The Sony WF-1000XM4 are the rumored follow-up to the best wireless earbuds you can buy right now, the Sony WF-1000XM3 – and as new leaks emerge, the hype is hotting up around these potentially class-leading in-ear headphones.
Still, details of the Sony WF-1000XM4 are thin on the ground. There's been no confirmation from Sony that they even exist, and there's no sign of them at any regulatory bodies like the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).
However, images of the Sony WF-1000XM4 have apparently been leaked, after photographs of the packaging was posted to Reddit – and while they're legitimacy is still in question, we can't help but get excited for Sony's next true wireless earbuds.
The images – if genuine – have also given us a sneak peek at what looks like a new design and some of the features we can expect from the Sony WF-1000XM4, including active noise cancellation and support for Hi-Res Audio.
Of course, we'll need more than unverified images to confirm the existence of the Sony WF-1000XM4, but for now, here's everything we know about the rumored earbuds, as well as all the things we'd like to see.
Cut to the chase
- What are they? A new pair of Sony wireless earbuds.
- When will they be released? Possibly in 2021, but that's TBC.
- How much will they cost? Probably around $230 / £220 / AU$399.
Sony WF-1000XM4 release date
Right now, there's no firm release date for the Sony WF-1000X4, but we think their launch is fairly imminent, given that it's been one-and-a-half years since the release of their predecessors.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 were launched in July 2019, so it's feasible that Sony would release their successors two years later.
It also makes sense that Sony would plump for a 2021 release date if the company wants to see off competition from Apple. The tech giant is rumored to be launching the Apple AirPods 3 and the AirPods Pro 2 at some point this year, and the latter in particular could be a rival for the Sony WF-1000XM4 as they'll likely come with active noise cancellation.
The fact that images of the Sony WF-1000XM4's packaging have been leaked also suggests that a release date could be coming soon – though, as we mentioned, these images are yet to be verified as genuine.
Sony WF-1000XM4 price
Again, there's no word yet on how much the Sony WF-1000XM4 will cost, but we'd be surprised if the company deviated too much from their predecessors' price.
When they launched, the Sony WF-1000XM3 cost $230 / £220 / AU$399, though prices have since dropped significantly as the buds have aged.
Sony WF-1000XM4 design
Based on the images, it looks like the Sony WF-1000XM4 will have a sleeker build than their predecessors, with rounder housings and what look like memory foam ear tips.
The entirety of the round housings could be touch-sensitive, unlike the Sony WF-1000XM3, which feature a specific touch-sensitive area that allows you to control your music playback, summon your device's voice assistant, accept or reject calls, and enter Quick Attention mode.
The gold Sony logo has also changed slightly, now appearing on the side of the earbuds rather than on the top. Meanwhile, a gold accented piece on the outside of the earbuds could be an external noise cancellation microphone, as The Walkman Blog speculates.
Sony WF-1000XM4 rumored features
Again, information on the kind of features we can expect from the Sony WF-1000XM4 is a little thin on the ground, but a few specs have been gleaned from the images of the packaging posted to Reddit.
This includes a return of the active noise cancellation technology that made the WF-1000XM3 so popular, and it’s likely that the Ambient Sound and Quick Attention modes will also make an appearance.
The packaging also includes a Hi-Res Audio Wireless certification, which means they could come with support for Sony's high resolution LDAC codec, alongside the AAC and SBC codecs already supported by the XM3.
There had already been murmurs that the Sony WF-1000XM3 would be getting a Hi-Res Audio upgrade, after the earbuds appeared very briefly on the Qualcomm aptX website, being described as 'aptX HD enabled'. This post was swiftly taken down, but not before it was spotted by The Walkman Blog.
As the post appeared in March 2020 and we haven't heard anything since, it's possible that Sony is saving aptX HD support for the WF-1000XM4.
Sony WF-1000XM4: what we want to see
While information on the Sony WF-1000XM4 is leaking out in dribs and drabs (indeed, Sony hasn't even confirmed their existence yet), we've had the opportunity to dream up a few things we'd like to see from the fourth-gen true wireless earbuds.
Support for 360 Reality Audio
We'd love for Sony to furnish the WF-1000XM4 with some of the features seen in the Sony WH-1000XM4, their over-ear siblings (and the best headphones of 2021).
One of these features is support for 360 Reality Audio, which is Sony's proprietary immersive sound technology. Designed to put you right in the center of your music, the technology places individual instruments within a virtual sphere, making you feel as though your favorite songs are coming at you from all angles.
As well as giving you another way to experience your music, 360 Reality Audio support could make the WF-1000XM3 a real rival for the AirPods Pro, which support Apple's own Spatial Audio tech.
DSEE Extreme audio upscaling
Another feature that Sony could potentially borrow from the WH-1000XM4 is DSEE Extreme audio upscaling. This AI-driven processing looks to restore detail from lossy compressed formats, and brings clarity to lower quality formats and files, and we were impressed with its capabilities when we tested the WH-1000XM4.
Speak-To-Chat and automatic pausing
Again, Speak-To-Chat was introduced along with the Sony WH-1000XM4, and we'd love to see it implemented once more with the WF-1000XM4. This feature allows the microphones inside the headphones to recognize when you've started talking, and pause your music while ramping up the ambient noise that’s being funneled into your ears.
Speaking of pausing your music, we'd like to see Sony introduce automatic pausing when you remove one earbud. It's something we've seen from lots of wireless earbuds on the market, and it seems like a simple upgrade.
Better battery life and wireless charging
With every new generation of true wireless earbuds, we like to see an improvement to battery life. The Sony WF-1000XM3 currently offer six hours from the buds themselves, and a further 18 hours from the charging case, and models like the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 have proven that far more is possible these days.
Saying that, if the leaked images of the earbuds' packaging are legitimate, it looks like there won't be any change to the battery life at all.
Another simple upgrade that Sony could make is the introduction of wireless charging capabilities. It's something that the Apple AirPods Pro do as standard, and with more and more people buying into wireless charging mats, it seems prudent to give these users the option to charge without a cable.
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