Review: Can You Use Sony WH-1000XM5 as a Gaming Headset? (Performance, Audio Lag / Latency / Delay) Troubleshooting for Video Games

Man wearing Sony Headphones, Header Image for Review

The Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sony WH-1000XM4 are some of the most popular high end Bluetooth headphones out today. There’s little doubt that they are great for listening to music, but how well do they work for gaming and movies? Any audio latency and lag, even measured in milliseconds can ruin the gaming experience – even a short delay can mean you’re too late to dodge that explosion!

Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bluetooth Latency, Audio Delay, Lag, and Quality

Many years ago now, Bluetooth was unacceptable for anything but the most forgiving audio applications. It was first designed primarily for wireless phone call audio, and did an okay job at that. There was an audio delay, but in a typical phone conversation it was almost unnoticeable. However, have you ever tried an older Bluetooth device for watching movies or gaming? You’ll find a noticeable, very frustrating delay that makes the audio feel totally out of sync.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Gaming Performance, Audio Latency and Quality Review & Results

I’ve fully tested both the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sony WH-1000XM4 with many games, movies, and tv shows every day for several weeks. I can assure you both headphone models will perform perfectly fine for you – absolutely no noticeable audio lag. No need to worry about dialogue being out of sync, or sound effects in games being delayed from what you see on screen! This is thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, 5.1, and special codecs that allow for lower latency and higher quality.

If you’d really like the maximum quality and best latency, you also have the option of connecting these headphones via wired cable thanks to the audio jack built into the headphones. Personally, I found no need and despite my best attempts, I could not reliably notice the difference in audio latency or quality.

If for any reason you decide you don’t like the Sony XM5 headphones, Amazon has a very lenient return policy and you can return them easily for a full refund.

Sony WH-1000XM5 as a gaming headset:

  • Amazing sound quality
  • Wireless bluetooth connection
  • Excellent comfort and fit
  • No audio latency or lag, even in fast paced games over Bluetooth
  • Built in microphone for voice chat in games
  • Also includes normal wired headphone jack

WH-1000XM5 Review as a Noise Cancelling High End Gaming Headset

So how do the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sony WH-1000XM4 perform as a gaming headset? The answer is extremely well! I fully tested these every day for several weeks loved the results. I played high intensity action games as well as more cinematic, musical games. Rest assured if you’re someone who wants to buy the Sony WH-1000XM5 for high end, portable music listening, but also wants to use them as a super comfortable, immersive gaming headset (with bonus noise cancelling) I think you’ll be very happy with the performance. Sound effects come through in full audio fidelity and there is no delay. Explosions, footsteps, gunshots etc all sound amazing, and are properly synced with no audio delay at all. Positional audio works great for pinpointing where an enemy is approaching based off just their footsteps.

Noise cancelling: The in-ear noise cancellation is top notch. If you’re in a loud computer lab, house with roommates or family members, or have a snoring partner nearby (!) it can completely block them out – if there’s any music or ambient sound in your game you’ll effectively not notice any noise around you at all! Some certain extremely high pitch and low pitch noises can get through, but its pretty rare; things like a smoke alarm will still be audible. Most gaming headsets do not have this effective, high quality level of noise cancellation, so this is a huge step up.

The microphone: The microphone is on par or better than other good $150+ gaming headsets. It won’t beat a standalone studio microphone, such as a Blue Yeti, Shure, or Audio Technica microphone that podcasters or professional streamers might use, but it still comes through clear and crisp to people on the other end. The automatic noise cancelling on the mic works great. Even those high-end podcaster microphones don’t do that without running special software. If you happen to have a noisy environment–such as people talking nearby or street noise–it automatically cancels that out so only your voice comes through to listeners.

Can I Use the Sony WH-1000XM5 for Gaming?

Yes you can absolutely use it for even the most intense, reaction heavy video games. You won’t notice any audio delay or quality loss compared to wired headphones or even the best headsets designed and marketed toward gamers. However do make sure your computer supports Bluetooth 5 or higher. Keep in mind that if your PC was made before about 2017-2019, it likely does NOT support Bluetooth 5, which means it may have lower quality and more latency. However it is very affordable and easy to purchase a small USB Bluetooth 5+ transmitter. I tested a few of these and below is the USB Bluetooth plug and play device I settled on as the best value and performance. It’s still working great for me:

Sidetone on  WH-1000XM5 for Voice Chat and Audio Calls (and WH-1000XM4)

Sidetone is an effect where the microphone picks up your voice as you speak and pipes it into your ears so you can hear yourself when you talk, even though the headphones are blocking outside sound.

On these headphones I found the sidetone feature worked well, though I feel it could be tweaked slightly louder. On the other hand, it was way better than what I experienced on the Arctis 7+ Wireless Gaming Headset (priced about $170) for comparison. On these Sony headphones the seal of the cups around the ears combined with noise cancelling results in your voice echoing in your ears a bit. However, I’m extremely picky on sidetone and this is the case with every closed ear, noise cancelling headphone.

These Sony headphones have better sidetone than all other options I’ve tested. (If sidetone really bothers you, look for open ear headphones which will not have noise cancelling or microphones. My choice for open ear headphones is the Sennheiser HD-599.)

Sony WH-1000XM5 Comfort and Fit With Glasses – My Experience

Comfort was one of the best of any of the many high end headphones I’ve tried, even with glasses. On some headphones, the arms on glasses will get pinched or dig in behind your ear, causing discomfort after a medium amount of time. I did not have this issue with either the WH-1000XM5 or WH-1000XM4! The only slight downside with comfort comes from the fact that they can get a bit warm in hot environments because they are closed-ear, noise cancelling headphones. Almost all models of noise cancelling headphones will tend to feel warm if you are outside in the summer or in a hot room.

The only alternative to this is instead buying open ear headphones, which will sound different (less bassy for one) and will not have noise cancellation or any microphone features usually. My preference for open ear headphones (if you would prefer the extra ventilation) is by far the Sennhesier HD-599, which you can also easily plug in a Bluetooth adapter to make wireless, thanks to the removable audio cable. I have a pair of these and can wear them nonstop with no comfort issues after hours and hours – even with big, weird ears!

Troubleshooting Audio Lag / Latency and Quality on Sony WH-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM4 Headphones

If you do experience noticeable audio latency over a Bluetooth connection with these headphones, the cause is not the headphones themselves. However, there are a fixable few situations that could cause poor performance, audio quality, delay and lag. Here are solutions on how to fix these audio problems on the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sony WH-1000XM4:

  • There may be a problem with your bluetooth audio transmitter. Whether you are connected to a mobile device, tablet, PC, or other audio source, it is possible there is an issue with it’s settings or functions. Try connecting to the audio of a different device. Try a friend’s laptop or phone for example. Also ensure that the audio file you’re listening to is high quality itself.
  • Power cycle and reconnect the headphones to Bluetooth. Power them off, then on. You can also try toggling Bluetooth on your transmitting device on and off and restarting both devices.
  • Try connecting and listening to audio by connecting a headphone cable to the headphone jack on the headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones also have the option to be connected by wire (imagine that!) While audio jacks on mobile devices are more and more rare these days, you should still be able to find a device that has a standard audio jack that you can test to see if this improves audio quality.
  • You may have the wrong audio source output selected. This happened to me once or twice while testing the WH-1000XM4 with my PC. The wrong audio output was set in Windows, meaning the audio was being transmitted on a low quality channel. Check your Windows Sound Devices, see if there might be two different devices listed that are both named Sony / WH-1000XM5 etc, and if so, try switching to the other option.
  • You may be too far away from your audio source: Try moving closer then reconnecting. Bluetooth 5 has a very long range of ~240m (800 ft) but if you’re experiencing problems, try getting closer then reconnecting. In my experience testing the Sony WH-1000XM5 I was able to walk across my house and even upstairs before I started getting occasional audio drop-outs. If you aren’t able to at least walk around the room you’re in, there may be an issue with your headphones or Bluetooth transmitter.
  • You may have physical obstacles between you and your audio source. With Bluetooth 5.0+ you shouldn’t need to have line of sight or be super close to your Bluetooth transmitting devices, but when troubleshooting it is important to rule out everything. Try to get as close as possible, with a direct line of sight to your Bluetooth transmitter to test.
  • There may be interference from other nearby devices. While rare, it is possible that some devices could interfere with the frequency, especially if they are malfunctioning, unshielded etc. Just to rule out anything, try moving to a different location, or turn off and unplug any devices nearby. Most important would be other Bluetooth devices, but you could also check things like wifi routers and similar just in case.
  • Check the Sony app and make sure any options for low latency and/or high quality are turned on. The app changes with each upddate, but download the app on your phone, connect it to your headphones ollowing the instructions in the manual, and check all the settings. You may have to choose between quality and latency–check the settings in the app. (In general for video and gaming you’d want to prioritize latency, and for music prioritize quality.)
  • Return for a replacement or get warranty service. If you’ve tried all the above options and are still getting noticeably low quality or delayed audio, I would suggest contacting Sony or returning the headphones to the store you purchased them from. It is always possible for electronics to have defects. The Sony WH-1000XM5 have a standard 1 year warranty, though it won’t cover any physical damage.


Questions, Comments?

Questions about my experience with the Sony WH-1000XM5, XM4, or want to share your experience? Having an issue that the troubleshooting section didn’t help with? Leave a comment below and I’ll reply with any help I can offer!


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2 Responses

  1. Tomás says:

    I just wanted to know if the sony whxm5-1000 have any surrounding sound? I am having an horrible experience because I never know where are the enemies because the headsets don’t play it right.
    If I have my phones plugged in via AUX will they perform better? If I bluetooth trasmitter will they also perfom better?
    Thank you

  2. daydull says:

    Tomas, you may want to check your windows sound device settings to make sure everything is set up correctly. Also check that your game’s audio settings are correct. Usually you’d want to select headphones as the audio type in game.

    If you connect directly with a stereo/headphone jack cable that could be another way to test.

    You could also try turning on windows spatial sound, though it shouldn’t be necessary to have a good experience.

    Overall something is not right with your settings if you aren’t able to identify directions of sounds in games with these headphones.

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