Sony WH-1000XM4: The Ultimate Review

Simply put, fantastic

What makes a great set of headphones? It’s a question that doesn’t come lightly—nor with a single answer. Everyone has their own wants when it comes to the perfect recipe for “audius maximus.” Perhaps Bluetooth is a bonus, multi-user support is a must-have, or an elegant design with a large battery is what you’re looking for. Or maybe you’d like a pair of headphones with a reasonable name (looking at you there, Sony.)

After 10 years of service, my Bose QuietComfort 15s were in need of a replacement. (Bose, image courtesy of

With the holidays approaching, I knew that I’d want to put a new set of over-the-ear headphones on my list with most, if not all, of the aforementioned features to deliver the latest and greatest. After all, my beloved Bose QuietComfort 15s were ten years old—the cups deteriorating, the battery life abysmal and the design outdated. I’d used them just about everywhere, too: playing the piano, listening to music, and even mowing the lawn. It knew it was time to begin the hunt for the perfect set of headphones, especially as I realized how essential they could be in my tech setup for remote learning.

Enter the Sony WH-1000XM4. Priced at $349, these headphones check all the boxes off, and then some. If you’re looking for a great set of a premium device with the latest and greatest, look no further—you’ve found them.

The Design

Looks good, feels good

Sony delivers the goods when it comes to design on the XM4s (which is how I’ll refer to them from now on until the very end.) While one may argue they look similar to the 25 other headphones that the multimedia company offers, their sleek design stands out from its nearest competitors including Bose’s 700 Series headphones and the steeply priced Apple AirPods Max. With a matte and plastic design, the headphones deliver a neutral look that blend elegantly with any clothing style.

Coming in black, blue, and silver, the XM4s deliver an elegant design with exceptional sound quality from Sony. (Sony)

Traditional buttons have fallen by the wayside as a touch control panel on the right earcup serves for all its functions—with the exception, however, of one customizable and one power button. Featured in black, blue, and silver, the design stands out in three gorgeous colors with accents around the ports and the Sony logo. The earcup cushions received an upgrade from the previous XM3 generation, providing a softer feel for ears as they listen to the likes of Dave Matthews Band and Thomas Newman (because we all listen to Thomas Newman … no, just me?)

Although they are, for the most part stunning, it’s worth mentioning that at certain adjustments, the headband causes some head pain, in addition to the fingerprints that constantly appear on the plastic shell, giving it a greasy appearance. However, they are a small blip in lieu of everything that functions extremely well for the headphones.

The Features

Loaded with upgrades

When the headphones are connected, users can customize settings as they please with the HeadphonesConnect app from Sony. (Basil Iacampo)

Where the XM4s succeed in design, they are also triumphant in the amount of features they have, many of which are controllable through the Sony HeadphonesConnect app. While rough around the edges, the software allows the listener to tune the features as they please, granting endless customization while also providing frequent headphone updates. For me, I use the app to check on the headphone status, view battery percentage, and adjust noise cancellation as needed.

One of the headlining features for the device is multi-device support, which comes after four generations of the WH-1000 lineup. By connecting two devices simultaneously via Bluetooth, users can begin listening on their phone before opening their laptop with a seamless transition of music. This fared especially well with me as I often listen to tunes on both my Mac and iPhone—and by including the feature it proves that it was a hit and request with others, too. It also holds a leg up on the traditional 3.5mm headphone input method, which the device also includes, allowing for head nods and dance sessions anytime, anywhere.

What has taken me by surprise, however, is the battery life. Since receiving the headphones more than a month ago, I haven’t needed to charge the battery at all and it is still close to 30% charged. Sony themselves claim the battery lasts thirty hours or so—phenomenal for headphones this size with these many capabilities. Compared to my Bose QuietComforts, which run on AAA batteries, this is a welcome change that provides endless hours of listening to music. 

The Sound

Clean and crisp

It comes with no surprise, though, that the sound is the most important part of the device. After all, this is a review about headphones—I’d have to mention it at some point. While I cannot claim to be an audiophile that obsesses over every detail (or else this review wouldn’t meet the word count!), the XM4s have good sound—dare I say excellent—that is recognizable at virtually every level of listener. It’s not earth-shattering by any means, but compared to what a typical person may have (AirPods or a small Bluetooth speaker,) it sounds miles ahead.

The XM4s have incredible sound. I’d say more, but take my word for it; they totally rock! (Wikimedia Commons)

Using an effective balance of lows, mids and highs, the device provides an acute sense of sound that reaches unthinkable heights. This combination of sound and noise cancellation truly transports the listener to be in the moment (in fact, as I’m tying these words, I have the headphones on. I can’t hear the keyboard clicks. Put that in perspective!) 

The XM4s also come with neat, yet gimmicky tricks, such as placing a hand over the right ear cup to immediately hear surroundings and immediately pausing music when it detects the wearer is speaking. What makes these features work, however, is their optional nature. Use them or not, and you’ll still have a great listening experience.

One feature that I’ve absolutely loved is in-ear detection, which automatically pauses music the second the headphones are removed, as well as the constant noise cancellation adjustment that takes place as you move around a room. While that may be two things I love (I’ll never tell!), it’s okay, because it symbolizes just how great these headphones are.

The Recommendation

Should you buy them?

The XM4s look great on anyone; even on this guy’s head! Just one more reason to purchase these headphones. (DigitalTrends)

The Sony WH-1000XM4s deliver an amazing experience in a package that only costs $349 when compared to the higher-price competition. With a stunning design, bleeding-edge features and a great overall sound experience, these headphones are a no-brainer from the just-getting-started Zoomers to audiophiles, house-dancers and head-bangers. If you’re in the market for a new device to listen to music, purchase the XM4s and you won’t be disappointed. They are the all-around best option for virtually everyone that covers all the bases.

Simply put, they’re fantastic.