Review: Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones
If you didn’t hear about it earlier, chances are, you won’t be “hearing” anything from Sony’s best noise-cancelling headphones.
Noise cancelling headphones are the game from Bose all these while until the emergence of the Sony MDR-1000X two years back, and it was a game changer since it’s inception. Today, the Mark III is doing what the two generations do best, and Sony throws in some upgrades as well. Sitting at the top of Sony’s flagship line, the WH-1000XM3 is feature-rich and sound like a pair of super premium luxury headphones with a price tag that is within reach.
Sony put a lot of hardware inside these headphones, not to mention the four microphones that are located inside the headphone and on the outer earcups. Noise cancellation of this magnitude also requires a lot of software running, which means WH-1000XM3 has a processing chip inside that’s running calculations in real time on a dedicated NC processor. Noticeably the biggest changes to the 1000X are found in the design of the headphones: they’re lighter than last year and more fitting as well.
On the weight calculation, the headphones slimmed about 22 grams from the previous model. The other visible design change is the new flush fit that changes out the old padding on the bridge for something a bit more comfortable. This makes the headphones more cushiony but also significantly less awkward when they’re on your head.
The big change Sony made is replacing the micro USB port on the right earcup for a USB Type-C. Although many gadgets still use the micro USB for charging, the Type-C move is a matter of time, so Sony just jumped into it now. Minor tweaks aside, these are still regarded as minimalist headphones which really appeals to the premium-class customer Sony is targeting.
The WH-1000XM3 comes in only two colours, an all-black or grey-silver. On the left earcup, you’ll find the two buttons. One for Power & Bluetooth and another to cycle the noise cancellation between its three settings: On, Ambient Mode and Off. Down across the buttons you will find an auxiliary jack, and on the other earcup you will see a USB Type-C port that’s used to charge the headphones. In the box, you will find a USB-to-USB Type-C cable, alongside a 3.5mm aux cable, two-pronged aux adapter used in most airline seat’s audio output and a hard carrying case.
When we are trying to find the playback controls all over the headphones, we recalled that Sony has just hidden them on the right earcup in the form of a touch-gesture. To skip forward, you’ll need to swipe right on the right earcup or swipe left to go back. Pausing is done by double-tapping, and resuming is then done the same way. Using the similar gestures, turning the volume down requires you to swipe down on the right earcup, and turning it up is done by swiping up. It will take some getting used to, but once you start using it for a couple of times, it becomes second nature.
What’s your idea of getting a part of the noise cancelling headphone? To block noises of course! In that arena, there are none better than the WH-1000XM3 for now. Sony claimed the WH-1000XM3 are four times more effective at cancelling noise than the Mark II. In our test, we can safely confirm that claim when dealing with both low-frequencies, like the kind you would find while taking public transports or flying in a plane and higher frequency noises such as people talking or music playing. In these scenarios, the WH-1000XM3 performed well, often reducing noise from a disturbingly loud hum to a more manageable buzz and sometimes eliminating exterior noise entirely.
Similar to the Mark II, you can selectively allow some noises into the headphones as well. With Ambient Noise mode selected, announcements made over transportation station PA systems can be heard, while Quick Attention Mode allows you to quickly pipe in external audio without taking off the headphones by reducing the volume of the music and using the microphones located on the outside of each earcup. It is a feature that sets Sony apart from the crowd. As for audio quality, it remains similar to what we heard on the previous model.
On the performance of the WH-1000XM3’s call quality, we tested several phone calls made with the WH-1000XM3, the people we spoke to commented that we sounded clear. This is likely due to the extra microphones Sony has embedded into the WH-1000XM3 itself. Although call feature is an added feature, we don’t expect user will use this frequently, just in case you need to talk on the phone while on-the-go.
Are 30 hours of usage per full charge enough? Oh Yes! Over a period of five days, while the headphones were being used on an average of four hours a day, WH-1000XM3 didn’t need to be recharged at all, ending the final night before the next charge at around 25% battery life left. The WH-1000XM3 has a “Quick Charge” feature that allows 10 minutes of charging to get you an extra 5 hours of uptime.
This is another impressive product from Sony that deserves a 5-Star rating from us, the Mark II has been already leading in this segment, and we expect to see the WH-1000XM3 to continue to lead. There is no giant leap technology comparing to the previous model, so, that being said, unless you are a style-savvy frequent traveller or someone needs to make the occasional phone call, your next alternative is the Sony WH-1000XM2 – they are nearly as good and cost lesser today.
Review: Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones