Sony on why the WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones have a new design, more microphones and not-so-elitist price | Exclusive

‘It’s not just a refresh for the sake of changing.’

Sony WH-1000XM5
WH-1000XM5 price in India is set at Rs 34,990 but Sony will sell it at an introductory price of Rs 26,990 starting from October 8. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Sony has launched the WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones in India. They feature a new sleeker design, more processing power for seemingly improved noise cancellation and clear voice calling bolstered by more microphones –than before— while retaining their predecessors’ excellent 30-hour battery claim. Not that the predecessor – the WH-1000XM4 – was any less impressive but with the WH-1000XM5, Sony is promising even more greatness.

Also Read | Indians very quick in picking up on new technology: Sony | Exclusive

In an exclusive interview with’s Saurabh Singh, Sony India’s head of audio business Gyanendra Singh breaks the Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones down to their nitty-gritties from design, audio, pricing, and a whole lot more. Excerpts.

What is the state of wireless audio market in 2022— where are we placed?

The number of products being launched across different price points was pretty aggressive last year and that continues to see a very aggressive momentum even in this year. There is hardly a month which goes by without any top brand doing a launch. The consumer is spoiled for the technological improvements that are [now] at their fingertips. I think that is how evolution would be, that there are more and more feature-packed gadgets which would keep coming. The important thing to note is that they should be able to solve some existing problem or make life better. From a practical point of view, you can feel it around you. All of us are consuming more and more audio in both formats, whether in home entertainment aspect or even in the wearable category.

The WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones come with a new design. What is the general idea behind the refresh?

We introduced the first model [in the series] back in 2016 and from there on, every subsequent version that we’ve launched has been an improvement. The current one [WH-1000XM5] is no exception to that. Part of the reason what we’ve done with the current generation is also based on how we’ve been using the devices lately. We’re [now] spending more time with our devices. We’re consuming more content. We chose to make the WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones slimmer [to facilitate long-term use]. They’re also more seamless, smoother, so to say, and they have sweeping lines and not very aggressive edges. They’re more comfortable. The material we are using is lighter. It’s not just a refresh for the sake of changing. It’s always tough to change something which has been working so good, but I think it is good that we continue to change and still strive to make it better and hope we’ve hit that mark.

Sony WH-1000XM5
Gyanendra Singh, Head of Audio Business,Sony India (Photo credit Sony)

The driver size has gone down from 40mm to 30mm in this generation. Does that impact audio?

While driver is one aspect of putting the entire thing together, these devices also now come with two processors. There is the QN1 which is completely dedicated to managing the active noise cancellation part of it and the V1 which is pretty much responsible for the entire device altogether. It’s a complex equation, the interplay between everything to be able to give you the [best] audio quality, along with various other features, whether it is in terms of the active noise cancellation, the managing of the ambient sound, managing the call quality and managing the various other smart features which we have put in. All of this is being well taken care of and that’s why our designers have committed two processors to the entire device and still managing a very solid battery life, strong as before.

At the same time, you’ve doubled down on microphones— from 4 to 8. Why?  

The overall time that we are spending with these devices for calls, is quite high, especially post pandemic. We would be calling from maybe even open spaces and while we are on the move. That is why we have more microphones in this generation. These microphones can pick up the ambient sound better. That helps in the active noise cancellation. The device is smart enough to differentiate between your voice and also the ambient sound, which has to be cut out while the transmission is happening. That’s where these [extra] microphones come in very handy as they are able to get the ambient sound more accurately while improving call quality significantly.

One of the relatively less talked about features of these headphones is that they work great with Android as well as iOS. Your comment.  

We are agnostic to who the user is, weather, they are on Android or iOS. An important thing to note is that about 40 percent of WH-1000XM series users are actually on iOS.

While we are at it, do you want to talk a little bit about Apple taking some inspiration from Sony and coming out with personalised spatial audio in iOS 16?

It is simply an endorsement of how deeply our engineers are working to put together things and technology for the future and bringing that experience to our consumers. We will continue to work very hard to improve and provide people with a very solid and immersive experience as far as music goes. 

Do you want to talk a little bit about pricing strategy behind the WH-1000XM5?

We don’t want to be very elitist with our pricing. We would like to see them in many, many more hands than what we have today. 

Will their predecessor, the WH-1000XM4, continue to remain on sale?

They’re not discontinued, they will continue [to be on sale]. 

Your expectations from the upcoming festive season?

Audio overall as a category [both wearables as well as on the home entertainment front] has been doing very well. The overall consumption of audio and entertainment has seen phenomenal increase. Not only that, people are also upgrading their devices, they have been for quite some time and it continues at a very aggressive pace. 

Going into the festive season, we have a very good momentum. Without really picking on a number, we are extremely excited about this season because I think we’ve had, unlike any of the previous years, a very good run up to the festival season. I think this is going to break couple of records for us. 

Also Read | Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless headphones with ANC, up to 30-hour battery life launched in India: Check price, specifications

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First published on: 22-09-2022 at 15:14 IST