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Sony WF-1000XM3 Review

Decent all-around performance, but doesn't live up to the price tag
Sony WF-1000XM3
Credit: Laura Casner
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Price:   $200 List | $178 at Amazon
Pros:  Relatively comfortable, decent noise cacnellation
Cons:  Sound quality doesn't live up to expectations
Manufacturer:   Sony
By Max Mutter and Michelle Powell  ⋅  Apr 2, 2020
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57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#16 of 17
  • Noise Cancelling - 35% 5
  • Sound Quality - 25% 4
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • User Friendliness - 10% 6
  • Portability - 10% 9

Our Verdict

While we had high hopes for the Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds, on most fronts we ended up being disappointed. Yes, they provide decent noise cancellation in a portable wireless earbud form-factor, but beyond that they failed to impress. In particular we found the fit to be less than comfortable and not very secure, and throughout our testing the sound quality was hampered by a persistent fuzziness. While we wouldn't call these earbuds bad by any means, we think there are plenty of models available, both at similar and lower price points, that provide a better overall experience.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Sony WF-1000XM3
This Product
Sony WF-1000XM3
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $200 List
$178.00 at Amazon
$350 List
$278.00 at Amazon
$400 List
$329.00 at Amazon
$350 List
$249.00 at Amazon
$300 List
$199.99 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Relatively comfortable, decent noise cacnellationSuperb active noise cancellation and overall sound quality, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, auto-pause, relatively comfortable for most peopleExcellent sound quality, field-leading noise cancellation, comfortableGreat sound quality, good noise cancellation, comfortable, built-in Google AssistantGreat sound quality, great noise cancellation, comfortable, user friendly features
Cons Sound quality doesn't live up to expectationsExpensiveExpensiveExpensiveExpensive, both sound quality and noise cancellation fall just short of being the best in the field
Bottom Line Disappointing sound quality given the pedigreeAn excellent choice for both audiophiles and those looking to enhance their concentration by drowning out distractionsThe clear choice for those that place a premium on sound quality and noise isolationPerfect for audiophiles that want the best possible sound and good noise cancellationThough not the absolute best noise cancelling phones on the market, these puppies come close
Rating Categories Sony WF-1000XM3 Sony WH-1000XM4 Bose Noise... Bose QuietComfort... Jabra Elite 85h
Noise Cancelling (35%)
5
10
10
8
9
Sound Quality (25%)
4
10
9
9
8
Comfort (20%)
7
9
9
9
8
User Friendliness (10%)
6
9
9
8
9
Portability (10%)
9
8
7
8
7
Specs Sony WF-1000XM3 Sony WH-1000XM4 Bose Noise... Bose QuietComfort... Jabra Elite 85h
Style Earbud Over-Ear Over-Ear Over-Ear Over-Ear
Manufacturer Reported Battery Life (hours) 24 30 20 40 wired, 20 BT 36
Weight (ounces) 0.6 8.8 9.2 10.9 10.5

Our Analysis and Test Results

Active noise cancellation is still a fairly unique feature to find in a pair of true wireless earbuds, but in our testing the Sony WF-1000XM3 failed to back that technology up with enough other positive attributes to get our recommendation.

Performance Comparison


We were impressed by the Sony WF-1000XM3's noise cancellation, but...
We were impressed by the Sony WF-1000XM3's noise cancellation, but not by its sound quality.
Credit: Laura Casner

Likes


Our favorite thing about the Sony WF-1000XM3 is the fact that the noise cancellation does not create much of a pressure in your ear. Any noise cancelling headphones, whether they be over-ear or in-ear, tend to create some feeling of ear pressure when their active noise cancelling is deployed. This problem can be particularly noticeable with earbuds that can already create some pressure simply by being in your ears. The Sony WF-1000XM3 largely avoids this issue, resulting in better overall comfort when using the active noise cancellation.

The Sony WF-1000XM3's active noise cancellation doesn't create much...
The Sony WF-1000XM3's active noise cancellation doesn't create much of the odd inner-ear pressure that plagues some similar models.
Credit: Laura Casner

Dislikes


Our biggest complaint with the Sony WF-1000XM3 is the sound quality. Though fairly well balanced, we noticed a fuzziness whenever listening to music with these earbuds. While not overpowering, that lack of clarity certinaly made these earbuds sound less than premium.

These earbuds come with 7 different earpieces. Despite that fact, many of our testers failed to find a comfortable fit with these buds. Additionally, they protrude quite far from the ear, providing a lot of leverage to pull against your ear. This both made the fit, even for those that could find a comfortable one, feel less than secure. It also makes the earbuds a poor choice for athletic endeavors as that protrusion causes them to tug at your ears with every stride or jump.

We weren't particularly impressed by the Sony WF-1000XM3's sound...
We weren't particularly impressed by the Sony WF-1000XM3's sound quality, nor its comfort.
Credit: Laura Casner

This isn't to say that you won't be able to find a good fit — in general, the fit of earbuds is very personal. Some may just have ears that are better tailored to the Sony WF-1000XM3's earpieces and thus will love how well they fit. We're only saying that within our cadre of eight comfort testers fewer were able to find a comfortable fit with these buds than with most competing products on the market.

Finally, the charging case that these earbuds are stored in is relatively large compared to those of most of the comparable models on the market. It can still fit in the front pocket of a pair of jeans, but it is very noticeable while it is there. In comparison many other cases virtually disappear when you put them into a front pocket.

Credit: Laura Casner

Value


The Sony WF-1000XM3 asks a premium price that, in our opinion, it doesn't live up to. For that same price you can get true wireless earbuds that performed better in our sound quality tests, fit securely enough to be used while working out, and that offer similar levels of noise reduction.

Conclusion


After having multiple testers use the Sony WF-1000XM3 for multiple days each, we have trouble recommending them. While these buds manage to provide decent noise cancellation technology without creating an undue feeling of pressure in your ears, we were unimpressed with their sound quality and comfort. Bottom line is that there are other models on the market that can achieve similar things for much less, or ones at a similar price point that provide decent and comfortable noise cancellation and better sound and a generally better fit.

Max Mutter and Michelle Powell