Sony has introduced, quite possibly, the world’s smartest noise cancelling headphones.
The WH-1000XM4, the fourth generation of its best-selling over-ear Bluetooth cans, not only promise improved noise cancellation, but boast a host of new features which take smart headphone technology to another level.
Geo-aware Adaptive Sound Control, Speak-to-Chat technology, better audio upscaling and improved noise cancelling look certain to make them the headphones to beat this year.
Improvements in noise cancelling have been achieved by further reducing high and mid frequency environmental noises specifically. Given just how good Sony’s noise cancelling has been to date, this is quite an achievement.
New on the 1000XM4 is an upgraded audio upscaler for compressed sources. Using Edge-AI, the all-new DSEE Extreme compensates for audio lost during digital compression. Edge-AI analyses music in real time, recognising instruments, music genres and even individual musical elements to restore the high range sounds lost in compression.
Designed in collaboration with Sony Music Studios Tokyo, this rebuilding is said to be more authentic than any previous version of DSEE.
“We see headphones increasingly as an intelligent companion for the user” says Sony…
Naturally, the MDR-1000XM4 are 24-bit 96kHz high-res audio capable. You can even achieve 24-bit/192kHz if you use an LDAC Bluetooth connection. The new cans, like their predecessors, can also be used for 360 Reality Audio (as offered by Deezer).
Adaptive Sound Control adjusts ambient sound settings for the ideal listening experience. Over time, this can recognise locations that you frequently visit, and adjust to an optimum setting when you arrive.
You can set up your frequently visited locations and your preferred settings via the Sony Headphones Connect App. Ambient sound settings will automatically update as you move between different environments.
The best example of new smart technology is probably a feature called Speak-to-Chat, which lets you have short conversations without taking your headphones off. Just speak and and the headphones, recognising your voice, will automatically pause your tunes so you can hold a conversation without removing the headphones. Music automatically restarts 30 seconds after you’ve last spoken. Significantly, this innovation is made possible via machine learning AI.
“We see headphones increasingly as an intelligent companion for the user,” Sony’s technical guru Eric Kingdon told The Luxe Review. “This kind of AI, machine learning is really important because there’s so only so much you can do in terms of DSP capacity and power consumption. When you begin to start to able to utilise Edge AI, as we’re doing with these products, we can get amazing features and functionality from very low powered solutions, in a confined space. All of these smart functions are meant to personalise the benefits that the headphones bring.”
The WH-1000XM4 also comes with wearing detection. To save power, the headphones detect if they’re being worn and adapt playback accordingly. Using the headphone’s proximity sensor and two acceleration sensors, the headphones automatically stop the music when you remove them, resuming when you put them on again.
While the MDR-X1000XM4 looks much like its predecessors, there have been changes to the design. They’re a little lighter, with soft earpads that more evenly distribute pressure. The drivers though remain unchanged.
Also new on the WH-1000XM4 is the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at the same time.
Battery life is rated at 30 hours, bolstered by a quick charging function that gives up to 5 hours of wireless playback from a 10 minute charge-blast.