Sony WF-1000XM4 first evaluation: complete the shortcomings of the previous generation, all-round true wireless noise-cancelling headphones

Today, Sony finally brought the flagship new product of the true wireless noise reduction series : W F-1000XM4.

Sony skipped the M2 model naming in 2019 and directly released the WF-1000XM3, a true wireless noise-cancelling headset. It has a built-in Qn1e custom noise reduction chip. It is the first true wireless headset I have experienced with good noise reduction strength and sound quality. Its noise reduction strength is comparable to the original "noise reduction ring" WI-1000X.

But it still left some places that had to be compromised at the time in order to realize the convenient form of true wireless headphones. For example, its relatively large earphone storage box cannot satisfy everyone with a satisfactory wearing experience, poor call experience, and wireless connection stability with a lot of room for improvement.

For a while, after the release of WF-1000XM3, it ushered in a strong opponent of Apple's AirPods Pro, and QuietComfort Earbuds launched by Bose, a long-time noise reduction brand. Later, domestic mobile phone brands formed groups to join the battle of TWS wireless headsets. In the first quarter just past, there have been many TWS noise-cancelling headsets from mobile phone brands on the market.

After holding back its big move for almost two years, Sony served a hard dish this time, trying to re-bright the "wireless noise reduction leader" sign. This is a response to competitors and a complement to the past.

The size of the storage box is reduced by 40%, which is the ideal form of true wireless earphones

When I placed the Sony WF-1000XM4 in my palm for the first time, I should be able to describe my mood at that time with overjoyed. Of course, what was placed in my palm at the time was the complete body of the WF-1000XM4: an "ultra-compact" earphone charging storage box, which contained two earplugs.

The reference point for the "super compact" here is naturally the huge charging box of the previous generation WF-1000XM3. Compared with the previous generation, the WF-1000XM4's charging case has been reduced by 40%.

In the face of WF-1000XM4, WF-1000X and WF-1000XM3 are more like "prototype" and "engineering machines" of M4.

It can be seen that the charging box of the WF-1000XM4 is two full circles smaller, which is similar in size to the AirPods Pro charging box. The size of this charging box is very ideal, you can carry it with you and put it in your pocket easily.

Sony’s Japanese engineers said in the online interview that they just heard a lot of voices from WF-1000XM3 users, and they put forward the demand for miniaturization of the charging box. Therefore, Sony invested a lot of energy in the beginning of new product development. Design charging case. Although the charging box has shrunk, the battery capacity and charging efficiency inside have increased. Only NFC is absent this time.

The front of the charging box retains the previous breathing indicator design, and the USB-C power interface has been moved to the back of the charging box.

The bottom surface of the charging box becomes flat, not only can it directly "stand" on the desktop, but also a wireless charging coil is placed on the bottom surface to support Qi wireless charging.

On this generation of WF-1000XM4, Sony has once again changed the structural design of the earphone cavity, switching to a more compact and fit round earplug design.

Based on the implementation of the ergonomic design concept, Sony used a large number of researched human ear data to increase the contact area between the inner side of the earphone and the ear, and the whole earphone was better filled in the ear, and the concha cavity and the concha cavity The position of the notch between the tragus serves as the main support point of the earphone, so as to achieve a firm wearing.

Sony engineers to love Fan children indicated that they are in the initial stages of development, the internal shape of the ear was down mode, according to the shape of the internal cavity of the ear, the ear cavity space to utilize as much as possible the design proposal as a starting point.

For users with small ears, especially girls, it doesn’t seem to be too worrying. Compared with the previous generation, the volume of the earphone cavity of the WF-1000XM4 has been reduced by about 10%, which means that it can adapt to a smaller ear cavity space downwards. After actual measurement, several "small ear" users who don't like to wear in-ear earphones all said that they can accept the wearing feeling of WF-1000XM4.

In terms of weight, the unilateral earphone cavity weighs only about 7.3g, and there is no negative feeling in both ears when wearing it. And for me, the fit between the earphone and the ear is just right, and the ear canal and ear cavity will not have a sense of rejection of foreign bodies, which can adapt to the needs of long-term wear.

Before using it to listen to songs and isolate noise, the WF-1000XM4 has no slots in its morphological performance.

Continuing the design of the touch panel of the previous generation, the WF-1000XM4 headset shell also has a circular touch panel, and the specific gesture operations are the same as before. But the WF-1000XM4 also adds a "quick reminder" function like the WH series of headphones. Just press the left touchpad with your finger to instantly reduce the music volume and amplify the ambient sound. This eliminates the need to take off the headset when you need to communicate with others for a short time.

After realizing that the reminder of changes in the headset status is mainly dependent on the voice prompts in the headset, Sony finally canceled the LED indicator light design on the headset. The small dots dotted with gold under the circular panel are the positions of the noise-reducing microphones.

The entire earphone cavity has undergone a new matte process, and the small Sony logo is embellished on the side of the shell. The earphone cavity supports IPX4 protection level, and the durability is also guaranteed to a certain extent.

In short, the WF-1000XM4 looks like a Sony noise-canceling headset when worn to the touch.

Excellent connection stability, you can also use it to answer phone calls and video conferences

In 2019, we took the WF-1000XM3 to Shibuya intersection, which is known as the busiest in the world. Because the wireless environment is very complicated, it can be regarded as the most extreme environment for testing wireless headset connectivity.

WF-1000XM3 uses binaural independent TWS true wireless solution. The stability and delay performance are much better than the original noise reduction beans, but it will still get disconnected when the traffic volume increases and the wireless environment becomes complicated. There is still much room for improvement in the stability of the situation.

And this time, we also chose another extreme environment to test the wireless stability of WF-1000XM4. We went to Shanghai Disneyland and watched a large-scale projection light firework show with over ten thousand tourists in front of the castle.

Anyone who has been to Shanghai Disneyland to watch the fireworks show should know that when night begins, there will already be tourists waiting for the best viewing location in the viewing area. When there was an hour before the official performance, I was in the middle of the Xingmeng Garden and was surrounded by a sea of ​​people. Many people around me are like me. Even though the mobile phone signal is not good, they still wear wireless headphones to swipe their phones to pass the waiting time.

At that time, I found that the WF-1000XM4 has always maintained a very clear sound output, and there has never been any disconnection or delay. When I realized this, I switched to AirPods Pro for comparison. When I turned my head and the crowd moved forward, AirPods Pro would have some noise that should be caused by signal interference, and even appeared once. A situation where the music temporarily pauses due to disconnection.

It can be seen that the stability of WF-1000XM4 has improved a lot.

In addition to stability, call quality is the biggest shortcoming of the previous generation WF-1000XM3. To make up for this shortcoming, Sony added microphone beamforming technology and bone conduction sensors to the WF-1000XM4. The former can effectively improve the signal-to-noise ratio of the call, even in a noisy environment, you can efficiently capture the user's voice; the latter can collect vibrations from the bones, thereby distinguishing the user's voice from the environmental sound, and further enhance the user's speech the sound of. The two are combined to improve the quality of the call.

So, in the noisy sea of ​​Disney, I tried to make a call to a colleague using a not-so-strong mobile phone signal, and got feedback that "I can hear clearly, and the sound quality is okay." In daily situations, it can still meet the needs of the call, there is no need to say that you take off the headset and switch back to the handset to answer.

After that, I also used the WF-1000XM4 to connect to the mobile phone, and completed several Zoom online conferences outside, and the sound effect of the call was also satisfactory. But if you want to compare with the excellent AirPods Pro, the call quality of the WF-1000XM4 is still slightly inferior, but it is definitely not a shortcoming.

Still the strongest true wireless noise reduction, environmental sound enhancement is the highlight

The all-round leap of WF-1000XM4 is actually inseparable from the new integrated processor V1 prepared by Sony for it.

According to Sony’s official introduction, this V1 chip can capture more ambient sounds from the dual feedback microphones on the headset, and with stronger computing power, it can provide stronger noise reduction performance.

In fact, in addition to active noise reduction, the passive noise reduction of earplugs is also indispensable. In addition to the design that fits the ear cavity better, the WF-1000XM4 only comes standard with an elastic earplug made of polyurethane foam material, which can tightly fill the ear canal to achieve a stronger sound insulation effect.

The passive noise reduction and sound insulation effect enhanced by this earplug can just make up for the shortcomings of active noise reduction in dealing with high-frequency noise. For example, you can occasionally encounter baby screams when crying at airports and train stations. WF- 1000XM4 can also be well isolated this time.

However, considering that the noise reduction intensity of WF-1000XM3 is still at a relatively good level for the moment, we have selected some more severe environments for WF-1000XM4 this time to explore its upper limit of noise reduction.

First of all, in the scene of the Disney fireworks show, for the noisy vocal scene, when I switched on the noise reduction mode in the crowd, the WF-1000XM4 seemed to move me away to an empty and quiet place.

In the course of the flight, the regular noise of the aircraft traveling in the stratosphere is of course needless to say, the moment of landing during landing and the huge noise generated by the engine reverse thrust, the internal sound decibel can reach 83dB, and at this time WF- The 1000XM4 can still isolate the noise, and its specific performance is similar to that of the WH-1000XM4 with earmuffs, and the ear pressure is handled well.

Then, take a convertible BMW 4 Series with modified exhaust and exterior atmosphere. The exhaust sound at high speed is still relatively loud, and the average sound decibel is around 86dB. However, even in the face of high-speed wind noise, the performance of the WF-1000XM4 is still very stable. It is perfectly possible to sit in a car running at 100km/h and listen to a slow song quietly.

The last thing to face is the helicopter noise with the loudest decibel. In the initial stage of the flight, I was wearing the noise-canceling headphones and microphones equipped on the helicopter. After confirming that it was safe to take off the headset, I switched to the WF-1000XM4. At that time, I noticed that the ambient sound level in the cabin was 90. ~100+dB, after turning on the noise reduction, the sound of the propeller is drastically reduced to a very low level. Unexpectedly, the noise reduction strength of the WF-1000XM4 is even better than the noise reduction headphones (passive) equipped in the machine.

In terms of noise reduction, WF-1000XM4 still stands firmly in the first echelon, which is not surprising.

On the contrary, the improvement of environmental sound is also the highlight of WF-1000XM4. Thanks to V1's ability to capture more ambient sounds and higher computing power, the WF-1000XM4 also obtains a more natural and low-latency ambient sound performance, and the sound delivered to the ear is as if not wearing headphones. , The sound is much more real than before.

Mainstream good sound, true wireless also has LDAC

In the sound configuration part, the Sony WF-1000XM4 uses an improved 6mm moving coil unit, and the V1 processor integrates a DAC and amplifier, which can process 24bit audio signals.

For the wireless transmission part, WF-1000XM4 supports LDAC Bluetooth transmission technology. When playing music, it can transmit data at about 3 times (or more) the amount of data in AAC or SBC encoding (the maximum transmission speed is about 990 kbps). The transmission includes High-profile music with more information content. For non-lossless music, Sony’s new DSEE Extreme technology can increase the amount of information in music under the blessing of AI, enriching high-frequency musical instruments and female voices.

After a period of comparative audition, you can find that the sound of WF-1000XM4 continues the style of WF-1000XM3. Sony's best resolution and detail performance are still outstanding on the WF-1000XM4. More importantly, the addition of LDAC allows WF-1000XM4 to use higher-level music. My colleague Liang Menglin said: "The audio decoding capability of QN1e that supports high bits is no longer wasted."

After the amount of information comes up, and with a new generation of 6mm micro-motion coil unit, the performance of the WF-1000XM4's vocals and high-frequency instruments is much more prominent than the previous one, the performance is more delicate, and the burr and jerky feeling are much less.

The most prominent low-frequency performance has also improved a lot, the low-frequency dynamics are stronger, the dive volume is deeper, and the thickness and layering are better than the WF-1000XM3. And after the low frequency is increased, the overall sound thickness has also increased a lot, without the environmental rendering that WF-1000XM3 ignores for "refreshing", the sound perfection is much higher.

Of course, the WF-1000XM4 will still have a more obvious roughness when it comes to lower specifications or some of the more special songs. This part can be saved by DSEE Extreme. If it is required by a higher standard, there is naturally still room for improvement.

But if it is placed in the category of true wireless headphones, its performance is already top-notch. It’s just that I still want to pour a bucket of cold water, because the above listening experience is based on the WF-1000XM4 paired with an Android phone. If it is connected to an iPhone or other devices that do not support LDAC, it is estimated that only AAC and SBC connection methods are left. , The sound quality performance will also be a little discounted.

More environmentally friendly packaging, longer battery life

This time, the WF-1000XM4 packaging box is made with a new type of zero-plastic environmentally friendly material that Sony has led research and development: "Native Hybrid Material". It is made from bamboo, sugar cane and post-consumer recycled paper. The raw materials are clearly traceable and do not contain any plastic components. It is green, recyclable, durable and strong.

The packaging box is simpler than the previous design, and for manufacturers, the cost will also increase. Next, Sony may use this environmentally friendly packaging box for more products.

According to Sony's official data, the headphone cavity of the WF-1000XM4 turns on the noise reduction function after it is fully charged, and the battery life can be up to 8 hours in a single time. The charging box can also provide 2 additional full charges, which together can provide a total of 24 hours of battery life. It seems that although Sony joined LDAC this time, it did not shrink the battery life.

In addition to the convenience of wireless charging, the WF-1000XM4's wired charging can also achieve a fast charging level of "five minutes of charging and one hour of playback".

What is the market competitiveness of true wireless noise-canceling headphones without shortcomings ?

After using the WF-100 0XM3, the wishes that I made one by one seem to be realized one by one on the WF-1000XM4. It provides a compact charging box, a comfortable and stable wearing design, a stable Bluetooth connection, and the true wireless LDAC of the heart. At the same time, it also has better sound quality, better noise reduction and environmental sound.

From the perspective of product strength and hardware, WF-1000XM4 has reached a very high degree of completion, which can be called "omnipotent".

But the next practical problem that WF-1000XM4 will face is whether consumers can buy it.

You know, when most consumers buy true wireless headsets, they often start from the perspective of mobile phone accessories, and mobile phone manufacturers will make targeted optimizations for their own products, so the current consumer decision-making orientation, Then it becomes "Which cell phone you use, you can buy a true wireless headset."

According to this guideline, the low-maintained Sony mobile phones in the country will naturally not be the driving force for the purchase of this flagship noise-cancelling headset. First of all, it will be considered, of course, there are still many Sony fans, and then the Sony products are strong. People with confidence and low purchasing power. Therefore, the market competitiveness of Sony WF-1000XM4 depends entirely on its product strength and the appeal of the Sony brand.

Compared with these TWS headsets that are positioned as "mobile phone accessories", the sound quality and noise reduction of WF-1000XM4 are already in the forefront of the industry, but when it comes to things in the intelligent category such as interconnection with mobile phone hardware, WF-1000XM4 It's a little helpless, and the details of the interaction can't fully conform to the user's intuition, and it's more like an "outsider".

However, Sony also stated in an interview that they have also noticed recent changes in the field of true wireless headsets. And said that providing excellent sound quality and strong noise reduction are the core competitiveness of Sony's audio department.

Continue to deepen the main core competitiveness, and then polish the product from the user experience considerations. This strategy is exactly the same as Sony's strategy in the fields of televisions and cameras. Compared to the mass market, the first thing Sony WF-1000XM4 wants to impress is still Music lovers.

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