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Sony WH-XB920N wishlist: All the features I want to see

The Sony WH-XB920N would benefit from a flatter frequency response than their predecessor.
By
January 13, 2024
A set of hands holds the Sony WH-XB910N above a wood table

Sony’s Extra Bass headphones are an affordable and bassy alternative to its WH-1000XM line. They have proven their worth over the past two decades and feature among our list of the best headphones for bass. The company’s latest XB headphones, the Sony WH-XB910N, stand tallest. These headphones are excellent for bass heads and boast a broad list of Bluetooth codecs. However, they could be better suited for nuanced music, and many will find the default frequency response uncomfortably bassy. Given that the WH-XB910N launched in 2021, I expect the Sony WH-XB920N to arrive on shelves in 2024.

If Sony wants to remain competitive, it will need to make a few improvements to the Sony WH-XB920N before their anticipated release later this year. Here are all of the upgrades I want to see.

A flatter frequency response

This frequency response chart of the Sony WH-XB910N shows a significantly exaggerated bass and under-emphasized mids.
Sony WH-XB910N (cyan) comes in hot with a 20dB exaggeration at 40Hz, compared to our preference curve (pink).

Most wireless headphones boast a pronounced bass response. This suits modern music production and popular music genres. However, the Sony WH-XB910N boost sub-bass frequencies around 30Hz by over 20dB. While not much happens musically that low down, it does give the headphones a rumbling sensation. Paired with the under-emphasis in the mids between 200Hz and 1000Hz, many fundamentals sound comparatively quiet. The roughly 7dB boost around 1kHz – 2kHz and 6kHz – 8kHz does little to compensate for the enormous sub-bass boost. Generally speaking, everything but the low-end sounds too quiet.

The Sony WH-XB920N would benefit from a flatter default frequency response that more closely follows our preference curve shown above in pink. This would reproduce a broader list of genres more pleasingly and reduce the risk of suffering ear fatigue, making the headphones more comfortable for long periods.

More consistent touch controls

Close up image of the Sony WH-XB910N propped up in its case with the ear cups folded flat.
Touch controls are on the flat of the right ear cup housing.

Controlling the Sony WH-XB910N requires a combination of touch controls and button prompts. The touch gestures are conducted on the right ear cup, while the buttons reside under the left ear cup. The most impressive feature of these headphones is the ability to enter Ambient mode by cupping over the right ear cup. This is much more convenient when someone begins talking to you than searching for a button.

However, the WH-XB910N struggle to recognize slide gestures well. The sensitivity of the panel is hit-and-miss, failing to register commands consistently. In particular, the headphones often confuse volume adjustments for song skipping. Pausing your music works well enough, but the cans sometimes struggle to execute audio resumption prompts. Triggering the virtual assistant is also far too easy, especially when taking the headphones on or off. The Sony WH-XB920N should adorn a more consistent touch panel with more accurate sensitivity. This would improve the user experience of the company’s next-gen headphones.

Improved LDAC connectivity

A bust of The Terminator faces the camera head on wearing the Sony WH-XB910N.
Big headphones bring a big boost in bass.

For many people, Bluetooth codecs remain an elusive and inconsequential concept. However, Sony unveiled its proprietary LDAC wireless connection back in 2015. This brought variable bitrate transfer speeds of up to 990kbps and 24-bit/ 96kHz audio sampling to Sony-exclusive devices. Thankfully, since Android 8.0 “Oreo,” LDAC has been part of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP.) While other brands have jumped on the bandwagon, Sony continues to make some of the best Bluetooth LDAC headphones on the market. The Sony WH-XB900N are a great example, offering wireless connectivity via the SBC, AAC, LDAC, aptX, and aptX HD Bluetooth codecs.

Unfortunately, connecting via LDAC with Sony’s latest WH-XB910N headphones proves inconsistent. For example, when paired with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3, the headphones default to the AAC Bluetooth codec. When toggling between prioritizing connection stability or audio quality in the Sony Headphones Connect app, both settings result in connecting via AAC. Only by digging through your smartphone’s Developer options menu might you force the headphones to use LDAC. This feels like a misstep, given that LDAC is the only high-res Bluetooth codec boasted by the WH-XB910N. The Sony WH-XB920N should more easily connect via LDAC when it comes to fruition.

Better microphone quality

A chart shows the frequency response of the Sony WH-XB910N microphone performance.
Deeper voices should sound pretty representative of life, while high voices might sound muffled.

It is typical for microphones placed away from the mouth to suffer from reduced high frequencies. Consequently, this causes voices to sound dull and muffled. While most wireless headphones with internal microphones fall foul of this, the Sony WH-XB910N has a considerable drop off of around -23dB at 2.5kHz. This should not affect lower voices much, but those with higher voices may sound quieter.

The microphone performs well in ideal conditions. Unfortunately, the WH-XB910N struggles to attenuate noises caused by external street sounds and wind. In particularly gusty environments, the microphone is prone to intermittently cutting voices out in an attempt to filter out wind noise. Sony should bring better microphone quality and noise reduction to the WH-XB920N. This would elevate it on par with some of the best Sony headphones, including the WH-1000XM5.

Stronger noise canceling

The isolation and ANC performance of the Sony WH-XB910N as shown in a chart.
The WH-XB910N cancels noise effectively; though the occasional super low rumble might sneak through, the performance is pretty comprehensive across the frequency spectrum.

Only a few years ago, the noise canceling and isolation performance of the Sony WH-XB910N would have been considered flagship. Nowadays, though, the likes of Sony’s top-tier WH-1000XM5 live among the best ANC-ready headphones. These industry-leading cans attenuate noise by up to nearly 50dB and are among the best ANC headphones for air travel. This compares to the WH-XB910N, which subdue noise by an average of 20dB.

Unfortunately, sub-bass frequencies below 80Hz circumvent the headphones’ ANC. That means occasional super-low rumbles from cars, planes, and trains are audible. Thankfully, the 20dB of attenuation at 100Hz does some heavy lifting to cancel out most intrusive lows. Isolation is also excellent, with a formidable 45dB of noise suppression around 8kHz. However, Sony’s WH-XB910N cancels as much noise as the older WH-1000XM3 and is now a little outdated. I am hopeful the Sony WH-XB920N will boast stronger ANC and isolation than its predecessor.

What would you like to see Sony bring to the WH-XB920N?

32 votes

Will there be a Sony WH-XB920N?

Sony WH-XB920N headphones
OnLeaks
The Sony WH-XB920N look set to come in three colorways and host longer button controls.

Sony leads with its right foot forward when it comes to producing some of the best over-ear headphones that money can buy. Given the popularity of the WH-1000XM5, I see no reason for the company to take its foot off the gas. While there has been no official announcement, I fully expect the Sony WH-XB920N to come to fruition by the Summer of 2024. Sony launched its most successful WH-1000XM5 headphones one year and eight months ago, on May 20, 2022. While these cans are undeniably good, they came to market with a hefty price tag of $399. With people increasingly looking for a better bang for their buck, it is in Sony’s interest to bring forward its affordable WH-XB920N headphones soon.

On February 9, 2023, trusted industry tipster Steve Hemmerstoffer of OnLeaks revealed to 91mobiles the renders of the successor to the Sony WH-XB910N. Notably, there is no mention of whether the company’s next-gen Extra Bass headphones will be called the WH-XB920N. However, the renders show the successor to the WH-XB910N is likely to own some cosmetic changes. Firstly, the headphones look set to come in three colorways. These include the much-anticipated navy and black of their predecessor, in addition to a new white variant. The buttons on the underside of the left ear cup also indicate that Sony may opt for button controls instead of touch gestures. The grille on the flat of the ear cups hint at improved noise canceling and pressure relief, too, which is expected.

Inside, the headphones are tipped to include Sony’s DSEE upscaling feature and Bass Boost via the Sony Headphones Connect app. The WH-XB910N’s newer sibling may also host Sony’s V1 chip. This is found among its flagship WH-1000X series and improves sound processing. While many more details are scarce, Steve Hemmerstoffer’s information suggests the headphones should allow 35 hours of ANC-enabled listening. Fast charging may also be supported, providing one hour of juice from a three-minute top-up. Among other unannounced high-end features, the headphones could connect via Bluetooth Multipoint.

  • Sony WH-XB900N — June 25, 2019
  • Sony WH-XB910N — September 30, 2021

Unfortunately, Steve Hemmerstoffer did not indicate a suspected release date. Nevertheless, we can gather some handy information from Sony’s previous releases. For example, the company favors summer and fall for putting out its WH-XBN line of headphones. There was also a roughly two-year window between the launch of the WH-XB900N and the WH-XB910N. If we treat the two-year and three-month break between these headphones as a minimum, we can expect the Sony WH-XB920N to come to shelves in the first half of 2024.

Should you wait for the Sony WH-XB920N?

Shot from the side to show the Sony WH-XB910N controls on the left ear cup.
Power on/off and ANC/Ambient are the two buttons on the left ear cup. These work just fine.

The Sony WH-XB910N remain on sale at the time of writing and serve as a formidable mid-tier option in Sony’s vast headphone catalog. However, given the WH-XB910N are already too expensive to live among the best cheap headphones, is there room for a more expensive upgrade?

The Sony WH-XB910N ($148 at Amazon) are an excellent option for bass heads. In addition to a bass-heavy sound profile, the headphones are comfortable and lightweight at 252g. The headband is just tight enough to feel secure without exerting excess pressure. The cans also come packed with high-end features, including Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and a five-band custom EQ. The WH-XB910N even benefits from Sony’s Adaptive Sound feature. This uses location permissions to decide which environments it believes you want ANC automatically activated. Users gain over 37 hours of ANC-enabled listening time and four hours of juice from a 10-minute top-up. With a list of Bluetooth codecs, including Sony’s high-res LDAC codec, it is hard to go wrong for under $250.

Nevertheless, if you want the best in-house noise canceling, you may wish to shell out more money for the Sony WH-1000XM5 ($387 at Amazon.)  These cans pack the same selection of Bluetooth codecs as the WH-XB910N. However, they boast up to 50dB of noise canceling and yield nearly 32 hours of ANC-enabled listening time. The WH-1000XM5 also own a more subdued bass response than the WH-XB910N. In general, the WH-1000XM5 only deviates from our target frequency curve below 300Hz and above 2.8kHz. Hosting an eight-microphone array and an AI noise rejection algorithm allows the WH-1000XM5 to conduct good-quality phone calls. The headphones significantly reduce outside noise, such as wind and street sounds.

If your heart is dead set on brain-rattling amounts of bass, then the Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 ($229.99 at Manufacturer site) are worth considering. With a roughly 13dB boost around 60Hz, these cans live up to their “Crusher” name. The Skullcandy IQ app hosts many handy utilities, including a five-band equalizer and the company’s proprietary “Crusher” function. Sound personalization also features to help hone your sound, in addition to customization of ANC and Stay Aware intensity parameters. The headphones run Bluetooth 5.2 with the SBC and AAC codecs. However, you can also listen to your music analog via the included 1.5m length 3.5mm jack. With over 45 hours of ANC-enabled listening and a 10-minute charge profiting four hours of juice, the Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 are an attractive option.

If you want to save some cash, check out the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 ($149 at Amazon.) This headset hosts the same list of Bluetooth codecs as the Sony WH-XB910N. However, it runs Bluetooth 5.3 and lasts over 50 hours with ANC enabled. The headphones’ Soundcore companion app performs less well than it should. However, it provides access to a list of custom EQ presets and wind noise reduction. The Soundcore Space Q45 boasts solid noise canceling, with a maximum attenuation of roughly 37dB around 5kHz. Unfortunately, considerable undulation above 3.5kHz makes cymbals and high-end elements sound unnatural. Nevertheless, if you can adjust the sound to your liking, the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 are an excellent pick for under $150.

Sony WH-XB910NSony WH-XB910N
Sony WH-XB910N
Extra Bass tuning • Dual noise canceling • Comfortable ear cups
MSRP: $248.00
Noise-canceling proof that you don't need to break the bank for Sony's best listening experience.
X is for extra, B is for bass. These noise-canceling Sony headphones are tailored to deliver at low frequencies while shutting out the world around you with dual mics on each side.

If you enjoy a lot of bass in your music mix, then the Sony WH-XB910N are worth it. For ($148 at Amazon,) you gain a list of Bluetooth codecs, over 37 hours of battery life, and decent noise canceling.

The Sony WH-XB910N came to market on September 30, 2021. This followed two years and three months after its predecessor, the Sony WH-XB900N, on June 25, 2019.

In short — bassy. The headphones boost sub-bass frequencies around 30Hz by over 20dB. While not much musically happens that low, it does give the headphones a “rumbling bass” feeling. The under-emphasizes between 200Hz and 1000Hz accentuates this further, making many fundamentals sound comparatively quiet. Generally speaking, everything but the low-end sounds a little too subdued. The Sony Headphones Connect app hosts a custom EQ that you can use to dial out some of the bass, but it may still sound a little unnatural.

Yes, the Sony WH-XB910N do have noise canceling. While sub-bass frequencies below 80Hz might sneak through, its ANC feature is generally effective.