Hands-on Gear Review

Sony WH1000XM2 Review

Top Pick Award
Price:   $350 List | $348.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Great sound quality, great noise cancellation
Cons:  Expensive, touch sensitive controls can be a bit finicky
Bottom line:  Exceptional sound quality and noise cancellation
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Noise Cancelling:  Yes
Manufcturer Reported Battery Life (hours):  20
Weight (ounces):  9.5
Manufacturer:   Sony

Our Verdict

Offering the best active noise cancellation of any of the headphones we tested, the Sony WH1000XM2 is our Top Pick for those that want to block out all ambient noise. These headphones block out nearly 100% of outside noise when listening to music, and still cuts out most noises without music playing. They back that noise cancellation up with top notch sound quality. Overall these headphones sound just as good as the Editors' Choice winning Bose QuietComfort 35 II, and have just slightly better noise cancellation. The main advantages of the Bose is that the ear cups are a bit deeper and more comfortable and the controls are a bit more intuitive. Therefore, if you have larger ears you'll likely be better off with the Bose, but if you have average to small ears and don't mind the small learning curve that touch sensitive controls present, the Sony WH1000XM2 is an exceptional pair of headphones.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Wireless Headphones of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Sunday
January 7, 2018

Share:
The Sony WH1000XM2 provided the most effective noise cancellation in our testing. This makes it our Top Pick for those that want to go to a noisy cafe or crowded museum and have all of the ambient noise fade away.


Performance Comparison


The Sony WH1000XM2 was one of the top performing pair of headphones in our testing, as you can see in the table above. We used five different testing metrics to determine those overall scores. You can see how the Sony WH1000XM2 performed in each one of those metrics below.

Sound Quality


Here the Sony WH1000XM2 is matched only by the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, sharing the top score of 9 out of 10.


These headphones sounded exceptional in our testing. They combined crisp treble, hearty midrange, and powerful bass to create a full-bodied and nuanced sound. Turning on noise cancellation brings out even more of the music's subtleties and makes for a great listening experience. Overall, this felt like the kind of high-end sound one would expect from a pair of $400 headphones.

The Sony WH1000XM2's sound is very similar, both in balance and quality, to that of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. We doubt even the pickiest of audiophiles would be disappointed with either of these models.

The WH1000XM2 produces impressive sound.
The WH1000XM2 produces impressive sound.

Noise Isolation


This is where the Sony WH1000XM2 really shines. These headphones earned the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric.


In our testing the Sony WH1000XM2's active noise cancellation was able to make us completely oblivious to ambient noise when we had music playing. This was about even with the performance of the two Bose models we tested, which were the only ones that could compete with the Sony. The real difference came when music was not playing. In that case some noises did make their way through the Bose headphones. Voices in particular could at least be heard, if not understood, when wearing the Bose headphones with noise cancellation turned on and music turned off. The Sony still let some noise in when the music was turned off, but that noise was slightly quieter and more muffled than the noise the Bose models let in. The difference is somewhat minor, but if one of the big reasons you want a pair of wireless headphones is so that you can enjoy a museum without listening to the cacophony of school field trip groups, we would opt for the Sony over the Bose.


Comfort


We would classify the Sony WH1000XM2 headphones as comfy but not quite cozy, earning them a score of 7 out of 10.


The Sony WH1000XM2's ear cups have nice, plush padding that doesn't produce any hot spots, even after wearing them for hours. The only reason these headphones didn't earn a top score is the fact that the the ear cups aren't quite as wide or as deep as those of the top scoring Bose models. If you have bigger ears they may end up rubbing on part of the ear cups. In that case we would suggest going with one of the Bose, as both are more accommodating for large ears, still have exceptional sound, and are nearly as good in terms of noise cancellation.


User Friendliness


The Sony WH1000XM2's on-headphone controls have a little bit of a learning curve, which bumped the score down to an average 6 out of 10.


Sony opted for touch sensitive controls on the WH1000XM2.This makes for a more streamlined look and offer a convenient 'touch to turn off noise cancellation' feature. This lets you just touch the headphones to temporarily shut off noise cancellation so you can order your latte or listen to the airport PA announcement. Those touch sensitive controls also let you use sliding gestures on the side of the headphones to raise and lower the volume and skip tracks. You can also play/pause by tapping. This feels slick once you get the hang of it, but using a touchpad that you can't see feels a bit awkward at first.

Overall we preferred the physical buttons of models like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II over the touch sensitive controls of the Sony. Seeing as you'll mostly be using those controls with the headphones on your head and thus out of sight, it felt more natural to use a tactile button rather than move fingers around on a flat surface. We certainly wouldn't call this aspect of the Sony WH1000XM2 a dealbreaker, but it's certainly not our preference.

Portability


The Sony WH1000XM2 is quite portable and earned a high score of 8 out of 10 in our portability testing.


The ear cups fold flat so the headphones can be packed into the included semi-hard carrying case. The headphones also weigh only 9.5 ounces, which is about average and certainly doesn't feel heavy. Overall these headphones are just as portable as their main competitor, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Only the Beats Solo3 earned a better score in this metric, due to a heavily padded case and a weight of just 7.5 ounces.


Value


The Sony WH1000XM2's list price of $350 is identical to the top-scoring Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Both are top-notch headphones that deliver excellent sound and noise canceling. If you seek the best noise isolating headphone out there then the Sony WH1000XM2 is a great choice for all but those that have larger ears.

Conclusion


The Sony WH1000XM2 offers field leading sound quality and noise cancellation, but may be slightly uncomfortable for those with larger ears. As long as these headphones feel comfy, you can't go wrong.
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

You Might Also Like