Sony WH-1000XM5 Review – Did we go backwards?

Sony WH 1000xm5 and Sony WH 1000xm4

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Current testing methodology is v1.2

Release Date
May 12, 2022
8.8 oz
8.85 x 3.03 x 10.36 in

So, Sony released the WH 1000-XM5s. There was a little bit of hype around these. I feel like there was a lot more hype around the WH1000-XM4s and even the WH1000-XM3s.

Nonetheless, Sony says that they are now worthy of the top spot in active noise-canceling headphones. And for many of you, you will probably agree with that, especially if you are a Sony fan.

As a person that has tended to gravitate towards Bose or even B&W active noise-canceling headsets, actually, even Audio-Technica active canceling noise cans for that matter, the Sony sound signature has always just not been right for me.

So, I was kind of excited with the thought that finally, Sony might have released something that had now leveled up to a point that I would really want to own them.

Also Consider

Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones

ANC is better but sound quality a mixed bag

Price Range: $$$
Brand: Sony
Sony WH 1000xm5 ear cup and pad


The Sony WH-1000XM5 just haven’t progressed their sound signature to a point I feel them worth the money. I won’t be popular for saying it but they just sound a little confused to me, and lost in wooly bottom end.

The Specs

  • Connectivity Technology:  Wireless
  • Noise Control:  Active Noise Cancellation
  • Special Feature:  Fast Charging
  • Fit Type:  Over-Ear
  • Hands-free Calling:  Yes with 4 microphones

What’s in the Box?

  • Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones
  • Wireless Charging Case

Stuff I like

  • Impressive active noise-canceling
  • Light and comfortable

Stuff I like less

  • Expensive
  • Inflated bass
  • Not super sharp mids

Comparable products to consider

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

I feel like the WH-1000xm4 had a tougher sound signature which appealed more. Still too heavy in the bottom end but a better older brother worth considering.

Bose QC45 ANC Headphones
Bose QC45 ANC Headphones

The QC45 treat the overall sound signature with a bit more balance. Super comfort and great battery life. While the active noise-canceling isn’t as good as the Sony WH-1000xm5 the overall sound stage might appeal to people for whom the Sony aren’t their cup of tea.

My QC 35 IIs have died, so it’s time for me to upgrade. I’m looking at the QC 45s. There are many reasons why I want the QC 45s as they are based on the QC 35s.

And in my review of the QC 35s, you’ll see there are a lot of important factors that I’ve found when traveling that the Bose headphones fit. So I’ve had quite a few listens now to the WH1000-XM5s, and my first impression was not as bad as my second impression, but I’m still not sure I’m going to be running out to the store to buy a pair.

The two auditioning sessions that I had for a lengthy period of time really just confirmed for me that the Sony sound signature is definitely not my style.

Build quality.

So, let’s start with the build quality. These have really ticked a lot of boxes that I found in the previous units that didn’t for me. One of those is the comfort and weight of the headphones and the lightness on the ears.

There is certainly something to this build where there is a light and comfortable feel to the headphones. They’re a little bit skinny down, a little bit rounded off to make them a little bit softer, which if you’re traveling on a lot of long haul flights, or any travel for that matter, does make a difference.

Sony WH 1000xm5 ear cups
Sony WH 1000xm5 ear cups

I definitely found that, unlike the WH1000-XM4s that the WH1000-XM5s didn’t make my ears as hot or as warm over a long listening period.

So, the build quality on these is definitely a notch up. The style is attractive enough and innocuous enough that I would be more than happy to wear these out in public. They don’t scream millennial, but they also don’t scream retired businessmen.

They’re somewhere in this neutral space, which for some, may be a bit of a turnoff if you think that making a statement is important, or that headphones should aesthetically match your style, which is fine.

The external microphones have a slight tan coloring to them so that you can see them through the slots. I’m sure that there’s some reason for doing this rather than making them black. And that could be that just the microphones have been left in that state for picking up those external noises. And that is why they still look that color.

Active noise canceling.

The active noise-canceling on these is definitely impressive. And I would have to give them the award after comparing both the QC 45s and the WH1000-XM5s.

Sony WH 1000xm5 buttons
The Sony WH 1000xm5 buttons

I think Sony has really definitely reached the top of the noise-canceling spectrum. It was an incredibly pleasant experience to put these on, push the button, and feel the world melt away around me.

That’s not to say that the QC 45s are not still an amazing active noise-canceling headphone, but the noise canceling from Sony on this particular upgrade is just that slight bit better.

Sound quality

I was going to break this down into bass, mids, and trebles just a little bit.

1. Bass

So I’ll start with the bass. The bass for me is and has always been too inflated on Sony headphones for me. It’s kind of like they take all of the bottom end and the mid-bass, and they just blow it up like an air mattress.

And for me, it just competes too much with the mids and the trebles and creates an unnatural feel to the music.

It doesn’t reach that point where you feel like you’re in a home theater environment. It also doesn’t sound like you’re listening to earbuds. There’s just this kind of bass that overtakes you. And even after listening to it for a while, it’s hard to adjust to that much bass.

For long listening periods, I just find it wears me out a little bit. And I’ve tried different music with it. And there are certainly some genres where it improves, but overall, it’s just too much for me. Now, before the Sony haters jump on top of me, I must say that I’m sure there is a lot about these units that they love and that the sound signature in them is just right.

Sony WH 1000xm5 headband
The Sony WH 1000xm5 headband

2. Mids

The mids on these are a lot better. I definitely think they’re an improvement from the bass, but I don’t know if they’re an improvement from the previous model.

I think the WH1000-XM4s whilst also had inflated bass, had quite nice mids, and I feel like the WH1000-XM5s have kind of lost a little bit, or at least not improved far from where they were on the previous model. It’s not unpleasant.

It’s definitely there. It’s not super sharp. It’s not super fatiguing, but I just feel overall, it’s not quite where it should be for a generation improvement on the current models.

3. Treble

Treble is much the same. There is a lot of overall top-end range, and this doesn’t sound particularly sharp or aggressive. It definitely fits in well with the mids, so that there’s some quite nice balance between the mids and the trebles, but the bottom end, as I say, definitely kind of fills right up to the edge of the treble range. So that it’s hard to sit back and enjoy only that.

Overall sound quality

Review Metrics

Sound Quality: 7
Bass: 7
Mids: 6
Treble: 6
Sound Isolation: 6
Active Noise-Cancelation: 10
Build Quality: 9
Comfort & Fit: 8
Value for Money: 7
Battery Life: 9
Review Metrics Average: 7.60 / 10

One of the things I definitely like about the WH1000-XM5s is that vocals do really stand out and are heroed in many of the tracks that you will listen to. It’s nice not to have that sculpting.

So I wouldn’t say these are V-sculpted, even though I keep talking about how heavy that bottom end is, the vocals do stand out really quite nicely. And this is great if you’re listening to vocal-oriented music.

Sony WH 1000xm5 vs Sony WH 1000xm4
Sony WH 1000xm5 headphones vs Sony WH 1000xm4 headphones

Sound stage

Overall, a sound stage for me just wasn’t really there. The isolation of the instrumentation didn’t feel as good as it could. I felt like everything was kind of all in the same box competing for the same space and the sound stage just didn’t feel open and breezy and airy and let everything set in its place within that whole sound stage.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless Industry Leading Headphones with Auto Noise Canceling Optimizer, Crystal Clear Hands-Free Calling, and Alexa Voice Control, Black
Sony WH-1000XM5


Overall, these are good headphones, but I think for the price, there are probably other options out there.

If your main reason for buying these headphones is the active noise cancellation, then they’re an excellent pick. If the sound is most important to you, then I’m not sure that these would be the first pair of active noise-canceling headphones at this price that I would pick up off the shelf.

I’m not saying that Bose QC 45 range is the most impressive audio file headphone either because, with any active noise-canceling headphone, there’s compromise involved, unfortunately. But I feel for this price and this sound quality, I’m not sure that these would be my first pick.

Sony WH 1000xm5 ear cups
Build Quality
Sound Quality
Active Noise Cancelling
Sound Stage

Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.

Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.

This post was last updated on 2023-09-27 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.

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3 thoughts on “Sony WH-1000XM5 Review – Did we go backwards?”

  1. I agree with you. All of my friends claimed that they think XM5 is better in their opinion. Myself, who is a Sony fan, state that XM5 is a disappoint successor to XM4. Sound is thinner, and more bass, which suit the taste more people. The ergonomic is also worse with the up-fold headcup. The Noise Cancelling did have improve, but it is not enough for a much more release price tag compare to XM4

  2. I also agree. I was able to compare the XM5s and XM4s plus Sony’s “extra bass” cheaper model with the equivalent Bose models at the store and I settled on the Bose 700s. I did not like the Sonys at all. To my mind their ANC just seemed to increase the bass and they were noticeably hotter on my head. I note Bose is American. I have had my American Astro A40 gaming cans for 11 years.

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