Review: Sony's WH-1000XM3 Headphones are the Best Noise-Canceling Cans You Can Get Evaluation: Sony's WH-1000XM3 Headphones are the Greatest Noise-Canceling Cans You Can Get

Sony threatened to topple the apple cart in 2016 when it unleashed its flagship MDR-1000X cans on a headphones market which up till then had been dominated by Bose within the premium travel-grade noise-canceling division.

Combining glorious wi-fi sound with energetic NC that made even QuietComfort followers sit up and take discover, Sony’s awkwardly named headset proved that the Japanese firm’s intensive acoustic R&D had lastly hit on a winner, giving rival NC headphone makers due trigger for fear within the course of.

Unsurprisingly, Sony has sought to enhance upon this profitable formulation within the intervening years, beginning with one other tongue-twisting rebrand of its flagship vary (the inexplicably named WH-1000X sequence) and two follow-up fashions boasting incremental enhancements, each of which have been effectively obtained.

What’s maybe extra shocking about these developments is Bose’s lack of response to them, having launched in that point solely a tweaked model of its flagship QC35 cans with help for Google Assistant. Whether or not that is down to finish confidence within the high quality of its present noise-canceling smarts or simply lack of innovation is a moot level, on condition that Sony’s adaptive NC know-how and sonic prowess has primarily overtaken the corporate, as these newest cans exemplify.

The WHX-1000XM3’s are primarily an improve to final yr’s 1000XM2’s, that includes a sequence of minor enhancements that Sony believes collectively justify a brand new mannequin quantity. Let’s check out them and see simply how far the corporate’s noise-canceling vary has come.


On the face of it, Sony’s WH-1000XM3 headphones boast the identical design signature of earlier 1000X fashions. They’re accessible in two understated colours – beige and black – and the ear cups swivel inwards so that they pack up neatly within the equipped carry case. The one distinctive marks on the skin of every cup stay the minimal Sony logos and tiny microphone grilles, though they’ve picked up some neat brass-colored accents.

Sony WH-1000XM3 (left) beside unique MDR-1000X headphones

A more in-depth look reveals extra notable variations although. Gone is the uncovered metal headband, which is now hid between the adjustable slats beneath thicker, extra comfy padding than on earlier fashions. The froth urethane ear pads are additionally barely bigger and cushier, and permit for a deeper ear area inside.

The obvious ergonomic shift to happen nonetheless is by way of weight. The XM3’s are 22 grams lighter than the XM2’s (and 10 grams lighter than Bose’s QC35 II’s) which could not sound like a lot, however after sporting them for a number of hours straight it does make an actual distinction.

Sony WH-1000XM3 (left) beside unique MDR-1000X headphones

Like earlier cans within the WH-1000X vary, the 2 buttons on the left ear cup management energy and noise-canceling/ambient sound options, making blind choice rather a lot simpler than the indistinctive three-buttoned affair on the unique MDR-1000X cans. As earlier than, the ability button might be shortly pressed for a battery stage replace, and a protracted press prompts the pairing sequence, whereas software-based choices allow you to change the perform of the ambient sound/NC button (extra on these later). Sadly, the blue LED subsequent to the ability button nonetheless frequently flashes throughout operation, which might be vaguely annoying should you’re sporting them in the dead of night.

Sony has additionally switched up the connectivity on this mannequin: The microUSB port on the correct ear cup is gone, changed with a extra up-to-date USB-C connection (the charging cable terminates in USB-A). One factor that hasn’t modified is Sony’s love for gesture controls: The fitting ear cup has a touch-sensitive again that responds to faucets and swipes to regulate music playback, skip tracks, change quantity, and invoke your most popular digital assistant. Like most trendy headphone gesture pads, it will also be used to take calls. The excellent news is that the fabric Sony is now utilizing to coat the pads is a bit smoother, which makes the gestures basically much more responsive than fashions previous, so kudos for that.

Efficiency and Options

As we talked about initially of this evaluation, Sony pulled one thing particular out of the bag when it launched its MDR-1000X headphones, which boasted next-level noise cancelation beforehand solely achieved by the likes of Bose. With the 1000XM3’s, Sony has in some way finished it once more and made these cans 4 instances simpler at damping down sounds from the skin world than the 1000XM2’s. After loads of testing, we are able to state that they persistently outperform Bose’s flagship headphones in relation to killing exterior noise in a spread of environments and use instances.

This stepwise enchancment is partly to do with the ambient sound controls being extra versatile and a bit smarter than earlier fashions. Hearth up the Sony Headphones Join app and you’ll manually drag a slider that modifications the diploma of noise-cancelation, permitting you to pick most isolation, wind noise discount, or select from amongst 20 ranges of various ambient attenuation. It is nice for locating your ideally suited NC vary whilst you’re stationary, however you may also swap to adaptive sound management once you’re on the transfer and the built-in QN1 processor will just do nearly as good a job, routinely adjusting its corresponding inverted frequencies to dam out no matter environmental sounds come your method.

As earlier than, the headphones make low-frequency feels like jet engines and visitors swiftly soften away, however Sony has additionally improved its proprietary chip on this mannequin to attenuate high-frequency feels like voices. That does not imply you will not hear when somebody shouts at you from the opposite facet of the room, but it surely does make quick work of background chatter in a busy espresso store. On the flip facet, the Deal with Voice function is a lot better than its earlier incarnation. It goals to allow you to hear in on necessary bulletins – once you’re ready to be referred to as to a boarding gate, say – whereas nonetheless permitting you to take pleasure in your music in relative quiet. The previous Voice mode had patchy efficiency and infrequently didn’t filter out different ambient sounds, however the WH-1000MX3’s are way more discriminating on this regard.

The QN1 chip does not simply excel at managed NC both. Sony has additionally thrown in an onboard DAC and an analog amplifier, together with 32-bit audio sign processing and help for reproducing the total vary of frequencies as much as 40 kHz. These smarts permit the cans to persistently ship a better signal-to-noise ratio and decrease distortion, and allowed me to take pleasure in clear, crisp audio in the entire supported AAC (iPhone), aptX/aptX HD (Mac/Android), SBC (every little thing) and LDAC wi-fi codecs. The mid-range stays splendidly balanced and the highs sparkle on instrumental tracks, whereas a robust but managed bass offers a strong basis.

You would be forgiven for considering all of the tech in these cans would inevitably be an influence drain, however Sony impresses by eking out 30 hours of wired/wi-fi battery life on a single cost, and you will get 5 hours’ value of cost after simply 10 minutes related to an influence outlet with the non-compulsory AC adapter (versus 70 minutes on the WH-1000XM2’s). That gave me oodles of time to play with the extra app options, together with the sound place controls that allow you to change the perceived directional supply of your audio, to not point out the welcome encompass sound modes and EQ sliders.

Digging deeper into the software program controls, it is now attainable to regulate the automated power-off function, which is activated when no audio sign is detected. You may even flip it off, which is super-convenient should you simply need to have NC energetic with out listening to audio. You may also optionally change the perform of the NC/ambient button on the left ear cup to activate Google Assistant, Siri, and (most lately added) Alexa. It is a neat solution to shortly ask normal queries, but it surely additionally means you should use your digital assistant of option to play music and skip tracks on the fly.

Fortunately, Sony has additionally carried over all its fashionable options from earlier fashions. The left ear cup nonetheless contains an NFC chip for quick pairing with appropriate units, whereas Sony’s distinctive innovation within the NC area lives on: Hidden inside each ear cups are the identical microphones that Sony’s “private NC Optimizer” makes use of to pattern ambient noise and cancel out a wider vary of sounds with corresponding inverted frequencies. Maintain down the NC button, and the headphone audio system emit a sequence of tones that bounce forwards and backwards between the mics to investigate the form of your head, work out whether or not you’ve got large hair, put on glasses, and so forth.

Sony has really tweaked the optimizer on this mannequin to incorporate atmospheric stress, and I discovered it to work higher throughout flights. This was straightforward to check thanks to a different function distinctive to the corporate’s Sense Engine, referred to as “Fast Consideration.” Cup your fingers over the correct ear cup and the amount immediately lowers to let within the exterior world – deliver your hand again down and the music returns to its prior quantity. It is genuinely helpful for conditions wherein you’d normally need to take off the headphones – like when a flight attendant provides you refreshments.

As with earlier fashions, the WH-1000XM3’s pack one of many strongest Bluetooth connections I’ve come throughout in headphones, and persistently retain a connection in areas the place rival Bluetooth headsets often falter. By default, the headphones routinely choose the very best high quality Bluetooth protocol accessible, however you possibly can nonetheless manually swap the precedence between most secure connection and highest audio high quality, which is now finished within the iOS app.

Earlier than we wrap up, it is value noting that, inexplicably, Sony’s 1000X vary nonetheless does not help dynamic switching between audio sources. Bose’s QC35’s haven’t any bother pairing with two units and routinely switching between them based mostly on which one is transmitting an audio sign, so it is baffling that the 1000XM3’s lack this skill, and in our Bluetooth saturated age, it is exhausting to overstate simply how handy the function is. Having to manually disconnect the 1000XM3’s out of your iPhone in an effort to hook up with your Mac and vice versa simply feels clunky, but Sony’s cans had no bother auto-pairing with the final recognized system every time I turned them on.

Backside Line

Sony’s skill to proceed bettering its WH-1000X sequence of wi-fi headphones is basically due to its devoted acoustics analysis, which at the moment leaves rival makers of premium noise-canceling cans with a lot work to do to get wherever close to the identical high quality.

The customizable and adaptive NC smarts show Sony’s tech has come on in leaps and bounds because the unique MDR-1000X mannequin, whereas enhancements in battery life and sound high quality make for a well-rounded listening expertise. If the corporate can simply take a leaf out of Bose’s e book and add dynamic system switching within the subsequent model, they will be nearly untouchable for a protracted whereas to come back.


  • Greatest noise canceling within the enterprise
  • Distinctive sound in each wired and wi-fi modes
  • Excellent battery life
  • Improved design and contact controls


  • Lacks dynamic audio system switching
  • Flashing working LED might be annoying

Easy methods to Purchase

The Sony WH-1000MX3 headphones are available beige or black, price $349.99, and might be ordered through the Sony web site or on Amazon.

Be aware: Sony equipped the WH-1000MX3’s to for the needs of this evaluation. No different compensation was obtained.


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