Sony's next-generation wireless noise-cancelling headphones are on the way, with a since-removed product page on the website of US retail giant Walmart leaking the details and potentially price of the forthcoming WH-1000XM4 cans – which indicates their official launch is close at hand.
By all accounts, the 1000XM4 will look identical to the 1000XM3 series, which Sony rolled out in September 2018. That's not a bad thing: the XM3s boast an elegant no-frills design, which combined with smart features, superb audio and solid noise-cancellation technology to result in a Bose-beating package.
About all we could ask for, and this wasn't called out in the extensive Walmart blurb, was for the band connecting the XM4's over-ear cups to return to the solidly premium metal of the XM2 instead of the plastic of the XM3, although that change did made the XM3's lighter and more comfortable to wear.
Sony WH-1000XM4: new features
The leaked feature sheet indicates the Sony WH-1000XM4's will offer 'multipoint connection' to pair with two Bluetooth devices at the same time.
You'll be able to switch between those sources at the touch of a button, Sony promises, but there's also some inbuilt smarts at play here: "when a call comes in, your headphones know which device is ringing and will automatically connect to the right one," Sony promises.
However, if this is a full 100% implementation of multipoint which can stream the sound from both devices simultaneously – such as continuing to play music from your laptop while sounding a brief alert notification from your smartphone, rather than bothersomely pausing the music – remains to be seen.
'Adaptive Sound Control' will let the WH-1000XM4 automatically tailor its settings based on ambient noise levels at locations you frequently visit, such as a favourite regular cafe or the library – something which the XM3's required be done manually – as well as to suit activities such as walking. As before, these and other custom profiles can be saved and selected through Sony’s companion app.
A feature dubbed Smart Talking is aimed to automatically trigger the 'ambient sound mode' when a person’s voice is detected by the microphones which handle the external audio pickup for the noise-cancelling circuity so that you can have a brief conversation with somebody – perfect for ordering a drink from the flight attendant.
Battery life is roughly the same as the XM3s: Sony rates the WH-1000XM4s as being good for 30 hours of battery life, while 10 minutes of fast-charging through the USB-C port delivers up to five hours of playback.
However, the manual indicates power consumption has been slashed from 8 watts to 2 watts, likely due to Sony moving to a new Bluetooth 5.0 chip.
Given that the XM4s have the same battery life we expect they'll use a smaller battery, which is in keeping with Sony's line that the XM4s have 'a lighter-weight design'.
On the audio front, new DSEE Extreme builds on the XM3's DSEE HX upscaling to "restore the high-range sound lost in compression" of audio files by "dynamically recognising instrumentation, musical genres, and individual elements of each song, such as vocals or interludes."
There's also "proprietary technology" to transmit significantly more data over the Bluetooth channel to bring the wireless listening experience closer to a lossless wired one. Sony is clearly going all-out on the 1000XM4s as headphones for the audiophile on the move.
As you'd expect, Sony's WH-1000XM4 headphones will continue to offer voice command with Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and the Google Assistant by touching a button on the ear-cup, along with the other familiar finger-swipe controls of the XM3.
Sony WH-1000XM4: Australia release date, price
Sony Australia's on-sale timeline for the WH-1000XM3 mirrored that of the USA, so there shouldn't be much of a delay between their stateside and local release.
The Walmart leak listed the price of the WH-1000XM4 at US$348. This is close to the same as Sony's official WH-1000XM3 pricing, and while it could just be a placeholder, it also indicates there'll be no sticker shock for the fourth-generation device.
If that's the case, then Sony Australia's official $499.95 launch price for the WH-1000XM3 should remain in place for the WH-1000XM4 (although Sony kit can be quickly and competitively discounted).