Speculation has been steadily building that Sony will release its WF-1000XM4 true wireless contender in 2021. Given the WF-1000XM3 went on sale summer 2019 and that Sony’s headphones arrive in two year cycles, the probability of their appearance this year is very likely.

It is speculation ramped by the latest leak that gives us the best look yet at the headphones. Given there’s been the (obligatory) FCC reveal, a possible look at the packaging and the leak of what appear to be official press photos – it certainly seems like Sony is turning up the wick ahead of the earbuds’ eventual release.

So what else do these earbuds have, when will they go on sale, how much will they cost? Here’s everything you need to know about the WF-1000XM4.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 went on sale for £220 and we can’t see Sony diverging far from that path unless it has something big under its sleeves.

Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds were £249 and Bowers & Wilkins PI7 are £349, so there’s certainly room to play with in terms of what consumers are willing to pay compared to two years ago.

Given the WF-1000XM3 are currently around £170, we can imagine the new earbuds being priced around the £220 to £250 mark.

Given the WF-1000XM3 went on sale – if memory serves us – in July 2019, and that Sony’s sense of time-keeping with products is similar to Gandalf’s from Lord of the Rings, we can presume the WF-1000XM4 will arrive precisely when they mean to. So we’re thinking of another July release date.

We certainly know they’re on their way this year – FCC ‘leaks’ tend to be a confirmation a product is close to release. Leaks of the packaging would also indicate the headphones are in the process of being finalised, too. The Walkman Blog did some sleuthing and found out that the end term of confidentiality for the headphones is June 9th. That would suggest an announcement around early June.

We certainly don’t think Sony would make the announcement at an industry event such as IFA in early September. Even though IFA 2021 is going ahead as a physical event, we imagine the WF-1000XM4 will ape the WH-1000XM4’s announcement/release window from 2020.

image of Sony WF-1000XM4 leaked from product manual
credit: The Walkman Blog

Early May provided a clearer look as to what Sony’s upcoming true wireless is shaping up to be thanks to a leak by twitter user mirai160525. And we have to say they are looking very fine indeed.

One issue we had about their predecessors was the slightly bulky nature of the earbuds. In truth, they weren’t that massive, but in the years since we’ve seen efforts from Apple, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins and Sennheiser that take a more ergonomic approach, and that looks to be the case with the WF-1000XM4. There are no wing-tips for a secure fit, so it’s all about the shape and size of the earbuds to create the best fit/seal.

They don’t look as big either, and appear to be more rounded and svelte than either of their predecessors. We can imagine they’ll weigh less too. The Sony logo has been re-positioned – now on sides rather than on top, and the same sleek gold accents remain. Like the full-sized XM4 headphones, the XM4 wireless earbuds appear to come in black and presumably platinum silver colourways.

Leaked image of the Sony WF-1000XM4
Leaked images of the WF-1000XM4 show a new design

There’s what appears to be a larger area than before for the touch controls, but we’re also wondering what the round gold accent on top could be (a physical button?). The charging case is visibly slimmer, even from the images, and given we’ve always felt the charging case has been on the big side. If Sony can reduce the size and maintain the same (if not better) battery life, then that would be a positive.

credit: @mirai160525

There’s been no word about an IP rating, but given the 1000X range of headphones don’t see all that interested in stating their supported water resistance, we can see that trend continuing here. In short, we wouldn’t take Sony’s premium true wireless earbuds for workouts. You’re better off sticking to their cheaper, fitness focused versions.

We’re sure Sony won’t repeat the initial mistakes of not including onboard volume control and include it from the get go.

If there’s one aspect of the WF-1000XM4 that hasn’t leaked in much detail, it’s the headphones’ specification. Of course they’ll feature active/adaptive noise cancellation, and we expect Sony will be pushing to offer even better suppression than before given how Bose in particular has set an impressive standard. Though that’s with reduced battery life compared to the WF-1000XM3, we should add.

Thanks to a notice on the Bluetooth certification site, we know the WF-1000XM4 (codenamed “YY2498”) will feature the latest version of the standard in Bluetooth 5.2. The 5.2 version appeared in early 2020, and introduced LE Audio (Low Energy Audio), which can transfer higher quality audio at low data rates while using less power than previous versions.

The mention of high quality audio is a neat segue into what codecs the WF-1000XM4 could support. Given Sony has turned away from aptX in recent years – the WH-1000XM4 shunned Qualcomm’s codec completely despite the WH-1000XM3 featuring support – we can expect the same result here. Don’t expect aptX and aptX-HD to make an appearance, especially as the SoC (System on Chip) is a MediaTek chip that bears no support for Qualcomm’s codecs.

So we expect SBC and AAC, and the MediaTek chip and Bluetooth LE Audio support given a boost to lower quality streams. We are also expecting, based on reports, the WF-1000XM4 will include Sony’s LDAC codec. That would send the true wireless into hi-res audio territory, and in light of the MediaTek MT2822S chip featuring support for 24-bit/192kHz transmission, Hi-Res Audio support seems more likely for this earbud than it did for the previous gen model.

If the leaked packaging on Reddit is true, battery life seems like it will be the same as the previous model: six hours with ANC on with another three charges in the case. Without ANC it’s likely to be 8 hours per charge with another three refills to take it to 32. Hitting the same figures might sound disappointing, but if it achieves it while streaming Hi-res Audio then that seems more feasible.

We’d imagine wireless charging to be on the menu as well as fast-charging. Otherwise everything that was in the WF-1000XM3 should carry over, from Adaptive and Ambient Sound Control, 360 Reality Audio support to DSEE HX upscaling engine possibly being upgraded to the Extreme version seen in the WH-1000XM4.

A choice of Google and Alexa voice assistants will surely be on the table, if not from the get go then via an update down the line. The Quick Attention Mode that filtered in sound from the surrounding environment should be return, too.

So that’s all we know and everything we’re expecting to see from the Sony WF-1000XM4. If recent reports are true, they could be arriving in the not-too-distant feature, and when they do, Trusted Reviews will be looking to put them through their paces to see how they fare. The competition in true wireless market is only becoming more so, and it’ll be interesting to see what Sony’s response is to the continuing escalation.

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