We may have just been given our first look at the Sony WH-1000XM5, the possible successors to the best headphones you can buy today.
A new leak from TechnikNews (opens in new tab) (via XDA Developers (opens in new tab)) includes high quality renders of what it says are the next-generation noise-cancelling headphones, which are expected to launch this year and replace the much-loved Sony WH-1000XM4.
While the leak doesn't include a release date or price, we're expecting that the Sony WH-1000XM5 will make an appearance in August, and will retail for a similar price to their predecessors $350 / £350 / AU$550. That's based on previous launches in the WH-1000X lineup of wireless headphones.
Sony hasn't confirmed that it's working on a new pair of noise-cancelling over-ear headphones, but the renders look pretty convincing to us - and the timing matches up with our expectations of an August release date. We've reached out to Sony for comment, and we'll update this piece when we hear back.
If they are legit, the images shared by TechnikNews show that Sony hasn't deviated too far from the design of the WH-1000XM4 for its next noise-canceling headphones, but it has made a few changes to give the WH-1000XM5 a sleeker appearance.
The earcups seem to be larger, and more generously padded, which could make the WH-1000XM5 more comfortable to wear than their predecessors - not that this was a problem we encountered with the WH-1000XM4. The headband also looks to have thicker padding.
It looks as though the on/off button on the left earcup has been replaced by a slider, and the 'Custom' button has been reverted back to 'NC/Ambient', as it was on the Sony WH-1000XM3. Like their predecessors, the renders show the headphones available in black and silver, and they'll come with a carrying case - though this time, they don't fold up inside.
The longest-lasting Sony headphones yet
As for the specs? TechnikNews claims the Sony WH-1000XM5 are getting a big upgrade to their battery life, which will come in at 40 hours with ANC switched on. That's 10 more hours of playback than the Sony WH-1000XM4 can manage, though the charging time (via USB-C) has increased slightly to three-and-a-half hours.
That longer battery life seems reasonable. A recent patent filed by Sony, which describes a pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones showed an internal battery rating of 3.8V, as opposed to the 3.7V rating of the WH-1000XM4.
The active noise cancellation will also apparently be improved, with two dedicated chips and three microphones to detect environmental noise and cancel it out. The noise cancellation provided by the XM4 was already very good, so any improvements in this area will just feel like a bonus.
The wireless connectivity standard has been bumped up to Bluetooth 5.2 from Bluetooth 5, and you'll still be able to listen with a wired connection thanks to a 3.5mm port.
There's no word on any improvements to the audio performance of the Sony WH-1000XM5, but there are a few things we'd like to see, namely the reintroduction of the aptX codec, which came with the Sony WH-1000XM3, but was missing from the XM4. This codec allows for hi-res audio playback, and while the XM4 are covered for high-quality streams using Sony’s own LDAC technology, you’ll need a compatible device to take advantage of it.
As well as comprehensive hi-res audio support, we’d love the Sony WH-1000XM5 to come with lossless audio. This was once impossible for wireless headphones, as the bandwidth offered by Bluetooth connectivity wasn’t wide enough to handle uncompressed, lossless streams. However, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound technology could make this possible.
All Sony would need to do is integrate the new QCC3065x headphone chip, and WH-1000XM5 users would be able to enjoy bit-for-bit mathematically exact music that closely reproduces music just as the artist intended it to be heard.
This chip hasn’t hit shelves yet, but headphones utilizing the technology are expected to start coming out this year, making the Sony WH-1000XM5 a prime candidate for lossless audio support.