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I tried refurbished Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones for $218, here's what happened

Reseller Back Market promises a good-as-new product, including a 12-month warranty. What's the reality?

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David Carnoy/CNET

Good headphones -- really good headphones -- are a treat, an indulgence. And I know some folks who would never deign to put inferior 'phones on their ears. But, come on: $350 for a sweet pair of Sonys? I love my ears, but not that much.

If you feel the same, here's your answer: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Cheapskate readers can get mint-condition Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones for $218 with promo code cheapskate2020. If there's a better deal to be found, I haven't seen it. (Update: These are currently sold out.)

A few things have changed since I posted this deal a few days ago. First, I actually ordered the Sonys so I could see for myself what "mint-condition refurbished" looks like. Verdict: Indistinguishable from new, but I had to venture online to find an instruction manual. They also seem to work perfectly, though obviously I can't comment on long-term reliability.

Second, Apple announced the $549 AirPods Max, which suddenly makes even $349 headphones seem less outrageous -- and $218 an even better deal. First impression, according to CNET's David Carnoy? The AirPods Max raise the bar for noise-canceling headphones, but they're also on the heavy side. (My take: They might be the ugliest headphones I've ever seen. And that case!)

So, back to the WH-1000XM4: Carnoy called it a "nearly flawless headphone" when it debuted earlier this year. He found it a bit more comfortable than its much-loved predecessor, with improved voice calling and just about every feature you could want. Read his Sony WH-1000XM4 review to learn more.

To Carnoy's comments I'll add this: The noise-canceling capabilities are indeed excellent, though there's a slight hiss when you're not listening to anything. The AirPods Pro (currently $190 at Woot) are totally silent when you engage ANC -- something to consider if you just want to block outside noise without music.

I'm glad I got the chance to see (and hear) the Sonys for myself, because now I can address the elephant in the room: Back Market's refurbished headphones -- at least those designated "mint condition" -- are indeed good as new. They're also covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee and 12-month warranty, which to my thinking makes this a zero-risk proposition. 

But I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Are you game for refurbed cans if it means you can save $132? (Amazon's best-ever price, for the record: $278. Right now: $298.)

Now playing: Watch this: Sony WH-1000XM4: The best noise-canceling headphone gets...
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