Sony WH-1000XM5 / LinkBuds S experience: left for comfort, right for noise reduction, or both

It's May, and I figured it out: "Well, it's almost time, it's time for Sony to update its new noise-cancelling audio products."

It was also at this time last year that Sony released the true wireless noise-cancelling headphones WF-1000XM4, which revolutionized our impression of true wireless noise-cancelling headphones. However, at that time, the noise-cancelling headphones did not launch an iterative product, but attracted a "Quiet White" limited edition with a pure white appearance.

So as usual, it's time for an update to Sony's noise-cancelling headphones.

Sure enough, Sony officially released new noise-cancelling headphones on May 19, and there are two new products.

  • Over-ear noise-cancelling flagship headphones WH-1000XM5
  • Comfortable in-ear true wireless noise-cancelling headphones LinkBuds S

The two products are said together, so this article is relatively long, please understand.

Fifth generation, Sony WH-1000XM5: the appearance finally changed

After the MDR-1000X, Sony separated the "noise reduction" series of audio products, and used WH, WI, and WF to represent three forms of noise-cancelling headphone products: head-mounted, neck-mounted, and true wireless. This also proves that Sony attaches great importance to the noise reduction series products.

However, after the first generation of headphones was formed, the subsequent M2, M3 and even M4 were all slightly modified in appearance, and there was no particularly significant change. So colleagues who wrote experience articles before always had to carefully look for small differences between the old and new models, like Leeuwenhoek.

Coming to the fifth generation, Sony has redesigned the entire exterior style, making the WH-1000XM5 look completely different from the previous four generations.

This time, when you are walking on the road wearing the WH-1000XM5, everyone can see that this is Sony's latest noise-cancelling headset, and it will never be confused with the previous four generations of products. Before it was officially released, I didn't dare to wear it on any public transportation at all, because its new look is too eye-catching, or it will be photographed by passers-by and posted on social networks, and then face a huge amount of money Compensation for leaks.

In terms of design language, Sony designed this time mainly based on the style of "minimalist" and "rounded".

The main part uses a lot of curved design, which looks more integrated and reduces many obvious seams.

The earmuffs on both sides also have a slightly inclined plane. The plane of the right earmuff is a touch panel, and the corresponding operation can be completed by tapping or swiping the panel with a finger (which can be customized in the App). Covering the right earmuff with your palm can still activate the "quick reminder" function, which should not be unfamiliar to you if you are an old Sony headset user.

The gilded SONY logo is located at the connection between the hinge and the earmuffs, and the two sides are placed in a symmetrical and harmonious vertical manner.

The head beam has become more slender. The round and slender design can reduce the pressure caused by the head beam on the top of the user's head. At the same time, the design of the infinite slider, seamless shaft and suspension structure can also allow you to adjust the length of the head beam. mute effect.

Similar infinitely adjustable head beam design can actually be seen from Bose's NC700 and Apple's AirPods Max. Such a design basically meets our future aesthetic requirements for headphones.

However, Sony has not avoided the biggest pain point of this type of design: the WH-1000XM5 loses the function of flexible folding and storage.

It is not foldable, which means that the portability of the WH-1000XM5 is greatly reduced, and there is also a headphone storage box that is larger than the headphone body.

If I were to put the earphones in the storage box and then carry them in my bag, it would definitely take up an entire mezzanine space in my backpack. And it will be more laborious to pick and place, which is more inconvenient for the main consumer group of noise-cancelling headphones – business people who just need to travel.

However, after communicating with Sony, we learned that this storage box provides a rebound design that can be "flattened" considering that users may store it in a narrow and crowded place.

Fortunately, the WH-1000XM5 is not intended to create a sense of luxury, and the new design is still to improve wearing comfort.

The main material of the whole machine is still familiar plastic, and the surface is matte and frosted.

Thanks to the slender head beam and the light weight of the earmuffs, you can clearly feel that the M5 is much lighter than the M4 after wearing it, and the pressure from the top of the head and the earmuffs on both sides is greatly reduced, in exchange for a lightweight and flexible wearing experience.

The inside of the earmuffs is equipped with a newly designed soft decompression leather, which has better ductility, and you will feel obvious rebound and softness when you press it. It can better fit the shape of the head and provide a comfortable wearing feeling, while still maintaining a strong sound insulation.

As for the wearing experience of hanging on the neck, the WH-1000XM5 has taken a step back.

After the earphones are folded outwards, the earphones cannot be hung on the neck "flat", and the flexibility of the neck position will be limited, which is very unfriendly to friends with thick necks.

At first I didn't understand why Sony used the outward-folding method, until I realized later, how I usually pick up the headphones from the storage box and wear them…

The wearing detection function of the M4 was also inherited by the M5 in a more elegant way. The WH-1000XM5 replaced the distance sensor originally used on the M4 that needed to "open a window" to a ring-shaped electrostatic sensor hidden in the dust pad. .

Sony said that this not only allows the sensor to be hidden inside to avoid the influence of dust, but also achieves a more integrated appearance, and the monitoring accuracy of this new sensor is also higher.

There are still two buttons at the bottom of the earmuffs. In addition to the power button/pairing button, there is also a switch button for noise reduction/ambient sound mode (the CUSTOM button that appeared on the M4 has been changed back to the M3 style). On both sides of the column, there is also a USB-C charging port with an indicator light, and a 3.5mm wired audio port.

The WH-1000XM5 are still the strongest noise-cancelling headphones you can buy right now

For the noise reduction part, Sony used the "super double" card this time, bringing the configuration of "dual core + 8 microphones".

Compared with the M4, the M5's 8-microphone noise reduction system increases the number of microphones on both sides from 2+2 to 4+4.

There are three outer microphones around the unilateral earmuffs to collect external noise, and an inner microphone in the earmuffs to collect the sound inside the earmuffs. The inside and outside are combined, and the residual noise in the ear is not let go.

After the microphone collects the noise, it will be handed over to the two processors in the machine for noise reduction processing.

According to Sony's description, the two chips perform their respective functions. The integrated processor V1 is used to process the environmental noise information collected by 8 microphones in different directions, and then hand it over to the HD noise reduction processor QN1 to calculate the output inversion. Sound waves for higher efficiency and more thorough noise cancellation.

To put it bluntly, the most direct way to improve the noise reduction ability is to improve the accuracy of external noise collection, and then use stronger computing power and algorithms to efficiently process the noise data with more information.

As far as the actual experience is concerned, when the noise reduction level is full, the WH-1000XM5 can still eliminate the vast majority of ambient noise and human voices, even high-frequency noise can be effectively removed, and a piece can be drawn instantly in a noisy environment. Your own quiet space.

The only thing that can be picked on is that the strong noise reduction will bring a little discomfort to the ear pressure, but the adaptability to the ear pressure also varies from person to person.

Obviously, the WH-1000XM5 still represents the ceiling level of Sony's noise reduction. Compared with the previous generation, it is also improved. I think it is still the strongest noise reduction headset you can buy now.

It’s just that the noise reduction capability of the previous generation WH-1000XM4 is excellent enough. It’s not easy to go a step further. The perception of noise reduction intensity improved by stacking hardware is not particularly obvious, and it won’t bring M4 users a chance to change their phones. impulse.

Based on the new microphone array, the ambient sound performance of the headset has also been improved. But ears that have been spoiled by AirPods Pro and AirPods Max will still feel that the ambient sound of the WH-1000XM5 will be dull.

As for the sound quality part, I think this is another longboard for the Sony WH-1000XM5.

It uses Sony's newly developed 30mm drive unit. According to Sony, the edge of the unit is made of soft polyurethane material, which can enhance low-frequency performance; the dome is reinforced with carbon fiber material, which enhances the rigidity of the diaphragm and also makes the diaphragm weight. Lighter, with good mid-to-high frequency detail.

The built-in HD noise reduction processor QN1 uses 32-bit audio signal processing technology, and the integrated digital-to-analog converter and analog power amplifier also provide excellent signal-to-noise ratio and low distortion.

In terms of actual listening, the WH-1000XM5, also equipped with the QN1 chip, naturally continues the sound style of the M4, and I think it still maintains a very good sound quality level.

But probably because of the addition of the new unit, the WH-1000XM5 has gained a wider sound field performance, and the sense of space is much more obvious. Compared with the previous generation, I feel as if I walked from the study into the large flat-floor living room.

After careful comparison, you will find that the sound performance of the M5 will be cleaner, the three-frequency performance is quite full, the mid-high frequency performance, and the low frequency elasticity will be more compact and crisp, but you will feel that its low frequency has become more restrained, and the sense of volume is significantly reduced.

Of course, if you are an old user of Sony noise-cancelling headphones, you should know that the EQ adjustment of the built-in app can improve its frequency response performance. After choosing or customizing the equalizer according to your personal taste, you can get your own pleasant listening experience.

It also has some experience detail improvements

Compared with noise reduction intensity and sound quality, the improvement of WH-1000XM5 in detail experience is also worthy of attention.

The first thing that moved me was that the WH-1000XM5's boot speed was very fast, and the complicated voice reminders for booting up in the past were canceled. Now, when the M5 is turned on and connected to the mobile phone, there is only a short "duang" sound in the ear canal, and then the music starts playing immediately.

Coupled with the sensitive wearing induction, this is the first time I have experienced a lightweight experience like AirPods Pro on headphones.

Based on the location recognition function of the headset, the WH-1000XM5 brings a smarter and more natural noise reduction experience. After enabling intelligent noise reduction optimization on the app, the headset can judge my activity and set the noise reduction size for stationary, walking, and running.

When I walk from the subway to the company, the headphones will automatically reduce noise reduction to ensure that I can hear the horns of cars and electric vehicles; Better handling of road conditions during walking.

Based on this, after a long period of learning, it can also identify whether I am currently on a high-speed moving vehicle, or in my home or office, so as to provide different levels of noise reduction intensity. After you get used to it, it is more convenient.

We have always been concerned about the voice performance of noise-cancelling headphones. The three external microphones on one side of the WH-1000XM5 earmuffs are designed to resist wind noise, coupled with high-precision voice pickup technology, even in windy environments or relatively noisy environments. You can get a good voice calling experience on your commute.

LinkBuds S: Sony's smallest and lightest true wireless noise-cancelling headphones

Three months ago, Sony launched LinkBuds, a fully open true wireless headset with "no noise reduction", and then this time it released a "strong noise reduction" in-ear true wireless headset LinkBuds S.

The difference between the product models without noise reduction and noise reduction is only the S suffix at the end.

For this S suffix, Sony gave three extended explanations of Silence active noise reduction, Seamless comfort and convenience, and Superior sound high-quality sound quality. And once again emphasized the "always online" feature of the LinkBuds series.

That said, the LinkBuds S still wants to be the "all-weather" headset, even though it's an in-ear headset.

In order to achieve long-term wear, LinkBuds S has refreshed the volume and weight records of Sony's true wireless headphones in one fell swoop:

  • A single earphone weighs only 4.8g, which is Sony's lightest true wireless noise-cancelling earphone.
  • SiP package V1 chip circuit, 5mm compact unit and miniature battery blessing, this is Sony's current smallest true wireless noise-cancelling headphones.

In order to achieve a comfortable and stable wearing feeling, Sony first once again took out the global human ear shape database accumulated over the years, and realized a design suitable for the shape of most human ear cavities, so that the inside of the earphones can firmly fit the ear concha cavity and the ear cavity. ear canal.

Another "hero" for a stable fit is the eccentric design of the LinkBuds S. In the cavity part on the outside of the earphone, we can clearly see that the direction of the oblique section is offset inward with the center of gravity of the cavity.

I think the design of LinkBuds S is good-looking, and it belongs to the type that knows how to put it in the ear after seeing it. There is no use threshold like LinkBuds donuts that need to read the manual to know how to use it.

After wearing it, even if you shake your head greatly, the LinkBuds S can be tightly attached to the auricle, and there will be no loosening at all.

Thanks to the "lightest and smallest", with the ergonomically designed cavity and eccentric design, the LinkBuds S are indeed the most comfortable true wireless in-ear headphones I have ever worn, which is sufficient for the feature of "all-weather wear".

Although the LinkBuds S cavity is very small, Sony still retains the touch panel of the earphones on both sides, as well as the wearing induction function.

What amazes me is that LinkBuds S also provides the same "quick reminder" function as the noise-cancelling headset, which can be awakened by long-pressing the touch panel of the headset.

Looking back at the same small headphone storage box, its appearance material and color matching are consistent with the headphone cavity.

Both the earphone body and the earphone box are made of recycled resin materials, and the grainy light matte surface provides a delicate and skin-friendly touch.

The USB-C port is located on the back of the headphone box, and there is a separate pairing button attached here. LinkBuds S and LinkBuds have the same pairing logic. When pairing a new device, you only need to open the top cover of the headset box, then long press the accessory button to connect successfully, and then take out the headset and use it directly.

This is much more convenient than WF-1000XM4.

Noise reduction to the left, ambient sound to the right

I think it is very appropriate to describe the LinkBuds S with a small but complete internal structure, because it not only has an integrated processor V1, has active noise reduction and ambient sound mode, but also supports LDAC high-definition transmission, as well as DSEE Extreme digital sound engine input. step version.

In terms of book data, LinkBuds S and WF-1000XM4 seem to be relatively close. The comparison between these two headphones is believed to be the most concerned issue for many readers.

Let’s talk about noise reduction first. Without turning on the ambient sound, the LinkBuds S will feel full after being inserted directly into the ear canal, which consolidates the sound insulation effect of passive noise reduction.

After the active noise reduction is turned on, it can be clearly felt that the noise reduction intensity is quite different from that of the WF-1000XM4. When the music is not playing, the human voice around you can still be faintly heard. Only after you start playing music, will you get a better noise reduction experience when your listening attention is taken away by the music.

Considering its "always online" positioning, the focus of LinkBuds S is not actually on active noise reduction. Its real highlight is actually more transparent ambient sound performance.

The LinkBuds S cavity is equipped with a newly developed external microphone, which increases the amount of ambient sound capture and allows ambient sound to be introduced into the ear in a more natural and transparent way. Compared with the WF-1000XM4, the ambient sound delay of LinkBuds S is significantly reduced, and the sound ray of external sounds is also more natural, which has been significantly improved.

Continuing to wear LinkBuds S and talk to others no longer feel awkward, just turn down the sound of the music.

However, if the opponent is AirPods Pro, then LinkBuds S still has a lot of room to catch up.

The always-on positioning also has higher requirements for voice calls, so LinkBuds S brings "high-precision voice pickup technology" and "DNN deep neural network system algorithm" to separate human voice and noise in real time and effectively isolate the surrounding environment. voice and other vocals. In addition, the external microphones are wrapped in a fine mesh to reduce wind noise.

As far as the actual call experience is concerned, it is true that LinkBuds S can make the words clear inside and out, and when talking to a colleague, he doesn't seem to realize that I am talking to him with a headset.

Finally, let's talk about the sound quality. In the hardware part, LinkBuds S is equipped with a compact 5mm moving coil unit. The built-in integrated processor V1 has a built-in amplifier and a high signal-to-noise ratio DAC, which can theoretically achieve a good sound output.

After the audition, I found that the sound tuning of LinkBuds S is very UltraBass style, a warm pop style suitable for popular tastes, which is a very catchy type and is unexpectedly good.

LinkBuds S has a very strong sense of low frequency, deep dive, and fast dynamic response. When listening to "Sugar", the punch to the flesh will make it hard for your body to stop moving to the rhythm.

Such a comprehensive bias towards popular training makes us all sigh: "It's the Sony flavor of the past."

Although I personally think that the low frequency is enough, Sony also prepares Clear Bass bass enhancement adjustment in the EQ position in the App, trying to further release the low frequency characteristics of the unit. For me, if I deepen the bass, it will feel a bit loud.

The mid-frequency vocal performance is also relatively good, the high-frequency extension is lacking, but it is not very dry. When the low-frequency is very prominent, the mid-high frequency is slightly behind but still full.

After listening to the LinkBuds S and then listening to the WF-1000XM4, the advanced tuning of the latter is clear at a glance, but because of the variety of personal tastes, there are not a few people in the office who favor the popular sound of the LinkBuds S.

The Sony noise reduction family has more choices, how to choose?

After the press conference, many readers asked Ai Faner a lot of questions about "how to choose" in the comment area and private messages:

· WH-1000XM5 is released, do you want to upgrade the handheld WH-1000XM4?

· LinkBuds S vs WF-1000XM4, which is better?

In fact, it can be seen from this that the people who will consider buying Sony headphones at this stage have already clearly defined their own needs. sound quality performance.

As for the interconnection ecology, it is not the first consideration for Sony headset users.

Whether it's WH-1000XM5 or LinkBuds S, they all give me a "refreshing" feeling.

The first is the WH-1000XM5. Its update point is mainly in the new appearance design and the accompanying new wearing experience, which makes up for the appearance shortcomings of the M4 before, but at the same time, there is also the problem that the headphone box is too large.

If you think this size of the storage box is not a problem, then; if you are not satisfied with this storage method, then congratulations, M4 should have a better price on the market now.

At the same time, for users holding WH-1000XM4, I personally think that although this generation of M5 has reshaped its appearance, its overall experience will not be much different from that of M4, and the attractiveness of the upgrade is not obvious enough.

The choice between LinkBuds S and WF-1000XM4 becomes very simple. If you pursue noise reduction intensity and high-quality original sound performance, then the position of WF-1000XM4 is still stable; experience, and your ears are tired of large and bulky cavities, then LinkBuds S will be the best true wireless earphones in your mind.

All in all, opening new product lines and reshaping the appearance of products actually shows Sony's self-awareness and focus on noise-cancelling headphone products. Today, Sony is giving consumers more choices, which is actually filling in richer user scenarios and meeting consumers' more diverse needs.

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