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Sony WH-1000XM4 review: As good as it gets

Small improvements add up to a better overall experience

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The Sony-WH1000XM line has been much hyped and it’s for a good reason. Ask anyone who’s ever used or reviewed these headphones and they’ll tell you how it’s one of, if not, the best they’ve ever used. The same is true for its latest version — the Sony WH-1000XM4.

It maintains the simple and sleek design

The red marker to quickly point which is right or left is also still here

The product’s name is visible on either side so you don’t mistake it for the earlier versions

On the left side you’ll find the power button and the custom button that, by default, triggers your preferred Voice Assistant

You have the USB port for charging and 3.5mm jack for when you want to stay wired

There’s a sensor inside the left ear cup so it knows right away when you take it off to pause music and conserve battery

And it still comes with this equally nice and sleek case

It’s also pretty bendy like the WH-1000XM3, but we don’t recommend you twist it like this often

Sony pretty much improved everything it could possibly improve on save for the name. To answer your questions about the device, Rodneil and CJ share their experiences while using the headphones.

Rodneil (L) going back to the next track and CJ (R) summoning the voice assistant

Oh and about the name, for brevity we’re mostly going to refer to the WH-1000XM4 as just the XM4. We’ll also do the same for other devices in the same line, i.e. WH-1000XM3 to XM3.

What new feature on the XM4 were you most excited about? 

Rodneil: I wouldn’t exactly say excited but the ability to pair with two devices simultaneously was a long-time coming feature and I’m glad it finally made it to the XM4. Although, it’s prudent to point out that using the multi-device pairing feature will disable LDAC on phones that support it. That said, it still sounds amazing even with this turned off.

In case you didn’t know, LDAC is Sony’s proprietary audio coding technology which essentially transmits higher quality audio with less data and compression. Most flagship phones support this feature.

I imagine the Speak-to-Chat feature would work great if you’re out and about. However, since I am currently in isolation, the only thing it did was highlight how my voice doesn’t really sound good when I try to sing-along to TWICE’s songs. 😑

CJ: Honestly, I thought Sony did such a great job with the XM3 that I couldn’t think of anything they could have possibly added to the XM4. But using the XM4 over the last week, there’s a few new features that I really value.

As Rodneil mentioned, the ability to pair with two devices simultaneously is probably the most appreciated, even though it disables LDAC.

Funny enough, for me, the new Speak-to-Chat and Ambient Sound Controls turned out to be something I found incredibly useful. It’s like I’m wearing “Smart” headphones.

The XM4 will detect when you’re walking around outside and tune down the noise cancellation to allow you to hear ambient sounds like cars passing by. But most impressive of all, though a little gimmicky at times, it can now detect when you’re speaking and will turn down the noise cancellation and volume.

Pretty handy when you want to stop by that coffee shop to get your morning coffee on your way to work in the morning. Of course, if you find these features too buggy, you can switch them off in the Sony Headphones app.

Where and when would you typically use these headphones? 

Rodneil: Pre-pandemic, I would put it on to zone out of the workplace and zone in on whatever I’m working on. Now that we’re in a new normal and I’m working alone at my place, I mostly use headphones during video calls and as accessories when shooting smartphones haha.

But anything with noise-cancelling, for me, is extremely helpful in maintaining focus. I usually put these on when I’m about to go on a writing marathon. I’ve been pretty scatter-brained the past few months and having headphones with ANC really helps me lock in.

Just looking out the window, pondering my life choices while tuning out the world

I also recently downloaded the DLC for Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PS4 and have used the XM4 while gaming. Immersive might be an understatement to describe the experience. It sounds even better on certain other games that really pay a lot of attention to sound.

CJ: Thankfully Malaysia has gotten back to some sort of normality so we’re all out and about right now.

The XM4 is great for my morning commutes to work and back home, be it via the LRT or a GrabCar with a really chatty driver. I’m really antisocial in the mornings and I can’t handle conversations. With the XM4, wear them, switch them on, and the active noise cancellation blocks everything out. You’re on your own private island in the middle of nowhere, just you and your music — it’s amazing.

But that being said, pre-pandemic, the main reason I’d get these headphones would have been for traveling. Long flights, or even a long bus ride, are so much easier to deal with when you have a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. With the crazy long battery life, the great noise cancellation, and the solid audio quality, the XM4 is more than equipped to handle it.

Have you used this during calls, zoom meetings? Did the person on the other line think you sounded okay?

Rodneil: I’m mostly just listening in the handful of calls and meetings I attended while I had these. But on a couple of calls that I had to speak, the other person on the line said I sounded… okay.

I called the same person using a much cheaper pair of TWS earphones but that one had the stem design which had mics. Those mics picked up my voice better than the ones on the WH-1000XM4 and they’re a fraction of the XM4’s price.

However, they can’t hold a candle to the XM4’s sound quality. Just know that these were made primarily for listening and noise-cancelling. The mics on the XM4 are decent but the quality for calls leaves room for improvement.

CJ: Same here actually. They’re just… okay for voice calls. But then, with these headphones they’re all about the audio quality, for listening to music.

I don’t think microphone quality should be high up on your radar of expectations with any of these sorts of high-end ANC headphones.

If you have the XM3, should you upgrade to this?

Rodneil: It’s been over a year since I used the XM3 and I would say that for the most part, you’re getting pretty much a comparable quality performance. Despite the long gap between the devices, the XM4 feels like a refinement of the XM3 instead of a full-on upgrade.

If your only concern is getting top-notch noise-cancellation along with the cleanest, fullest sound you can experience from headphones then the XM3 is still a fine choice. It’s now cheaper wherever you can get Sony headphones and you’re only missing a few bells and whistles like Speak-to-Chat and marginal improvements in overall quality.

CJ: Likewise, I think if you have the XM3, there’s no reason to upgrade to the XM4.

In fact, thanks to the XM4 launching, prices for the XM3 have actually dropped quite a bit, making them even better value for money right now since they are still one of the best ANC headphones out there.

Like Rodneil said, the XM4 is more like a refinement of the XM3. If you’re not on a budget, the XM4 is by far the best ANC headphones right now, and really easy to recommend.

How can Sony top this?

Rodneil: For what it’s trying to be, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is probably as good as it gets. The noise cancellation is best-in-class and the sound quality is the type that will make you want to dance like an idiot.

I guess you can say Sony can tweak the design or add more colors. However, from the get-go it seems that’s not how these are being positioned. And Sony has an entirely different line if you want spunkier looking headphones.

Personally, I think it’s a great chance to reboot and rename (please, Sony, please) this line of headphones should the next one try something radically different while also maintaining everything we love about it.

CJ: Remember when I said I didn’t know how Sony could improve on the XM3? Well, I don’t know how Sony could possibly improve on the XM4 either. It has everything you or I could even want in a pair of noise cancelling headphones, and there’s really no flaw to speak of.

I know a lot of people have voiced their opinions on how Sony needs to innovate on their headphone design though, which would be the only way they could really improve on these.

Maybe they could explore a different, cooler design on an alternate model, kind of like how Bose dropped the new Bose 700NC headphones after the last Bose QC35 II headphones.

Questions from Matchketeers

Michael Lascano — Would like to know if noise cancellation is better for virtual meetings vs bose (700 NC)? 

Dornak del Rosario – Microphone comparison of xm3 and xm4 when doing calls.

CJ: IMHO between the Bose 700 and the Sony XM4, I really think the XM4 is the better all around package. Better audio quality, better noise cancellation, better “smart” features. They’re almost the same price but the Sony’s are way better value for money.

For virtual meetings though, I’d wager they sound pretty much identical. It’s only when it comes down to the music listening that you’d hear the difference in soundstage.

Michael Joshua Ano-os —  Does it sound better when playing music on YouTube? 

Rodneil: It’s certainly better than any other headphones or earphones I’ve used in the past. That’s true whether I’m playing music from YouTube, Spotify, or any other app.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is priced as follows: 

  • Philippines — PhP 19,999
  • Malaysia — MYR 1,599
  • Singapore — SG$ 549 
  • US — US$ 349.99 

That’s pretty much the launch price of every other headphone in the same line. For some people, that’s a big ask for a pair of headphones. The thing is, you’re not getting just any other pair of headphones.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is easily the best choice as the premium, everyday headphones. It’s the perfect travel companion — that is, for when we can all actually travel again — and is just a stellar package of sleek and subtle design, astonishing sound quality, and unmatched noise cancellation. You can’t go wrong with these.


In Singapore, Sony is running a trade-in promotion for the WH-1000Xm4. Customers can have SG$ 80 off by trading selected noise cancelling models. Click here to find out the models that qualify and for more details.

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Huawei Freebuds Pro Unboxing and First Impressions

Sounds as good as it looks

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Huawei has been killing it in the personal audio department and everyone should really start paying attention. Adding to the lineup is the Huawei Freebuds Pro. It’s their answer of sorts to the likes of the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3.

This is what the front of the box looks like. It’s a pretty tiny box.

Freebuds Pro

A closer look shows the name of the product in gold. 

Flip it over and you’ll see some highlighted features. 

Take out the top cover and you’re immediately greeted by the Freebuds Pro. 

Here’s a look without the plastic covering.

Freebuds Pro

It’s a little tricky to take out but underneath all that is the USB to USB-C Cable and a box.

Pull out the cable and the box and you get this.

Here’s a closer look at the cable. 

And here are extra soft silicone plugs so you can find the perfect fit for your ears.

Now, let’s go back to the Freebuds Pro. Here’s the back of the charging case with the Huawei text. 

You flip it over to open it and reveal the earbuds. 

The buds are tinier — the tiniest they’ve released over the past year.

On the bottom of the case is the USB-C port. 

And on its right side is the bluetooth pairing button. 

But if you simply open the case next to a Huawei phone — here it’s the Huawei Mate 40 — it’ll immediately detect it and ask to pair. 

When you press connect, it’ll show you right away how to operate the Freebuds Pro. 

After that, it’ll show you the battery life of each Freebud Pro and the case. 

As mentioned earlier, in terms of the size of the stem, it’s a lot smaller than the previous two releases. 

The cases also vary in shape and size.

Here’s what they look like when worn. 

First impressions 

I’ve only had the Freebuds Pro for a little over 24 hours at the time of writing. I’ve since used it on a video call meeting and to listen to the Eyes Wide Open album by TWICE.

I Cant Stop Me GIF by TWICE - Find & Share on GIPHY

So far, it’s performing exactly as advertised. It carries over the noise-cancellation excellence from the Freebuds 3 and Freebuds 3i. In fact, the Freebuds Pro combines the best practices of the aforementioned devices thanks to a number of engineering and design choices.

Sound quality is also right around what I expected based on my previous experiences with other Huawei audio products. It’s certainly two steps above the Freebuds 3i in terms of overall sound quality.

SEE ALSO: Freebuds 3 review | Freebuds 3i review

Music comes off as crisp and clean as the Freebuds 3 but we’ll have to try it out for a little longer for a more definitive take. Same goes for the battery life.

The controls are also more intuitive. If you are coming from the Freebuds 3, it is a little different. Here’s a photo of me assuming the controls are the same. Nope, I didn’t pay attention to the prompts during set-up. What an idiot.

Price and availability 

In the Philippines, it retails for PhP 7,999 — around PhP 1,000 cheaper than the launch price of the Freebuds 3 (PhP 8,990).

Pre-order period is from November 27 to December 3. If you pre-order you’ll get freebies worth PhP 3,989.

  • Huawei Band 4 — PhP 1,890
  • Entertainment Gift Package — PhP 2,099

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Apple HomePod mini Review: Best Small Smart Speaker?

Another ‘mini’ in Apple’s portfolio

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Small in size, but not terrible performance! Here is Apple’s latest smart speaker, the HomePod mini.

At around US$ 99, it’s simply not the cheapest smart speaker around. But is it worth the price and the hype?

Find out more in our Apple HomePod mini review by clicking this link.

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OPPO Enco W51: Noise off, your world on

For when you like to zone out or focus

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OPPO Enco 51

Since the start of the pandemic, we have been shrouded with bad news and negativity. With daily updates of COVID-19 cases and deaths, national issues, controversies and bashing all over social media, you can’t help but wish you have a way to drown out all the noise and focus on the things and people that matter.

I thought living alone was enough to keep me on track of things I have to accomplish and personal goals I want to achieve. However, there were just really too many distractions.

Luckily, just before the long weekend of November, I got my hands on the perfect partner for focus and tranquility — the OPPO Enco W51 True Wireless Headphones.

OPPO Enco 51

Just the right fit

As someone who’s been in search for the best earbuds, I’ve always preferred ones that had similar aesthetics with the Apple AirPods. I would always try out the ones with black variants in stores such as the Joyroom JR-TO4S TWS Earbuds that exudes sleekness and elegance.

So when I acquired the OPPO Enco W51, its design was visually refreshing and I didn’t expect that it would also be just the right fit for me.

The W51 uses flat stems compared to the AirPods that used cylinders with a unibody construction. The inner surface of this pill-shaped earbud has a matte finish while its outer surface has a glossy look, adding a nice and sleek touch to its overall design.

OPPO Enco 51

The earbuds are lightweight and breathable and it uses silicone tips that doesn’t sit too deeply inside my ear, providing a comfortable wearing experience. I tried all the sizes of the tips and I figured the default medium size fit me best.

The earbuds don’t easily fall off my ears even when I wore it while doing HIIT workouts at home. I also didn’t have to worry when I sweat since the W51is structurally designed for IP54 dust and water resistance.

OPPO Enco 51

It’s even a bonus that these earbuds came in a pillow-shaped plastic case that has a glossy finish, making it easy to carry and slide in and out of my pocket when I had to go out for errands.

The perfect pair 

One thing that really worked to my advantage is that the W51 seamlessly paired with my device the moment I opened the case. As it supports Bluetooth 5.0 and adopts the newest Bluetooth low-latency binaural transmission standards, it also provides stable connection even when my phone is not beside me.

OPPO Enco 51

I didn’t experience any lags and delays with the audio when I listened to music via Spotify or watched videos on Youtube or Netflix.

I also thoroughly enjoyed my K-Drama marathons or sound trip sessions at night after work, since I was able to prove that I can really use the W51 for 3.5 to 4 hours straight without returning it back in its case.

OPPO Enco 51

Team Do San?

Drown out all the noise. Listen to what matters.

On certain days that I wanted to isolate myself from everything that’s happening around me and really need to focus on work or a side hustle, the W51 instantly became my best duo.

As OPPO’s first TWS earbuds to offer active noise cancellation as it is equipped with triple microphone noise reduction technology, it did a surprisingly good job at cutting out ambient sounds.

When Typhoon Rolly and Ulysses ravaged the metro, I was still able to finish my work presentations and read through my books without being distracted. I just had to double tap the left stem to enable active noise cancellation and it totally blocks out the sound of rain and howling winds.

I even tried listening to music on my phone while a Youtube video plays on my laptop and I was surprised that I could no longer hear the voice of the vlogger.

Moving to its microphone performance, the OPPO Enco W51 delivers remarkable call quality for both ends of calls.

I’ve been using these earbuds for team meetings, voice and video calls with friends and family for almost three weeks. When I ask if they can hear me clearly, they would say that my voice is loud and clear as if I’m just in front of them and they can’t even hear any ambient sounds.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

With features that are not so often seen in true wireless earbuds at this price, the OPPO Enco W51 is actually a good bargain. It’s a pretty great contender when compared to premium headphones from Sony or the Apple Airpods Pro with its seamless pairing, active noise cancellation, water and dust resistance, and excellent call quality.

If you’re someone who likes to zone out from time to time to time the OPPO Enco W51 could be your GadgetMatch. If you want to eliminate noise and unnecessary chatter when you’re doing something important like talking to someone who you’d really want to engage with or just want some relaxation by listening to your own world, this TWS pair does the job admirably.

It retails for PhP 3,690 in the Philippines and is available in floral white.

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