Thanks to early details in a Walmart listing back in June, we knew the debut for Sony’s latest flagship headphones was imminent. Today, the company is making things official. As expected, the WH-1000XM4 is the follow-up to the stellar WH-1000XM3 that arrived in 2018 — and was due for an upgrade. With the M4, Sony is introducing some subtle tweaks to the design alongside several new features to make further improvements to the highly-rated 1000X noise-canceling headphones line.
For the most part, the M4 looks nearly identical to the M3. Sony opted for a soft-touch matte finish this time around, in addition to making changes to the headband cushion, headband curve and the size of the earpads. All of those tweaks make the M4 more comfortable than its predecessor, especially during longer listening sessions. Touch controls still reside on the right side, giving you the ability to play/pause, skip tracks and more with a swipe or tap. The Custom button on the edge of the left earcup offers access to active noise canceling (ANC) settings by default, but you can reassign it to summon Google Assistant or Alexa quickly.
In addition to improvements to both digital audio upscaling and the effectiveness of ANC, Sony has added multi-device connectivity. You can finally connect to multiple devices at once, automatically hoping back and forth between your phone and computer when you receive a call. It also means you can make changes in the Headphones app while you’re working without having to connect to your phone exclusively. The company also added the ability for the M4 to automatically adjust the noise canceling levels based on your location. This feature debuted on the WF-SP800N earbuds back in the spring, and it allows you to manually set locations (like Home and Office) or give the Sony Headphones app permission to learn the spots you visit most. Of course, it requires you to give the software access to your movements, which not everyone will be comfortable with. The M4 will still detect movement (Staying, Walking, Running and Transport) and adjust the ANC based on those customizable presets as well, just like the M3.
Another handy new feature is Speak-to-Chat. This tool detects your voice when you start talking, automatically pauses the audio and activates ambient sound. It’s handy for today’s work-from-home environment as you’re not scrambling for the pause button when someone walks up to you for a chat. Yes, it will resume your music on its own 30 seconds after you’re done speaking, or you can double tap the play/pause control to kick it back on faster. And with wear detection, the M4 automatically pauses when you take it off, too.
Sony is promising 30 hours of battery life again on the M4. That’s the same estimate as the M3, and it’s plenty of time to get you through several work days. With Sony’s quick-charge feature, you’ll get five hours of listening time in 10 minutes. Like its predecessor, the M4 also supports 360 Reality Audio for more immersive sound. If you’re willing to pay for a pricier high-res streaming subscription, of course.
The WH-1000XM4 will arrive in mid-August for $350, but pre-sales start today. The headphones will be available in either black or light grey color options. You won’t have to wait for hour detailed impressions though: you can read our full review right here.