JBL Tour One M2: Top 5 Features – From Studio Editing to Music and Gaming

  • The JBL Tour One M2 features Adaptive Noise Cancelling to block the ambient noise around you.
  • It also includes a Smart Ambient mode which helps you stay alert of your surrounding noise.
  • Personi-Fi 2.0 lets you customize the audio to match your personal listening profile.

Audio is paramount for content creation – for reels, short films, and, of course, podcasts – and a good pair of headphones makes a lot of difference. Without a good headset, playing competitive games or even casually listening to music or watching a movie is an incomplete experience. As an avid PlayStation 5 gamer and a multimedia editor myself, good audio is crucial as it can really enhance the gameplay and help refine the content that is being produced.

I tried out the new JBL Tour One M2 headphones to test if they can be more than just good premium Bluetooth headphones. It was used under different scenarios like editing multimedia content in our studio, while gaming, and also when commuting and traveling on a flight. The headphone cost about $300 and provide a bang for the buck as it is loaded with a host of features from which I have listed the top five attributes that I found to be helpful for my day-to-day use.

WATCH: JBL Tour One M2 Unboxing

Adaptive Noise Cancellation (ANC): Filter out ambient noise based on your surroundings

The JBL Tour One M2 comes with Adaptive Noise Cancellation (ANC), which is basically active noise cancellation, but has ambient features for different scenarios. We will talk about that in a bit.

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As working professionals, we have returned to an office environment, working with teams spread across different cities and nations. So, collaboration becomes important at such times. My colleagues sitting next to me in the office are in virtual meetings or on team calls will other colleagues almost all the time. There are several distractions and disturbances around you in an office space, which is why I found the ANC to be quite helpful. The feature cancels most of the surrounding noises and helps me focus on my video and podcast edits.

Also, while we have a studio room for recording audio and video, there are times when the audio sounds too hollow or there is an echo or reverb, not something that one can easily notice on a smartphone or a regular laptop speaker. This is where the JBL Tour One M2’s noise cancellation comes in handy to hear these things clearly, acting as a good monitoring headphone.

Smart Ambient mode: Helps you stay aware of your surroundings even with headphones on

The Smart Ambient mode lets you stay aware of your surroundings without taking off your headphones. I love listening to music during my daily commute to work. The headphone’s Smart Ambient mode allows me to be aware of my surroundings and listen to announcements when traveling in a metro. This is also useful at the gym where I listen to music while working out, to stay cognizant of what’s going on around me. The Smart Ambient Mode basically allows you to continue listening to music without being shut out from the world and is useful for those who want to maintain situational awareness.

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Personi-Fi 2.0: Calibrate headphones per your personal hearing profile.

The JBL Tour One M2 comes with a feature called Personi-Fi 2.0, which helps personalize sound levels according to your hearing profile. Not everyone has the same hearing ability, so it becomes important to customize the audio to make it a comfortable experience. There is an audio test that you can take from the JBL headphone app that helps calibrate the headphones when connected. It plays sounds of different frequencies and you need to tap when the frequency is audible. This will create an audio profile with a sound curve that best suits you.

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I did not experience much difference with the headphones when watching movies on OTT apps or listening to music. However, it did make some difference when I was editing. Even when playing competitive games, it is important to hear every footstep clearly and other elements like gunshots and water sounds. With Personi-Fi 2.0 enabled, these sounds were clearer to me and helped enhance the gameplay.

Talk-thru: Media automatically mutes when you speak

Talk-thru is a good feature where you do not have to pluck out your headphones while talking to someone. The moment you start talking, the device automatically mutes the music, and starts ambient mode. Once you are done talking, the device unmutes the music playback after a few seconds. Through the smart talk option, you can set the mute timing between five to twenty seconds.

Though this is a great feature and helps a lot in a work environment, there is one small drawback – the ambient mode kicks in even when you start humming a song. Hopefully, this can be fixed with future updates.

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Auto Play and Pause: Media automatically plays when you put on the headphones and pauses when you take them off

Sometimes when you take your headphones off, the music or movie continues to play, which drastically drains the battery. With the JBL Tour One M2, the Auto Play and Pause feature kicks in when you take off your headset and automatically pauses the movie or song, and resumes playback when you wear them back. This neat feature conserves battery life and ensures you resume your music/movie exactly where you left it.

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While those were my top five features in the JBL Tour One M2, I would also like to give a special mention to the comfort that the cushioning of the earcups and the headband. Comfort is important to me as I tend to use my headphones for long durations when working. So, I would definitely recommend this pair to those who like to have their headphones on for hours.

There are more features that the JBL Tour One M2 offers which we will highlight in our detailed review soon.

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Sony WH-CH720N Review: Good Sound, Effective ANC, Long Battery Life

  • Sony’s WH-CH720N comes with an integrated V1 processor for effective noise cancellation.
  • Sony claims that the headphones offer up to 50-hour use on a single charge.
  • The headphones support multi-point connectivity.

Sony is widely known as an industry leader when it comes to offering active noise cancellation (ANC) on headphones. And while most OEMs are focusing on the TWS segment, Sony continues to focus on both TWS earbuds and over-the-ear headphones. Last year, we tested the Sony WH-1000XM5 (review), which are premium headphones priced at around $425. We were impressed with their ANC, ambient noise and sound quality.

This year, Sony released the more affordable WH-CH720N, which is available for around $125. In terms of positioning, it is beneath the flagship 1000X line and alongside the XB extra-bass series.

A key highlight of the WH-CH720N is that it is powered by the same integrated V1 processor for noise cancellation as on the XM5. The headphones also come with multipoint connectivity to seamlessly switch between two devices. We have been using the headphones for a little over two months now and below is our analysis.

WATCH: Sony WH-CH720N Unboxing and First Look

Lightweight design, good comfort

At just 192 gm, the WH-CH720N is Sony’s lightest wireless noise-canceling headphone set. The weight is well-balanced and you hardly feel it, even when using them for a long time. The headband is faux-leather and offers the right amount of padding needed to hold them comfortably.

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The outer side of the earcups is made from plastic and has a matte finish. The inner side has faux leather padding which is soft and comfortable, and stays that way for hours of wearing them, even in hot and humid conditions.

The 720N does not fold inwards. Instead, the earcups swivel at a 110-120-degree angle to allow them to lie flat on the table. However, as they do not fold inwards, the headphones will take up more space inside your bag. Also, Sony doesn’t include a carrying case as a standard offering.

The WH-CH720N is lightweight and has a comfortable design for long listening hours.

Talking about buttons and ports, the left earcup has a physical 3.5 mm audio jack, a USB Type-C port for charging, and a power button. The right earcup has the play/pause and volume buttons and the noise cancellation/ambient noise button.

counterpoint sony wh-ch720n review buttons and ports

Just like other Sony devices, the 720N also focuses on sustainability and is made from recycled plastic. The packaging is plastic free and made from recycled paper.

ALSO READSony WH-1000XM5 Review: Raising the bar for ANC, ambient noise & sound quality

Features, audio quality and performance

The headphones pair with your smartphones and laptops over Bluetooth 5.2, and support SBC and AAC codecs. The 30 mm dynamic drivers support a frequency range of 7Hz–20,000Hz. Unlike the flagship headphones, the 720N lacks Google’s Fast Pair support. Though it is not a big deal, having Fast Pair would have been a nice addition.

The WH-CH720N supports the Sony Headphones Connect app which is available for both Android and iOS platforms. Sony’s app lets you control different aspects such as the 5-band equalizer and presets, multipoint connectivity, and configure button settings.

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There is an ambient sound mode (transparency) that lets you adjust the strength up to 20 levels. It works well, helping you stay aware of the surroundings depending on your preferences. The feature can come in handy when you are traveling in a metro or on a flight where you want to listen to music but at the same time do not want to miss out on key announcements. We tried it both on a flight and in a metro and were impressed with how well the ambient mode feature worked.

The ambient sound mode lets in enough sound to stay aware of the surroundings while also listening to music. 

Talking about noise cancellation, the integrated V1 processor works well in cutting out background noises such as fans and traffic noise to a good level. On a flight, even when sitting closer to the engine, the 720N was quite effective in cutting out the jet noise, while the music volume was at 60%. However, it does not completely cut off all the noise, and the moment you stop music playback, there is some sound intrusion.

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The ANC works well in cutting off unwanted noise and offering a good music-listening experience.

Just like the 1000XM5, the CH720N also comes with adaptive sound control, a smart function that can automatically switch between ANC and transparency modes depending on your location. It uses the phone’s motion to detect when you are sitting, walking, running, or commuting. According to the situation, it activates the ANC or increases the transparency level so you can clearly hear your surroundings. Again, it worked well in our tests.

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We tested the WH-CH720N’s sound quality using different audio sources, including primarily an Apple iPhone 14 Pro, a MacBook Pro 16 and a Galaxy Z Fold4. The sound quality was consistent across devices. With a balanced tuning, the headphones sound pleasant, though the bass is slightly punchy. The big drivers do help in offering a spacious sound to enjoy listening to different music genres. The wide sound staging also makes the headphones great for watching OTT content like TV shows and movies.

Lastly, there are two more things to talk about – mic and battery life. The beamforming mics are good enough for making and receiving phone calls, and even video calls on conferencing platforms like Zoom and Teams. We made a few calls in noisy environments like airports and metro stations, and the recipients were able to hear us clearly.

counterpoint sony wh-ch720n review drivers

In terms of battery life, Sony claims to offer up to 50 hours of non-stop listening with ANC off, and about 35 hours with ANC on. During our test, we kept ANC on all the time, with a volume between 50% and 70%, and would listen in parts for about four hours a day. With such usage, even after eight days, the headphones still had about 10% of battery left, totaling around 32 hours of usage. That is about one charge in a week, and if you turn off ANC, it may reach close to two weeks.

Key Takeaways and Wishlist for WH-CH720N Successor

  • The WH-CH720N is a value-for-money over-the-ear Bluetooth headphone set.
  • It has a well-built design and offers a comfortable fit.
  • Multipoint connectivity works flawlessly to switch between devices.
  • The WH-CH720N delivers a great battery life so you can go without charge for a week depending on your usage.
  • ANC and ambient sound modes work as expected.
  • The headphones offer good sound quality in their segment.
  • A wear detection feature could have been a great addition to pause/resume music playback.
  • On the design front, an inward folding one could have been even better, considering most of us also carry them while traveling.
  • Premium features like Hi-Res audio could be a good addition to the CH720N’s successor.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Review: Raising the bar for ANC, ambient noise & sound quality

The TWS earbuds segment has seen immense growth over the last two years, and they are a popular choice when it comes to personal audio products. But there is still an audience for over-the-ear headphones as they offer more comfort and long-lasting battery life on a single charge. For the past few years, Sony has struck a winning formula with its flagship 1000X-series over-the-ear headphones that deliver great sound quality and superb noise cancellation.

First introduced in 2016 as MDR-1000X, Sony changed the naming scheme with its successor, WH-1000XM2. The fifth-generation headphones in the series, the WH-1000XM5, were recently launched at INR 34,990 (around $425). They feature new materials, refreshed design, eight mics, and an additional processor for ANC. But how does one take the already best and make it even better? This isn’t more like “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?”, but more like “if we can improve it even further, why not?”

We have been testing the Sony WH-1000XM5 for a little over a month and below is our analysis.

♻️Sustainability efforts: Plastic-free packaging & use of recycled materials

Sony, as a brand has been vocal about its sustainability efforts, and the same continues with the WH-1000XM5 too. The packaging does not include any plastic, and the box is made from what Sony calls “Original Blended Material.” It is basically a sustainable paper material made from “bamboo, sugarcane fibres, and post-consumer recycled paper,” Sony explains.

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But it is not just the packaging, the body of the headphones is also made from recycled plastic materials using automobile parts. In the box, you get a collapsible carrying case made from premium fabric, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm aux cable (if you want to listen in passive mode), and a USB Type-C cable for charging.

Sony’s sustainability efforts toward the elimination of plastic in packaging are commendable.

Lightweight design with new soft leather for all-day comfort

The Sony WH-1000XM5 sees a major redesign, the first time for the series since its initial launch. The changes are visible right from the flat dome-shaped earcups that feature touch-sensitive gesture controls. While the left earcup has a 3.5mm socket, physical power, and ANC/Ambient Mode toggle buttons, the right earcup has a USB Type-C port for charging.

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The earcups are now suspended freely from the hinge, but unlike the previous generation, they can only fold down flat, but cannot rotate inwards. The only drawback of this is that they are not as compact when folded, which means you need to carry a larger case (bundled) when traveling.

Lastly, there is also one more change with the headband. It can now be adjusted freely using the slider and it does not have steps and grooves for adjustment. This also means that you may not be able to set an even length on both sides at all times. But that should not be a major problem.

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Talking about comfort, Sony is using new “soft fit leather” padding material for the earcups. It is actually very soft and comfortable to wear for hours. Even for someone like me who wears glasses, I did not feel any pressure or even the slightest discomfort even after wearing the headphones at a stretch for over four hours.

Key specifications: Bluetooth 5.2, LDAC codec, and more

• The 1000XM5 features Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity with an operating range of 10m.
• It supports Google’s Fast Pair feature to quickly pair with a supported smartphone.
• With 30mm dynamic drivers, the headphones have a frequency response range of 20Hz–20,000Hz, and 20Hz–40,000Hz (when switched to LDAC codec, with a sampling of 990kbps).
• It supports SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs.
• The 1000XM5 leverages the integrated V1 processor, eight microphones (up from four in XM4), and a new QN1 processor for offering impressive noise cancellation.
• Sony has also included multi-point connectivity, allowing you to simultaneously connect the headphones to two devices, such as your smartphone and laptop.
• The multi-point connectivity is a great feature allowing you to seamlessly switch between devices, but it has one downside, it disables LDAC codec, meaning you will not be able to listen to high-res music.
• You can enable/disable features using the “Headphones” app, which is available on both Android and iOS platforms.

counterpoint sony wh-1000xm5 multipoint connectivity

Key Features: Speak-to-chat, native assistant, and more


• The speak-to-chat feature pauses music playback when it hears you speaking and turns on the ambient sound mode.
• Once you are done talking, the playback is resumed.
• It uses AI algorithms and beamforming mics to detect voice and switch modes.
• While this is a good feature, it does not work 100% accurately and gets triggered when you are humming music, or even when someone in the room sitting close to you starts talking.
• Thankfully, you can disable this in the app.

Adaptive Sound Control:

• This smart function automatically switches between ANC and ambient sound mode depending on your location and surrounding.
• It does this by learning from your daily routine to recognize the location and your preferences.
• For instance, it can detect when you are sitting, walking, running, or commuting, and accordingly switch to ANC or increase the strength of ambient sound when outdoors.
• In our test, this feature worked flawlessly.
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Other features:

• The WH-1000XM5 comes with a quick attention mode – resting your palm on the right earcup quickly activates the ambient sound mode and deactivates it as soon as you remove the palm.
• While it works well, it would have been great if it paused the music playback, rather than just muting it.
• There is Spotify Tap feature, double pressing the ANC/AMB button, you can quickly start Spotify music playback, and toggle between playlists. (Spotify app needs to be installed for this to work).
• The proximity sensor can detect when you are wearing the headphones and can instantly pause/start playback when you remove and wear the headphones.
• If you do not wear the headphones for a few minutes, they will automatically be turned off.
• Lastly, there is also Sony’s DSEE Extreme which uses Edge-AI to upscale compressed music in real-time to restore sound lost in compression.
• With DSEE Extreme turned on, the audio sounded slightly detailed, irrespective of the source.

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Performance: Sound quality, ANC & mic

We tested the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones using multiple devices. This includes iPhone 12 (for AAC codec) & MacBook Pro 16 (M1 Pro) as daily drivers. For the LDAC codec, we tested the sound quality using the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4. For music, we used two sources – Spotify, and Apple Music (with music streaming in High-res Lossless format).

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Detailed and entertaining sound quality

Sony has once again managed to offer excellent sound quality that can be enjoyed by both casual music listeners and audiophiles. The WH-1000XM5 has a sonic signature tuned with slightly more emphasis on the bass while also ensuring that it’s not too aggressive. Otherwise, the sound quality is detailed and offers a spacious sound staging. The audio separation is good, and you can easily distinguish between each instrument.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 delivers sound quality that is both detailed and enjoyable.

The good part about the XM5’s audio is that you don’t need to turn the volume all the way up to be able to enjoy whatever you are listening to. When at home, I never went beyond the 50% volume mark, whereas outdoors, even 80% volume was more than enough. ANC has a big role to play here, which we will discuss briefly.

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Audio with LDAC sounded marginally better and the connection was stable too. But even with AAC, there is not a big drop in quality, and the music experience is also as enjoyable.

Great noise cancellation, vastly improved mic

With a total of eight mics (four on each earcup), HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1, and features like Auto NC Optimizer the Sony WH-1000XM5 offers very effective noise cancellation. I was impressed with the results, both indoors and outdoors. I tested under multiple scenarios – inside my room, out in the gallery close to a busy road, traveling in a local train, and also in an airplane.

When indoors, the ANC works great in cutting down the fan and AC noise to a great extent. It does not completely silence everything; you can still hear some noise if the music isn’t playing. But the moment you start playing music, even with 30% volume, all the ambient noises are cut off, letting you enjoy your music.

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Outdoors, the eight mics and AI algorithms work great in cutting out the wind noise, allowing you to enjoy your music listening. Even when in an airplane, the headphones cut off drone noise effectively.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 offers improved ANC & mic quality over its predecessor.

The beamforming mics and AI-based voice reduction algorithms accurately separate your voice from wind and other ambient disturbances. Whether you are talking from inside or out on a busy road, the recipient can hear your voice clearly, without even knowing that you are talking from outdoors.

The ambient sound mode also sees big improvement with more mics where outdoor noises now sound more natural and clearer. This helps you to remain more aware of the surroundings when outdoors.

Battery life: Fast charging with improved efficiency

The battery life on the Sony WH-1000XM5 is great. On a full charge, it easily lasts around 29 hours with ANC, which is pretty close to Sony’s claim of 30 hours. It’s great for those long-haul 16-hour flights, as the battery will last you through the journey – from your home to the destination, including layovers.

Sony has included a fast charging feature which is a great addition. During the briefing, a Sony executive told me that even three mins of charge can offer over three hours of music listening time with ANC. I went ahead to test the claim and was pleased with the result. In just four mins, using a 66W USB PD fast charger, the battery went from empty to 21%, and it lasted a little over four hours with continuous music playback at 60% volume.

The WH-1000XM5 can be your perfect companion on long-haul flights.

Key Takeaways:

• The WH-1000XM5 is a perfect example of how even small, iterative improvements can improve an already good product.
• Sony’s sustainability efforts of using recycled materials to build the headphones and no plastic packaging are commendable.
• The headphones are comfortable to wear for many hours without causing fatigue.
• Sony delivers crisp and detailed audio, great noise cancellation, and natural-sounding ambient noise.
• Mic quality on calls has also been improved and thanks to wind-noise reduction, the audio during calls doesn’t sound muffled.
• Battery life is one area where Sony can improve with the WH-1000XM5 successor, especially where competitors like Sennheiser Momentum 4 promise twice the battery life up to 60 hours.
• IPXX rating for sweat and drizzling rains could be another good addition in the next iteration.
• A lot of tap-and-gesture features are pre-defined in the Headphones app, and the ability to customize them as per individual liking is another area where Sony can still improve.

ALSO READ: Other Strategic Reviews on Smartphones, Smartwatches, TWS & More

Sony WF-1000XM4 Review: Great ANC TWS Earbuds With Stellar Audio

The TWS hearables are one of the fast-growing segments in consumer electronics seeing a 24% YoY growth in 2021. OEMs removing wired headphones from smartphone packaging, and the work-and-learn from home scenario post-pandemic are some of the factors contributing to this growth. The wireless earbuds also have a higher attach rate than other accessories such as smartwatches. In 2022, we expect the trend to continue and the TWS earbuds market is expected to grow by another 24% YoY.

The personalized content consumption from music listening to podcasts, video streaming, and gaming has increased during the pandemic. Even video conferencing needs to connect & communicate with clients, colleagues’ school, and family has grown significantly. And these trends have catalyzed the need for reliable earbuds with features that include Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), great audio, mic quality, and chords free being increasingly preferred. While these features have been available in premium earbuds but with growing demand, scale and innovation are quickly trickling down to relatively lower price points. There are only a handful of OEMs those package all of the above features really well, and Sony is one of them carving out mindshare alongside Apple and Samsung.

Sony’s TWS earbuds in the 1000XM-series are very popular and have set a benchmark for features like ANC, superior audio quality, and design. Focusing on the premium market and limited distribution reach compared to Apple or Samsung, the Japanese manufacturer was still able to capture a 3% volume share globally in 2021. However, Sony is also expanding its TWS line-up and premium features for models in the mainstream $100-$200 segment which should help it gain more share in 2022.

Talking about TWS growth in the high-end segment, Counterpoint Research Senior Analyst Liz Lee said, “The premium TWS earbuds segment saw robust growth in the second half of 2021 and we believe despite the recent macro-uncertainty due to the Ukraine crisis, lockdowns in China and inflationary climate, the demand for premium and mainstream TWS earbuds will continue to rise. Sony is expected to do well being the vanguard of driving key features such as ANC and audio experience in the TWS earbuds market.”

We have been using the premium Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless earbuds for a few months now. The new XM4 version sports advanced features such as LDAC codec for higher bit-rate audio transmission, Speak-to-Chat using bone conduction sensors, ambient sound mode, and 360 Reality Audio support, vs the previous generation XM3 model. So, while the WF-1000XM3 was arguably one of the best all-round TWS, what has Sony done differently this time with the new 1000XM4 to take it to the next level?

Following is our detailed analysis of the new XM4 model right from packaging to performance after making it our daily driver for the last three months:

♻️ Plastic-free Unboxing Experience: A Move Towards Sustainable Future

  • Sustainability and efforts toward reducing the carbon footprint are becoming a key strategy for several tech companies and it’s good to see Sony going above and beyond.
  • The WF-1000XM4’s packaging does not use any plastic, and the box is made from recycled paper.
  • Sony also used embossed logos instead of printing the box with ink, a small effort without compromising the user experience.

Counterpoint Sony WF-1000XM4 Review Sustainability

WATCH: Sony WF – 1000XM4 – Unboxing & First Look

Compact Design, Comfortable Fit

  • Compared to the 1000XM3, the new 1000XM4 comes with a more compact design where the charging case is now 40% smaller, and the earbuds are 10% smaller.
  • The compact case makes it even easier to carry in the pocket, whereas the earbuds also now fit well, without popping out of the ear, like on the predecessor.
  • The earbuds snugly fit in the ear and are comfortable to wear for hours, provided, you don’t push them too hard in your ears to get a tight fit.
  • Even when working out – like doing a few jumping jacks or high stepping, the earbuds were firmly secure in the ears.
  • Sony has done away with silicone ear tips, and bundled foam ear tips instead.
  • Foam ear tips are a good addition as they offer great passive noise isolation while fitting comfortably in your ears.

Sony WF-1000XM4 Specifications and Features

Hi-Res Audio Streaming, Quick Pairing

  • The earbuds come with 6mm dynamic drivers that support a frequency range of 20-40,000Hz.
  • With Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity, the earbuds support AAC, SBC, and LDAC (bit rate up to 990kbps) codecs.
  • The pairing process is straightforward, and if you have an Android smartphone, the Sony WF-1000XM4 also supports the Google Fast Pair feature.
  • Though, the multi-point connectivity feature as seen on Jabra, Apple AirPods, and Samsung Galaxy Buds series, could have been a good addition.
  • The earbuds are sweat-resistant and come with an IPx4 rating, so you can wear them during workouts, or even in light rains when you go on a walk or run.

Counterpoint Sony WF-1000XM4 Review Earbuds

Companion App and Features

  • Both on Android and iOS, Sony has a companion app called “Headphones” which gives you can access to some core features.
  • You can adjust the equalizer, ambient sound control, ANC (Active Noise Cancellation), and more.
  • Once you set the equalizer, the profile is created and saved on the earbuds, which is a good differentiator over competitors.
  • So, even if you pair the earbuds with a new smartphone or a PC on which the “Headphones” app is not installed, you can still enjoy music with the equalizer profile you set using the app on another smartphone.

counterpoint sony wf-1000xm4 review companion app

🎙Speak-to-Chat for Quick Communication

  • Speak-to-chat is an interesting feature that uses bone conduction technology to pick vibrations from your voice to temporarily pause music and start ambient noise.
  • This feature comes in handy when you are listening to music and want to talk to someone, say while commuting or walking on the road and asking for direction.
  • The feature works like a charm, but if like me, you too like humming to the tunes while listening to music, better to keep the feature off as the bone conduction is very sensitive in picking voice, and it activates the ambient sound while pausing music.
  • There is also a Quick Attention feature, where you can “Tap and Hold” on the left earbud to quickly pause music and activate the ambient sound mode, and it turns off as soon as you release your finger.

Counterpoint Sony WF-1000XM4 Review Speak to Chat

Sony WF-1000XM4 Performance: More Bang for your Buck

Ambient Sound: Stay Aware of Surroundings

  • Activating the ambient sound mode, you can hear your surroundings more clearly, thanks to the two noise-sensing mics on each earbud.
  • It lets you stay connected with the surroundings while listening to music, very useful when commuting on a metro or bus.
  • The app even lets you adjust the strength depending on the amount of ambient noise you want to let in.

Counterpoint Sony WF-1000XM4 Review ANC and Ambient Modes

🔇Excellent ANC: Zone Out from the Noise

  • Sony has included a new V1 integrated processor in the earbuds which powers ANC and LDAC Bluetooth codec support.
  • The V1 processor takes its noise-canceling capabilities even further than the predecessor by cutting off more noise at different frequencies.
  • We tested the ANC capabilities on a long-haul flight while traveling to MWC 22, and locally while traveling in metro and cabs.
  • With ANC ‘On’ and listening to music even at 50% volume, the earbuds block out ambient noise effectively while letting you immerse in the music.
  • There is also a wind noise reduction feature which worked very effectively in blocking out noise when sitting on a window seat on a local train.

Counterpoint Sony WF-1000XM4 Review Mics

🔊Clean, Immersive Sound Quality      

  • Sony has consistently delivered great personal audio devices, and the WF-1000XM4 is no different.
  • The earbuds are very well tuned to instantly get yourself lost in the groove.
  • It offers a versatile performance irrespective of the music genre you are listening to.
  • With most TWS, I prefer customizing the equalizer to suit my listening preferences, but with the XM4, I mostly kept the EQ off.
  • Though, at times when I felt like having some bass punch, I would set Clear Bass to +2, while keeping the rest of the frequencies flat.
  • Most of my listening is generally on iPhone with Apple Music as a source, and despite having songs in Lossless quality, the iPhones only support AAC codec.
  • Though audio on flagship Android smartphones sounds a little better due to support for LDAC codec.
  • The connectivity is stable too, as long as you are within a five-meter range.
  • Apple Music lossless, Tidal, or Prime Music on Android lets you take advantage of high-res audio listening, but the same is not possible with Spotify.
  • Mic quality on calls was good and recipients had no issues hearing me.

🔋Reliable Battery Life

  • On a full charge with mixed usage and ANC On, the WF-1000XM4 offered a good battery life of a little over six hours.
  • The charging case adds two full charges for the earbuds, so you get a total of 18-19 hours of battery life before needing the charge the case again.
  • The earbuds also support a quick charge feature where even five minutes of charging can offer up to 60 mins of playtime and during my testing, it worked for close to 50 mins, which is good.
  • The case takes about 90 minutes to fully charge with a wired Type-C fast charger.
  • There is also support for wireless charging, but it takes a little over three hours to fully charge.

Counterpoint Sony WF-1000XM4 Review Wireless Charging

Key Takeaways

  • The Sony WF-1000XM4 delivers excellent sound quality catering to audiophiles and general users.
  • The active noise cancellation (ANC) is among the best that we’ve tried on TWS earbuds.
  • Battery life even with ANC ‘On’ is not an issue with the 1000XM4, and with ANC ‘Off’, it covers you for almost the entire workday.
  • Additional features like saving the audio profile on the earbuds, IPx4 rating, and wireless charging, offer a value package.

Wishlist for WF-1000XM4 Successor

  • While the attention awareness feature using bone conduction technology is a good addition, the low sensitivity needs more refinements to not trigger aggressively.
  • In-ear detection could be better, currently, even if the earbuds are kept on the table, the music playback does not stop, and it continues to play.
  • Multi-point Bluetooth connection to quickly and automatically switch between devices will be a good addition, especially as most of us extensively use a smartphone and a laptop in our daily life.
  • Gaming latency could be better, as it will come in handy when playing games like BGMI or COD: Mobile on a connected smartphone.

ALSO READ: Other Strategic Reviews on Smartphones, Smartwatches, TWS & More

Nothing ear (1) Review: Unique Semi-transparent Design, Clean Sound, Good ANC

  • The Nothing ear (1) TWS earbuds are priced at $99.
  • The earbuds feature ANC and transparency modes.
  • Nothing has put a lot of emphasis on offering a unique design.

The TWS earbuds are one of the fastest growing categories in hearables. As a result, today we have several brands offering TWS across different price points. Even as the market is already saturated, a London-based start-up, Nothing, set up by ex-OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, has chosen TWS as a category to launch its first product, Ear (1).

In Q1 2021, TWS sales were up 44% YoY, where more consumers preferred the mid-range and budget TWS under $100 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, priced at $99, Nothing’s first TWS has carefully chosen its target audience.

The ear (1) has a lot to offer on paper, but how does it perform in day-to-day usage? Here is our review, after using the device for over a month now.

Unique semi-transparent design: A key differentiating factor

Nothing’s unique approach to design and experience starts right from the paper packaging. It features a small sleeve at the bottom that needs to be peeled off to reveal the silver box inside. The box includes the charging case and earbuds, a small, braided USB-C charging cable, and two sets of silicon ear tips (small and large). The medium ones are already on the earbuds.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review in-box contents

Both the earbuds and charging case feature semi-transparent plastic on the outside, and a black-and-white color scheme. The charging case is a square-shaped box featuring a clear plastic base and lid. The battery and circuitry are contained in a white module with earbuds charging pinpoints on the top. The hinge of the lid is solid and has a strong magnet to snap shut when you close it. There is a small LED on the top which indicates charging and pairing modes.

The transparent, black and white design scheme offers a retro look to the Nothing ear (1).

There is a small dimple on the top of the lid, which adds to the design – just in case you want to hold it like a fidget spinner. On the right, you will find a USB-C port for charging, and a small circular button to put the TWS into pairing mode.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review case charging port

A similar design scheme continues for the earbuds. The stem has transparent plastic that shows off the circuit and ICs inside, whereas the buds that protrude are made from glossy white plastic.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review earbuds circuit

Nothing has gone all out to offer a unique design that makes the ear (1) stand out from the crowd.

The stems also have white and red dots on them to indicate left and right buds, respectively. Another interesting design element is the “Nothing ear (1)” branding that is printed in a dot matrix pattern on the stem of each earbud.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review earbuds

“Nothing broke into the top three brands in the premium TWS segment in India in its debut quarter by capturing a 7% share in the segment. Competitive pricing and differentiated design helped the brand gain good mindshare among consumers. But it remains to be seen how well Nothing manages to work around with the ongoing global supply chain constraints,” said senior analyst Anshika Jain, who tracks India’s TWS market at Counterpoint.

Nothing ear (1) specifications, set-up and companion app

  • Driver size:6 mm
  • Weight: Each earbud – 4.7 g, charging case with earbuds – 57.8 g
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, Fast Pair
  • Supported Codecs: SBC, AAC
  • Charging: USB-C, Qi wireless charging
  • Claimed battery life: Up to 34 hours with ANC off, up to 24 hours with ANC on
  • Compatibility: Android 5.1 and above, iOS 11 and above
  • Water resistance: IPX4 splash resistance

Setting up the ear (1) is very simple. On Fast Pair compatible devices (Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and Z Fold 3 in my case), a pop-up to connect appears within seconds of opening the earbuds case. It first directs you to download the companion app from Play Store, while a prompt to pair also appears at the same time. On iPhones, you will have to go to Settings > Bluetooth and manually pair the earbuds.


While you don’t necessarily need the companion app to connect the Ear (1) with your smartphone, it does unlock certain features. First, the app lets you see the battery level of individual earbuds and the case. Second, you can adjust the ANC level between Light and Medium, and switch between preset equalizers.

The Fast Pair feature enables quick pairing of earbuds with a compatible smartphone, and it worked well for me.

Lastly, you can also configure gesture controls for left and right ears – Triple Tap for the previous or next song, and Tap and Hold for enabling or disabling ANC. The earbuds also support swipe gestures, where you slide your finger up or down on the earbud stem to increase or decrease volume.


“The Ear (1) from Nothing is an eye-catching TWS with a unique transparent and undeniably attractive design. As designs of most TWS gadgets are similar, the Ear (1) is a challenging attempt in the market. With a price of $99 and features like ANC and transparency modes, it is expected to outperform second-tier players in the mid- to high-price segments,” said senior analyst Liz Lee, who tracks the global TWS market at Counterpoint.

Performance: Impressive audio quality, effective ANC

Before getting into performance details, I would want to highlight that the earbuds are quite comfortable to wear for long hours. They snugly fit into the ears. For me, the medium silicon tips worked well to get a tight seal, thus offering good passive noise isolation. This is an important factor for any earbud as it also impacts the audio listening experience.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review earbuds fit

My primary device for testing the Nothing ear (1) was the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 but I also switched the usage between the iPhone Xs and Asus ZenBook laptop for conference calls. Switching between devices was easy – simply open the smartphone app and tap connect. But a multi-point connection that automatically switches between devices, like on the Jabra Elite series TWS, could have been better.

On both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and iPhone Xs, music was streamed via the Apple Music app. While the songs were downloaded in lossless quality, streaming to earbuds via Bluetooth was in compressed AAC encoding. Not to say that it is bad, but support for high-quality aptX or LDAC could have been better. More recently, Nothing announced a partnership with Qualcomm where it will be using Snapdragon chips for its future products. Hopefully, the next TWS product will be able to take advantage of Snapdragon Sound for high-quality wireless audio streaming.

Talking about performance, Teenage Engineering, which is responsible for the audio tuning, has done a good job. While most earbuds in this price range are tuned to be bass heavy, the Ear (1) offers a well-balanced, V-shape audio signature with plenty of punch. The tuning is well suited for a wide variety of music genres that you would like to listen to. You get good low- and mid-range frequency response, but highs can sometimes be a little sharp. Throughout the testing, my equalizer was always set on “Balanced” while ANC was set to “Maximum”.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review earbuds gestures

The Nothing ear (1) offered good instrument details and clear vocals between both voices when listening to STAY by Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber. Even the reverb at the beginning of the song around 0:20 seconds is clearly audible.

Listening to a little offbeat track like Manike Mage Hithe by Chamath Sangeeth, Yohani and Satheeshan was a pleasing experience. The voice is crisp and clear, and around 0:22 seconds, you get a nice thumping bass. I like how the mid frequencies are slightly amplified to offer balanced audio.

The earbuds also offer a very spacious sound with wide soundstaging, something that you can experience while listening to Cymatics by Nigel Stanford. The Ear (1) perfectly picks up every little detail from the track, such as the drums, piano and the low-frequency vibrations that keep the track quite lively as it gets busy.

Balanced sonic signature offers a good listening experience with slightly punchy bass.

Even movie-watching experience on apps like Netflix was good. You get a nice spatial sound when watching movies like San Andreas or The Day After Tomorrow, which have natural calamities like earthquakes and tsunami.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review earbuds drivers

The latency while gaming was not that good. The delay between walking and hearing the footsteps, or firing a bullet and hearing it, at least had close to one second delay, which may not help you in games like Call of Duty: Mobile or PUBG.

The Nothing ear (1) is also good for watching movies and TV shows but not that great when gaming.

Coming to ANC (Active Noise Cancellation), you get two options to choose from – Light and Maximum. If you are sitting in a quieter environment, like a conference room, the Light setting should be sufficient. But in case of noisy places, Maximum does cut out most of the noise effectively, if not all.

During my testing, the air conditioner and ceiling fan noise got reduced to a great extent. However, as I live closer to the highway, I could still hear the noise from vehicles passing by and their honking.

Battery life and call quality is decent

The charging case can be charged both wired (using Type-C) and wirelessly (using Qi-compatible chargers). It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to fully charge the case. The earbuds also feature fast charging, where 15 minutes of charging takes them from empty to 40%, while offering music listening time of a little over one hour. Wireless charging takes around five hours to fully charge the case.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review app interface

Fully charged case and earbuds offer up to a total of 20 hours of battery life.

On a full charge, the earbuds would last about three and a half hours with ANC on, and a little over four hours with ANC off. The case offers about four additional full charges (depending on the usage), taking the total battery life to near 20 hours.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review case wireless charging

The call quality was good, with decent amount of noise cancellation. My voice was audible to the recipient even when walking next to a busy road or in an open windy environment. However, at times, the voice sounds a little hollow when sitting in an enclosed room.

During my usage, I did come across a persistent issue, which will be an area of improvement for Nothing. Most times, the earbuds don’t disconnect after removing them from the ears. They are still connected after being kept back in the case. Possible areas to look for a fix are the in-ear detection and the charging pins in the case, which should detect their removal from the ear and disconnect them automatically.

Key Takeaways

  • Nothing has ensured that its first TWS makes an impact with a differentiated transparent design.
  • The Ear (1) offers surprisingly good sound quality and ANC in its price segment.
  • Features like Fast Pair and wireless charging make it an attractive option.
  • There are some bugs that Nothing needs to remove with the Ear (1) successor.
  • In the next version, we would love to see support for high-res audio and multi-point connection to switch between devices quickly and automatically.

Related Posts

TWS Specs See Rapid Additions, Improvements

TWS hearables specifications have undergone big changes within a short span of time. According to a Counterpoint Research report that compared changes in key specifications in top 200 models in Q2 2021 (released before December 2019 or after January 2020), typically, weight and battery capacity were the key specs, but noise cancellation and smart assistance became key differentiators. As these functions were added, the weight of the earbuds and charging case increased. Increase in battery capacity and improved material also affected the weight.

In the over-$100 segment, the importance of Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) has been increasing. As many as 72% of the models released in this segment after 2020 are equipped with ANC. In the sub-$100 segment, however, ANC adoption has not increased significantly, mainly due to technical and budget issues. With ANC becoming a common feature, we can expect more OEMs to adopt it going forward.

Average Earbud Weight and ANC Adoption RateNot only ANC but other functions are also gaining importance. Dedicated apps, in particular, are seeing increased adoption as they provide an immersive entertainment experience. The adoption rate of dedicated apps has increased by almost two times both in the sub-$100 and over-$100 segments. Consumers looking to set their own music preferences and maximize sound quality through own equalizer have dedicated apps as one of their key priorities when purchasing a TWS. Device detection and finding own TWS through an app are some of the other features becoming popular. Adoption of these features was not much in the models released before December 2019, but it increased significantly in the models released after January 2020. 

OEMs adopting sensors like wearing detection, optical and gyro seem to recognize TWS products as ‘wearable devices’ than just wireless audio. Especially in emerging industries like healthcare and metaverse, various TWS sensors are expected to become more important as input/output devices. Apple is reportedly studying ways to make Air Pods health devices that could be used to read body temperature, enhance hearing power, and monitor posture. Other OEMs are expected to follow Apple in this pursuit.

TWS Adoption rate charts

Related Posts

Podcast: High-res, Lossless Audio Crucial in Delivery of Music in its Purest Form

Personal and home audio technology has greatly evolved over the years. We have moved from wired to mono Bluetooth and stereo wireless headphones to True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbuds. In the home audio segment, soundbars are becoming popular as they can deliver a great home theatre experience. But it is not just about the changing form factors, there have been improvements in audio delivery systems as well. Support for higher quality audio, such as lossless audio, is important in delivering music in its purest form.

The TWS earbuds, in particular, include a lot of hardware and software features that enable Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), ambient awareness, and multiple mics to offer crisp call clarity. These features are quite helpful in the current work-from-home and learn-from-home scenarios. Also, 5G is here, enabling higher throughput and thus higher quality audio from streaming services like Tidal, Spotify, Amazon Music HD and Apple Music, which was not possible in the 3G and 4G era. So, why are these new technologies important in enhancing the audio listening experience?

In the latest episode of ‘The Counterpoint Podcast’, host Peter Richardson is joined by Gyanendra Singh, Head of Audio Marketing for Sony India, to talk about trends in the audio space. Singh, with his 17 years of experience in Sony’s audio department, shares his thoughts on high-res and other audio formats, how the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge in demand for audio products, and more. He also touches upon the home audio segment and how it is growing due to the pandemic-triggered restrictions on visiting cinema halls.

Hit the play button to listen to the podcast

Read the podcast transcript here.

Podcast Chapter Markers

2:19 – How is the audio technology evolving on the hardware side with changing form factors?

4:25 – How do you see the demand changing among consumers for wireless audio in general?

7:33 – ANC is offered at different price points, so how does Sony stand apart from its competitors?

9:44 – What is the role of different audio standards within the high-resolution space?

13:45 – What are your thoughts on Alexa and Google Assistant being offered across personal audio, TV, and portable speakers?

15:35 – Has COVID-19 changed consumer spending habits when it comes to home audio products?

18:22 – Any final comments on coming audio technology changes?

Also available for listening/download on:


Related Posts

JLab Epic Air ANC, Epic Air Sport ANC TWS Earbuds Review: Diverse Features, Decent Performance Under $100

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced consumers around the globe to change their habits, myself included. With lockdowns in place at various points in time, and travel restricted, many people have found themselves hungry for new sources of entertainment and communication. Technology has helped to fill these voids.

One device that helped me adapt to this change was True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbuds. As I spend more time at home and communicating through online meetings with friends, family and coworkers, having reliable and high-quality audio equipment has been vital. TWS earbuds are key for both work and pleasure.

Recently, I tested two of JLab’s TWS products, the Epic Air ANC True Wireless and the Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless.

counterpoint jlab epic air ANC review

One of the first things I noticed about the JLab Epic Air ANC True Wireless was how comfortable they were. While testing these devices, I wore them most of my workday, which would have been miserable with a poor-fitting product. Instead, I hardly noticed that I had them on. JLab has provided six different sizes of tips to give the earbuds a perfect fit.

Impressive Battery Performance a Major Highlight

A major perk of both devices is their impressive battery lives – I was able to use both devices for the entirety of my workday (eight hours) without a charge. Adding in the battery life of the charging cases, both the Epic Air ANC True Wireless and Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless can provide over 30 hours of playback before recharging the case, with the sport edition lasting up to 70 hours. This playback time is enabled by a 90mAh battery in each earbud and a 700mAh battery in the charging case for the Epic Air ANC True Wireless and a 120mAh battery in each earbud and a 1,000mAh battery in the charging case for the Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless. The battery lives of these devices outperform most of their competitors, including Apple AirPods and Galaxy Buds.

However, this impressive battery life comes with a downside. The large batteries take up a lot of space and are heavy, making the earbuds larger than AirPods and Galaxy Buds, and their cases bulky and a bit oddly shaped. This makes them awkward to fit in your pocket. If you are carrying a backpack or a purse, this may not be an issue. But I enjoy bringing my earbuds with me when shopping or going for a walk around the neighborhood, occasions where I would not normally bring a bag with me.

counterpoint jlab epic air ANC review

Touch Controls and Noise Cancellation: Imperfect But Helpful Features

Both devices feature touch controls that allow users to change volume, skip tracks, adjust EQ settings, and activate noise-cancelling by just tapping the JLab logo on each earbud. With so many options, the controls can be a bit confusing at first but become familiar with repetition. Commands that require multiple touches occasionally misfired but for the most part were responsive. The touch controls can also be customized through JLab’s Air ANC App, which while difficult to use can be quite helpful.

counterpoint jlab epic air ANC review 2

Another major feature of the devices is their noise control modes – “noise cancelling”, “be aware” and noise control off. The noise-cancelling mode is marketed as removing the uncomfortable “vacuum” sensation that some users experience when using the same mode on other devices. I never got such a sensation while using the devices. However, the noise-cancelling was a bit underwhelming. While they were effective at blocking out noise on hikes and at outside cafés, the noise-cancelling did not hold up as well at busy grocery stores, where a good amount of ambient noise made its way through. The “be aware” mode captures ambient noise around the users and helps them remain aware of their environment. I found this mode useful when checking out at the store or a café, allowing me to keep my earbuds in and my music playing while talking to cashiers or wait-staff. Overall, the noise control modes were useful but a bit less impressive than I expected based on the product description. They were still a major bonus for a sub-$100 device, though.


Good Sound Quality For The Price

In terms of sound quality, I was pleased with both products’ performances. They come with three initial EQ settings – balanced, bass boost, and JLab Signature. While the bass boost was a bit too bass heavy for my taste and the balanced setting a bit lifeless, the JLab Signature setting delivered the best experience. The driving bass notes on “Fantasy” by The XX were full and compelling while the rich texture of swirling strings, piano arpeggios and ornamental chimes on Radiohead’s “Daydreaming” came through distinctly but well balanced. EQ settings can also be personalized on JLab’s Air ANC app. While the sound quality was good, the microphone quality was less so. When using the earbuds on calls, friends often noted that my voice sounded less clear and more distorted, though I was never unintelligible.

Conclusion: Diverse Features, Decent Performance, Low Price

Overall, the JLab Epic Air ANC and Epic Air Sport ANC offer good value for money. The earbuds have amazing battery performance, good sound quality, and useful customization tools that help balance out the slightly disappointing noise-cancelling and the unintuitive app. Together, these devices pack an impressive array of features and performance for under $100, making them a solid choice for consumers.

Also Read: Strategic Reviews and Insights on Latest TWS

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