IN an era when a lot of consumer tech does pretty much exactly what you’d expect, it’s a rare experience to have something make me say “This is something special”.
The Sony WH-1000MX5 wireless noise cancelling headset is something special.
Sony’s WH-1000 series has been around for several years now and represents the company’s top-of-the-line wireless noise cancelling headset. The MX5 is its fifth iteration and the best yet and helps set the gold standard for wireless noise-cancelling headphones in the process.
Some technical specifications:
The battery runs for about 30 hours with noise cancelling on and a bit longer without it, although why you’d use it without noise cancelling is a separate matter.
A full charge takes about three and a half hours but there isn’t a charge-and-play option. Instead, you get a rapid charge function where three minutes of being plugged in gives you about three hours of audio listening. In other words, once the battery goes flat, plug them in, go and make a tea or coffee (and you probably need a break after all that whatever you were doing anyway!) and when you come back from making it, you’ll be good to go for a few more hours.
It connects via Bluetooth or 3.5mm jack (cable included!) and also supports multi-point Bluetooth connections – which means you can have it connected to your gaming laptop and your phone at the same time, for example. The range on the Bluetooth is really long, too – easily passing the “working while I was outside hanging out the washing with the source device inside” test.
The sound from the headset is top-notch, no matter what you’re listening to or playing. Whether it was naval artillery in World of Warships, spellcasting in Wylde Flowers, streaming lo-fi music while I was working, or watching The Boys on Amazon Prime, the sound was outstanding and well-balanced with a great soundscape.
The noise cancelling is absolutely amazing, both for user and people around them. It’s easily the most effective active noise cancelling I’ve encountered; letting you focus completely on whatever it is you’re doing (and completely blocking out pretty much all ambient household noise including the washing machine and dishwasher; I know from experience with a much earlier model that they work effectively against aircraft cabin noise too).
The real star of the show for me, however, was the “speak-to-chat” feature. Basically, if you’re listening to music, watching streaming content, or playing a game, if you start talking the headset automatically pauses audio or video content, deactivates noise cancelling, uses the microphone to let you hear the other person and then (and this is the really cool part) automatically reactivates the noise cancelling and resumes your content when the conversation is over.
I cannot even begin to count how many times I used this feature – For example, I’d be sitting outside watching American Dad! on the iPad and the kids would come out to ask about something, and instead of doing the whole “What? Hang on, let me pause this and take off my headset, OK what did you want? Yes, you can have a juice box, now I’m putting the headset back on and pressing play on the screen again” thing, I could just talk to them without having to do anything else.
It doesn’t automatically pause games, however – but it still mutes them and does the rest of the stuff.
The WH-1000MX5 is really comfortable to wear, even for long periods – although in warmer temperatures you may start to experience your ears feeling a bit hot since they are fully enclosed.
The controls are straightforward – there’s a power button and noise cancelling on/off button on the headset, while earcups have capacitative touch controls that are well-tuned; they won’t activate just from moving your head against something but also don’t need repeated touch to make work.
The Headphones app works really well too, letting you customise the EQ and many other features of the headset. It’s straightforward to use, unobtrusive, and just works properly.
Design-wise, I really like the tasteful aesthetic Sony have gone with here. They don’t scream “Look at me, peasants, I have expensive headphones!”, but they are still stylish enough to fit in anywhere and with a range of personal styles and look good while they do so. They’re available in black and “ecru”, which is a sort of stone-light beige colour.
I was also really pleased to see there was no plastic packaging with the unit – everything was made out of recyclable materials – and even the headphones themselves are made out of recycled plastic material that were originally automotive parts (according to Sony).
There’s basically nothing here for me to criticise. The sound quality is amazing, the noise cancelling superb, the battery lasts ages, the “auto-deactivate noise cancelling when you talk” thing is truly innovative and useful, the app is actually practical, the headset is comfortable – you get the idea.
The only caveats I have are there doesn’t appear to be an IPX rating (so, you know, don’t wear them outside during a monsoon) and that the headset only folds flat rather than being able to fold up on itself, so the carry case is quite large. These are minor quibbles however, vastly outweighed by the excellence of the rest of the offering.
The Sony WH-1000MX5 really is the complete package when it comes to noise-cancelling wireless headsets – it does everything and does it almost flawlessly.
This is, without a doubt, the best wireless noise cancelling headset I have ever used and I have zero hesitation in recommending this to anyone with the budget (AUD$549) who wants a quality set of headsets for music, video, or mobile gaming use.