Sony announces WH-1000XM5 headphones with a new design and even more reasonable noise cancellation.
It doesn’t come as a wonder after recent leaks, but today, Sony revealed its latest flagship noise-canceling headphones, the WH-1000XM5. They cost $399.99, a boost from the prior 1000XM4s, and are on sale on May 20th.
Sony says it contains cranked up its already-fantastic noise cancellation to new highs by adding a second processor to the new headphones. According to the society’s press release, the improvements are most prominent in “mid-to high-frequency noise.” That includes things like human voices and ordinary city street noise.
The 1000XM5s have a layout that’s quite different from their recent predecessors. Sony has run for a sleeker look, exchanging to a stem-style slider and pushing the microphones (there are now eight) around the periphery of the ear cups. The 1000XM5s also operate a new type of synthetic leather on the headband, thinner than prior models. However, controls haven’t altered: you still control audio with tap and swipe motions, and there’s a physical switch for swapping between ANC and ambient modes.
The internal components have also altered. In turn, Sony has left the 40-millimeter drivers of the 1000XM4s for new 30-millimeter drivers that sound more natural and “improve sound clarity and bass reproduction.” One of the objections of the 1000XM4s was their at-times muddy bass, so it seems Sony has performed to address that with the new model.
They come in black or off-white. Sony also highlights enhanced voice call quality made possible by four beamforming mics and AI noise lowering algorithms. All the signature Sony features — 360 Reality Audio, LDAC, DSEE Extreme upscaling, Speak to Chat, and so on — have made their course to the 1000XM5s.
These headphones don’t do anything new compared to the WH-1000XM4s, and Sony plans to continue selling. But the company appears confident that they exceed past 1000X-series headphones in critical things like sound quality, noise cancellation, and voice calls.
Noise Cancellation: What precisely is it?
If you’ve ever shopped for headsets or headphones, we bet you’ve heard the term “noise cancellation” used once or twice. We can also bet that you weren’t always quite sure what it meant. It’s not your fault: Depending on the context, noise cancellation can mean several things, and companies aren’t exactly consistent in how they use the term. Let’s try to unravel the riddle.
First off, there are two expansive types of noise cancellation – one in the microphone(s) and one in the headphones themselves. The first type allows the person on the other end of the line to hear your voice instead of the stir in the bar you’re calling from. The second type shields you – the wearer – so that you aren’t troubled by that same bar noise.
Noise Cancellation in the Microphone
It doesn’t benefit you directly. Instead, it helps others hear you better. Noise-canceling microphones are built to pick up your voice while ignoring the background noise. We’ve already covered noise-canceling microphones in an earlier post.
This noise cancellation can be accomplished in different ways, including digital signal processing, microphone shape and positioning, and other tech words. Some headsets even come with a unique windsock that eliminates all wind noise.
More advanced headsets use multiple mics to take noise cancellation up a notch. How? In a nutshell, the two mics keep some distance between them, representing one is closer to your mouth than the other. So while the first one picks up your voice, the other one picks up more of the surrounding noise. Then, combined with some digital algorithms, they “subtract” the surrounding noise from the equation, leaving just your voice. It may sound like voodoo, but it performs.
Companies use different branding for their dual-mic noise cancellation. Jabra calls their Noise Blackout™, for example. However, the basic principle is that your voice gets the green light while the background noise stops at the door.
So if you don’t want to be the friend who always sounds like they’re in a breeze tunnel or on the set of an action movie, a headset with noise-canceling microphones might be for you.
Noise Cancellation in the Headphones
This is what most of us tend to think of when we hear the words “noise-canceling headphones.” It helps the wearer drown out ambient noise and focus on talking to someone or listening to music. For example, people wear these headsets on long flights to tune out screaming babies and airplane engine noise.
It guides noise cancellation achieved by the headset’s physical features like design and materials. It’s just a fancy term to describe the effect you get from simply wearing the headset. Those bulky earmuffs you see construction workers wearing? Yup: passive noise cancellation.
Passive noise cancellation is most reasonable for filtering out weird, high-frequency sounds, like your colleague Bob who won’t stop talking excitedly about the last episode of his favorite TV show. While this is typically used in music headphones, some new office headsets are designed to cover your ears and block external sounds entirely. These can be a godsend if you work in a busy open office!
Active Noise Cancellation
Active noise cancellation employs more advanced technology to counter noise actively. Basically, it detects and analyzes the sound pattern of incoming noise and then generates a mirror “anti-noise” signal to cancel it out. The result is that you hear a drastically reduced level of noise.
This type of noise cancellation works best for steady, low-frequency sounds, like ceiling fans, engine noise, or colleague Bob who won’t stop humming the theme tune from his favorite TV show. You usually find active noise cancellation in stereo headsets, which have the chance to block both of your ears and truly eliminate noise.