Wednesday 21 June 2023

Sony WH-1000XM5

From outside

Took the plunge and bought noise-canceling (NC) headphones. I've had them for a while now so thought about commenting on the experience.

One of the city sub-artery roads is just outside the window from where I sit, and it can get a little wearisome at times. With these headphones on, this traffic noise is cancelled almost entirely. 

I could even sit with the headphones on without any music and not hear much of the outside world. But it's obviously better when using at least some music or sounds, as otherwise I start to pay attention to even tiniest hissing or the occasional minor pop/click coming from the headphones itself.

Yes, if you are entirely allergic to the idea the headphones might produce some additional sound, and find yourself actively looking for such sounds, then it might be a deal-breaker. But I've never really noticed it when playing music or watching movies.

From inside

Almost needless to say, with the NC I can't hear minor things like computer fan noise, air conditioning or the washing machine from few rooms apart. Singing practice in the apartment is not cancelled though, but it becomes subdued and louder music from the headphones will cover it.

If the headphones are in a passive (non-powered) mode, there's audio but it's not very good to be honest. The active mode will deplete the battery but I've found the need to recharge about once a week even with daily use. The charging is quite fast.

The ambient mode allows outside noises through, but I haven't tested it much. Likewise, testing the invisible microphone hasn't been a high priority as I am more comfortable with the headset style in video conferences, a real mic gives me more confidence. 

The power and ambience buttons.

I press a tiny button for a while to activate the headphones and the noise canceling feature, it does become second nature eventually.

There's a "touch/gestural" interface which could accidentally activate Bluetooth-only features, however I don't use the BT. By cupping the headphone I can also let sound come through temporarily, which I also had to learn not to do by accident.

As the headphones try to be context sensitive, the ambient mode may turn on automatically, such as when I sneeze loudly (or swear aloud). I guess the app would allow me to turn this automation entirely.

Yes, some of the features of can only be changed through an Android/Iphone app, which was initially annoying but it doesn't really need to be touched afterwards. There's an equalizer I've not really touched.

I made the Bluetooth pairing through the app initially, which was a mistake and I had to reset the headphones as this connection no longer worked. Then I made the BT pair properly through the phone settings, and only afterwards went to the app. After this there have been no problems connecting the phone to the app.

The convenient carry case has separate compartments for the headphones and cables.

I also had an opportunity to try this on an airplane while watching a film. Can't pretend I'm not hearing the airplane noise, but it's still quite effective.

I thought about comparing it to being in a car, but this would be misleading. The headphones not only cancels some of the noise but somehow "flattens" it. The difference is quite strong when I remove the headphones in a noisy environment such as the airplane. It's like returning to a three-dimensional world of sound.

The sound is good enough for my music tastes (electronic and some rock/pop). I'm not sure if Sony's reputation for headphones is the best ever. It could still be one of the better or even the best headphone I've had for general purpose listening, working just about as well with music, movies and games.