Sony WH-1000XM3 Review
The WH-1000XM3s are as powerful and crisp as headphones come
- Very excellent audio
- Nice touch controls
- Comfortable for long listening stretches
- Fantastic battery life
- Microphone isn’t great
- Noise-canceling tech suffers from wind
High-quality headphones are everywhere, but can Sony continue to lead the way with their new set? In this Sony WH-1000XM3 review, we’ll find out.
Design and Features
With bulbous earcups and a thick headband, these headphones look like they mean business. They aren’t very sleek, but they look cool whether they are atop your head or around your neck. Still, some folks will prefer a lighter overall design.
The headband and earcups are mostly made of a plastic chassis that can look good with the right color. There are two to choose from: black and champagne gold. Be careful with the latter choice since it’s easier to scuff them visibly.
Overall, the headphones are pretty bendable. They fit well to heads of all shapes and sizes and you can swivel both earcups around to the side. This is great for comfort and for maneuvering around your head and you take them on or off.
The right earcup has a touch panel that uses finger motions to register playback settings and call management. Finger swipes to the left or right dictate whether you want to skip a track or play the same one twice, while swipes up or down let you change the volume. Meanwhile, you can simply tap your finger twice to play or pause or accept and end a call.
This kind of control is so different from most other wireless headphones that it takes a little getting used to. Once you do, however, it’s nice not to have to worry about accidentally pumping physical buttons.
The right cup is also the location of the USB-C port, plus the NFC chip that helps Bluetooth pairing seem instantaneous. Then there’s the audio jack and twin buttons to activate both the Noise Canceling and Ambient listening modes.
Finally, the purchase comes with a carry case that has enough room to hold the headphones, the auxiliary cable, and the charging cable. There’s even a little mesh pocket for some extra storage options.
The headphones only way about 9 ounces. While this isn’t the lightest set of wireless headphones you’ll find, it’s remarkable given all the tech packed into the earcups. The light weight helps them relax a little more easily atop your head, meaning you can wear them for much longer without experiencing discomfort.
Despite the earcup size, they don’t feel like they weigh down your ears physically or bend them uncomfortably. This is partly due to the padding inside each cup that protects your ears and helps seal away outside noise. The oval shape of the cups is nice for those of us with larger ears, too.
Overall, these are pretty comfortable headphones but they don’t fit very snugly to the top of your head. Due to their bulky size and shape, we wouldn’t recommend them if you plan to run with the headphones very often.
The sound quality here is truly phenomenal. The soundstage effect is well integrated, making you feel like you are hearing music from all around you no matter which track you play.
Bass sounds are particularly thunderous and powerful, but they don’t overpower any of the other sound ranges available. Mids and highs are developed fully and retain a lot of the lively energy you imagine they had in the recording studio. The reverberation from drums or strings was especially noticeable and enjoyable.
Vocals are also really crisp and enjoyable, even among lower and higher-range singers.
The noise-canceling mode of the headphones has an added benefit in that it improves the bass quality of your current track. It’s pretty subtle, but anyone who’s serious about their listening experience will really appreciate this aspect.
Meanwhile, the Ambient mode makes any vocal sound a lot clearer in comparison. The difference is only really noticeable when you switch back and forth between the modes one after the other, but it’s still a nice aspect for audiophiles.
Beyond that, the noise-canceling tech is decent and useful for both office work or for listening to your jams on a busy city street. It effectively blocks out lower frequency sounds while turning higher frequency sounds to dull background chatter.
Anyone invested in the Sony WH-1000XM3 vs. Bose QC 35 II debate wants to know which pair of headphones have better noise canceling ability. The answer is still Bose, but only by a narrow margin. Bose’s tech still handles windy conditions better than Sony’s.
These headphones rely on the Connect App to control its wireless functionality. The app works for both Android and iOS phones and it comes with plenty of different settings options and tools.
One of the tools allows you to optimize your noise-canceling tech, so you can fine-tune it depending on the ambient noise you’re normally trying to ignore. There’s also a tool that lets you start a Sleep Mode, preventing you from wasting valuable battery life.
You can also run the Google Assistant with these headphones. The listening mode button works instantly and entering inquiries is intuitive: just hold down the same button. You can’t listen to music at the same time as using the Assistant, unfortunately.
Generally, the headphones connect reliably and don’t stutter or lag very frequently. You can expect consistent results up to about 25 feet away from the home device, although going beyond this limit will almost certainly result in some dropout.
These headphones come with about 30 hours of playback with a full battery. That’s higher than the market standard and plenty for most users. A big reason for this is the use of the USB-C port, which lets you charge up the headphones much more quickly, as well.
While you can take calls on these headphones, the microphone is not the highest quality we’ve seen. Like with the noise-canceling tech, wind noise, in particular, seems to be Sony’s big issue to work through. Call quality is only passable, and only in conditions without a lot of ambient disturbance.
Overall, these headphones are well worth the asking price and all the support. They deliver perhaps the best audio quality in the business for this price range and have the battery life to support even the longest listening marathons.
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