Techno World

Sony WH-1000XM5 review: Create your own bubble

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is a top-of-the-line headphone. If you value your music, this is an investment well worth your money.

There are few better companions for long-haul flights than good noise-cancelling headphones which are comfortable to wear for long hours, especially if the long haul you are taking is going to take you from Delhi to San Francisco in just about 24 hours. On my last long haul, this companion was Sony’s flagship WH-1000XM5.

Call me weird, but I do look forward to these flights. With no phones and zoom calls, this is usually an opportunity for me to catch up on sleep and new movies. Both of these endeavours are assisted by noise cancelling, which the Sony WH-1000XM5 touts as its USP with eight microphones figuring out constantly what to keep away from your ears.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 has a familiar design, but with one of the most stylish fabric cases, I have seen in recent times. The soft ear cups are perfect for long hours on your ears and the cushioned headband only makes it even more comfy. The entire experience is akin to that of sinking into a plush sofa.

Though I am not a fan of white devices, the WH-1000XM5 does stand out. However, you might struggle to keep this in its original colour after a few months, so maybe black is a better option for the dust and grime of India. Also, the case is large and will fill one part of your bag pack, so do keep it in might to carry a larger carry-on if you are taking this along.

On the left ear cup, you have the power button as well as a dedicated button to switch on noise cancelling or switch to ambient mode. The set-up is easy and you can use the Sony headphones app to customise the headphones as per your preferences. And Sony does offer a lot of customisation and features in its top-end headphones like this one. My personal favourite is how the mode switches based on your location from a full noise-cancelling in the office to the ambient mode for the park.

Catching a really early morning flight from Delhi to Dubai in the first leg of my trip to the US, the WH-1000XM5 came in handy as a sleep aid with me just switching on the noise cancelling to catch up on some sleep in the rather short hop. This is also when you realise that this noise cancelling is really top of the line to sink most of the engine drone. In fact, for me, a good noise-cancelling headphone is one that stands true to its name even when you are not listening to music. The WH-1000XM5 is perfect in that sense and helped me work and think by taking away every other distracting sound in the house or office.

On the 16-hour flight from Dubai to San Francisco is when I could use the WH-1000XM5 to its full with the cable. The headphones don’t come with airline adapters, but I always carry one in my bag as I never use standard-issue earphones. The Emirates movie selection this time was confusing with nothing that really stood out. Anyway, Phantom of the Open turned out to be a real surprise of a movie and with the headphones, I was on my own tour of golf courses with the protagonist. The WH-1000XM5 is like a wrap around your head, pushing you into a bubble of your own. Though I was in an A380 with over 300 other passengers, I was pretty much on my own all the way to the West Coast. After a few documentaries, I was soon asleep with the headphones on and not really bothered by anything till we were near our destination.

And it is not just about noise cancelling, the audio quality is also top-notch. Being an A R Rahman fan, a lot of time at airports on the way back was spent letting the soundtrack of Ponniyin Selvan grow on me. Even the Ponni Nadhi track, which I had heard many times before, sounded different on the WH-1000XM5 with Apple Music’s Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio version. For me, the ‘bright’ preset mode in the equaliser offered the perfect profile, a right mix of bass and sharpness.

And with a composition like Devaralan Attam, you really understand the power of this headphone. It is almost as if it is trying to hold a storm in its chest with a composition so intense, but not letting it overwhelm the listener, with notes that are too high or low. If I was buying the Sony WH-1000XM5, just this one song would have justified my purchase for me.

Like with a lot of Sony headphones now, the WH-1000XM5 too adapts to the ears of the user with the app helping configure this. Maybe this is why I always got the feeling these audio profiles were always right down my alley. And despite being a Sony, the bass boost is an option and not a given letting you enjoy a sony like Mallippoo which is all vocals.

Another great feature, though not limited to this model, is how the music just goes away when you start talking. So when you walk up to the gate counter to ask if your flight is delayed, the music pauses for the duration of the conversation. Small features that add a lot of value.

With near-perfect noise cancelling and a rich audio profile that lets you enjoy every song like a philharmonic orchestra, the Sony WH-1000XM5 emerges as one of the best headphones for those who really value their music as well as their own time. The Sony WH-1000XM5 is a top-of-the-line headphone with a price tag of Rs 34,900. But the introductory price of Rs 26,990 makes it a good deal, even cheaper than most other markets. If you value your music, this is an investment well worth your money.

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