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Updated: 27 Jun 2022

Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones reviewed: can they really be worth £379?

We've tested Sony’s latest flagship noise-cancelling headphones which claim to have ‘industry-leading’ noise cancelling. Find out if they raise the bar compared to the previous version and rivals from JBL and Bose.
Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones

Sony has been making waves with its popular range of noise-cancelling headphones for years now. The latest Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones aim to turn up the heat on rivals such as Bose even further. But can they really be worth £379? To find out, our professional listening panel and expert lab compared them directly against their rivals and predecessors.

Bose’s once-dominant position with its over-ear headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 45 and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 has been steadily eroded since 2018 when Sony launched its WH-1000XM3 headphones.

Four years and two versions later, Sony is promising its new WH-1000XM5 headphones offer even better active noise cancelling, providing peace from unwanted background sounds.

Just want to know how they perform? Click through to our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review for the definitive verdict from our professional lab on whether they deliver.

Alternatively, keep reading to see how they compare against their closest rivals and why now is a great time to bag a bargain on noise-cancelling headphones.


We lab test all headphones, so you can be sure of picking up a set to suit your ears. See the best headphones for 2022.


Sony WH-1000XM5 key features

In terms of looks, at first glance the WH-1000XM5 headphones look pretty similar to their WH-1000XM3 and WH-1000XM4 predecessors. However, they have undergone a subtle design update, with a slightly thinner headband and even more minimalist design.

Touch-sensitive buttons on the flat surfaces of the earcups continue to be the main method of control, with a small collection of physical buttons, including those for power and Bluetooth pairing to connect others devices.

The headphones fold flat to fit in the supplied hard carry case. The included 3.5mm detachable cable lets you plug the headphones directly into another device, letting you continue listening if the battery runs flat (you might need an adaptor if your device lacks a 3.5mm audio socket).

The active noise cancelling continues to be the principal selling point of the WH-1000XM5. Sony appears to be particularly proud of this latest version, claiming it lets you hear ‘your world, nothing else’ with ‘industry-leading noise cancelling’ for ‘distraction-free listening’. See our full WH-1000XM5 review to find out if Sony delivers on these bold claims.

The accompanying Sony Headphones Connect app lets you adjust the noise cancelling to suit your preferences. The app also lets you tinker with a fully-fledged equaliser to adapt the sound quality to your tastes, including the levels of treble and bass. Unlike headphones from some brands, such as Apple and Samsung, you don’t need to worry if you have an Apple or Android device – all Sony headphones support both.

Sony WH-1000XM5 vs Sony WH-1000XM4: key features compared

With the WH-1000XM4 headphones continuing to be sold alongside the new WH-1000XM5 set, the biggest difference between the two is the price.

 

Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony WH-1000XM4

RRP

£379

£279

Claimed battery life (with noise cancelling)

Up to 30 hours

Up to 30 hours

Noise cancelling 

Active noise cancelling with Auto NC Optimizer that optimises in real time to your wearing conditions and local environment

Active noise cancelling that adapts in real time to a range of acoustic environments

Weight

249g

251g

Connectivity

Bluetooth 5.2

Bluetooth 5.0

Travel case

Included

Included

Voice assistant control

Yes – Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa

Yes – Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa

As you can see, based on the specs there seems to be very little difference between the WH-1000XM5s and 2020’s WH-1000XM4s, bar the price.

The WH-1000XM5 therefore needs a big step up in its noise cancelling or sound quality – or the comfort from the subtle redesign – to justify the higher price.

See our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review to find out if our experts think the headphones are worth it.

When can I buy Sony's WH-1000XM5?

The Sony WH-1000XM5s are available now for £379 from major online retailers including Amazon UK, Argos, Currys, John Lewis, Richer Sounds and Very.

Since these headphones are new, you're unlikely to find them much cheaper than the list price, but we'll update this table with any deals as they appear.

Cheaper alternatives to the Sony WH-1000XM5

When it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, the big players are Sony and Bose, along with Apple's £469 Apple AirPods Max. Here are some rivals worth shortlisting...

Sony WH-1000XM4 (around £279)

When a manufacturer launches a new model, it's often a good time to grab the previous generation at a discounted price. 

As we detailed earlier, the WH-1000XM4 headphones certainly shouldn’t be thought of as feature-light compared to the new WH-10000XM5 version.

They come with a smartphone app that offers a huge array of customisation options. The WH-1000XM4 also has the same claimed battery life for noise-cancelling as the latest WH-1000XM5 of up to 30 hours, which should mean only weekly charging for most people.

Find out how the claimed battery life fared in our test and whether these headphones are a good alternatives to the new WH-1000XM5 in our comprehensive Sony WH-1000XM4 review.

Bose QuietComfort 45 (around £319)

Launched late last year, the Bose QuietComfort 45 are the successors to the incredibly popular Bose QuietComfort 35 II and feature the same classic Bose design. While cheaper than Sony’s latest WH-1000XM5s, however, they’re still pretty pricey.

Unlike the touch controls on Sony’s range, these feature physical buttons and a more traditional design.

But is Bose’s noise-cancelling technology a match for Sony’s, and how is the sound quality? Find out who comes out on top in our Bose QuietComfort 45 review.

Also check out Bose’s other flagship over-ear pair from 2019 in our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review to see which fares best.

JBL Live 650BTNC (from £79)

If you’re searching for an over-ear noise-cancelling pair of headphones but are on a budget, now is the perfect time to buy this former flagship pair from JBL. 

JBL aims to undercut the premium-priced brands on price, and while the Live 650BTNC originally launched at £180, it’s now available for as low as half that price.

Richer Sounds is currently selling the JBL Live 650BTNC for just £79. However, there is very limited stock and you can by them in-store only, so you'll need to use the website's stock checker to find out if there are any near you.

It claims to offer similar battery life, noise-cancelling and sound-quality credentials to match more expensive models – find out whether our experts agree in our thorough JBL Live 650BTN review.