Best in-ear headphones: The best budget and premium in-ears


  • Smaller, lighter design
  • Powerful noise-cancellation
  • More detailed, balanced audio performance
  • Plenty of smart, convenient features


  • Bose a smidge better for ANC
  • Slightly odd call performance

The king is dead, long live the king. The WF-1000XM4 used to be our favourite wireless earbuds with their blend of terrific sound, wide feature set and excellent noise cancellation, but they have since been usurped by Sony’s latest true wireless offering in the WF-1000XM5.

So good as the WF-1000XM5 that we awarded them our best true wireless and best headphone award for 2023. They build on what the XM4 delivered but with further tweaks and refinements. The design is smaller and lighter, taking inspiration from Sony’s more lifestyle orientated LinkBuds series. They come with an extra ear-tip size to accommodate different sized ears.

The noise-cancelling performance is an improvement on the WF-1000XM4, suppressing voices and ambient noise better and more naturally than its predecessor. We would say that the QuietComfort Earbuds II edge it out with a more conclusive noise-cancelling performance, but the difference between them is small. The transparency mode is clear and detailed, although we find the WF-1000XM4 is slightly clearer to our ears than the previous WF model

Battery life hasn’t change with this latest model, offering eight hours per charge and 24 in total with ANC enabled. Wireless performance is solid in both AAC and LDAC playback modes, and the WF-1000XM5 is bundled with an array features such as Speak-to-Chat (that pauses music when you’re talking to someone else), as well as improvements to Ambient Smart Control (which personalises your audio experience automatically), that make these earphones one of the most smartest and most convenient wireless earbuds around.

Battery life is the same as the WF-1000XM4, with 8 hours per earbuds and 24 in total with the charging case. Call quality is decent but we found the performance a little odd at times. It has a tendency to leak background noise in whenever we spoke but silent when we weren’t. If you’re an iOS use, you’d be better served by the AirPods Pro 2 for call performance.

The sound quality is a big improvement, offering more fidelity in terms of detail, clarity, and sharpness. The midrange offers a finer sense of detail, the bass isn’t as big as the WF-1000XM4 but we prefer the balance on this model. Higher frequencies get a boost too, with more sharpness and clarity.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 aren’t necessarily the best in every area, rivals have reduced the gap if not surpassed them in some cases, but they are the best in most areas, earning top position on this list.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Sony WF-1000XM5

Originally posted 2023-10-05 11:31:18.