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Review

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones Review: The peak wireless experience

Now into its third iteration, Sony’s WH-1000XM3 hopes to finally settle a burning question once and for all – is it the best noise-cancelling wireless headset around?

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Sony WH-1000XM3 4 5
BGR Rating :
4/5

Highlights

  • The Sony WH-1000XM3 retails at Rs 29,990.

  • With this, Sony promises better audio performance, alongside already excellent active noise cancellation.

  • The headset also offers fast charging and over twenty hours of battery life.

For years, Bose’s QuietComfort series have been widely regarded as the best noise-cancellation headphones around. However, the last few years have seen Sony take the fight to its American competitor head-on. Sony’s audio division has been hard at work in building up its capabilities in wireless audio and noise-cancellation, and this has culminated in the WH-1000X series.

While the WH-1000X was first launched a couple of years ago, the headset has seen annual upgrades. Though it’s essentially the same headset with the same features, slight improvements are being made to improve the overall package. Launched recently is the third iteration of this headset, the Sony WH-1000XM3. Does this pair of headphones have what it will take to finally dethrone Bose’s supremacy over the space? Let’s find out in our review.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Design and Specifications

The Sony WH-1000XM3 is largely the same headset as its predecessors, which is expected considering that it isn’t a new product but an annual refresh. But while the two headphones do look very similar, there are slight differences between the two in the build and comfort. The biggest differences can be seen in the headband, which comes with soft padding both above and below, along with better cushioning on the earpads.

There are hints of improvements even in the accents, which now take on a copper tone. And while the buttons and gesture controls remain the same, the WH-1000XM3 gets one major change that has been a while coming: USB Type-C. Charging the headset now uses the modern reversible port, which also allows for fast charging to deliver up to five hours of use with 10 minutes of charging.

During my time with the headset, I was able to get a full charge in less than three hours when using a laptop USB port, and battery life of about 22-24 hours when using both active noise cancellation and Bluetooth connectivity. This superior battery life truly makes a difference, helping you go longer and keeping it going even through short travels.

The gesture controls come across as gimmicky, as they have before. Furthermore, the gestures don’t always work well; you’ll find yourself swiping away at the right earcup and at times won’t get any response. Proper button-based controls are better in my opinion, and in this case, I found it easier to use my connected phone to control volume and playback. Perhaps the only gesture that I found useful was placing my hand on the right earcup, which reduced the volume and turned on ambient listening.

There are physical buttons for the noise cancellation control and power, and you can also set the NC button to trigger Google Assistant and give direct instructions without lifting your phone. While this works as you’d expect, it’s something I didn’t use much since I found it a bit awkward to talk to a gadget in public.

Sony Headphones Connect App

Pairing and controlling the headset uses the Sony Headphones Connect app, which is available on iOS and Android. While you can technically pair with devices even without the app, the process is a lot easier when you use the app. Once paired, the headphones will automatically connect to the last device when turned on, and can be used to control functions such as adaptive sound control, noise cancellation optimization, the equalizer and the functionality of the NC / Ambient button.

If you use the headphones with multiple devices, the app will come in handy regularly; otherwise, you’ll only have to use it the first time, set everything up and then forget about it. You do have the ability to control music from the app, but you’d rather do this directly from the headset or through your music app directly. As such, the app won’t complicate the otherwise simple process of using wireless headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Noise Cancellation

The Noise Cancellation on the Sony WH-1000XM2 was already arguably superior to that of the Bose QC35ii, and with the 1000XM3 this goes even further. The technology behind blocking out ambient sound is superior on the Sony WH-1000XM3, and it’s effective in various scenarios as well. While you’d expect it to work well on an aircraft or when surrounded by heavy machinery, it tends to work well even in office settings and on public transport.

The tuning of the noise-cancellation system to understand more definitions of ‘noise’, as well as the quality of the microphones to pick and up reverse the frequency makes the headset so good at noise cancellation. Furthermore, the individual tuning from within the app – the location and pressure optimization – helps to achieve the level of silence. At times, the quiet can be very unsettling as well, which is perhaps the best compliment you could give a noise cancelling headset.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Performance

While Sony spent the development time for the first two generations of this headset on getting the noise cancellation and technological superiority right, the Japanese electronics giant has focused on audio quality this time around. Sound quality is indeed an audible step-up from the previous generation, and among the best levels of performance you can get on a wireless headset today. This is of course aided by the level of noise isolation and quiet you get from the active noise cancellation.

In terms of audio quality, you get a sound that is largely balanced. The focus is on a natural sound, and indeed there’s no audible favor given to any segment of the sonic spectrum. There’s enough focus on the bass, mid-range and highs individually, without any of these overpowering the others. This helps the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones get the best out of practically any genre of music, and even when you’re using them for voice calls or when watching movies and TV shows.

Given that I personally listen to a lot of bass-heavy music, I’ve been looking forward to good bass on the headphones. While it isn’t quite as powerful as something from V-Moda or Bowers and Wilkins, the bass is deep, clean and tight nonetheless. The headset benefits more from its superior tonality, which is cleaner and sharper than any wireless headset I’ve used. There’s also a great sense of open-ness and comfort to the sound. More than anything, it’s easily among the best sounding options that operates with no wires.

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Verdict

The Sony WH-1000XM3 is a definite step-up over its predecessor, and I’m willing to go on record and say that it’s the best noise-cancelling headset available today. It’s also the most technologically advanced wireless headset around and takes sound quality to a new level for the Japanese company. From the design and comfort to the quality of its functionality, there’s very little wrong with this headset.

Perhaps the only criticism for the Sony WH-1000XM3 comes for its touch controls which don’t work quite as well as actual buttons, along with the price itself. Although Rs 30,000 or so is the price to pay for good noise-cancelling wireless headphones these days, it’s still a rather high figure. It’s possible to buy the older variants for a bit less, which could make sense if the asking price seems a bit high. However, if price is no bar and you want what is arguably the best and most technically advanced wireless headset today, don’t look beyond the Sony WH-1000XM3.

  • Published Date: November 6, 2018 9:09 AM IST