Sony WH1000XM3 Review
Pros: Great sound quality, great noise cancellation
Cons: Expensive, touch sensitive controls can take a little getting used to
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sony WH1000XM3 offers exceptional noise isolation and sound quality, though both fall just short of field-leading.
Here the Sony WH1000XM3 is matched only by the top Bose models, 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.
Earning an elite 9 out fo 10 score in this metric, the WH1000XM3 can handle most noisy situations without dampening your listening pleasure.
In our testing the Sony WH1000XM3's active noise cancellation was able to make us completely oblivious to ambient noise when we had music playing. Without music playing only louder, staccato sounds (think dropping a cooking pan on a wood floor) were able to make their way through, and even those were quite muffled.
Sony also offers a number of unique noise cancellation features. First, you can set the noise cancellation so that voices are still filtered through to a large degree. This is great for airports and train stations where you'd like to drown out most noise, but still, want to hear announcements on the PA. You can also turn on an ambient noise mode, where the microphone actually pipes in outside noise. Ok, technically this is the opposite of noise canceling, but it is actually useful for walking oncrowded streets when you actually need to hear your surrounding.
The WH1000XM3 offers slightly deeper and more padded earcups than previous Sony models, bringing them within spitting distance of the top-end fit of the Bose models.
The Sony WH1000XM3's ear cups have nice, plush padding that doesn't produce any hot spots, even after wearing them for hours. They are also wide and deep enough that most people won't have any parts of their ears rubbing on the cups. The Bose models still have a bit more padding and slightly larger ear cups, making them a better choice for people with particularly large ears, or those that tend to not like wearing headphones.
The Sony WH1000XM3's on-headphone controls have a little bit of a learning curve, which bumped the score down to a slightly above average 7 out of 10.
We get Sony's thinking here, touchscreen controls are all the rage, and putting touch-sensitive controls on a pair of headphones allows for a much more minimalistic, streamlined look. However, this is a rare instance where you're using what is essentially a touchscreen that you can't see, because it's on your head. After a while swiping our fingers up and down to adjust volume and forward an back felt somewhat natural, but it certainly took a bit of getting used to. More basic functions like tapping to play/pause work very well, and it's nice that you can just tap your ear to pause instead of having to find a physical button.
More advanced features, like customizing the sound profile and noise cancellation settings, are done through the Sony Headphone Connect app. The app is well designed, intuitive, and easy to navigate.
One feature that Sony really like to put in their advertisements is the fact that you can put and hold your hand on the touch pad earcup to momentarily pause your music and shut off noise cancellation. We found this a great feature for quickly being able to hear PA announcements or for when you need to navigate across a busy street and want to be able to hear everything. We did find that using this feature when actually interacting with people, buying a cup of coffee for instance, got us some scowls. Not everyone is familiar with the specific features of Sony headphones, so it is easy to look like someone that is too lazy to take their headphones off to talk to another human when using this function. This isn't a criticism, just a friendly tip based on our real-world experiences.
The Sony WH1000XM2 is quite portable and earned a high score of 9 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 ounces, which is about average and certainly doesn't feel heavy. Overall these headphones are just as portable as their main competitors from Bose. 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.
We gave the WH1000MX3 an extra bump up in its portability core for two reasons. First, it has a field-leading battery life of 30 hours. It also has a quick charge feature that gets you 5 hours of playback with just 10 minutes of charging. Both of these things make the WH1000MX3 great for long travel days.
The Sony WH1000XM3's list price of $350 is pretty standard for an elite pair of headphones, and if you're willing to pay extra for premium sound quality, it's likely worth that high price tag. However, if you're already shopping in the premium market, there are some models from Bose that outperform the WH1000XM3 and sell for similar prices.
The Sony WH1000XM3 offers great sound quality and noise cancellation. However, if you're willing to pay a premium price for headphones, there are other models that are slightly better.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata