As the Barenaked Ladies famously sang, it’s been one week. One week since Digital Trends and the rest of the techno-review world published the first reviews of the Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless noise-canceling earbuds. Or at least, these were supposed to be the first reviews. As it turned out — and at first unbeknownst to any of these publications — Sony didn’t send out full production versions of the XM5. Though they looked exactly like the earbuds that you can buy today, they were unfinalized prototypes. We were clear about that at the time, and we want to be as transparent about things now.
Once Sony confirmed we’d initially been given prototype units, we published a sort of placeholder review that was heavily caveated to explain the situation to readers. One week later, Sony sent out full production XM5 units, and we’ve since updated our review with our final thoughts using production units — the same as what you can buy today. (Spoiler: The production units solved all the problems we saw with the prototypes.)
Sometimes, prototypes are so polished and perfected that they’re indistinguishable from the final product. But that was not the case with the XM5. In critical areas like active noise cancellation, call quality, and Bluetooth connections, the prototypes exhibited less-than-ideal performance. In fact, it was problems with these features that I encountered as soon as I started testing the XM5 that prompted me to reach out to Sony — it was immediately apparent that something was off.
I fully expected Sony to tell me that it was prepping a firmware update to fix these issues. After all, reviewers like myself were provided with early access to a new version of the Sony Headphones app, which was in beta, so it stood to reason that some of the software wasn’t fully baked. That sort of thing is common across the tech world, and typically the company will ensure that reviewers get the final versions of both the app and the firmware before the review period is over.
However, Sony surprised me by letting me know that the earbuds I had been testing actually were prototypes and that the problems I had been encountering were likely because of that. Keep in mind: Sony sent these earbuds out less than 10 days before it intended to sell the XM5 via Amazon and other retailers. In other words, it could have simply waited a few more days and sent out the final XM5.
But it didn’t. And so we reviewed what we had, and we’ve updated with what we’ve gotten since. You can read our full, updated WF-1000XM5 review here.