In a year with almost no travel, headphones perhaps haven’t been needed for the commute or long haul flights but many have found them essential for working from home to join a video call or block out the sound of kids stuck being home-schooled. Some interesting headphones launched in 2020 and our favourite pair are the Sony WH-1000XM4.
Sure, Sony needs a more user-friendly naming system, and the XM4s didn’t add a huge amount to the previous-gen XM3s - but that’s because they were already five-star cans. Wireless earbuds have been all the rage for a while now but for us, you still can’t beat the experience offered by a traditional pair.
Sony has done a sterling job yet again by improving the active noise cancelling (ANC) further so they are still class-leading. There’s also a bunch of new AI smart features starting with Adaptive Sound Control, which can automatically change your settings based on where you are such as at home or the office.
The headphones can also learn your voice, so Speak-to-Chat means music is automatically paused when you start talking. DSEE Extreme (Sony's Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) can also analyse music in real-time, recognising instruments, music genres and even individual musical elements, effectively restoring high range sounds.
That’s a lot of smart features and we haven’t even spoken about how comfortable they are as well as things like Multi-Point two device Bluetooth pairing and wearing detection. Tempted? Here are the best places to buy the Sony WH-1000XM4.
We also loved...
2020 saw plenty of other great audio products and we were firstly surprised by how good Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live were. The controversial ‘beans’ design are actually super comfortable with excellent sound quality.
RHA also impressed us with the TrueConnect 2, the second generation of wireless earbuds with an astonishing 44 hour total battery life, excellent build quality and sonic performance. All at a lower price than the originals.
In the speaker department, Google’s Nest Audio looks a tad usual but it’s a design you quickly get used to and importantly offers amazing sound for a very affordable price.
Apple fans will love the HomePod Mini, a tiny version of the main speaker which is a lot cheaper than the regular HomePod, sounds great and can be stereo paired if you buy two.