Recently, the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds were unveiled. The latest iteration brings new technology to a familiar package, with a smaller form factor and improvements to the noise cancelling properties.
The reputation held by this range precedes it. The previous generation Sony WF-1000XM4's held top spot in our guide to the best wireless earbuds from the moment they launched. It's a high bar, and the XM5's need to be impressive to stack up.
Fortunately, they do.
I've been using these earbuds for about a month now, and I'm absolutely sold. Let's start where it really counts – the sound quality. It's absolutely astounding. You'll find a fantastic breadth across the sonic spectrum, with loads of detail in the high end and a fantastic weight to the bottom end.
There's a sublime amount of separation on offer, too. You really can hear the width that the studio engineer intended, with ultra-precise panned audio. Everything finds its proper place, making it really enjoyable to listen to.
Of course, because these come from Sony, you'll also get access to their brilliant headphone app, too. That means you can take full control of the entire audio experience, from shaping the EQ to adjusting the precise amount of noise cancellation required.
Don't skimp on that EQ, either. It's massively powerful, with a five-band adjustment across the spectrum, plus the Clear Bass technology. That's a real coup – try dropping the bass frequencies slightly, but boosting the Clear Bass for a heavy low-end that stays out of the way of other frequencies.
Noise cancellation is also fantastic. In fact, Sony claim it's the best noise-cancelling on the market. That's a strong claim to make, but the performance certainly backs it up.
I've walked past an active jackhammer and been able to hear my music clearly and audibly. It's tough to quantify how good noise cancelling is, but as a case study, that's about as much as I'd ever need. For more normal environments, like trains or planes, these will be more than capable of shutting out the world around you.
That's because of a new microphone array. Each earbud now features three microphones on the outside, for even better performance. That also makes the ambient sound setting better, as more external audio can be picked up and passed through.
Then there's the feel. These buds are easily the most comfortable pair I've ever used. And to be honest, it's not even close. The tips themselves are ridiculously soft and luxurious feeling. It's almost like a really soft leather, with a massive amount of padding inside.
That's likely designed to help the low-end frequencies and noise cancellation primarily, but it's also mighty comfy as a neat bonus. That wearing experience is boosted further by the size, which has been reduced by around 25%. About 20% of the weight has been shaved off, too.
The result? Effortless comfort for longer sessions. I've happily used them for four or five hours at a time without getting fatigued.
All in all, it's the addition of all of these parts which makes the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds such a compelling package. Sure, they are pricey – £259 isn't small change, particularly at the moment. But when you consider that the previous generation launched for £250 two years ago – before inflation went bananas – that's a pretty decent price.
Honestly, the only other time I've been this sold on a pair of earbuds was when I tested the Nothing Ear (2). Those are much cheaper, and certainly don't have the same features as these, but represent some of the best value for money in the market right now.
At the luxury end, I'd wager that these Sony earbuds do a similar thing. You'll find more expensive luxury earbuds on the market – they might even be a little better than these ones at one thing or another – but these are easily the best all-round package.