DO NOT APPROACH. If there’s one gadget that screams this, it’s the humble earbuds that we plug in the moment we want to switch off from the world around us. It’s gone beyond being just a means to listen to audio and become an inter-social agreement for silence and space. And I’m not surprised.

A good pair of earbuds can truly transport me to Ludovico working his magic on the piano while icebergs collapse around him, in the middle of the Artic, while I sweat away in the scorching heat of Chennai. I’ve been plugging in the compact Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless buds for most of the week gone by to see where it transports me. 


Small, classy, and compact, the Sony WF-1000XM5 barely takes up space. On matte black, a subtle bronze logo and bronze mic grilles look elegant. The charging port is at the rear, alongside a physical pairing button. An indicator for pairing, battery life, and resetting is in the front for a glance.

Pairing with my smartphone was snappy, although setup with the app and its feature-loaded experience took some time. I tried on the 360 Reality Audio Setup again, where the app captures a photo of each ear to analyse. 


I cue up Ten Years Gone by Led Zeppelin and the acoustic guitars start strumming. The bass pedals kick in a bit later and are clear and punchy. The guitars on Orchid by Black Sabbath also sound wonderfully soothing.

The Sony WF-1000XM5, to me, feels like it favours treble notes just a tiny bit. Despite this, the violins on All I Want For Christmas Is You by Vitamin String Quartet are deep and resonant. Shilpa Rao’s husky vocals from Chaleya (Jawan) also sound mesmerising on the earbuds.

A light touch on the earbuds does the trick when it comes to controlling the playback. There’s no need to press, which is a relief because I hate the feeling of the buds pushing against my ear canal on press-control earbuds. 

Feature rich

Customisations are aplenty on the app. For example, with the voice assistant enabled I can choose among the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or the voice assist function on the smartphone. I could choose to disable the whole thing too, of course.

There’s the familiar speak-to-chat feature, which I tried out earlier on the Sony LinkBuds S. It automatically pauses anything I’m listening on to the earbuds the moment I start a conversation in real life. So, if I run into a colleague around the workplace and say hi, the music stays paused for as long as the buds can hear me talk.

Right out of the box, the earbuds are programmed to offer multipoint connectivity. The switching between my fave BTS playlist on my smartphone to a YouTube video review on the MacBook is seamless on the buds.

Noise cancellation

A quick tap on the left earbud lets me toggle between noise cancellation and transparency mode. The noise cancellation on the Sony WF-1000XM5 has been one of the most effective I’ve experienced recently. A quick tap drowns out most of the chatter around me, and the transparency mode lets in just the right amount of noise for me to be alert of my surroundings. 

On calls, I was told my voice came through quite clearly. This is when I was taking calls from a quiet space indoors or sometimes in a moving car with the windows rolled up. The ambient traffic noise barely made its presence felt is what I was told by the people on the other end of the line.

While Sony says they’ve improved the “ wind noise reduction structure”, my voice does sound a bit distorted when I’m taking a call and walking around outdoors on a nice, windy day. 

On a full charge, the earbuds kept me company for about 6-7 hours of playback, and the case gave me two extra rounds of charging. 


The Sony WF-1000XM5 has all its bases covered in terms of design and acoustics. What’s even better is that the earbuds+ app experience is so feature-packed that there’s almost no chance you’ll have a disappointing experience with these earbuds. 

Price - ₹29,990

Pros - Noise cancellation, decent sound profile, compact and lightweight, feature-packed

Cons - Voice on calls not always crystal clear, needs extra app installation for 360 reality audio

(This article was first published in Technophile, The Hindu businessline, on 28 Dec. 2023)