Review: Sony’s WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

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Sony WF-1000XM3 review
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A Worthy contender to Apple’s AirPods. Meet Sony’s WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones. Simply brilliant.

It’s fair to say that Apple changed the headphone industry with the launch of their ‘AirPods’. A product that Apple themselves weren’t sure how well it would be received, blew everyone’s expectations so much they had to double their production as most stores ran out of stock in a matter of days from the launch.

However, as an audiophile, the AirPods weren’t perfect. It certainly had its limitations in terms of audio quality and other functionalities. It became more of a style statement than something you’d find a music industry veteran to sport. Over the years, Apple launched various iterations of the product with the second generation supporting a faster and more efficient chip along with a qi enabled wireless charging case.

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Apple made an even stronger attempt with the AirPods Pro launched earlier this year for pro-grade users which seems to have corrected all the problems I’ve had in the past with the AirPods line of devices. It’s still a very Pro-Apple device offering limited functionality to Non-iOS devices and that’s a bit of a bummer for Android users.

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This is where Sony comes into the picture with their decades worth of experience in the industry. They did their homework and clearly researched where the AirPods fell short and how they could do it better. The WF-10000XM3 is amazing and this is what you should know about.

Update: In November 2019, Sony release a firmware update which added a ton of features and improvements to the WF-1000XM3 the biggest of which would be Amazon Alexa Support. Other minor tweaks include Volume Control via headset and a visible battery level indication of the case in the official ‘Sony Headphones Connect App’.

Highlights

  • Powered by Sony’s HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e
  • Up to 24 hours of battery life
  • 6-mm driver unit
  • Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE HX)
  • Tri-Hold Structure for secure and comfortable fit
  • Quick charge functionality (10 Minutes of quick charge should give you up to 90 minutes of playback)
  • Sense Engine Technology
  • Adaptive Sound Control
  • Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant Support
  • 360 Reality Audio

What we liked

  • Packed with features that come in handy during different scenarios
  • Has a headphone jack. Thank God.
  • Solid battery life
  • Noise Cancellation works as advertised
  • Stellar sound quality with deep bass that is lacked in most wireless earbuds offered by the competition

What we didn’t like 

  • Not Water/Sweat Resistant
  • Call Quality isn’t the best
  • Doesn’t work very well with iOS Devices
  • No lost earbud policy like Apple so if you lose one, you’ll have to buy an entire set
  • Lack of aptX and LDAC Support 

Design 

Straight to the point. It looks phenomenal, it feels phenomenal and it sounds absolutely phenomenal. When it comes to wireless earbuds, comfort is a very important factor and so is the right fit. Last thing you’d want is to go for a quick job and find one of the pieces missing. The earbuds have sophistication written all over them with that premium and luxurious feel to it.

Case looks sturdy and well built. To be honest I feel Apple drew inspiration from the Sony WF-1000XM3 to design their AirPods Pro’s rectangular case. It just seems ideal to easily slide it into your pockets.

USB-C connectivity is great so you wouldn’t have no proprietary cable mumbo-jumbo.

Functionality 

The earbuds sport a kind of circular pad on the sides and that’s how you control the device. It has a bit of a learning curve to it but nothing out of the ordinary. Everything is pretty straightforward and very well detailed in the App that you can download from the Apple AppStore or Google Play Store. Tap on the left bud to switch between Noise Cancelling and Ambient Sound mode or you can simply tap twice on the right to skip the track.

But that’s not the end of it, you actually customize the controls to your liking, and you can alternate between options to trigger the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa or even volume control. Sony offers you absolute flexibility in terms of choosing the right functions.

The proximity sensor also comes in handy depending on the situation you’re in. If you take one bud out the music stops playing automatically on both sides. Simply put it back and it will resume thanks to the built-in proximity sensor.

The Adaptive Sound control works like a charm too. Thanks to the ‘Sense Engine’ the headphones automatically detects what you’re up to and adjust the sound settings depending on your activity.

Sound Quality 

Most noise-cancellation enabled earbuds we tested in the past seemed gimmicky. Not the Sony WF-1000XM3s though. Because they were able to cancel out background noise more accurately, listening to music seemed un-compromised by any sort of external factors.

The new Bluetooth chip in these are also kind of a big deal. Sony claims the audio is transmitted to both the earpieces together enabling a more stable connection and reducing any lip-syncing issues while watching videos. In fact, Sony claims there is a seventy-give percent reduction in latency compared to their other models. That makes binging on Netflix and other streaming services quite a bliss.

EDM fans can rejoice because the bass on the beauties is top-notch. Sound is very well refined and balanced with near to perfect highs and lows.

With regards to call quality, I have mixed feelings. In loud environments neither can I hear anything nor the person I’m speaking to so it’s better you use the earbuds for the actual purpose you got them in the first place, listening to music.

Battery Life 

Six hours on a single charge is neat for a pair of earbuds in this segment however turning off the noise-cancellation function gives you an additional two hours bringing the total battery life to 8 hours. That combined with the case should give you a total music time of a colossal 24 hours. Smart features like automatic turn-off five minutes after you take them out of your ears also helps in power management. 

Final Verdict 

At this form factor, there’s no doubt that the Sony WF-1000XM3 tops our list. They aren’t overly expensive and at the same time offers more smart features than any earbuds out there. Battery life is colossal and audio quality is top notch.

There’s no need to think twice if your other option is Apple’s AirPods. These are way better and more compatible with Android phones.

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