I’ve been a fan of Sony’s WH-1000XM series for years. Ever since I discovered them, I’ve never bought any other ANC wireless headset. I had the WH-1000XM2, then the WH-1000XM4 and now, finally the Sony WH-1000XM5.

To be fair, I never actually wanted to get the Sony WH-1000XM5. I usually skip a generation, so I was thinking of getting the WH-1000XM6 instead.

However, Sony had a great promo where they knocked off $80 over the MSRP (SG$569) if you traded in an old XM series headset. Since I had my old pair of WH-1000XM2 (which was beat up as hell), it was an easy choice. Traded that in, gave my WH-1000XM4 to my wife and upgraded to the WH-1000XM5.

Was it worth it?

Continue on and find out.

What is the Sony WH-1000XM5?

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is the latest in Sony’s line of premium Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) wireless headphones. The 30mm drivers that pump out the sound are accompanied by 8 microphones (4 in each cup) that capture ambient noise and filter it out for listeners.

The end result? Near total silence in even the noisiest settings to enjoy your music.

Like previous entries, the Sony WH-1000XM5 also has a built-in jack for wired connections. The right earcup still supports the touch functions (forward, backward, volume up and volume down) from previous iterations. It’s much more sensitive this time around and picks up your touch commands much more effectively than even on WH-1000XM4.

The headphones have an MSRP of SG$569.

Top of the list, the body’s taken a huge change, which I honestly think is for the worse.

Instead of a flat thick headband, the cups are supported by cylindrical plastic, which gives the headphones a rather fragile and flimsy look. Frankly, it makes them look cheap.

The change also means that the cups can no longer fold in. I’m not affected at all by this (as I just sling my headphones around my messenger bag’s strap) but if you like to tuck away your gear when you’re not using, this is a MAJOR annoyance.

The headphones don’t seem to look as refined and premium as before too, which is a damn shame.

The new cylindrical headband does seem smoother when you’re adjusting it though, so that’s a plus. There’s never an issue with the fit and the earcups are just as comfy for long periods as the previous iterations of the headset.

Apart from that change to the headband, there’s not much that’s been tweaked.

The left earcup still has the physical buttons that pull overtime with multiple duties.

There’s the Power button that does Bluetooth pairing, power level checks and turning the device on and off, while the other button (labeled as NC/AMB) has ANC control. On the right earcup (as mentioned up top) are the touch controls.

Performance wise I can honestly say that I don’t see much of a difference.

I noticed how much better the audio leap was when I jumped from the WH-1000XM2 to the WH-1000XM4, but there’s barely any noticeable change from the WH-1000XM4 to the new headset.

That’s not a knock against the headset, as it still packs incredible ANC and killer sound output via FLAC.

I did notice that the bass seems much fuller and deeper now with Bass Boost at higher settings but that’s pretty much it on the aural end.

I’ve yet to try the headset on a flight so it might be there that the WH-1000XM5 truly shines. We’ll hopefully find out this September if we get the approval to head on over to Japan for the Tokyo Game Show.

The cups also house sensors that stop the music when you remove the headset.

I found that these worked much better than the ones in the WH-1000XM4. In that model, the sensors weren’t as sensitive, as music would continue to play sometimes when I’ve slung the headphones on my messenger bag strap.

Not an issue with these new bad boys. As soon as I take them off, I can hear the audio stops right on cue. Put in on and the music picks off right where it cut off.

One thing I don’t really like is the headphone’s heavy reliance on Sony’s Headphones app.

Nearly every function is locked behind it. You can’t change sound settings without using it, you can’t manage and customize your audio settings without it…you can’t even upgrade the headphone firmware without the Headphones app.

The app is functional but I wish more of the headphones’ functionality can be accessed via buttons on the headset (how hard can it be to include a physical button to cycle presets?) instead of mucking about with the app.

The Bottom Line.

Sony WH-1000XM5

The Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless noise cancelling headphones are Sony’s best ANC headphones out right now but it’s not a definitive win. It’s great mind you, but it’s an evolutionary step in the ladder instead of a revolutionary one.

Could it have been better? I think so, at least in terms of looks. I don’t know who was in charge of the redesign, but they’ve made the headphones look chintzy instead of the premium look that was present in the past.

If you have a pair of WH-1000XM4, there’s really no need to upgrade. The improvement in sound quality is negligible to my ears (and I’ve been using the series for years) and the ANC seems to be as good in the WH-1000XM4 as it is in the new model.

So why spend the cash unless you really need to?

If you’re new to Sony’s ANC headphones though, you can do no wrong with these. The ANC is one of the best in the business, the comfort factor is off the charts and the ease of use (even though you have to depend on the Headphones app) is great!


Hail to the new king in active noise cancellation.

The Good:

  • Great ANC.
  • Responsive touch controls.
  • Comfortable for any period of time.
  • Headphones app allows you to customize your experience.

The Bad:

  • Looks crappy.
  • Can’t fold.
  • Needs the Headphones app for nearly everything.
  • Not much sound quality or ANC difference from WH-1000XM4.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. Recently, Sal served as a juror for the Indie Game Awards at Taipei Game Show 2020. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.