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Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones look set to retain its noise-cancelling crown

A new look for our favourite noise-cancelling cans - can they beat their predecessor?

Try as they might (and a few have got pretty damn close), we’re yet to meet a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that can bump Sony’s WH-1000XM4 headphones from the top spot of our over-ear headphones top 10 list – but we give their newly announced successor a pretty good chance. 

Predictably called the WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of Sony’s flagship racket-banishing cans promise a number of internal upgrades, but the first thing you’re going to notice is the brand new design. Aesthetically, very little changed between 2016’s MDR-1000X and the WH-1000XM4s introduced in 2020, but the XM5s are sporting a fresh look, with a notably slimmer headband that now features a steepless slider. 

A new synthetic leather material is designed to both block out external noise and take pressure off your ears. The 1000X series have always excelled at comfort, so if Sony has managed to make the new model even comfier then we might never take them off. We’ll report back on that in our review, which you can expect to read in the next week. 

It’s not just the design that has evolved. The WH-1000XM5s improve on the already impressive noise-cancelling prowess of their predecessors, doubling the microphone count to eight. This makes the headphones more adept at reducing noise in the mid-high frequency range, while an Auto NC Optimizer does exactly what it says on the tin, automatically optimising noise cancellation depending on the environment. There are now four beamforming mics employed for voice pickup on calls, while wind noise reduction has been improved. 

The WH-1000XM5 headphones are equipped with a new 30mm driver, and once again you can enjoy your Hi-Res tunes wirelessly with a compatible device via LDAC. DSEE Extreme upscaling is also supported. 

Sony says wear detection has been bettered, and you can now summon your voice assistant of choice (Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are supported) handsfree with the appropriate wake word. Features such as Speak-To-Chat and adaptive sound control make the jump from the XM4s. 

As for battery life, you can expect 30 hours on a full charge, with USB Power Delivery (PD) returning three hours’ worth of juice with a three-minute charge. 

The WH-1000XM5 headphones are available in black and platinum silver and will cost £380 when they go on sale at the end of May.