Sony’s best noise-cancelling headphones ditch one beloved feature – but it’s for the best

Sony WH-1000XM5 can't fold like their predecessors, but all-new design promises reduced wind noise for noise-cancelling use

Sony WH-1000XM5
(Image credit: Sony)

You are looking at the Sony WH-1000XM5 – the 2022 release of the Japanese giant's top active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones – which introduce a very different design to the much-lauded WH-1000XM4 predecessors, and ditch one beloved feature in the process.

What exactly is this redesign revelation? The WH-1000XM5 do not fold. The earcups do not flip back in upon themselves for neat stowage in their carry case, a la the XM4, introducing a whole new design concept for this generation. But, as we'll come to, this might very well be for the better for this headphones series.

Interestingly, however, the XM5's new included carry case can partially flatten. But this does also mean the new case isn't a hard shell, however, which avid travellers may see as a major downside to this new design.

Sony WH-1000XM5

(Image credit: Sony)

WH-1000MX4 vs WH-1000MX5: What's new?

The WH-1000XM5's all-new design is all about cutting out wind noise by removing unnecessary openings that could cause potential wind tear issues when using ANC. This is why the arms attached to the earcups and the headband are different by design – plus there's what you can't really see, that the on-board microphones, as used for noise-cancelling smarts, are now tucked away into more hidden positions. 

The XM5 also doubles down on the number of microphones compared to the XM4 – there's now eight, up from four in the older over-ears – for not only more advanced ANC (it can choose which microphones to use when and how), but also more advanced beam-forming for improved clarity in voice calls. These headphones promise to be top notch when it comes to voice. 

In terms of overall size and footprint the WH-1000XM5 is almost identical to the XM4, if you can ignore the various nips and tucks of the new design. The new model weighs 250g, which is almost identical to the older over-ears' 254g measure on the scales. 

Sony WH-1000XM5

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony WH-1000XM5: What about sound quality?

If you've ever heard or indeed owned 2020's XM4 over-ears then you'll know that the audio quality of these headphones is second to none. So how can the XM5 improve upon that? Well, Sony has introduced all-new 30mm drivers, which are dome shaped, and claim to deliver even better ANC.  

Not only that, the introduction of real-time noise-cancelling means these headphones are always adapting for your personal needs, without having to dig deep in an app. It just happens constantly, to provide the best possible ANC all of the time. Clever. 

From a technical standpoint the WH-1000XM5 continue to offer Sony's LDAC (higher quality than standard Bluetooth) for Hi-Res Audio support, along with DSEE Extreme audio upscaling to get the utmost out of more heavily compressed tracks. 

Sony WH-1000XM5: Price and release date

The Sony WH-1000XM5 will be available from 20th May 2022, priced £380 in the UK, $399 in the USA, €420 in Europe, and $650 in Australia. A fair chunk of cash more than their predecessors, but the non-folding design, smooth and silent headband adjustment, and improved anti-wind-tear microphones all sound mighty appealing a prospect.

So the WH-1000XM5 are among Sony's pricier products, but if you want the best of the best you've got to pay for it. That said, with Bose's similar Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 now at a cut of the price, and the older Sony WH-1000XM4 also comparable value, you may want to consider your options.

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike has been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and is T3's Tech Editor. As a phones expert he's seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone products (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech aficionado his beat for T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a stone unturned that he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for a full decade, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.