How to get the most out of Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones


Sony’s WH-1000XM5 are the company’s latest noise-cancelling headphones. And as our review can confirm, they are arguably the most comfortable, best-sounding set in the 1000X series yet.

As a result, you’ll inevitably see them a lot in the coming years – on flights, at the coffee shop, etc. And if you have a few of your own, it’s worth taking a look at some of their more advanced features and tricks that are not always apparent in everyday basic usage. Here are a few worth trying while you explore your new pair of headphones.

Operating the WH-1000XM5 Headphones

Like their predecessors, the WH-1000XM5 headphones are operated with touch gestures on the surface of the right earcup.

  • Tap twice to play/pause.
  • Swipe forward to go to the next song or swipe back to go back to the previous song. Swipe and hold in either direction to fast forward or rewind the current song.
  • Slide your finger up on the touch surface to increase the volume or down to decrease it. You can also swipe and hold in either direction to make larger volume adjustments without having to repeat the gesture over and over.

Connecting the WH-1000XM5 to Two Devices Simultaneously

Sony added multipoint, the ability to pair with two devices simultaneously via Bluetooth, to the previous WH-1000XM4 headphones – and this handy feature is available again with the XM5s. But out of the box it’s disabled by default and you can only connect to a single audio source. Fortunately, it is quite easy to change this and enable multipoint.

There is one unfortunate trade-off associated with multipoint that may be of interest to audiophiles with Android phones: you cannot enjoy music with the higher quality LDAC Bluetooth codec when the feature is enabled. This is not a sacrifice for iPhone owners, as LDAC is not available on Apple’s products.

  • Open the Headphones Connect app and tap the System tab.
  • At the top you see a switch for Connect to two devices at the same time† Tap to enable the multipoint function of the WH-1000XM5 headphones.
  • Once you’ve done that, pair your second device the same way you did the first: press and hold the power button for a few seconds until you hear “pairing” through the headphones.

How to quickly hear your surroundings

If you want to hear something like an airport or train station announcement, Sony’s “Quick Attention” feature comes in handy. To activate it, hold your hand over the entire touch surface of the right earcup. The volume of your music decreases and ambient noise enters the headphones so you can hear what’s happening.

Once you no longer have to pay attention, simply remove your hand from the ear cup and the active noise cancellation of both your audio and headphones will return to normal.

The right earcup is used for gesture control and features such as Quick Attention.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

How to make your headphones automatically adjust settings based on your location or activity

One of the most overlooked features of Sony headphones is Adaptive Sound Control. You can use this to let the Headphones Connect app detect frequent activities or locations and automatically switch to your preferred headphone settings in any scenario. For example, you can have the WH-1000XM5 automatically activate the ambient sound when it detects you’re walking or running — or enable active noise cancellation when you’re sitting. You can also have these settings changed based on where you are: you can set different preferences for your home and office.

(Note that to use Adaptive Sound Control, you’ll need to grant the Headphones Connect app “at all times” location access, which some people may not be comfortable with.)

Adaptive Sound Control can automatically change headphone settings based on your activity or location.
Screenshots by Chris Welch / The Verge

  • Open the Headphones Connect app and choose the Status tab.
  • Tap the Adaptive Sound Control section, which is disabled by default.
  • On this screen you will find various options such as Action detectionInformation about locations you often visitand Registered locations
  • Experiment with each to land on your ideal settings. The detection of actions section lets you choose different ANC/environment settings for four scenarios: stationary listening, walking, running, or commuting.
  • You can have the Headphones Connect app try to guess your frequent locations with Information about locations you often visitbut I think it’s easier to just manually register different places like home or office.

The noise canceling button can also serve as a shortcut to Spotify.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Quickly start playing your favorite Spotify playlist with a few button presses

The WH-1000XM5 headphones support Spotify Tap, allowing them to immediately start playing audio from the popular streaming service with a handy hotkey.

  • In the Headphones Connect app, go to the Services tab.
  • Here you see the option for Spotify Tap: quick access
  • Tap that text and you can choose to activate Spotify Tap with a double or triple press of the noise canceling/ambient sound mode button. I tend to go for the three-press option as it is very intentional and difficult to activate by accident.
  • After the setting is enabled, just press the button, however many times you chose, and Spotify will immediately resume playing what you last listened to.

Using Sony’s handy Speak to Chat feature

Sony’s more recent headphones and earbuds include a Speak to Chat option that, when enabled, can detect when you’re speaking out loud. When the headphones recognize that you are talking, the sound is immediately paused or muted and the ambient noise is increased so that you can carry on a conversation. Once you stop speaking for an adjustable amount of time, your music will start playing again. To learn more about using Speak to Chat, check out the article below.

Switch to another voice assistant

With the WH-1000XM5s you can choose between different voice assistance services. You can use your device’s default setting (Siri on iOS, Google Assistant on Android) or select Alexa as an alternative. The Alexa mobile app must be installed on your phone to use it for voice commands.

  • Choose the System tab in the Headphones Connect app.
  • Tap on Voice assistant and choose your preferred option.

Sony gives you more than one choice for voice commands on the WH-1000XM5s.
Screenshot by Chris Welch / The Verge

How to make sure you get the best sound

In the Headphones Connect app, Sony lets you choose between two priorities when the headphones are connected to a device: you can choose sound quality or connection stability. In my experience, I’ve always chosen the sound quality option here – and still haven’t encountered dropouts or connection failures with most Sony headphones. But if you’re somewhere with significant wireless interference, it’s always good to have the option to briefly prioritize Bluetooth stability.

  • In the Headphones Connect app, select the Sound tab.
  • Scroll down to Bluetooth connection quality and select whether to prioritize sound or stability.

These are just a few nifty tricks beyond the basics for mastering Sony’s very best noise canceling headphones. I’ll update this article with other features as the company adds more options in the coming months.


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