It’s been almost two years since Sony launched the WF-1000XM3, its flagship true wireless earbuds. Since then, we’ve been patiently waiting to see what Sony would do for a follow-up, especially given how the noise-canceling true wireless earbud category has exploded in the intervening time. This week, a newly leaked set of images gives what we believe to be our best look so far at Sony’s follow-up, the WF-1000XM4 — and they’re nothing like Sony’s previous efforts.
The images are courtesy of TheWalkmanBlog, which makes no claims as to the origin of the images, but their quantity and quality give us a high degree of confidence in their accuracy. They also happen to match a somewhat blurry image that leaked earlier this year, showing the same earbud design on what was purportedly a product box for the new earbuds.
The design is a departure from the current WF-1000XM3, to put it mildly. It uses a rounded body with a vented opening near the top, and a very prominent copper cylinder shape jutting out from the main earbud body.
The top vent — if there’s any consistency to Sony’s design language — is likely the location of one or more microphones. The same detail appears on the Sony WH-1000XM3 and XM4. But we can still only guess as to the function of that cylinder. It could be a touch control, a physical button, or a dedicated sensor of some kind. Or maybe a hybrid of all three.
The eartip looks like it’s made of memory foam, which would be a change from Sony’s use of silicone sleeves on the WF-1000XM3 and WF-SP800N. Unlike those models, however, the leaked images show a much more compact overall shape that won’t protrude from the ear nearly as much as the XM3 or SP800N. Based on the proportions of the eartip to the body in the leaked image, I’m guessing these earbuds will be a tad bigger than the Jabra Elite 85t, but smaller than Sony’s previous models.
Additional photos show what is likely the charging case for the new earbuds. Of note are the more compact shape and a flat bottom that will not only allow the case to stand up (the current model lies flat on its side) but will also let it recharge wirelessly.
As to what Sony has in store for us feature-wise on these as-yet-unannounced earbuds — some things are no-brainers. They will have active noise cancellation (ANC). They will have at least six hours of battery life between charges. They will have customizable EQ and controls that can be adjusted via the Sony Headphones app. They will auto-pause and resume music functions when you remove/reinsert them. They’ll work with the Sony 360 Reality Audio format. They will also offer optional access to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. These are all features of the current WF-1000XM3.
What Sony is likely going to add is wireless charging, an eartip fit test, a way to fast-switch between ANC and ambient mode, greater control over functions like volume, and some kind of official IPX rating (the current WF-1000XM3 can handle a little moisture, but aren’t officially water-resistant).
I suspect the price will stay the same at $320 because that’s exactly what Sony did when it replaced the WH-1000XM3 with the XM4 model. As for timing, given that the WF-1000XM3 debuted in August 2019, I think we will see the WF-1000XM4 no later than August 2021.
As soon as we learn more, we’ll update this roundup.
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