The Sony WF-1000xM4 has been the worst-kept secret for months. Leaks, renderings, and even FCC filings have found their way online, suggesting that Sony’s upcoming flagship wireless earbuds will arrive sometime in 2021 and welcome numerous upgrades.
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Much like the critically acclaimed WF-1000xM3, the WF-1000xM4 will come with active noise cancellation, as well as an all-new design and some high-end tricks to rival the market’s top wireless ANC earbuds: the AirPods Pro and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. Until Sony makes an official announcement, we can only go based on the what’s been reported so far, which, if true, would easily make this new version one of best wireless earbuds available.
Here is everything you should know about the WF-1000xM4, including price, release date, and special features.
Sony WF-1000XM4 release date
If we’re going based on Sony’s track record with flagship headphone releases, August 2021 is a realistic launch window for the WF-1000xM4. For reference, Sony released their over-ear WH-1000xM4 headphones in August 2020 and the WF-1000xM3 in August 2019.
There is also an FCC filing that backs up our theory, with the FCC’s short-term confidentiality agreement ending on September 27, 2021. The Walkman Blog also just discovered that this confidentiality agreement is now set to expire on June 9. In either case, it only makes sense for Sony to reveal the product sooner than later, or at least a month in advance to build buzz. Furthermore, this filing shares insight on potential WF-1000xM4 specs that we break down further in our analysis.
Keep in mind that several rumored products have apparently experienced manufacturing issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2. The WF-1000xM4 could also be one of them.
Sony WF-1000XM4 price
The WF-1000xM3 launched at $230, though it is currently on sale for as low as $178 on Amazon, in case you’re interested. If what German publication WinFuture says is true, then the WF-1000xM4 could carry a higher MSRP.
The outlet claims it will soon release in Europe for €279.90. Convert this to U.S. dollars and we’re looking at about $340, which doesn’t seem realistic.
Sony WF-1000XM4 design
There was a lot of talk of Sony revamping its true wireless design for the WF-1000xM4. After examining the leaked images posted by Twitter leaker mirai160525, as well as the official-looking renderings that prolific leaker Evan Blass recently tweeted, massive changes seem to be in order.
Gone is the WF-1000xM3’s elongated, protruding form, with Sony now favoring a more oval-shaped design that looks lighter and will rest more comfortably on the ear. Also, note the missing circular touch panels, which have been swapped out for a flatter and wider touch sensor that should vastly improve input accuracy. This design also matches up with the packaging leak posted by Reddit user Key_Attention4766.
No one knows what the gold bolts will be used for, but it wouldn’t surprise us if they were actually dials to control volume or adjust ANC and ambient listening levels.
Sweat and water resistance are usually reserved for sporty earbuds, but as per WinFuture, the WF-1000xM4 might receive it via IPX4 certification. This is the same rating as the AirPods Pro.
The charging case has also been scaled down and resembles the Sony WF-SP800N’s charging case, which is thicker and doesn’t have that sleek cigarette holder appearance like the WF-1000xM3’s case did. Measurements for the WF-1000xM4 case are estimated at 2.3 x 1.49 x 1.1 inches.
Overall, this design is more compact and comfortable to wear. The images from mirai160525 also indicate the WF-1000xM4 will be sold in two colors: Black and Silver.
Sony WF-1000XM4 specs and features
Let’s start with the leaks and online reports. According to WinFuture, the WF-1000xM4 might have its own custom chip called the “Sony V1” to produce more effective active noise cancellation. This would replace the QNe1 processor featured in the WF-100xM3. Hi-Res Audio certification and Sony’s Precise Voice Pickup technology, which was featured on the WH-1000xM4 and combines multiple microphones for clearer voice calls, are also mentioned in the report.
The FCC lists Bluetooth 5.2 as the WF-1000xM4’s wireless protocol. What does that mean? These buds will operate with lower bandwidth and power usage when playing music, plus grant you access to features like Isochronous Channels that “enable Multi-Stream Audio and Broadcast Audio for Audio Sharing.”
Something else the filing references is a new processor: the MediaTek MT2822S. This chip would supposedly bring an improved DSP, feedforward mics, hardware ANC, voice prompts, and a smaller overall footprint to the WF-1000xM4. It also leaves the buds without aptX support. Ouch.
Speaking of codecs, The Walkman Blog believes LDAC is coming to the WF-1000xM4 based on its higher power consumption rating. WinFuture’s reporting backs this claim as well. This lossless audio technology is available in Apple Music’s new hi-fi streaming tier, but the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max don’t support it.
Popular features from the Sony Headphones Connect app will carry over onto the WF-1000xM4. Some of these include 360 Reality Audio, Adaptive Sound Control, control customization, and an EQ with numerous presets. We wouldn’t mind seeing DSEE Extreme support either to upscale compressed files or Edge-AI technology to analyze music in real-time for more accurate sound.
NFC is a staple of the series, so there isn’t anything that leads us to believe Sony is ditching the tap-to-pair function. Multipoint technology isn’t something we’ve seen on a pair of Sony earbuds yet, but it just might show up on the WF-1000xM4’s finalized spec sheet.
Regarding improvements, Sony may be enhancing the touch controls and mic array for better call quality.
Sony WF-1000XM4 battery and charging case
The WF-1000xM3 was a high point for battery life on wireless ANC earbuds at the time it released, holding up to 8 hours of playtime, 6 hours with ANC on. While considerably higher than the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours), other models have surpassed Sony’s buds by several hours, including the Master & Dynamic MW08 (10 hours) and JLab Epic Air Sport ANC (15 hours).
Judging by the packaging leaks, nothing will change on the WF-1000xM4. That means 6 hours of ANC playback and 18 hours extra from the charging case is to be expected. However, WinFuture states that playtimes will be bumped up to 8 hours with ANC on, which can extend to 12 hours when disabling the feature. The charging case could hold up to two additional charges as well, getting you somewhere between 24 and 36 hours when fully charged.
USB-C charging and quick charging are givens; we’re hoping it can generate 90 minutes of playtime on a 10-minute charge. It is also possible that the WF-1000xM4’s case recharges faster than its predecessor, as the charging output is listed at 5V = 140mA. The WF-1000xM3’s case is listed as 5V = 120mA.
There is still no word on whether Sony will introduce wireless charging on the WF-1000xM4, but hopes are high that the electronics giant finally adopts the technology.
Sony WF-1000XM4: What we want to see
Sony’s always done an incredible job of stuffing as much functionality into its wireless headphones and earbuds. Despite what the Internet and insiders are saying, Laptop Magazine has its own wish list of potential features and upgrades that we’re hoping Sony announces when unveiling the product or adds via firmware update.
A more unique charging case: We’re seeing a lot more brands get creative with their charging cases from both a design and functionality standpoint. A USPTO patent filing, spotted by Zatz Not Funny, shows the upcoming Sonos Earbuds will have a case with a slot at both the top and bottom to store the buds, which is distinguishable and pocket friendly. There are also companies like iLive that have their charging case double as a wireless speaker. Could you imagine if Sony did that?
Adjustable active noise cancellation: The WF-1000xM3 was the first true wireless model to do ANC right, but the AirPods Pro and QuietComfort Earbuds have taken the technology a step further to deliver better noise neutralization. Something that would greatly help the WF-1000xM4 is having 20 levels of adjustable ANC. The company already does this with ambient listening, and the WF-1000xM4 needs something to compete with the QuietComfort Earbuds’ 10 levels of ANC.
More colors, please: While Sony’s infatuation with Black and Silver colorways is cool, we need more from the brand. Have they not seen what Jabra has done with the Elite Active 75t series? Or what innovative shades Samsung has created for the Galaxy Buds Pro? At least give us that all-gold colorway that WinFuture mentioned in its report!