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Sony WH-1000XM6 wishlist: All the features I want to see

Sometimes, less (bass) is more.
By

Published onApril 11, 2024

Top-down view of the Sony WH-1000XM5 folded flat on a dark grey table

Sony is one of the most trusted brands for producing the best noise canceling headphones that money can buy. The company’s latest and greatest WH-1000XM5 succeeded an already-accomplished set of headphones in Sony’s WH-1000X line. Along with some of the most powerful noise canceling on the market, the WH-1000XM5 host an extensive set of high-end features. It is no wonder that fans are eager to get their hands on the Sony WH-1000XM6. Given that the WH-1000XM5 came to shelves in 2022, it seems like an appropriate time to get excited about a feature-rich upgrade.

However, heavy is the head that wears the crown. If Sony wants to remain king of the hill, there are a few improvements the company will need to bring to its next-gen upgrade. Here is a list of all the improvements I want to see in the Sony WH-1000XM6.

A robust IP rating

Right ear cup of the Sony WH-1000XM5 placed flat on table
The Sony WH-1000XM5 features ear cups designed with minimal seams and sharp edges.

When forking out $400 of hard-earned cash, it is reasonable to expect high-end headphones to withstand the elements. Unfortunately, the WH-1000XM5 is not suitable for use on a rainy day. With no official IP rating, the headphones are not even recommended as a trusty gym companion. Sony illustrates this by including a rather amusing graphic in the product manual telling you not to sweat on the WH-1000XM5 or to expose them to rain. This indicates that the WH-1000XM5 are even more vulnerable to water droplets than their predecessors.

I hope Sony will bring at least an IPX4 water-resistant rating to the WH-1000XM6. This would protect the headphones from omnidirectional water splashes, making them suitable for sweaty workouts or trips in the rain. It would also make Sony’s next-gen cans stand out in a market sparse of water-resistant headphones. The company could go further, offering an IP54 dust and water-resistant build. This would provide the headphones with total dust ingress and prevent small solid particles from interfering with the device.

A cheaper price tag

Side-on view of Sony WH-1000XM5 beside the Bose Quietcomfort 45 hanging over a white horizontal pipe
Embedded microphones have limitations compared to gaming headsets, but these two are pretty good.

Even for high-end wireless headphones, $399 is an eye-watering sum. The Sony WH-1000XM5 provide many top-tier features at the expense of an affordable price tag. If the company wants to scoop up the lion’s share with its next iteration of headphones, it should consider lowering the retail price of the XM6 at launch.

While the price of audiophile-grade wireless headphones looks set to continue its upward trajectory, affordable alternatives are mopping up more of the market. For example, the Monoprice BT-600ANC cost only $99 and deliver high-end features such as the aptX HD Bluetooth codec, 41dB of noise canceling, and 36 hours of charge. The 1MORE SonoFlow also cost $99 and provide a stylish travel case, a custom EQ with 12 presets, and over 56 hours of charge. With an ever-increasing list of competitors offering more for less, Sony should consider retailing the WH-1000XM6 at a cheaper price point on release.

A flatter bass and treble response

The Sony WH-1000XM5 boosts sounds up to 300Hz by about 5dB.
A little heavy on the treble and bass, the Sony WH-1000XM5 boosts bass more than our our preference. We recommend equalizing these with an app.

Modern-day music mixes boost bass and sub-bass frequencies, and most consumer headphones have followed suit. The Sony WH-1000XM5 are no exception, sacrificing their midrange response for more prominent bass frequencies. This leads to higher vocals, woodwinds, and strings feeling comparatively subdued against lows below 300Hz.

The midrange dip between 300Hz – 1050Hz makes higher frequencies sound comparatively loud. For example, snares, cymbal shimmers, and hi-hats appear much brighter in the mix. Snares, in particular, have a much greater attack with fewer audible undertones to soften their sound. Interestingly, the WH-1000XM5 have a steep roll-off after 10kHz not shared by their predecessors. This is most pronounced in songs that rely on lots of instrumentation. Regardless, I would like the Sony WH-1000XM6 to host a flatter frequency response that more closely matches our preference curve (shown above in pink). Less equalizing out of the box is always a good thing.

Qualcomm’s aptX Bluetooth codec

We tested the Sony WH-1000XM5 in the lab with state-of-the-art equipment.
We tested the Sony WH-1000XM5 in the lab using state-of-the-art equipment including our B&K 5128.

The LDAC Bluetooth codec is Sony’s proprietary answer to Hi-Res wireless audio streaming. The company’s variable-bitrate codec supports up to 990kbps, 96kHz/ 24-bit audio sampling. While LDAC was initially reserved for the sole use of Sony products, it is now available for devices running Android 8.0 “Oreo” or later. The Sony WH-1000XM5 boast the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs for wireless listening and an aux input for wired audio.

However, aptX is a more universal Hi-Res wireless connection than LDAC for Android users. It also outperforms LDAC, as SBC does, when streaming at most phones’ default 330kbps bitrate setting. That is not to say this is ubiquitous: Android’s wireless efficiency is inconsistent depending on your source device. Nevertheless, users gain a reliable 352 kbps, 48kHz/16-bit connection with Qualcomm’s simpler aptX codec. While this is still considered lossy, it better serves its users where LDAC struggles.

USB-C audio

USB-C charging port of the Sony WH-1000XM5
Both headphones may charge using USB-C, but there is an annoying lack of USB-C audio.

Let us face it — the mobile headphone jack is in decline. While a few top-end headphones, such as the Sony WH-1000XM5, still host an aux port, more smartphones are ditching it. This should not pose a problem for those still using portable Walkmans, but an increasing number of music fans are forced to listen wirelessly. Many attribute the headphone jack’s demise squarely to Apple’s door, yet more and more smartphone manufacturers are omitting it.

However, despite the doom and gloom, USB-C audio is slowly becoming the default. For example, the Shure AONIC 50 (Gen 2) can connect via 3.5mm, USB-C, and a tranche of Bluetooth codecs, including aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX Voice, SBC, AAC, and LDAC. So does the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, offering USB-C and TRS wired connectivity. If Sony wants to future-proof its WH-1000X line of headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM6 will need USB-C audio.

What would you like to see Sony bring to the WH-1000XM6?

1723 votes

Will there be a Sony WH-1000XM6?

Top-down view of Sony WH-1000XM5 beside the Sony WH-1000XM4 on a grey surface

Sony is at the forefront of the headphone and earbuds space thanks to its broad appeal among Android and iOS users alike. Given the success of its previous WH-1000X series headphones, I see no reason for the company not to follow up with a feature-rich upgrade. There has been no official announcement from Sony thus far, but I fully expect the WH-1000XM6 to launch in the first half of 2024. Sony’s latest flagship headphones, the WH-1000XM5, launched as recently as May 20, 2022. While they are among some of the best over-ear headphones on the market, their high price tag is a barrier for many. With other brands awarding equally desirable features for less money, Sony will need to up its game with its next-gen release to remain competitive.

  • Sony WH-1000XM3 — August 30, 2018
  • Sony WH-1000XM4 — August 18, 2020
  • Sony WH-1000XM5 — May 20, 2022

Sony plays a relatively predictable hand when releasing its WH-1000X headphones. For example, the Sony WH-1000XM3 came to shelves on August 30, 2018. The updated WH-1000XM4 came to market in the same month on August 18, 2020. The company’s latest WH-1000XM5 launched earlier in the year on May 20, 2022. Based on Sony’s previous releases, it is clear that the company favors launching its WH-1000X headphones in the spring and summer.

Because of Sony’s previous release schedule, we can surmise when the WH-1000XM6 will come to market. For example, the WH-1000XM4 were released just under two years after the WH-1000XM3. Furthermore, the WH-1000XM5 came to shelves even sooner — just one year and nine months after the WH-1000XM4. By that metric, it would make sense for Sony to bring its next-gen headphones to market in the spring of 2024.

Should you wait for the Sony WH-1000XM6?

Side-on view of Sony WH-1000XM5 beside the AirPods Max hanging over a white horizontal pipe
The WH-1000XM5 (left) is much friendlier to those who frequently switch operating systems than the AirPods Max (right).

The Sony WH-1000XM5 stand proudly as some of the best wireless headphones money can buy. However, the company’s next iteration will likely cost more at launch than the current model. Given the WH-1000XM5 launched for $399, it is fair to question whether parting with even more money for the upgrade is worth it.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 ($387 at Amazon) are favored among Android and iOS users alike. In addition to their comfortable build and friction rod design, the WH-1000XM5 offer deep and wide ear cups to accommodate large ears. The headphones also include Bluetooth 5.2 with support for the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs. Those still sporting a phone with an aux input can use the WH-1000XM5’s TRS port. Additionally, the headphones can connect to multiple devices via Bluetooth Multipoint and offer up to 48dB of noise canceling. The ear cups create a robust seal that works with ANC to block out intrusive noise. Battery life is excellent, profiting 31 hours with ANC activated and the ability to fast charge 180 minutes from a three-minute top-up. The headphones provide immersive surround sound via Sony’s 360 Reality Audio feature. Those wanting to hone their sound can do so in the Sony Headphones Connect app. This allows you to adjust a custom EQ or select from presets. Unfortunately, the absence of an IP rating ignores those searching for workout-friendly headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM5Sony WH-1000XM5
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Sony WH-1000XM5
ANC performance • Outstanding microphone • Useful app features
MSRP: $399.00
The king of the ANC pack extends its reign

For something lighter on the wallet, Android and iOS users should consider the Monoprice BT-600ANC ($84.99 at Amazon.) While these headphones do not provide a companion app, they offer premium features at an affordable price point. For example, the headphones support Bluetooth 5 with the aptX HD, AAC, and SBC Bluetooth codecs for wireless listening. Additionally, users can connect with wires via the 3.5mm port. Bluetooth Multipoint allows for seamless device switching. Noise canceling is excellent, with the headphones attenuating frequencies by as much as 42dB and successfully isolating frequencies above 1kHz. The Monoprice BT-600ANC will run for 36 hours with ANC activated. However, cheaper prices come with cheaper features. This is apparent in the headphones’ sound quality, where the nearly 10dB drop-off between 500-1000Hz forces vocals to take a back seat. The microphone quality also cannot compete with the Sony WH-1000Xm5. Nevertheless, many will enjoy these headphones’ eclectic features and affordable price tag.

iPhone owners looking for the most seamless user experience will enjoy the Apple AirPods Max ($429 at Amazon.) These headphones host Apple’s proprietary H1 chip which uses Bluetooth 5.0 with the AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs. When paired with Apple devices, the AirPods Max automatically switch to the nearest device that is streaming audio. Apple users can also enjoy watching movies with the company’s spatial audio and head-tracking feature. The headphones offer noise canceling that outperforms the Sony WH-1000XM5 and XM4. This is in addition to the best transparency mode in the business. Sound quality is pleasing for most genres, with extra emphasis around sub-bass frequencies for some added kick. However, these headphones can only be powered using Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable. For wired listening, users must cough up for a Lightning-to-3.5mm cable. Unfortunately, the headphones’ proximity sensors and voice assistant activation do not work on Android.

A person uses the capacitive touch controls to control media playback.
Capacitive touch controls for music playback on the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4.

For the best in-house sound, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless ($289.23 at Amazon) take the crown. At a slightly cheaper price than the competition, these headphones own a flatter frequency response than the XM5 and AirPods Max. The Momentum 4 Wireless also boast commendable noise canceling and isolation that dampens the loudness of high-pitched noise by about 75-95%. Users will find battery life appealing, with the headphones retaining over 56 hours with ANC activated. The Momentum 4 Wireless supports wireless listening over the SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, and aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codecs. Music fans can also connect via the 3.5mm or USB-C port. The company’s Smart Control app is a handy companion for bringing out the best in the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless.

Sony WH-1000XM5Sony WH-1000XM5
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Sony WH-1000XM5
ANC performance • Outstanding microphone • Useful app features
MSRP: $399.00
The king of the ANC pack extends its reign

FAQ

While there has been no official announcement from Sony about its new flagship headphones, I fully expect the WH-1000XM6 to launch in 2024. The company’s WH-1000X headphone line is among some of the best in the business. It would be surprising if Sony did not follow on from its success with the XM5 with a feature-rich upgrade.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones came to market on May 20, 2022.

Sony tends to release its WH-1000X line of headphones in the spring and summer months. With that in mind, we could see the Sony WH-1000XM6 come to market in the first half of 2024.

Unfortunately not. The Sony WH-1000XM5 do not have an IP rating, indicating that the headphones have no resistance against water or dust.

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