This latest model has the same appearance as its ancestor, the WH-1000XM2, but weighs just 255 grams. The model impresses with its solid build, and the black and silver look has been revamped with beige highlights, which have replaced the original gold accents. Although the standard audio receiver and driver hardware are almost similar, these new headphones go a step forward with a dedicated chip (the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1) that provides improved noise-reduction capability. This latest functionality offers much more intelligent background noise isolation, in addition to its normal computing capacity.
Sony WH-1000XM3: Price
Sony WH-1000XM3: Noise Cancellation
When it comes to noise control, Sony does not disappoint. The active device in place is powerful, adaptable, and intelligent within limits. It is probably the most valuable product on the market. In theory, this model’s well-fitting nature also has useful passive noise-reduction properties. The measurement microphones and dedicated noise-reduction processor kick in when you toggle the additional features of these headphones, which are also available with wired service. The WH-1000XMS maintains a perplexing level of silence in loud settings, with just a small interruption in high-frequency noise in the best case scenario. When faced with static and low-frequency noise, the machine theoretically performs at its best.
However, complete isolation is not necessarily necessary. Ambient Sound Control can be used to change ambient noise levels when required or to selectively view them using a touch function. This provides a sensible equilibrium between distance from and contact with the world, depending on the situation. Additionally, there is a switchable filter choice that limits the frequency of human voice transmission. However, in fact, I found the latter to be too middle-heavy.
The WH-1000XM3 is mostly used by Sony to improve the dampening of sounds such as voices. However, the amount of noise shielding that can be achieved is immense. However, voices in the immediate vicinity are not necessarily audible. Surprisingly, sounds like train notifications were often recognised.
Sony takes it a step further with the Adaptive Sound Control feature, which allows you to dynamically swap between four configurable profiles by measuring vibrations and air pressure and responding to the environment to make adjustments. The ability to permanently allow noise cancellation without having to play music is a significant benefit of this new model, rendering these headphones an excellent resting aid while travelling without having to use the standby feature or switch them off.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the noise-cancelling features come with a caveat, which Sony and its rivals share. Direct wind and background noise was picked up by the exterior microphones.
Sony WH-1000XM3: Features
Sony has enhanced the efficiency and amount of microphones used for voice calls, ensuring that whoever you’re speaking with can easily hear you. If you’re more concerned about keeping the outer world at bay, Sony’s already excellent noise-cancelling has been upgraded. You can also configure the mode to be on all the time, even though you’re not doing something, so you can use the noise-cancelling to have a good night’s sleep.
Frequent flyers will appreciate the return of the Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser, which tweaks the headphones’ frequency response and microphone sensitivity for better performance at high altitude. Just note to restart the Optimiser until you’re back on solid ground.
The Headphones Link software, which is available for Android and iOS, offers additional controls and customization options. The choices here aren’t very helpful, but if you want to change how much noise-cancelling is used for specific events or switch off the auto-off button, this is the place to go.
A quick-charging battery is much more useful. The XM3s charge in three hours (rather than four hours for the XM2s), and a ten-minute charge allows you five hours of usage (rather than 70 minutes) – estimates aided by the transition from Micro USB to USB-C. The battery’s overall life stands at 30 hours.
The switch to analog amplification is the real deal with these Sony headphones. Sony has worked extensively to build a chip that incorporates noise cancellation, a digital-to-analog converter, and an analog amplifier in a box compact enough to fit in a pair of headphones. It has accomplished this with the QN1 chip used in the WH-1000XM3s.
Sony WH-1000XM3: Sound
All of the work has paid off, as the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones have a significant acoustic improvement over the previous set, to the point where the M2s, which we adored at the time, sound closed-in and bland in contrast.
This is a light, airy sound with plenty of space for each instrument, impact, and vocal to breathe. The vocals are still concentrated and straightforward, but the instruments surrounding them are delivered in a way that makes you feel like you’re in the room with the band.
Raw, analogue records like The Road by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are fabulously emotive and engaging, with the changing pressure of the piano key presses distinctly, mournfully delivered, and a genuine sense of sadness expressed as the strings are added and steadily develop to the track’s poignant climax.
The WH-1000XM3s deliver a satisfactory rendition of SBTRKT’s throbbing Trials Of The Past, thanks to a nice extra helping of lovely, deep bass. This extra bass, on the other hand, never tries to unbalance the presentation; rather, it merely strengthens it, adding weight and richness in a fun, normal, and, dare we say, analogue way.
Sony WH-1000XM3: Build & Comfort
The XM3s have a similar look to the XM2s at first glance, but the variations are almost completely favourable. The change from metal to plastic in the headband makes the current pair look marginally less premium than the outgoing one, which is our only mild criticism.
However, this leads to a 20g weight reduction compared to last year’s pair. It looks as though there’s almost no weight lying on the top of your head, thanks to a different, smoother, stronger cushion. These are one of the most convenient pairs of on-ears we’ve used, with larger earpads that cover the ear.
Meanwhile, the XM3s are less unattractive due to the headband’s smaller overlap with your head. It has a more straight, non-balloony look.
Sony WH-1000XM3: Voice Commands & Call Quality
Voice commands work, but I haven’t given them much thought. I still feel self-conscious doing it, particularly in public, so this isn’t a big selling point for me. It will be a life-changing environment in the future, but right now, command programmes like Google Assistant, Siri, and Alex aren’t that helpful.
Throughout this review, call quality was outstanding, but chatting with headphones on sounded strange — a kind of disconnection from the actual sound. The good news is that everybody I asked said my voice came off as crisp and straightforward.
Sony WH-1000XM3: Bluetooth Range
With a straight line of sight, I was able to stretch the Bluetooth range well over 100 feet. The signal was still able to work through walls in my home, though at a limited range. I never had any dropouts or missed contacts during my evaluation of the Sony WH-1000XM3, so I consider the Bluetooth output to be outstanding overall.
Connecting was also easy, and we tested it on a Google Pixel 3, an iPhone XS, and a Microsoft Surface Book. You can pair the headphones by long pressing the power button and searching for the unit on your phone, or you can use the standard pairing option of long pressing the power button and searching for the unit on your phone. If your phone has built-in NFC features, you can use it to easily connect the headphones and phone.
The Sony Headphone Control App is a smartphone application that allows you to control your headphones.
The Sony WH-1000XM3’s functionality is based on the headphone control software. Within, you’ll find a plethora of controls and tweaking tools for your optimum listening experience.
Sony WH-1000XM3: Conclusion
The WH-1000XM3 doesn’t completely overhaul Sony’s noise-canceling flagship headphones, but it does refine them to near-perfection. They’ve addressed the bulk of my concerns about the XM-2 and made improvements to the previous experience. I have no reservations in suggesting this headphone to someone who values noise cancellation.
They aren’t audiophile headphones, as I previously said. They sound great, particularly given the difficulties that businesses have faced in balancing sound quality and ANC technologies in the past.
This is a headphone that is incredibly impossible to blame as a whole. It’s filled with features, well-made, sounds and looks great, and filters out unwelcome noise like no other. This is the ideal headset right now for someone who flies as much as I do. It gets the most use out of all the 100+ headphones I have, which says a lot.
A fantastic headphone that is expensive but, in my opinion, well worth the money. It’s the gold standard right now, but I’m excited to see what Bose has in store for us in 2019.