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I took 88 flights last yearâa total of 12 days spent in the air. Along the way, one piece of gear never faltered: my pair of Sony WH-1000XM3 noise-cancelling headphones. They worked reliably again and again, drowning out snoring neighbors and wailing babies, offering a cocoon of peace for hours on end.
Naturally, I was excited to get my hands on Sonyâs new version of its industry-leading headphones. While my day-to-day has changed considerably since last year, my desire for great-sounding music and the ability to block out noiseâcar alarms and my partnerâs conference calls rather than the drone of an airplaneâhasnât. So, do the Sony WH-1000XM4s, released in August, measure up to their predecessors?
Unboxing the new M4s can be disappointing if you are coming from the M3s and expecting visible changes. Aesthetic tweaksâslightly more surface area on the earcups, slightly less padding on the headbandâare barely perceptible. In the carrying case, youâll find the same accessories: a USB-C charging cable, an auxiliary cable, and a two-prong adapter for old-school airplane entertainment systems. The M4s even come in the same two colorways, black and silver. But look a little closer and youâll see evidence of one of a range of new features. A little divot in the left earcup is a motion sensor, enabling an auto-pause feature whenever you slip the headphones off.
And this is where the M4s excel as an upgrade to the M3s. Little details push these headphones from near-perfect to even nearer-perfect. Along with the auto-pause functionality is an optional setting called âSpeak-to-Pause,â enabled in a dedicated Sony | Headphones Connect app, which detects when you are talking and pauses your music, great for that passing conversation while you are washing dishes or ordering from a walk-up window.
Another major addition comes in the form of multi-device Bluetooth pairing. You can now connect to two devicesâyour laptop and your phone, for instanceâand switch between them seamlessly, a game changer for those of us working from home for the foreseeable future. Phone call quality has gotten a lot better too. While before, Iâd occasionally get on calls where I was told I âsound like Iâm underwater,â Iâve had nothing but clear connections in calls over a week of testing, including when on the go.
Other features that originally set the M3s apart from the competition have stayed mostly the same, like a whopping 30 hours of battery life, which will get you through even the longest travel day uninterrupted. The touch controls, found on the right earcup, are still responsive and intuitive (Sony says the M4s will perform better than their predecessor in cold weather, though I havenât been able to test that yet). Most importantly, music still sounds amazingâcrisp, with details and flourishes easy to get lost in and bass thatâs strong and present without being overpowering.
For owners of the WH1000-XM3s, now the second-best headphones around, it could be a tough sell to pay another $350 for similar technology with a few added bells and whistles. If you have the money to spare though, you will be satisfied with the investment (and whoever you pass your old pair onto will be ecstatic). For newbies to the world of good-quality headphones though, itâs a no-brainer: not only does Sony still make the best noise-cancelling headphones, but the best just got better.
CondÃ© Nast Traveler does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published by CondÃ© Nast Traveler is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.
Noise-cancelling headphones, Active noise control, Sony, Bose Corporation, Plantronics, Sony WH-1000XM3
World news – CA – The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Just Got Even Better