If there’s any True Wireless Earbud line that truly gets a lot of hype, it’s none other than the Sony WF-1000XM series. Its popularity makes perfect sense.
Sure, the Apple AirPods were considered game-changers when they came out. After all, everyone was still using wired variations before them. The only real wireless options we had either came in the form of bulkier headphones, wireless earbuds with wires behind our necks, or one-eared Bluetooth earpieces engineered specifically for calls.
Of course, the release of this form factor also spawned a wave of critics.
They believed that something this compact would never really catch on because of the immaturity of Bluetooth technology, how easy it is to lose an earbud, and a myriad of other reasons.
Well, the AirPods sold like hotcakes – so all of those statements, while still valid, didn’t take away from the product’s marketability. We have Apple to thank for that, as well as for making the TWS a standard.
Soon after the AirPods’ unrivaled success, hundreds of brands began churning out their own TWS variations meant to undercut Apple but most of these just didn’t deliver the same quality in terms of sound, ease of use, connectivity, and overall user experience.
Those who did come close, such as the first-gen Samsung Galaxy Buds, still had to ensure that their product was lower in price. Most could say that the average person wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between first-gen TWS products from big tech companies and the AirPods upon listening to them.
However, the clout of having an Apple product in your ear was just something a lot of people perceived to be worth the extra money.
So for a while, there wasn’t enough distinction in the premium mainstream TWS market and it became a race to see who could release the cheapest product instead – far out of the reach of higher-end manufacturers.
As tech and audio nerds thirsting for further development, it was admittedly a slow time. However, a fatal flaw soon appeared in the industry in general and it was a shortcoming that even the highly-regarded AirPods suffered from.
The Fatal Flaw of TWS: Passive Noise Isolation
Due to their compact size and lightweight construction, TWS buds weren’t highly recommended for use in crowded areas, in the plane, or wherever there was a lot of ambient noise.
Most people shifted to their noise-canceling headphones for these purposes, with the top-of-mind choices being the legendary Bose QuietComfort line or Sony’s WH-1000XM series.
So if you were going to any of these places, you needed to bring a pair of headphones with you if quiet time is what you were looking for. That just made people question the long-term viability of owning these little earbuds.
At the end of the day, they can’t be your travel go-tos due to their shortcomings.
The Release of TWS Earbuds with ANC
One company was unwilling to settle with that belief.
Sony had already done a stellar job developing extremely effective noise canceling in the headphone WH-1000XM3 released in 2018. It was seen by the public as a worthy competitor to the Bose line, especially when it also harbored youthful aesthetics not often related to the latter brand.
Why not carry over the same noise-canceling algorithms to their TWS earbuds?
And so, the Sony WF-1000XM3 was released with Active Noise Canceling – the very first of its kind.
It delivered awesome sound completely customizable via a mobile application’s EQ panel, as well as varying levels of ANC. To top it all off, it managed to mute a lot of the sounds around the user.
Alright, we’ll admit it wasn’t perfect. Carrying over such technologies meant that the XM3s were humongous. As such, there were a lot of returns from customers who couldn’t secure a comfortable fit or whose ears couldn’t keep the buds in for prolonged amounts of time.
The ANC, while amazing for a TWS earbud, was still nowhere in the leagues of what you’d get with over-ear headphones. But that’s to be expected since the latter items not only have more hardware onboard but also physical cups that cover one’s ears.
But besides those points, the XM3 proved to the TWS earbud industry that you can fit ANC into something that compact. And to top it all off, the technology works.
This led to all the other premium brands taking notice. It was a distinguishing feature that drew the line between cheaper and more expensive earbuds. Even Apple couldn’t resist installing the feature into the AirPods Pro, their higher-end model.
Now, we see that Active Noise Cancellation has been a standard feature in EVERY pair of TWS earbuds – save for the extreme-low-budget varieties. Of course, these technologies have been implanted to different lengths (not all ANCs are created equal) but it has become the standard nonetheless.
While Sony did launch a successor that attempted to address all of the XM3’s issues, it wasn’t nearly as revolutionary. All the high-end brands nowadays have released some form of TWS earbud – and it would be a mistake to still crown Sony as the king of the hill.
You’d still heavily recommend the XM4s to your friends. There’s no doubt about that but you’d also have to give them a heads up on the less-prominent-but-still-present comfort issues, as well as what competitors have on offer.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 – Pegged by Sony as the Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds
Now, after months of teasing, the release of the Sony WF-1000XM5 was finally announced.
With a catchy tagline “the best silence drops,” it’s clear that the focus of the brand is to improve the Active Noise Cancellation and make it class-leading again.
That means it’s set to go face-to-face with arguably the top dog in that field right now, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and that’s not an easy wall to overcome.
Another improvement on the horizon is the larger 8.4mm drivers. When paired with software improvements such as DSEE Extreme Support and Hi-Res audio, this should help project a fuller sound than ever into your ears – especially with the right tuning.
However, a valid concern with these thicker components is the size and resulting wearing comfort. Despite more heavily-bolstered hardware, other information points toward the Sony WF-1000XM5 weighing just 5.9 grams per earbud. That’s 1.4 grams less than its predecessor!
The case also goes on a 2-gram diet.
In addition, the battery life is projected to be bumped up to 24 hours. Sure, the XM4 was also advertised with the same longevity of 8 hours per use and 16 hours in the case, but we may see increases in one-use longevity.
Perhaps we estimate 10 hours of use and 14 hours worth of juice in the case?
Other than those, expected developments include revamped Bluetooth 5.3 technology, fast-charging, among other things. What we haven’t heard anything about yet are the IP rating and other tidbits.
With this, we’re hoping Sony maximizes the opportunity to return to the top spot in this industry. Sure, the competition is fiercer than ever, but you could also consider them to be a major player anyways.
We’ll be sure to keep you posted on any developments regarding this matter.
As someone who is very passionate about all things tech, Nath loves breaking concepts down into simple terms for even beginners to understand. In his free time, he travels, indulges in his automotive hobbies, or simply looks for new jams to listen to.
This post was last updated on 2023-12-05 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.