Life in the Sound Bubble

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Sony’s new WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones let you personalise your music experience, improve noise-cancellation, and communicate effectively when you’re on the move.

While we consider ourselves to be sociable guys, there are times when noise-cancelling headphones are not only favoured, but required. Commutes are often like that; no matter whether you’re taking the subway, a ferry, or a tram, there’s a lot of noise that you simply don’t need at the tail ends of the day. Travel is another such occasion; jet engines that rumble, babies that scream, seatmates who drunkenly slur through their life stories – sometimes it’s nice to be able to control the environment around you, and if that control comes with a great playlist, so be it.

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The newest addition to Sony’s award-winning 1000X family, the WH-1000XM4 headphones take the tech cred of earlier releases and add smart features that are all about creating a bubble of controlled sound around your noggin.

Sony's new WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones let you personalise your music experience, improve noise-cancellation, and communicate effectively when you're on the move.

With a pair of microphones on each cup, the WH-1000XM4s use Dual Noise Sensor technology to capture and analyse ambient noise, allowing the headphone’s built-in software and a dedicated algorithm to adjust music and noise – reducing high and mid-frequency sounds – at an impressive 700 times per second.

The WH-1000XM4 headphones also feature an Adaptive Sound Control feature that senses where you are and what you’re doing and adjusts the ambient sound settings accordingly. Over time, the headphones will learn to recognise locations that you frequently visit, such as your workplace, gym or favourite café, and tailors sound to suit the situation. If you’re travelling, this means you can lose yourself in your journey with no background noise to interrupt your favourite tracks, but if you’re on the street you can be aware of everything around you while still enjoying your beats. After all, we don’t want to be hounded by ambient noise but we don’t want to get hit by a bus either.

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So that’s the outside noise, what about the music within? The headphones use Edge-AI, developed in conjunction with Sony Music Studios Tokyo, to accurately rebuild audio during digital compression, ensuring a full-fidelity experience. Even better, Edge-AI analyses music in real-time and recognises the instruments, music genres, and individual elements of each song to restore the high range sounds lost in compression for a richer, more complete listening experience. Taking things a step further, you can achieve a bespoke 360 Reality Audio listening experience by simply connecting to the Sony Headphone Connect app.

OK, so you want to keep the world at bay but you also don’t want to be one of those dicks that sport massive headphones and can’t hear a word you say. Fortunately, the new Speak-to-Chat feature lets you have short conversations without – God forbid – taking your headphones off. The feature recognises your own voice and stops the music, letting the ambient sound in while you order a coffee. While the music automatically starts playing again 30 seconds after you’ve last spoken, this might curtail any plans you have for ‘karaoke on the move’.

Sony's new WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones let you personalise your music experience, improve noise-cancellation, and communicate effectively when you're on the move.

Another smart new feature, the Quick Attention mode lets you rapidly decrease the volume by simply placing your right hand over the earcup, which comes in handy when you’re listening for announcements. You’ll also be able to take crystal clear calls thanks to Precise Voice Pickup technology and five microphones built in the frames and cups, while the Sony headphones also recognise when you’re wearing them and when you’re not, adapting playback accordingly to help save battery power.

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Other smart features include the ability to connect to two Bluetooth devices at the same time – the headphones will even recognise which device is active and connect to the right one automatically; support for Google’s Fast Pair, which lets you easily locate your headphones by “ringing” them’; and a battery life of 30 hours. The latest model also includes the same touch panel controls as its predecessor and is optimised for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Of course, beyond the tech, the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones are lightweight and made to wear for long periods, thanks to super-soft pressure-relieving earpads that evenly distribute pressure and increase ear/pad contact for a stable fit.

Sounds like you’ll never have to take them off.

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