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Sony’s new earbuds are near flawless

The WF-1000XM5 earbuds provide an excellent overall experience, despite a complex app, writes JASON BANNIER.

What is it?

The Sony WF-1000XM5 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones are the newest addition to the 1000X series of earbuds. Released earlier this year, they make a strong impression with their exceptional audio quality.

During a workout session involving dynamic movements, I experienced uninterrupted and clear audio while streaming music from Spotify. The earbuds remained securely in place, ensuring both comfort and stability. The charging case, earbud tips, unit’s sound conduit (sound exit tube), ventilation holes, and microphone holes are not water resistant. However the device qualifies for a IPX4 water-resistance rating, which means that, while one is wearing the buds, they are protected against splashing water, and that includes sweat.

The noise-cancelling feature provided an immersive listening experience, enhanced by the companion app, which enables users to customise the listening environment, including features like ambient noise control. It allows for personalisation of controls, like adjusting volume levels, or modifying bass and treble settings. However, the app lacked in user-friendliness, requiring some effort to fully harness the earbuds’ potential.

Sony has embraced an environmentally friendly approach with the box’s cardboard-like design. The box includes various earpiece sizes, a charging case, and a charging cable. The USB-A end of the cable facilitates charging the case through different devices, like a laptop or smartphone charger.

With noise cancellation enabled, the earbuds offer an impressive 8-hour battery life, complemented by an additional 16 hours from the charging case. Recharging the case takes around an hour and a half. The case is not heavy, and small enough to easily fit in one’s pocket. It also has a strong protective feel to it.

Integration with smart assistants, such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri, is seamless. A gentle press on the bud activates an assistant for tasks like retrieving weather updates. Google Assistant’s accuracy in interpreting commands was consistently high, providing clear enunciation.

The microphone and audio quality during WhatsApp voice calls revealed clear and crisp audio output. Communication was smooth, and both parties could hear each other effectively.

Minimal delay was experienced during online PC gaming, a notable improvement over lower quality Bluetooth earbuds that tend to introduce noticeable lag. Spatial audio capabilities were impressive, aiding in accurately pinpointing the locations of other players based on their footsteps. While delivering an excellent gaming experience, the earbuds do not surpass the performance of dedicated gaming headsets.

Connecting the earbuds to a smartphone was swift and straightforward. However, to pair the earbuds with a second device, they need to be placed back into the case, followed by a press and hold of a small button, until a blue LED begins flashing, indicating discoverability. We found that the button was somewhat challenging to press and hold. Alternatively, the companion app can facilitate connections to secondary devices, with the earbuds capable of simultaneously connecting to two devices.

What does it cost?

The WF-1000XM5 will be available in South Africa from September 2023 at a recommended retail price of R8, 499.

Why does it matter?

Sony’s WF-1000XM5 are top tier earbuds that provide an exceptional audio experience. Boasting a snug and comfortable fit, a long battery life, impressive noise cancellation, a great microphone, and smart assistant integration, these earbuds redefine excellence.  

What are the biggest negatives?

  • Expensive.
  • Disappointing user-friendliness of the app.
  • Case’s button is difficult to press, and hold.

What are the biggest positives?

  • Exceptional audio quality, and great noise cancellation.
  •  Long battery life.
  • Comfortable fit, and comes with different earbud sizes.

* Jason Bannier is a data analyst at World Wide Worx and technology writer for Gadget.

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