somewhat snug fit without causing discomfort during prolonged use.

Sony claims to have refined the design to reduce pressure on the ear, and in my experience, they’ve succeeded to an extent. The earbuds are indeed less bulky than the previous generation, the XM4s, and I felt this reduction in size the moment I placed them in my ears. They are lightweight, and I barely feel them during my daily use, which often stretches for several hours at a time. However, achieving that perfect seal for optimal noise canceling can be tricky. The seal feels secure at first, but I sometimes have to re-adjust the buds after moving around a bit, and I imagine this could be more of an issue during vigorous activities like running.

The glossy finish of the earbuds, while visually appealing, does make them somewhat slippery during handling. This can make it challenging to get them out of the charging case, especially if you have larger fingers or are in a hurry. I’ve read that some users even dropped their earbuds due to the slick surface, which is something to be mindful of.

Another common concern I’ve come across is the pressure sensation. Some users are sensitive to the feeling of in-ear noise-canceling buds creating a “suction” effect. While I didn’t find this to be a major issue with the XM5s, it’s certainly something I’m conscious of during long listening sessions.

It’s worth noting the sustainability efforts Sony has emphasized with the XM5s. They mention using recycled materials for the packaging and components, which is a point of interest for eco-conscious consumers. However, this isn’t something that directly relates to comfort or fit; it’s more about the company’s values and commitment to reducing environmental impact.

Overall, I’d say Sony has made significant strides in improving the comfort and fit of their latest noise-canceling earbuds, considering the challenging balance between a secure fit and wearer comfort. While it’s not perfect, and there are some drawbacks, the XM5s have shown that Sony is responsive to user feedback and willing to adapt their products accordingly. I’m curious to see if future firmware updates might further refine the experience or if additional accessories like wingtips might emerge to address some of these concerns. Meanwhile, the XM5s are a solid choice for anyone looking for high-quality audio in a more compact and comfortable design.

Connectivity Features and Overall Value

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After several days of tinkering with the Sony WF-1000XM5 Earbuds, I’ve settled into a routine where their features seamlessly integrate into my daily life. One aspect that stands out to me is the multi-device connectivity. It’s a godsend for someone like me who jumps between gadgets throughout the day. With the ability to connect to my laptop and phone simultaneously, switching from a Zoom call to a mobile notification is impressively smooth. However, Sony’s complex app sometimes feels like navigating a maze, especially when you’re just trying to tweak a setting or two.

The Bluetooth connectivity is solid and reliable, a marked improvement over other earbuds I’ve used. Pairing is usually a one-time hassle, but with the WF-1000XM5, it’s a breeze every time I switch devices. The connection range is quite decent, too; I can stroll around my apartment without losing the signal, which isn’t something I can say for all wireless devices.

But, let’s talk about the value proposition here. At a $300 price point, they’re an investment. I’m aware that there are cheaper alternatives that can provide a decent audio experience. Yet, the long battery life, quick charge feature, and the expanded control gestures do add convenience that sort of justifies the cost. But I need to point out, while the tap-to-control volume is a welcome feature, rapid tapping four times can be more of an irritation than an intuitive control, raising questions about the ergonomics of control design.

One notable downside—and it’s quite significant—is the absence of a “find my device” feature, which you’d expect at this price. For someone who tends to misplace small objects, this omission is a glaring vulnerability. It’s remediable with third-party trackers, but for the cost, shouldn’t this be built-in?

Now, let’s touch on the Sony Connect app. It could benefit from streamlining; there are too many options that aren’t essential and navigating to what you really need can be a hassle. Sony needs to pay attention here, especially when pushing firmware updates that can make or break the experience with their ANC quality—a critical feature for enthusiasts.

The overall value leans positive for me, despite some irritations. The sound quality, reliable connection, and multi-device support trump the negatives. I haven’t found the perfect earbuds yet, but these come close enough to keep me satisfied while I wait for technology to catch up to my wishlist—which, admittedly, includes perfect sound at a much lower price.

In a competitive market where features and small differences can sway decisions, the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds stand out in key areas while also showing room for improvement. If the price isn’t a deterrent and you value sound quality and connectivity over easy app navigation, they’re a strong choice. As the technology evolves, I’m curious to see how Sony will address the flaws in the next generation. For those interested, further technical details and user experiences can be found on Sony’s official product page and countless user forums across the web.