Sony Reckons Its Latest Mark 5 Earbuds Have the Best Noise Cancelling, so We Tried Them on a Plane

Sony Reckons Its Latest Mark 5 Earbuds Have the Best Noise Cancelling, so We Tried Them on a Plane

Sony has just announced the WF-1000XM5 earbuds, its latest in-ear headphones that come with the promise of “the best noise-cancelling”. Sony’s tried true wireless many times over the years, and in many forms, too. As a lover of the over-head counterparts of these bad boys, the WH-1000XM5s, and someone yet to use any of the in-ear offerings from Sony, I was very keen to try the WF-1000XM5s. But while I’m impressed, I won’t be ditching the Apple AirPods Pro 2s for them just yet.

Heading overseas about 48 hours before the embargo on the review was up, I thought I’d test this “best noise-cancelling ever” claim out in the loudest environment I could think of – a plane. But before I left, I had to do a little bit of housekeeping at home, such as connecting the WF-1000XM5s to my phone, choosing the appropriate tips (they come with medium fitted, but extra small, small, and large are also provided in the box), and charging them up fully. I then didn’t put them back in my ears until my plane was about to take off.

Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless Earbuds

Announced today, the WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless Earbuds (also known as the Mark 5) are marketed by Sony as “For the music” – and they’re not wrong, music sounds brilliant (more on that soon).

They look a little different to their predecessors, the WF-1000XM4s, and they’re also lighter (5.9 grams), smaller, smarter, and Sony reckons more comfortable.

They pack two new processors, new driver, plus new ear tips. The ear tips, while feeling more premium than just rubber, are a squishy foam that is apparently more effective at cleaning your ears than a cotton tip. Ew. But the memory foam-like tips make them quite comfortable.

Previously, Sony’s WF range had two sensors per earpiece, now, that’s upped to three (there’s an external mic, and a second internal one). These capture ambient sound and then trap it, essentially. If you had to reduce that to a number, Sony would tell you it’s a 20 per cent improvement over the WF-1000XM4s.

The Mark 4s came out in early 2021. At the time, we basically said the noise cancelling was unlike anything we had heard (or not heard) before. Sony had set the new standard. And two years later, that standard has been matched by its competitors – so while the Mark 5s have exceptional noise cancelling capabilities, they have to be a bit more than just that to keep consumers keen.

Blocking plane sounds

Upon pushing the buds into my ears, I felt an almost vacuum-like sensation suck me in – the plane went quiet and all I could hear was my saliva as my tongue pushing the chewing gum around. Nothing else. The Mark 5s are very good at muting deeper frequencies. Throughout the 10-hour flight, the plane sounds got deeper, and I had no idea just how much the buds were blocking out until I took one out.

I managed to sleep with them still corked in my ear, without anything playing through. They’re more effective than the Loop earplugs I wear at concerts when it comes to blocking out sound, but you wouldn’t use these just for that – it would be a waste. Plus, they’re far too heavy. But it just goes to show how good they are. The buds were too uncomfortable to lay on, so I placed my ear below the pillow. Four hours later, I woke up not in pain even remotely from the WF-1000XM5s. They’re pretty comfortable when it comes to the in-ear feels.

Not the best post-10-hour flight head, but it’ll do. Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Music to my ears

Opening Spotify and opting for my usual jams, it was hard to ignore that although I was on a plane, the volume was only around 50 per cent and I was more than content. On a plane. Previously I’d be smacking the volume button hoping for there to be just one more level to go up as everything was far too quiet.

Sitting below 50 per cent volume, Spotify’s Deathcore playlist served me up track after track of low-high-low-high whiplash, comprising high-pitch pig squeals and deep growls, but both were clear, the guitars weren’t overpowering, and the drums weren’t faded out, either. System of a Down’s ‘Aerials’ was much the same – clear, not drowned out by the humming of the plane in the background. Quiet riffs were handled with elegance. ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles gave me goosebumps (as it does every time I use a great quality speaker/headphone), with the intro shooting straight into my ear drums while somehow being massaged and not shoved in there aggressively. Pop was a little harder to stomach, but only because the high-pitch vocals and repetitive backing track became overwhelming. Lowering the volume fixed all my problems.

Everything I threw at the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds was handled with elegance and basically perfection.

Throwing in the Kotaku Australia podcast to mix it up a little, both Emily and Zac sounded like they were right next to me on the flight. Their respective voices were isolated and boosted. Watching an entire episode of Riverdale on Netflix was also more than just possible. I could hear the rustling of leaves and the impending doom soundscape before it would otherwise be audible.

The WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless Earbuds truly blocked out far more than I was expecting and pulled me in like a vortex into the content I was listening to/watching.

Across my testing, one thing was very clear: Sony is right. These are probably the best noise-cancelling earbuds in the market. And the sound is gorgeous, even more so when you’re no longer on the plane.

But is that enough?

I get what Sony’s doing with the shape of the buds. They do fit snug into an ear, especially the ear of an adult man. I am on the smaller side of the ears spectrum and particularly considering the AirPods Pro 2 just fit so nice into my ears, and are super light, I just can’t get comfortable with the WF-1000XM5s in, despite them not hurting and me being able to sleep with them in. Also, having the touch controls available proved very annoying – I kept activating ‘transparent’ mode on the buds when I was simply trying to push them back into my ears.

The case is small, neat and tidy, and charges wirelessly. Elsewhere, eight hours of battery life is more than enough (pushed to 12-hours if noise cancelling is turned off), and if it wasn’t for the flight, I’d have not pushed them to completely dead – they’d have gone back in the case throughout the day, which gives you 24 hours (or 32 without noise cancelling) battery life. But, charging for only three minutes in the case gives you one hour of music. Which is fabulous, especially for someone who forgets to charge their earbuds.

Oh – you just gotta nod your head to answer the phone too, which is pretty cool.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless Earbuds, final thoughts

The Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless Earbuds are brilliant at cancelling noise, and even better at delivering sound into your eardrums. They have a tonne of features, an app that allows you to completely customise your experience, and they offer head-tracking, 360 audio, etc – I could go on for another 1,000 words about them. They’re just a bit too big and bulky for my ears, and they don’t offer the same walled garden experience the Apple AirPods do. That’s genuinely the only reason I won’t be using them every day.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds are available for preorder from today and will set you back RRP $499.95.

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