Sony WH-1000XM3 Review – What You Need To Know
Sony’s WH-1000XM3’s wireless noise-canceling headphones have been dominating the market for the last year and with good reason. It offers a sexy combination of high-end performance, unique features, and stunning design all at a reasonable price. You can often find these noise-canceling juggernauts priced at $300 or below although their regular price is an affordable $350.
You may be wondering why we are talking about Sony’s WH-1000XM3’s now, and that is because the 4th gen model, the M4 will be released this year. While we won’t get into a detailed review of the upcoming M4 here, with so many discounts rolling out for the M3, we want to tell you why it’s a smart purchase here in 2020.
Who Is the Sony WH-1000XM3 Made For?
The Sony WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling headphones are made for everyone, but those who are frequently in high background noise situations will benefit the most. Consumers who use public transportation as part of their daily commute will enjoy blocking out the sounds of the road and other passengers. The noise cancellation of the M3 is the best on the market and only surpassed but the upcoming M4 of the same line.
If you are a regular on the airways then you will certainly appreciate everything the Sony WH-1000XM3 has to offer. The soft-touch material makes it comfortable to wear on both long haul flights and short runs over to the next city. No more uncomfortable pressure changes or risking ear infections from public headphones on your next flight. Of course, even the casual user will enjoy the next level sound immersion offered by this noise-canceling surround sound headphones. Often, higher-end headphones are created for a specific type of user, but the Sony WH-1000XM3 really is a universal pick for any type of user.
What’s Under The Hood- Sony WH-1000XM3 Spec Sheet
Let’s take a look at the technical specifications and then in the next section we will go into detail in layman’s terms about what this all means.
- Headphone Weight: 250 grams
- Driver Unit – CCAW Voice coil, 40mm, dome type
- Headphone Type – Closed, dynamic
- Magnet – Neodymium
- Gold-plated L-shaped stereo mini-plug
- Diaphragm – Aluminum coated LCP
- Impedance – 47 ohm while connected to headphone cables. 16 ohm when the unit is off but connected with cables.
- Frequency Response- 4Hz-40,000Hz
- Touch Sensor Volume Control
- Range- 30 feet line of sight
- Frequency Range – 2.4000GHz-2.4835GHz
- Available Audio Formats- SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC
- Single-sided detachable cord, 1.2m in length
- Stereo Mini Jack with Circumoral wearing style
- NFC, DSEEHC & Passive Operation Capable
- Battery Charge Time – 3 hours with USB charging
- Battery Life – NC on 30 hours continuous music playback
- BLUETOOTH® Version 4.2
- Profile – A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
- Toggle Noise Cancellation Switch
- Ambient Sound, Quick Attention, and Atmospheric Pressure Optimization
- Carrying Case
- Plug Adaptor for In-flight Use
- Headphone cable
- USB Cable: Type-C™
- Silver or Black Headphone
A Deeper Look at the Features of the Sony WH-1000XM3
The M3 looks and feels like the WH-1000XM2, but with a few much-needed upgrades. In the M3 sport softer deeper ear pads that will cushion the ear and increase the effectiveness of the headphones noise cancellation. You will also get a built-in port for USB-C charging which means that you can multi-task most of your exiting cables with ease.
A lot of technology is created to fail in a year or two so that users upgrade to the newest model. The M3 on the other hand is intended to last for several years with regular use and minimal maintenance. The WH-1000XM3 has a sleek design that fits with just about every aesthetic with fewer headaches. This model also comes with an NFC chip out of the box which allows you to pair your headphones to your mobile with just a few taps. Perfect for those who have smartphones without headphone ports but are not fans of the dinky in-ear pods that are sold with most models.
One of the amazing features of the M3 is that unlike other headphones, you won’t have to pull out your phone to navigate your music. The headset comes with a headphone app that once installed allows for swipe control to adjust your volume and song selection. A long press activates the voice assistant which can further be linked to Amazon Alexa. Talk about multi-functional. With the Sony Headphone Connect app, you can choose which assistants to pair your headphones to depending on which devices you have in your home.
Noise cancelation means that you can’t hear the world around you, but what if you want to take a break without removing your headphones? Simply bring your hand up to the right ear cup to allow for noise dampening to be instantly canceled, temporarily. This is great for those times that someone wants to give you a quick bit of information, if you want to hear an announcement, or if you just want to pause for a moment to see if someone is ringing your doorbell.
What About The Sound Quality of the Sony WH-1000XM3?
Canceling out the background noise is the main feature of these headphones, but unless there is good sound, then they are nothing but overpriced earplugs. Thankfully, your investment in the M3 is well worth it. The sound is highly consumer-friendly right out of the box and can be tailored to fit your tastes with only a few swipes. The bass on the set is emphasized which is on-trend for consumers say they want. The mids have a nice peak that rounds out the total experience leaving you feeling enveloped in a sea of soft sound. If you are looking for an immersive experience, then these are the right headphones for you. We would like to point out that their computer interface sound profiles are lackluster, but this is true of most headphones of this type, they simply were not intended for use with computers or computer gaming.
By default, the SBC modes and LDAC modes offer big bass, but this can be adjusted in the app. Using the default settings will place mids in the underground, especially if you are using the stock LDAC connection. Equalizing your music will correct this which is essential if you are listening to rock or contemporary music. Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is a technical marvel that allows you to listen to streaming services in 3D. Granted, if you don’t already use these types of services, chances are you won’t start just because of this feature, but it is good to know it’s an option.
Who’s The Noise Canceling Boss?
It is easy to sit here and claim that the Sony M3 is the best on the market, but without comparison, it is simply noise. Bose, Sennheiser, and AKG also make high-end headphones of the noise-canceling variety that can be compared to the Sony WH-1000XM3. Let do a head to head comparison with the best of the comparable models currently on the market.
Sony M3 can go head to head with Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 which were released in the same year. The specs are very similar but the M3 won out due to having a more robust battery life, a whopping 10 hours more than the Bose. Another surprising win over the competition is the better bass performance of the Sony WH-1000XM3 in addition to a more comfortable fit. That is not to say that the Bose 700 was inferior in all aspects. It works better for phone calls and offers a more detailed sound profile than the Sony M3. Priced at $400 it is more expensive, but offers a more durable headband.
The shape of the Sony M3 is more rounded which makes it much more comfortable, but it is still heavier than most Bose headphone models with similar specs. This might be a nitpick, but when you plan to wear something on your head for extended time periods, every gram counts.
ANC headsets are certainly a thing, and the Shure AONIC 50 is the one that you will want to pit against the Sony WH-1000XM3. The Sony M3 has dominated the ANC headset market for years, but it was only a matter of time before someone decided to challenge their claim. Shure is best known for its high-quality audio production equipment and very sensitive microphones. They decided to take on Sony when they released their Shure AONIC 50 active noise-canceling headphones early this year, and we must say, they are pretty good.
When compared to the Sony WH-1000XM3, they are the clear winners in the wireless and USB-C headphone category. The main problem that they face when battling the M3 is their cost and their lack of versatility. If you are not on a budget, you probably would not be reading a review for the 2019 M3 and already be waiting to pre-order the M4’s. If you are really looking for a premium experience, then the Shure headphones are the best bet, for those looking for a great value and a versatile unit, the M3 is the right option.
Let’s Talk About Noise Cancelation
The main reason you would pick up the Sony WH-1000XM3 is for its noise cancelation features. But do they really hold up? Let’s talk about it.
The point of buying active noise-canceling headphones is to have a high rate of isolation and attenuation. The SonyWH-1000XM3 not only reduces outside noise, it kills it completely. You won’t be able to hear any ambient noises such as HVAC systems, the road while on transit, or even engine noises. The constant whine and hum that signals the world around you will suddenly seem like a figment of your imagination. Most verbal sounds will also be muted, though if someone is standing next to you and yelling, there is not much any headphones can do about that.
The M3 will get software updates just like any other modern tech, but at times, those updates may affect how well your product works. In the event that an update did not finish or complete its installation, the Sony app will see a mismatch which will result in distortions in sound cancelation. Don’t be alarmed however, the simple fix is just reinstalling the right software to melt the world around you in minutes.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Comfort With Clouds On Your Ears
The Sony M3 features a cloudlike cushion that cups your ears for an easy fit. The touch controls on the side are easier to navigate and also much smoother than previous models. It has a handy carrying case that offers a dedicated area for the USB-C cable and its very own headphone cable. The fact that these work wired or wireless will appeal to a large segment of the population. Most headphone microphones are pretty dinky, in fact, we would say they are downright garbage. With the M3 however, you get a natural sound that comes out clear and offers a tremendous amount of definition.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Sony WH-1000XM3 can be a bit finicky in the cold. Extreme weather may cause the touch controls to run sluggishly, but it really varies from model to model and even different environments. The hard plastic chassis is sturdy enough to stand up to long term wear and tear without running the aesthetics of the headphones themselves. The fake leather from the M2 has been replaced with luxe soft-touch material that really makes the unit stand out. While there are buttons for manual control along the surface, most people will use swipe controls to manage their activities, not to mention the addition of a USB-C charge port.
Our Final Thoughts
Sony has been an industry leader when it comes to sound and noise cancelation. Their biggest competitor is Bose, which releases equally impressive products but at a much higher price point. The Sony WH-1000XM3 is very similar to its predecessor, but with some much-needed upgrades. The WH range of noise-canceling headphones from Sony has maintained its top tier rating for the last 5 years and is slated to continue with its creative upgrades. The Sony WH-1000XM3 has minor upgrades that seem boring on paper, but the end result is a more durable set of headphones that offers sustainable value for the long-haul. The Sony WH-1000XM4 currently available for pre-order, but in our opinion, the WH-1000XM3 is the best value for your money especially with current market discounts.
“the noise-canceling headphones from Sony have maintained their top tier rating”