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?
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
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.)
Watch this: Sony WH-1000XM4: The best noise-canceling headphone gets better