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Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. Sony WH-1000XM2: Should you upgrade?

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4 (Image credit: Sony)

Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony has decided to take the older design and run with it, even in the new WH-1000XM4, but it also provided a great suite of features that all headphone lovers will enjoy. From the improved ANC and sound quality, to the built-in sensor for wear detection, along with the ability to have two devices actively paired at the same time, the WH-1000XM4s are the cream of the crop.

Sony WH-1000XM4

Best ever

ANC is the best ever for Sony
Built-in sensor for wear detection
Connects to two devices at the same time
Improved padding
USB-C charging
Three-year-old design
No water resistance rating

Sony WH-1000XM2

Sony WH-1000XM2 Render

It's obvious that the design of the XM2s holds up, along with many of the same features that debuted with these headphones. However, three years is a long time in the tech world, and the WH-1000XM2s just don't stand up against the test of time, especially at that price.

Sony WH-1000XM2

Trend-setter

Still has great noise cancelation
Touch gestures are familiar
Foldable design still holds up
Great battery life
Too expensive for its age
Aging Micro-USB port for charging

Sony has become the "big dog" in the over-the-ear headphone market, and the Sony WH-1000XM2s helped to make that happen. Now that the WH-1000XM4s have been released, let's see if the WH-1000XM2s can really hold up three years later.

Sony WH-1000XM4 vs. WH-1000XM2 The design holds up, but that's about it

Sony WH-1000XM2 Review

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Unless you're someone who always has to have the latest and greatest tech, chances are you may still be holding onto the WH-1000XM2s. That's for a good reason though, since the headphones became a trendsetter for Sony, with a design that's still hanging around three years later (save for some material changes that made future headphones lighter).

Nonetheless, Sony has stuck with the design, which is somewhat frustrating for some. We would have liked to see a new design, but since the WH-1000XM4s still have touchpad gestures, a foldable design, NFC, and all the new features you would expect, it's tough to be too disappointed.

Outside of the design, there are only a couple of features that both the WH-1000XM2s and WH-1000XM4s have in common, one of the most important being the inclusion of active noise cancelation (ANC). However, Sony has vastly improved the ANC thanks to a newer processor and additional Bluetooth SoC that analyzes your music and the ambient noise in your surroundings.

Sony WH-1000XM4Sony WH-1000XM2
Weight8.95 oz9.8 oz
Wearing Detection
Active Noise Cancelation
Battery Life30 hours (ANC on), 38 hours (ANC off)30 hours (ANC on), 38 hours (ANC off)
Quick Charge10 minutes provides 5 hours of playback
Bluetooth Version5.04.1
Audio CodecsSBC, AAC, LDACSBC, AAC, LDAC
Audio ProcessorSony Q1N
Foldable Design
Ambient Noise Mode
Multi Device Connection
NFC
Charging PortUSB-CMicro-USB

Sony WH-1000XM4

Source: Sony (Image credit: Source: Sony)

One convenient feature returning to the XM4s that was has been available on all of Sony's headphones in the lineup is NFC. Some may give the ole' eye-roll here, but being able to tap your phone to the side of your headphones and have them automatically pair is much easier than navigating the Settings menus. Plus, it's also available on the older XM2s if you are considering those instead of the XM4s.

Battery life is the same on both headphones, which is a great thing when you look at the competition and see how far ahead Sony is on that front. Both the older variant and the newer WH-1000XM4s are rated for up to 30 hours of battery life with ANC enabled, and 38 hours if ANC is turned off. Chances are, though, that your those WH-1000XM2s are not holding the same amount of charge anymore.

Being able to tap your phone to the side of your headphones and have them automatically pair is much easier than navigating the Settings menus.

This is where the WH-1000XM4s begin to easily pull away though, as a 10-minute quick charge can provide an additional five hours of music playback, while the older version doesn't have any quick charge capabilities to speak of. Keeping with the charging capabilities, the WH-1000XM4s use USB-C charging, leaving the old Micro-USB charging days in 2017 with the WH-1000XM2s where they belong.

After years of Sony fans clamoring and requesting this feature, the WH-1000XM4s also finally delivered Multi Device Connection. This makes it so your headphones can be paired to your computer and phone at the same time, and if your phone rings, the WH-1000XM4s will automatically switch for the duration of the call and then switch back to your computer. This is not something available on the WH-1000XM2s, so you are stuck manually pairing them to everytime you want to switch around.

Despite the somewhat stagnant design, we would definitely recommend picking up the WH-1000XM4s instead of hanging onto your older WH-1000XM2s. You get all of the upgraded features such as improved noise cancellation, a sensor that recognizes when your headphones are actually on your head, along with the ability to connect multiple devices at the same time.

Bottom line: It's time to upgrade to the Sony WH-1000XM4s from the Sony WH-1000XM2s

There's no doubting that the WH-1000XM2s helped set Sony on the path to being to the at the top of the Bluetooth, noise-canceling headphone market. And there's definitely some nostalgia points to be given to the older headphones, but from a feature-set standpoint, there's really no contest.

If you're a proud owner of Sony's WH-1000XM2s, then you will likely want to upgrade to the WH-1000XM4s. Battery life likely has deteriorated on your older headphones and the padding around the headband and earcups is probably worn out. Not only will you get a brand new set of headphones to wear in, but the padding has been improved and is much more comfortable than even the WH-1000XM3s from last year. With new features, including upgraded ANC and Mutli Device Connection, it's no contest.

Andrew Myrick
Andrew Myrick

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.