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

Sony’s WH-1000XM5 are the company’s latest flagship noise canceling headphones. And as our review can attest, this is perhaps the most comfortable and capable set in the 1000X series to date.

As a result, you will inevitably see them a lot – on flights, in cafes, etc. – over the next few years. And if you end up with a pair yourself, it’s worth knowing some of their more advanced features and tricks that aren’t always obvious in basic day-to-day use. Here are a few worth trying as you explore your new headphones.

How to control the WH-1000XM5 headphones

Like their predecessors, the WH-1000XM5 headphones are controlled using touch gestures on the surface of the right ear cup.

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

How to connect the WH-1000XM5 to two devices at once

Sony has added multipoint, the ability to pair 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 is disabled by default and you will only be able to connect to one audio source. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to change that and enable multipoint.

There’s an unfortunate trade-off that comes with multipoint that could be important for audiophiles with Android phones: you can’t listen to music using the higher-quality Bluetooth LDAC codec when the feature is enabled. This is no sacrifice for iPhone owners, as LDAC is not available on Apple products.

  • Open the Headphones Connect app and tap the System tongue.
  • At the top you will see a toggle for Connect to two devices simultaneously. Press it to activate the multipoint function of the WH-1000XM5 headphones.
  • Once you’ve done that, simply pair your second device the same way you did the first: press and hold the power button for several seconds until you hear “pairing” in the headphones.

How to briefly hear your surroundings in a hurry

If you need to hear something like an airport or train station announcement, Sony’s ‘Quick Attention’ feature will come in handy. To activate, place your hand over the entire touch surface of the right ear cup. Your music volume will drop and ambient sound will enter the headphones, letting you hear everything that’s going on.

Once you no longer need to pay attention, simply remove your hand from the headset and your audio and the headset’s active noise cancellation will return to normal.

The right earbud is used for gesture controls and features like Quick Attention.
Photo by Chris Welch/The Verge

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

One of the most overlooked features of Sony headphones is called adaptive sound control. You can use it to have the Headphones Connect app detect frequent activity or locations and automatically switch to your preferred headphones settings in each scenario. For example, you can have the WH-1000XM5 automatically turn on ambient sound when it detects you’re walking or running, or activate active noise cancellation when you’re seated. You can also change these settings depending on where you are: you can set different preferences for home and work.

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

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

  • Open the Headphones Connect app and choose the Status tongue.
  • Tap the Adaptive Sound Control section, which is disabled by default.
  • On this screen you will find various options such as Action detection, Know the places you frequentand Saved locations.
  • Experiment with each to land on your ideal settings. Action detection The section lets you choose different ANC/ambient settings for four scenarios: listening while standing still, walking, running or moving around.
  • You can let the Headphones Connect app try to guess your frequent locations with Know the places you frequentbut I think it’s easier to manually save different places like home or office.

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

How to 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 convenient button shortcut.

  • In the Headphones Connect app, go to Services tongue.
  • Here you will see the option for Spotify Tap: quick access.
  • Tap that text and you can choose to trigger Spotify Tap by double or triple tapping the noise canceling/ambient sound mode button. I tend to go for the three-tap option because it’s very intentional and hard to activate by accident.
  • Once the setting is enabled, simply press the button as many times as you chose and Spotify will immediately resume playing what you were last listening to.

How to Use Sony’s Helpful Talk to Chat Feature

Sony’s newer headphones and earphones include a Speak to Chat option which, when enabled, can detect when you’re speaking out loud. Whenever the headset recognizes that you are talking, the sound is immediately paused or muted and ambient sound is made louder so you can carry on a conversation. Once you stop talking for a customizable amount of time, your music starts playing again. See the article below for more details on using Speak to Chat.

How to switch to another voice assistant

The WH-1000XM5 let you choose between several voice assistant services. You can use your device’s default (Siri on iOS, Google Assistant on Android) or select Alexa as an alternative. The Alexa mobile app must be installed on your phone if you want to use it for voice commands.

  • Choose the System in the Headphones Connect app.
  • Press on voice assistant and choose your preferred option.

Sony gives you more than one choice for voice commands on the WH-1000XM5.
Screenshot by Chris Welch/The Verge

How to be sure to 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 between sound quality or connection stability. In my experience, I’ve always chosen the sound quality option here – and I still haven’t experienced any dropouts or connection issues with most Sony headphones. But if you find yourself 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 tongue.
  • Scroll to Bluetooth connection quality and select whether you want to prioritize sound or stability.

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

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