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Every two years, Sony releases another entry in its Wireless Headphone series. The WH-1000XM4 were released in 2020, so it only makes sense (at least to us) to start getting excited about a possible 2022 release for the WH-1000XM5.

Leaks have already sprung in dribs and drabs, with the usual first port of call being an FCC listing. Codenamed ‘Y2954’, it gives us our first idea of what direction Sony could be heading in with these over-ear headphones.

And with these headphones in development during a pandemic, what changes could Sony be making to take into account the world we live in now? Let’s have a look at all the leaks and speculation surrounding the rumoured Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones.

Price

Sony’s wireless over-ear headphones have consistently hit a £349/$349 price point. It’s reasonable to think this next iteration will continue that trend.

The only fly in the ointment is the 2021 release of the WF-1000XM4. The price of those wireless earbuds rose to £250 over the previous WF-1000XM3 (£220). If the new headphones manage to improve on the already stuffed for features WH-1000XM4, we could envisage Sony hiking the price a little higher in response.

It’ll have the effect of making the WH-1000XM4 a great option for those who’ve waited for the price to come down if so. It’s currently hovering around the £250 mark.

Release Date

In the past Sony would often release (or announce) premium wireless headphones around the IFA electronics show (early September). Recent years have brought about a change in approach from the Japanese corporation, with the WH-1000XM4 announced earlier (August 2020).

In the FCC filing (found by eagle-eyed The Walkman Blog), there’s a short-term confidentiality up until August 8th 2022. The previous headphones had a similar listing, so we’d expect the headphones to be announced around that time.

Design

Here’s where we think Sony could do something different. The first two iterations had a similar look, while the Mark III and Mark IV versions also had a similar appearance, the latter essentially offering further tweaks and refinements. What gives us the feeling that Sony could do something off-kilter is down to do the emergence of two headphones: Apple’s AirPods Max and Sony’s very own LinkBuds.

While not as revolutionary as speculation had built them up to be pre-release, the AirPods Max did take a leap from a design perspective, though that came with compromises (like not being able to fold them). The slim look of the earphones and wide headband are areas Sony could jump on.

Sony Y2954 noise cancelling headset, FCC filing
Y2954 FCC listing

We mention the LinkBuds as an indication of what Sony’s design bods might be thinking, given that rather unique design. There’s also Sony’s sustainability practices to consider – the LinkBuds were made out of recycled plastic materials, and we wouldn’t put it past Sony to have something similar in the offing for the WH-1000XM5 in some way.

The shape of the headphones from the FCC listing – which labels them as an engineering prototype – suggests a sleeker form factor, or perhaps it’s a drawing that we shouldn’t make too much out of. Not much else is known aside from some musings the headband could be made out of metal rather than plastic.

An import listing for the headphones from India indicates they will be available in the usual silver and black options. The WH-1000XM4 offered white and midnight blue options post-release, but if you’re expecting more vibrant colours, that’s not usually in Sony’s wheelhouse.

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Features

Everything that appeared on the WH-1000XM4 we expect to cross over on to the WH-1000XM5. Features such as Speak-to-Chat (which pauses playback when you talk), to Adaptive Smart Control (which automatically adapts noise cancelling/ambient modes depending on where you are) and Quick Attention Mode (where you put a hand on the side of the headphones to let sound pass-through), have become staples of Sony’s headphones.

We’re presuming the WH-1000XM5 will move on from the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 chip given both the WF-1000XM4 and LinkBuds utilise Sony’s new V1 chip. This new processor has brought efficiencies in terms of battery and connectivity. The WH-1000XM4 already had one of the longer battery lives and the V1 chip could extend that further. The FCC listing mentions an increase in the battery (3.7 to 3.8V) so that could account for that.

We’d hope that LDAC and lossless audio will have unrestricted support (you had to turn off multipoint connectivity to get LDAC on the over-ear XM4). AptX Bluetooth connectivity is not something we’d expect Sony to pursue given the presence of the V1 processor. We (and others) have posed the question to Sony about aptX, and the impression is that it is no longer interested in playing in Qualcomm’s playground.

There will, of course, be noise cancellation and ambient modes; and given the LinkBuds feature set, could we see Adaptive Volume Control on these headphones? We think it’s a fair bet for more convenience.

Otherwise we’d expect the usual voice assistance (built-in), 360 Reality Audio support, EQ customisation, Bluetooth 5+ connectivity to be included. IP rating would be nice too, considering none of the previous headphones in the series had it. The same was true of the WF series until the WF-1000XM4 added IPX4. And improvements to call quality are always welcome, especially given the ever-present nature of Zoom calls and online video meetings.

So, that’s what we know and what we’d like to see from the WH-1000XM5 headphones. Although we know Sony is being a bit tricky and clever about hiding important details from unsuspecting eyes, it’s a fair shout to say they are coming this year, and the next few months will hopefully yield more details.

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