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With no Sony WH-1000XM4 at CES, when could it debut?

Sony WH-1000XM3 WH-1000XM4

Sony's CES press conference has come and gone but no WH-1000XM4. So when can we expect it to show up? This will be a long post, so settle in for a long read with a summary at the end.

Most of the following information I will present is from the FCC and freely available for anyone to access. Through the post, I will be using the term short term confidentiality a lot, so to save myself from re-writing it all the time, I will shorten it to STC.

What is short term confidentiality? Whenever a company files a FCC report, they can request for a time period for which certain documents are not available for immediate viewing after the filing, notably, the manual, internal and external photos and setup photos. This is mainly done to prevent early leaks of the new models. Time to move on to the various headphones.

I will begin with the MDR-1000X. The MDR-1000X showed up on the FCC on June 26th, 2016. The short term confidentiality (STC), ended on August 31st, 2016, with announcement at IFA 2016. The WH-1000XM2 appeared on the FCC on July 4th, 2017, the STC ended on September 20th, 2017, and reveal was also at IFA. For the WH-1000XM3, FCC filing showed up on May 29, 2018, the STC ended on August 31st with reveal at IFA 2018.

For both the MDR-1000X and WH-1000XM3, Sony defined a specific end date for the short term confidentiality, where as the WH-1000XM2 end date for STC was set for 78 days. I decided to count back 78 days from the September 20th date when the documents were available, and I landed on July 4th, the same date when the WH-1000XM2 first appeared on the FCC. So it seems that the number of days in the STC seem to correspond from when a device first appears on the FCC.

So if the WH-1000XM4 follows this pattern from the predecessors, then the reveal date would occur after its short term confidentiality ends, or June 1st 2020. The only show around then is Computex, but I do not think Sony would reveal their flagship headphones at a computer focused show, but who knows.

Now I will look at some of the other headphone releases in the past year.

Sony WH-XB700
First the WH-XB700. The headset appeared on the FCC on December 4th 2018, similar time frame as the WH-1000XM4. But unlike the M4, the short term confidentiality was set for 100 days, therefore counting 100 days from December 4th, I land on March 3rd, 2019, one day before STC ended. The WH-XB700 was also revealed that same week as STC ended, March 4th, with retail availability right after this.

Next up is the WH-XB900N. The FCC appearance was on March 13th, 2019, with a press reveal on May 21st. The STC was set for 180 days in the FCC filing, counting 180 days from March 13th, yields September 9th, which is one day before the actual date when the STC was lifted. The WH-XB900N went on sale in the beginning of July (Asia) and middle of August (US).

The WF-1000XM3 showed up on the FCC on March 27th, and the STC was set for 180 days by Sony; counting 180 days yields September 22nd, but the STC documents became available on July 5th, which corresponds with the press announcement of July 5th. I suspect Sony just wanted to have the end date as far as possible in case the press announcement had to be pushed back from July 5th, and therefore there was no worry the FCC documents would reveal the product.

Up next is the WI-1000XM2. The FCC appearance was on August 7th, STC was set until September 30th, with the documents becoming available on October 1st. The device was revealed at IFA this year, but it did not go on sale in Japan and Asia until early December. In Europe it only became available in early January. I am not sure why Sony decided to release them to retail 3 months after their reveal but I hope this does not become the norm. No retail availability has been provided for North America unfortunately.

Sony WH-H910NI was hoping for Sony to announce the WH-H910N at CES 2020 for the North American market but I guess nothing for now. The WH-H910N FCC filing was on August 8th, with reveal at IFA 2019. The STC was set for a 180 days from August 8th, but the documents were available after September 5th, so a few days after IFA. I imagine this was the same situation like the WF-1000XM3, have the STC end after reveal. Like the WI-1000XM2, the WH-H910N did not hit retail until early November for Japan/Asia and late December for Europe. Europe was supposed to be early/mid December but the date was pushed back for some reason. The WF-H800 had more or less a similar pattern to the WH-H910N, August FCC filings, IFA reveal with STC ending after IFA and retail 3-4 months later but not every region will be receiving the model. Same thing for the h.ear on 3 mini (WH-H810).

The WI-C200/C310, WI-XB400 and WH-CH510 headsets all had a different pattern. All appeared on the FCC, with most appearing on Sony's website first (with no real announcement) and then their short term confidentiality ending a few months later. Retail availability was a few months after their appearance on Sony's website.

With that out of the way, back to the WH-1000XM4. With no announcement at CES, when will Sony announce the new model? Should one wait for the new model or buy the current one?

Sony WH-1000XM4

The short term confidentiality ends on June 1st, so with that in mind, here is what could happen next.

  1. Standalone press release and retail release in March/April 2020
  2. Standalone press release Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 retail availability
  3. June 2020 Announcement with a retail in July/August 2020

I do not believe an IFA 2020 reveal is likely, I feel we might be looking at a standalone press release and then retail shortly after, but when? My bet is on March/April and then a release shortly after. The short term confidentiality was set much further back to avoid the FCC outing the device before a press reveal.

So for those asking if they should wait for the new model, simple answer, if you need headphones now, get the WH-1000XM3, if you are willing to wait until Spring or even Summer, then wait for the new model.

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