comscore
Review

Sony WH-1000XM2 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones Review: Doesn’t get better than this

The successor to the excellent Sony MDR-1000X, the WH-1000MX2 is better in all ways.

sony wh-1000xm2 headphones logo

Sony WH-1000XM2 4.5 5
BGR Rating :
4.5/5

Highlights

  • The Sony WH-1000XM2 headphones are the most technologically advanced earphones you can buy today.

  • You get active noise cancellation and wireless connectivity.

  • The headset is priced at Rs 30,990.

Bose may have had the distinction of being the best in the business of noise cancelling headphones for the longest time, but experts today will agree that Sony has shown the way forward. That isn’t to say that the Bose QC35 is a poor option; it just isn’t the obvious option anymore. Last year’s Sony MDR-1000X showed just how far Sony has come in matching up to Bose in the wireless and noise-cancellation departments.

The successor to the excellent Sony MDR-1000X is here, and we’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now. The Sony WH-1000XM2 has a name as boring as its predecessor and perhaps a bit more confusing and hard to say. But when it comes to capabilities, it’s no slouch. You get Bluetooth connectivity, active noise cancellation and more. We review the Rs 30,990 Sony WH-1000XM2 headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM2 Design and Specifications

There aren’t a lot of visual differences between the WH-1000XM2 and its predecessor. Sony has maintained the general look and feel, including the metal headband, adjusting method and leather-like finish on the earcups. The bottom of the headband remains cushioned for comfort, and the cushioning on the earcups is as good as ever. The Sony WH-1000XM2 is as comfortable as any good headphones, if not more, and I didn’t have any trouble wearing it for long stretches, with the occasional moment’s break to give my ears some air.

The left earcup has the NFC chip, while the right has the touch-sensitive controls, similar to what we saw on the MDR-1000X. Gestures and swipes function to control playback with a paired device; a double-tap will pause or play music, and answer calls on a paired smartphone, swiping up or down controls volume, while swiping left and right skips to the next or previous track. The system works well, but you might often find yourself swiping in the wrong direction accidentally, and I often found myself skipping tracks instead of adjusting the volume.

There are physical buttons for power/pairing and noise cancellation mode, along with a micro-USB port for charging and a 3.5mm input for going wired when your battery is low. There are also two microphones (one on each earcup) which are primarily used for noise cancellation. This helps sense ambient sound so that the headset can produce a reverse frequency against the noise. More on the noise cancellation later in the review.

For calls, the Sony WH-1000XM2 is among the best wireless headphones around. The microphones used for the noise-cancellation feature work equally well in isolating audio output when you’re speaking, and incoming sound is clean and tuned for clarity. It also helps that the headset can go for about 20 hours between charges, making it practical for use when traveling.

Depending on how you use the headphones, the specifications vary a bit. In the wired mode, the WH-1000XM2 has a frequency response range of 4-40,000Hz, which is 20-20,000Hz with 44.1k sampling over Bluetooth and 20-40,000Hz with LDAC sampling. You also get NFC for quick setup, and 40mm dome-type drivers. Noise cancellation is, needless to say, active, and uses the device’s battery for power. You do have the option to switch off noise cancellation even when you’re using the headset on battery, or switch to the ambient sound mode.

Sony WH-1000XM2 Noise Cancellation

The quality of noise cancellation tends to depend on the price of the headphones. While you can get active noise cancellation even at sub-Rs 10,000 levels, it’s usually rudimentary and unpolished. With the Sony WH-1000XM2, it’s nothing short of top-notch; this is undoubtedly the best noise-cancellation experience I’ve ever had.

I’ve learned that the best way to judge noise cancellation is by how uncomfortable the silence makes you feel. Switch on the headphones, don’t play anything back, and simply turn on noise cancellation. If you can hear the high-pitched hum in your ears, you know it’s quiet. With the Sony WH-1000XM2, the silence has been the most unnerving I’ve ever experienced from a pair of noise cancelling headphones. It gets to a point where your own senses start to tingle, as if your body is telling you that your ears aren’t working.

This has something to do with the fact that the noise cancellation is tuned for atmospheric pressure optimization, which means it’s geared to work in the controlled air pressure off aircrafts. It almost feels like a vacuum, and even though you’ll still hear regular sounds such as voices, these tend to sound like voices in your head rather than voices to your ears. And while I speak about the unsettling nature of it, be assured that this is a very good thing when it comes to noise cancellation in headphones.

Turn on some music, and you have enough sound filtering through that you can stop actively thinking of the vacuum. Then, the background silence helps, because you can now focus on what the headphone is playing back, rather than the lack of anything. This is when it’s in full noise cancellation mode; switch to ambient sound mode and the microphones will allow in sounds such as traffic, public announcements at airports, chatter and more. This helps you listen to music while remaining aware of your surroundings – particularly useful if you’re using the headphones out on the street or in an office.

You can also install the Sony Headphones Connect app on your Android or iOS device, which lets you control certain aspects of the headphones. You can tweak noise cancellation, set atmospheric pressure optimization for better noise cancellation and listening in airplanes, set sound direction for positional listening, and set up virtual surround sound on the headphones through the app. Smart tweaks are also made to your sound based on the environment, and all of this can be adjusted through the app. It adds some interesting features and a futuristic touch to the headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM2 Audio Performance

I’ve heard a lot of headphones, and while wired headphones will always sound better provided you’re using good source equipment, wireless is rapidly catching up. Some years ago, the difference in quality was so evident, people chose to stay away from wireless technology in audio entirely. But that isn’t the case anymore – the differences in wired and wireless audio are still present, but they’re negligible unless you have a trained ear or very good source and digital-analogue conversion equipment to back your wired headphones.

I used the Sony WH-1000XM2 for all kinds of listening, from music to watching TV shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video while on the go. I had the headphones connected over Bluetooth to an Apple iPhone 8 and OnePlus 5 during most of my time with it.

Listening to music over Apple Music showcased the strong tone and punchy sound of the Sony WH-1000XM2. Tracks such as Calvin Harris’ Feels had a generous helping of excitement and drive, but what definitely stands out is the tonality of the headphones. You’ll find yourself listening to every element of the track attentively, because of how strongly it’s interpreted. And in keeping with the way most people prefer their sound, the headphones have a V-shaped sonic signature that enhances bass and treble slightly.

However, the mid-range frequencies benefit from the excellent tone, while the sonic biases tend to boost the punchiness and sparkle of the lows and highs, respectively. Even when listening over Bluetooth, you’ll be treated to excellent definition and strong sound, assisted by the noise cancellation that drowns out most outside noise and lets you listen to the music without any muddying.  The sound suits all genres, but is particularly effective when listening to the typically popular genres such as electronic, dance, pop and rock.

The sound can be classified as premium, and the overall experience is comfortable. The sonic signature is clean and gentle enough to not cause significant listening fatigue. I was able to listen for long hours at a stretch thanks to this. Additionally, because the headset has also been tuned for voice calls, it works effectively as a hands-free unit, and the excellent tone means it’s a pleasure to watch movies and TV shows on the go with the Sony WH-X1000M2.

Verdict

With comfortable design, effective and superior noise cancellation, and a sonic signature that works with everything and keeps your comfort in mind, the Sony WH-1000XM2 is perhaps the most technologically advanced headset you can buy today. There’s enough in this to make it more than worth your money, and if you’re shopping for a premium pair of headphones that does everything, look no further.

While a lot of listeners may prefer the Bose QC35, the Sony WH-1000XM2 is the superior option in my opinion. The noise cancellation is absolutely fantastic and will help immensely in making your music and general listening sound better. It’s a huge step-up over the MDR-1000X, and worth buying if you want great noise cancellation today.

  • Published Date: January 22, 2018 2:50 PM IST