These alternative Sony WH-1000XM5 ear pads take ANC to a different level – but that's a blessing and a curse

Sony XM5 headphones with Dekoni Choice Suede ear pads
(Image credit: Future)

I’ve owned my Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones for a little over a year, and to this day they still remain on our list of the best wireless headphones thanks to their mix of great sound quality, comfort, noise cancellation and excellent ambient sound settings. While the XM5s have taken over as my audio best friend, I wondered whether there was a way to spruce them up performance-wise – and even  appearance-wise. Enter, then, Dekoni ear pads. 

Dekoni has an extensive online catalog of audio products catering to the vast majority of popular headphone and earbuds models. In addition to ear pads and earphone tips, Dekoni also lists a range of parts and accessories, from carrying cases to supplementary audio cables and even cleaning kits. 

During my time with Dekoni’s ear pads, I tested the suede pair from the company's ‘Choice’ range. To make the most of my little Dekoni experiment I wore them continuously throughout my work day and in my daily life, to see what they could bring to the table. 

Sony XM5 headphones in the case

Not exactly matchy-matchy, but looks aren't everything…  (Image credit: Future)

I could be swayed by suede

When you open the box, you’ll find two ear pads and a small pry tool to help remove the original ear pads from the attachment points on the headphones. After much trial and error with using the pry tool, which could do with some redesigning, the ear pads were reasonably straightforward to switch out. 

Upon first impressions, my doubts rose as soon as I saw how visibly bulkier they were compared to the original leather XM5 ear pads. However, much to my surprise, this didn’t change the overall feel of the headphones and instead, they fit my head similarly to the XM5 ear pads. 

One thing that stuck out to me was the contrast of the black ear pads against my platinum silver XM5s. To say the color combo looked odd is an understatement. Dekoni only offers the ear pads in black which, if you don’t own a black set of XM5 headphones, can look quite discombobulating. 

However, the suede itself is sleek in appearance and also very soft to the touch. On top of being comfortable to wear over my ears, they also provided an extra chunk of security. How do I know? I found I didn’t have to readjust the headphones as much when on the go, whether that was during an afternoon run or traveling to and from work. 

I’ll admit one thing: running with the suede ear pads isn’t something I would recommend if you want to avoid overheating your ears. But perhaps surprisingly, from a general standpoint my ears actually felt cool and calm when worn in other conditions. 

Dekoni Choice Suede ear pads and box

The box has retro-fabulous, heritage hi-fi vibe  (Image credit: Future)

The secure fit was great for providing a snug listening experience, but it's one that also didn’t feel too tight. They felt almost like built-in cushions, as opposed to regular ear pads, and I was impressed by how responsive the memory foam was every time I removed them from my head. It just goes to show that high-density memory foam goes a long way. Also, it was particularly helpful with enhancing my XM5’s existing active noise canceling (ANC) abilities.

The XM5s have been praised for their talents on the ANC front, but throw Dekoni's suede ear pads into the mix and your noise-nixing audio game is stronger than ever, because of the pads’ density. Now I can enjoy listening to my favorite music at lower volumes, while not having to worry about outside noise creeping in between songs. Beyonce’s Renaissance has never sounded more robust. 

In spite of the pleasant ANC upgrade, I realized fairly quickly that this was both a blessing and a curse. Now, I’m not complaining about it exactly (I enjoy an uninterrupted listening experience just as much as the next person), but because the ANC is so powerful with the addition of the suede pads, it has a knock-on effect when using Ambient Sound Mode (AMB).

Sony XM5 left profile

You don't see the black outline as much as you'd imagine, when worn  (Image credit: Future)

AMB mode lets in the outside noises that would usually be muted when using ANC, making it easier to converse with others when wearing the WH-1000XM5 without having to remove the headphones altogether. It’s a godsend at times, – I find it particularly useful when ordering my usual oat flat white in the morning – but these bubble-of-silence ear pads do take that simple pleasure away.

Even when I had my music paused with AMB activated, it was a challenge to communicate my coffee order to the barista at Paddington train station without shouting to hear my own voice, let alone trying to process what was being said back to me. 

On a lighter note, if I use them a little longer I could perhaps start a career in professional lip reading, so I guess every headphone has a soft suede lining. At least, I think that’s what the idiom is…

Sony XM5 right profile

(Image credit: Future)

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Editorial Associate

Rowan is an Editorial Associate and Apprentice Writer for TechRadar. A recent addition to the news team, he is involved in generating stories for topics that spread across TechRadar's categories. His interests in audio tech and knowledge in entertainment culture help bring the latest updates in tech news to our readers.