Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
360 Reality Audio requires a compatible music service
I have spent a lot of time this year with Sony earbuds and enjoyed those experiences, but the full size over-the-ear experience of the Sony WH-1000XM5 makes it clear that nothing is better than headphones like this. I spent the last couple of months traveling, commuting, working, and relaxing with the headphones and didn't think the XM4 could get better, but Sony found a way.
Key improvements over the WH-1000XM4 include a simpler folding design, a better carrying case, more comfortable earpads, and Bluetooth 5.2 instead of 5.0. My ears like the WH-1000XM5 better with the ability to wear the headphones for hours on end without any discomfort. My recent flights have been heavenly as I escape into my music, podcasts, and movies with the WH-1000XM5 headset.
Eight microphones and two processors
Sony HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1
SBC, AAC, LDAC
Capacitive touch on right headphone, accelerometers for on-ear detection
Battery life (music)
30 hours with ANC, 40 hours with ANC off
Bluetooth 5.2 with multipoint connection support
250 grams (8.82 ounces)
Design and fit
The retail package includes the Sony headphones, a carrying case, an airplane adapter, a 47-inch 3.5mm audio cable, and a USB-A to USB-C cable. Silver and black headphones are available to purchase and this year I tested the silver color option.
All parts of the headphones are covered in matte soft-touch coating. The earcups and top piece of the band resting on your head are synthetic leather that is softer and more comfortable than the material on the last model. The headset is also a few grams lighter than the XM4 headset.
The earcups are longer and more oval-shaped, fitting on my larger ears better than the XM4. This has resulted in me being able to wear the XM5 for a full day with zero discomfort. The earcups only fold down flat and do not rotate in like we saw on the XM4. This makes for an easier process to fold and store the headset while also making the fit a bit more stable.
With a single folding orientation, the carrying case is a bit longer than the XM4 case. It is thin though and I personally like the case design better on the XM5 than on the XM4.
The outside flat surface of the right earcup is touch sensitive and provides consistent performance of the controls. Touch controls let you manage volume, play/pause, skip forward and back, and more. The headset charges via USB-C with the option to connect via a 3.5mm connection.
In order to optimize your use of the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones, you need to download and install the Sony Headphones Connect application to your Android or iOS smartphone. After installation, simply turn on the headphones to initiate pairing with your smartphone.
There are four main tabs in the application; Status, Sound, System, and Services. The Status tab shows the music being played and provides back, play, and forward buttons with a volume slider below the controls. The Sound screen lets you control the listening experience, including an equalizer, connection quality, and 360 Reality. On the System screen you set up your voice assistant and control more settings of your headphones and audio source connection. Spotify Tap and other services are also available. You should explore the smartphone software in order to create an optimal listening experience that works best for you.
While we don't often think about phone calls with headphones optimized for a listening experience, it is more important today than ever with so many people using headphones like this for their remote work communications. The call quality on both ends when using the WH-1000XM5 is outstanding and it's great to have a single headset with long battery life taking on all of my headset duties.
Audio quality is superb, the active noise-canceling creates an environment of isolation and focus, and the customization available means the headset can be set up for your specific needs. It's pretty incredible to hear the change in noise cancellation over the years with no discernible white noise heard on this latest Sony model.
I thought the previous WH-1000XM4 headset was nearly perfect so I was pleasantly surprised by the improved comfort, noise canceling, and call performance of the WH-1000XM5. I don't know what else Sony can do to improve in the next version, but the company did a good job of finding ways to improve a nearly perfect product so I look forward to finding out.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 headset is available now for $399.99. Keep an eye out for deals during the upcoming holiday season and make sure to add this Sony headset to your wish list. You will not be disappointed and will enjoy an amazing world of audio experiences.
Alternatives to consider
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is arguably the best wireless headset available today. If you can't justify the price, there are deals available from time-to-time, here are some options to consider: