Sony WH-1000XM6: What to expect

2024 will mark two years since the five-star Sony WH-1000XM5 ANC headphones went on sale. And for those in the know (which now includes you, dear reader), that means that the WH-1000XM6 successor is likely to appear on the scene.

We can’t say for sure that it will, but given Sony’s release schedule for its flagship wireless headphones is every two years, we think it’s more than likely that we will see it in the flesh.

There hasn’t as yet been much in the way of rumours about the next ANC over-ear. It used to be a fairly leaky ship in the six months up to release, but as we saw with the WF-1000XM5 launch, Sony kept most things under wrap until the last few weeks before it was officially announced.

So rather than rumours and speculation, here are a few things that we’re expecting, hopeful for and aren’t likely to see in Sony’s upcoming WH-1000XM6.

There won’t be Snapdragon Sound support

Sony WH-1000XM5 red and blue
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Unless Sony do a huge pivot, we’re thinking that it’s unlikely that there will be any support for Snapdragon Sound. The WH-1000XM3 headphones were the last to support Qualcomm’s chipsets, and since then Sony has further focused on developing its own technology to squeeze out as much performance as it can.

So even though Sony’s Xperia 1 IV smartphone feature Snapdragon Sound support, we’re not expecting that for the XM6. We don’t feel Sony would want to push a Bluetooth codec from a rival competitor (in this case aptX) over its LDAC solution, and Sony has put a lot of resources into its V1 integrated processor, and we simply can’t see it being ditched.

Battery life may go up…

Sony’s doggedly stuck to 30 hours battery life since the WH-1000XM2, its feeling being that 30 hours is more than enough. That might change.

Heavy emphasis on might. As we said, Sony seems content with how much battery life its headphones offer. However, the Technics EAH-A800, Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless and even Sony’s own WH-CH720N headphones offer 50, 60, and 35 hours respectively.

We’re not expecting massive changes for this version, so a little battery boost could be one of the headline upgrades Sony is offering with its new model. If there isn’t a boost to the battery, an alternative would be a boost to fast-charging.

A lighter, possibly slimmer design

Sony WH-1000XM5 on side
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Sony’s true wireless models have been getting smaller and smaller with each iteration. The over-ears have been getting lighter and less cumbersome. Our prediction would be to expect that to continue, although it may just amount to shaving off a few grams here and there.

Sony has been using recycled plastic for the frame of its most recent over-ears, and that’s kept the weight down for the CH720N (which are just 192g). It’s unlikely to be smaller, the Sony over-ears pack a lot into their earcups, but if Sony continue to make efficiencies (an area where Sony is really trying to exploit) with its processor, noise-cancelling, and battery life, the profile of these headphones may be a little slimmer than before.

Expect 360 Reality Audio head-tracking

While we can never be 100% sure about things, we feel confident enough to assert that they’ll be an improvement to 360 Reality Audio spec for these headphones, and that upgrade will be in the form of head-tracking.

360 Reality Audio is Sony’s immersive 3D audio feature, similar to Dolby Atmos Music, and the WF-1000XM5 true wireless has this feature so it wouldn’t surprise us that the over-ears got it too. The question is whether it’d affect the battery life, but nevertheless we’d be shocked if Sony didn’t ass this feature. As we’ve mentioned before, 3D audio is becoming the next battleground for headphone brands.

Possibly more smart services

Sony’s true wireless range from the LinkBuds to the WF-1000XM5 support services such as Spotify Tap and Endel, the over-ears aren’t compatible with a few of them.

Spotify Tap is supported but the likes of Endel, Ingress Prime, and Amazon Music Play Now aren’t, so that could change with a new over-ear model.

Even better noise-cancelling

Sony WH-1000XM5 outside

Of course, you’d expect Sony to give its noise-cancelling a boost given the WH-1000XM5 remain one of the most exceptional models on the market for ANC, though there is one area we’d like to see an improvement in.

While the XM5 bettered the WH-1000XM4 is most areas for noise-cancelling, one area we felt they fell down to their sibling is in suppressing voices. The difference wasn’t massive, but the older model was a little better in our opinion, as were the Bose QuietComfort 45.

A better wireless connection

The Sony WH-1000XM5 were good in terms of offering a reliable connection in busy hotspots with the AAC codec, but less so with the LDAC codec.

The connection became choppy when LDAC was enabled, so if there’s one thing we’d wish for above all else, it would be a better connection when streaming in LDAC. Who would want their listening experience interrupted by stops and starts?