If you are seeking great sound quality from your TWS earbuds, you have to look at Sony’s collection. Nobody knows the taste of the mass market as well as Sony and nobody tunes it so perfectly to appeal to almost every ear. The Sony WF-1000XM4 came out last year and thanks to the component supply shortage, we could get it in India only now. Priced at Rs. 19,990, these earbuds undercut the other two popular flagship earbuds we love — the Apple AirPods Pro and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3.
Hence, the Sony WF-1000XM4 has a big task on its shoulder this time (and a weirdly big name) to help position itself as the de-facto choice for music lovers. And you know what? It does many things the “Sony-way”, and I have no issues in admitting that this is the best overall sounding pair of TWS earbuds I have heard this year. The Sennheiser Momentum TWS 3 is still the king of pristine audio quality but it is very easy to pick up the WF-1000XM4 over all of its rivals. Wonder why? We will discuss in detail.
The previous generation Sony WF-1000XM3 looked too fancy, right from the case to the earbuds. Sony appears to have dialled down things a bit with this generation, and the result is the Sony WF-1000XM4 looking no more attention hungry than the Apple AirPods Pro. Is that good or bad? That’s for you to decide. The design despite being simple looks premium, especially the case with its large classic Sony style LED indicator. The earbuds themselves are among the bigger ones in the market but they fit in well with the ears and the golden element rather makes them look like ear-rings, or ear accessories (fashionistas will find it appealing).
Sadly, I wish I could be all praises for the build quality of the case. It is made of hard plastics that doesn’t feel nice to hold, has distasteful panel gaps, and scratches easily. The case can, in fact, get signs of wear and tear within a few days — not something I would like to see on a premium set of earbuds. That said, the case supports wireless charging, which is a plus point for those having phones with the reverse wireless charging feature.
We loved the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 for its stringent approach to balanced audio performance, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 does it the other way. You buy a pair of Sony headphones for the meaty mids and some low-end oomph — you are getting that with the Sony WF-1000XM4, but in a controlled manner. Out of the box in its standard state of tune, the WF-1000XM4 loves to keep it all clear, detailed and rich. The mid frequencies are rendered beautifully while the highs are on par with the Sennheiser Momentum TWS 3— clear and distortion free.
Unlike the Sennheiser though, the low end has some grunt and that makes all the difference. Hence, whether you are listening to a slow Bollywood number or Hip Hop from beyond the oceans, it always sounds energetic and soulful. I found myself wearing the earbuds for far longer than I have worn any other pair of earbuds.
Helping with that stellar audio performance is the superb noise cancellation system, which is by far the best one I have heard (or not heard, or heard? Forget it!). Sony offers its smart noise cancellation feature that does the noise isolation thing on its own based on the ambient noise. But take manual control and it is easy to figure out the difference. In the strongest noise cancellation setting, the Sony WF-1000XM4 simply cancels the surroundings— stuff like a rattling Window AC, ceiling fan, annoying kids next door, and even barking dogs. And it does all that without creating that annoying in-ear pressure, which is an issue with the Apple AirPods Pro. I left it in the auto mode via the Sony Headphones app and the earbuds made all the hectic decisions of choosing the right mode for me.
Without ANC, the passive noise isolation via the eartips is good too. Although, I prefer staying in the transparency mode during calls for more comfort. Since we are on calls, the microphones on the Sony WF-1000XM4 are not the best but they do the job just fine — the voice reception is not as good as the AirPods Pro.
Sony also bakes support for Spatial audio, or 360 Reality, as Sony likes to call it. Sadly, the support is limited to a few apps, and Apple Music as well as Amazon Music fall out of that list, and hence I could not test it.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is brimming with lots of smart features, some of which actually make the experience a whole lot better, and some needing more work. Case in point is the Adaptive Sound Control feature, which works beautifully, adjusting the levels of noise cancellation based on the ambient sound. In my silent bedroom, it turns up the ANC to isolate the ambient noise from fans and the AC. While walking outdoors, it detects movement and turns on the transparent mode to let you be aware of the surroundings. Of course, you can take manual control when required. Brilliantly executed, well done Sony.
But then there’s the Speak to Chat feature that pauses music even when you cough. I had it off all the time. Scroll through the Sony Headphones app and there’s so much to find useful, and some just useless. For example, you can customize the touch gestures on the earbuds via the app — control voice or ANC, it is your call. The app also does a digital wellbeing kind of thing wherein it stores data from all your registered Sony headphones and shows how much time have you been listening to them. It even shows whether you listen the most while staying or walking! Boy there’s so much to play with! Not even Apple has this much stuff for its AirPods Pro.
Another area where the Sony WF-1000XM4 impresses! Sony claims up to eight hours of playback for the earbuds on a single charge, and with the case, yogurt another 16 hours. My usage in the realistic world was limited to 4 hours at most in a day during my testing and that kept me away from the charger for 8-9 days. Note that I had used it mostly on an iPhone, which means no LDAC codec. Also, I left the Adapter Noise Isolation feature on, which was adjusting the noise cancellation modes on its own.
As for charging, it takes over two hours via the wired way and way more when you put it down on the wireless charging pad.
It is no surprise why critics love the Sony WF-1000XM4 all over the world. It delivers exceptionally where it matters — an awesome audio performance. The WF-1000XM4 earbuds are tuned to sound exactly the way you expect a high-end pair of earphones to sound. There’s superb clarity, strong mids, and some quality low-end grunt along with tasteful bass; a combo that pampers the ears superbly. Factor in the equally superbly tuned noise cancellation system and Sony’s clever range of features to make the most out of the package, and we have got ourselves an easy recommendation. Oh, and don’t forget the tremendous battery life.
So, if you have Rs. 20,000 to spend on a pair of TWS earbuds (or unlimited money), will it be the Sony WF-1000XM4, or should you consider the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 and the Apple AirPods Pro. Compared to the Sennheiser, the Sony pampers most ears with its classic Sony tuning. The AirPods Pro sound lifeless in comparison and the ANC is definitely not as good as the Sony.
Hence, unless you crave for that fine balance the Sennheiser earbuds offer, we recommend the Sony WF-1000XM4. Our top recommendation for the best overall TWS earbuds in India right now, all things considered.
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