Sony WH 1000XM4 Review: WORTH IT in 2024?

Odi Productions May 14, 2024
150 People Read
Holding Sony WH 1000XM4 headphones in hand

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. 

In this article, I'm going to share my HONEST Sony WH 1000XM4 review for those who are wondering whether they are still WORTH IT in 2024. These were originally released in August 2020, but continue to be a best-seller to this day despite the newer XM5 being introduced.

For this review, I have put hundreds of hours into testing my own personal pair of Sony WH-1000XM4 throughout the years, so I'm very familiar with how they sound and operate on a daily basis. I'll go over comfort, battery life, noise cancelling performance, sound quality, and overall value.

I'll be sharing my critical opinion with 10 years of experience as a professional music producer, audio engineer, and tech journalist.

Let's dive right in!



Should you buy the Sony WH 1000XM4?

Sony WH 1000XM4 headphones in black laying flat on desk

Buy if

  • You want one of the best overall values for over-ear noise cancelling headphones under $300 today.

  • You prioritize active noise cancelling performance and comfort over pure sound quality, which is still quite good.

  • You want to save over $100+ from the newer XM5 model, which is arguably only marginally better.

DON'T Buy if

  • Sound quality is your #1 priority over noise cancelling performance and comfort.

  • You'd prefer the convenience and comfort of truly wireless earbuds (like AirPods Pro 2) over bulky over-ear headphones.


Sony WH 1000XM4 Pros and Cons

Holding earcup of Sony WH-1000XM4 in hand

Pros

  • Best noise cancelling performance

  • Very comfortable

  • Very good sound quality

  • 30 hours battery life

  • Great value due to being older model

Cons

  • Slightly muddy upper bass & lower mids

  • Needs more sub-bass extension

  • Veiled treble, lacks sparkle and airiness

  • Intimate soundstage lacks width and depth


Sony WH 1000XM4 Price

At the time of this writing, the Sony WH 1000XM4 are priced at $348 retail, but available on Amazon below for as low as $248 brand new.

Want to save up to an additional $33? Order the Renewed Version below which is currently around $215.

Order the Sony WH1000XM4 for the LOWEST PRICE AVAILABLE (Do NOT pay retail): 

Disclosure: These links may provide a discount and in return, give us a commission in order to run the website 🙂


Sony WH 1000XM4 Comfort: 4.5 / 5

Pressing on Sony WH 1000XM4 leather earpad cushion

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is one of the most comfortable over-ear headphones that I have ever tested.

Upon putting them on my head, my first impression was that the leather earpad cushions and headband material felt very plush and forgiving.

Aside from the plush materials, I think the light weight of the headphones is one of the biggest factors.

Sony WH 1000XM4 weighing 251.6 grams on scale

Weighing just 251.6 grams on my scale, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is the lightest full-sized over-ear headphones that I have tested to date.

As a frame of reference, the Apple AirPods Max weighed in at 387.8 grams, or 54% heavier than the Sony WH-1000XM4!

The only reason this doesn't receive a perfect score is because over-ear headphones will make your ears warm within 1-2 hours, as compared to something like wireless earbuds.


Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 4.5 / 5

Sony WH-1000XM4 folded inside of included hardshell case

Features

The Sony WH-1000XM4 has almost all the features you'd want in a headphone including:

  • Bluetooth Wireless

  • Adaptive Noise Cancelling

  • "Ambient Sound" aka Transparency Mode

  • Built-in microphones for phone calls

  • Dedicated smartphone app with EQ

  • Foldable inside of included hardshell case

The only thing missing from this list would be Dolby Atmos or Spatial Audio like on the newer headphones such as AirPods Max and Beats Studio Pro.

Aside from that, switching between Apple devices isn't as seamless as the AirPods line, but that's really splitting hairs.

Looks

Personally, I don't think the WH-1000XM4 is a bad looking headphone, but I do think it has a bulky look when wearing it on head.

The issue is that the earcups are rather blocky and jut out too much from the side of your head.

I do like the understated matte black finish on my pair, along with the subtle bronze accents of the Sony logo.

Overall, it isn't an offensive design by any means, but not the most fashionable when worn due to the size.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Battery Life

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is rated at 30 hours of battery life on a full charge, which puts it near the top of the class for over-ear noise cancelling headphones.

30 hours is longer than competitors like the AirPods Max, but falls short of the Sennheiser Momentum 4, which boasts an absurd 60 hours on a single charge.

The newer Beats Studio Pro is also rated at a longer 40 hours of battery life.

Nevertheless, 30 hours is above average battery life and should not require a charge very often, perhaps once per week on average for most users.

Sony WH 1000XM4 Noise Cancelling performance

The WH-1000XM4 has very good adaptive noise cancelling performance, only outdone by newer entrants like the XM5 and Bose headphones.

Although there are many competitors when it comes to active noise cancelling these days, I find the most effective brands to be Sony and Bose in this arena.

The WH-1000XM4 has an "Adaptive Noise Cancelling" that utilizes microphones on the earcups to pick up and adapt to exterior noise as needed.

I found this to be extremely effective, and is a boon for airplane travel and other noisy environments.

In addition to extremely effective noise cancelling, there is also an "Ambient mode" which functions as a Transparency mode to hear your surroundings, utilizing the same mics.

Lastly, the ability to completely turn off both the noise cancelling and transparency modes completely is very much welcomed.


Does the Sony WH 1000XM4 have good sound quality?

Side view of Sony WH-1000XM4 laying flat on desk

The Sony WH-1000XM4 does indeed have very good sound quality, but it's not quite perfect.

So far, these headphones have scored nearly perfect on every category including comfort and noise cancelling performance especially, but the sound quality is the one where we can be a little more critical.

To the average listener, the sound quality should be more than good enough to impress, and probably be happy with in blissful ignorance.

It's when comparing these back-to-back with its wireless competitors like the Sennheiser Momentum 4 that you hear the shortcomings exposed quite quickly.

The Momentum 4's for example, have much airier, sparkling vocals that instantly makes the WH-1000XM4 sound duller and more veiled in the treble region especially.

The plus side to this tapered-off treble is smoothness with no sibilance.

On the other end of the frequency spectrum, the Momentum 4 also exposes the lack of sub-bass extension in the Sony's.

The Sony's have an emphasis on the upper bass region that does create some muddiness in the lower mids.

If I could tune the stock sound signature myself, I'd reduce the upper bass and add that to the sub-bass for a more balanced sound.

I would still classify the overall sound signature of the Sony WH-1000XM4 as mostly neutral with a touch of warmth, but not as resolving as true audiophile headphones.

The other flaw to these would be a narrow and intimate soundstage, which can work for some genres but lacks the openness, depth, and width of a proper soundstage.

This gives the impression of a fairly flat and "2D" sound.

Even wireless earbuds like the AirPods Pro 2 have a wider soundstage and a tad more depth that sounds more "3D".

Vocals and instruments tend to be in your face, which is actually impressive at first listen, but can be a bit fatiguing and not as measured over time.

Overall, most people would have zero complaints with the Sony WH-1000XM4 in the sound quality department, that is until you hear the competition these days.

Audiophiles will know that "the devil is in the details".

Sony WH 1000XM4 Wireless Sound Quality: 7.9 / 10


Is the Sony WH-1000XM4 worth it?

Sony WH-1000XM4 in black

The Sony WH 1000XM4 is now considered an "older" model with the arrival of the newer XM5 in May 2022, and presents an intriguing option at the sub-$300 range today.

Current prices actually put it closer to around $250 brand new, which is almost $150 cheaper than the XM5 that is still going for just under $400.

As an overall package, this is a seriously strong contender. I'd also recommend taking a look at the newer Beats Studio Pro which can be found for around $250 and sometimes even as low as $180.

The strengths would be best-in-class active noise cancelling performance, great comfort, battery life, and good sound quality.

The drawbacks to consider would be that there are better sounding competitors today such as the Sennheiser Momentum 4, which also happens to have twice the battery life.

Overall, I don't think you can go wrong with picking up a pair of the WH-1000XM4 today, and I'd personally save the $150 over the newer XM5 if I was seeking the better value.

Value: 4.0 / 5


Scoring Breakdown

Comfort: 4.5 / 5

Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 4.5 / 5

Sound Quality: 7.9 / 10

Value: 4.0 / 5

Total: 20.9 / 25

Our Rating: 8.4 / 10


At the time of this writing, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are priced at $348 retail, but available on Amazon below for as low as $248 brand new.

Want to save up to an additional $33? Order the Renewed Version below which is currently around $215.

Order the Beats Studio 3 Wireless for the LOWEST PRICE AVAILABLE (Do NOT pay retail): 

Disclosure: These links may provide a discount and in return, give us a commission in order to run the website 🙂


Frequently Asked Questions

Is there anything better than the Sony WH-1000XM4?

Yes, there are headphones like the Sennheiser Momentum 4 that are better in categories like sound quality and battery life. But for the price, it is hard to find a better overall value when factoring in noise cancelling performance, comfort, and battery life.

Is the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones discontinued?

No, at the time of this writing in 2024, the Sony WH-1000XM4 has not been officially discontinued and is still being manufactured, despite the arrival of the newer WH-1000XM5.

Is the Sony WH 1000XM4 better than Bose headphones like the QuietComfort series?

Having owned both the Sony WH1000-XM4 and Bose QuietComfort 35 II, I personally think the Sony headphones have equal noise cancelling performance, but are better in every other category. Bose's sound quality is not as impressive to me as Sony headphones.


How We Tested and Our Methodology

RecordingNOW.com is a 100% independent publisher with over 10 years of experience testing and reviewing consumer electronics and headphones.

We currently purchase the products we test with our own money, and are not paid by any company or manufacturer to influence our opinions or decisions.

After purchasing the product, we conduct up to hundreds of hours of detailed hands-on testing in a controlled, acoustically-treated environment.

ODi Productions is our resident expert and author of this article, with 10 years of experience as a professional music producer, tech journalist, and audiophile.


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Disclosure:  Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase.