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Sony Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones WH-1000XM3 – Silver
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- DIGITAL NOISE CANCELING: Industry leading ANC lends a personalized, virtually soundproof experience
- PHONE CALL: A built-in mic enables you to take hands-free calls.
- VOICE ASSISTANT: Alexa enabled for voice access to music, information and more. Activate with a simple touch
- QUICK ATTENTION MODE: Cover the right ear cup to turn down your music for instant, easy conversation
- PERSONAL NOISE CANCELLING: Adjusts ambient sound to your activity for the best noise cancellation
Who are the Sony WH-1000XM3 for?
- Casual listeners will love the Sony WH-1000XM3, as it offers a huge boost in sound quality over general consumer headphones when used with Bluetooth
- Commuters will appreciate the excellent noise cancellation offered by these headphones, best in the market.
- Air travelers will find the Sony WH-1000XM3 in the Best Buy vending machines at many American terminals, and you know what? That’s the best piece of hardware in there.
Very rarely will I say that a set of headphones is for “everyone,” but active noise cancelers that are comfortable and sound as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3 fall into that category. They perform well on commutes, flights, and just out on the town. Generally, these are headphones for everywhere but the computer… and even then they’re not bad if you’re not deep into the lossless audio game.
What features do the Sony WH-1000XM3 have?
Despite being largely identical in many ways to the older Sony WH-1000XM2, a few upgrades have made the brand-new WH-1000XM3 a better buy for the long haul. For example, the ear pads are deeper, and the addition of USB-C charging means that you won’t have to scour and scrape for an obsolete cable to top off your cans.
While these are fairly minor upgrades, it does mean that you won’t have to worry about your headphones falling apart in a year or two. Instead, you’ll have your needs met by a modern design, with very little headaches. I’m not sure that these tweaks are completely worth upgrading for if you already own last year’s model, but if you’re buying a new set of headphones: these go a long way to setting Sony’s offerings apart from Bose, Sennheiser, and AKG.
Probably the best thing about the headphones is that you rarely ever need to use your phone to control your music. Once you’ve got the headphone app installed, you can easily navigate playback with swipes of your finger (forward, backward swipes), adjust volume by swiping up or down, and activate your voice assistant with a long press. Initially, that assistant was limited only to the default one on your phone but the company has recently announced an update to the headphones that will give them full compatibility with Amazon Alexa as well. All you have to do is update through the Sony Headphone Connect app on your smartphone and you can choose whichever virtual assistant you want—depending on what smart products you have in your house, or simply which one answers your questions better. Additionally, you can temporarily hear the world around you by cupping your hand over the right ear cup, which makes the headphones use their external microphones to pass your surroundings on to your ears. This is great for when someone needs to tell you something, or for plane announcements.
Does the cold affect the Sony WH-1000XM3?
Many users report extreme cold affecting the touch controls of the Sony WH-1000XM3, so be wary if you’re in an environment that freezes over a lot. Neither Adam nor Chris had issues with the Sony WH-1000XM3 in the frozen northeast US or Canada, but it’s possible that it varies from model to model.
Are the Sony WH-1000XM3 well built?
If you’ve never used the Sony WH-1000XM2 from last year, noting that the WH-1000XM3 is virtually identical isn’t going to tell you what you need to know about these cans. For example, that the WH-1000XM2 were our pick for best headphones for most people for a long time, and this year’s refresh look to take that crown from their older brother. They’re extremely light, have great padding, and oh yeah: deliver on the promise of high-end active noise canceling headphones. Really, the biggest differences are the USB-C charging port, soft touch material, and new buttons.
The chassis of the WH-1000XM3 is the same hard plastic as its predecessor, though there isn’t any fake plastic leather over the ear cups anymore. Instead, it’s now a soft-touch material that your fingers can easily glide over. At the top of each ear cup are two wide microphones that collect data for the noise canceling unit to destroy outside sound.
It’s unclear if Sony addressed the reported cracking issues with the previous iterations of the WH-1000X, but I didn’t run into any breakage or damage in my time with them. And I suppose that’s to be expected—I’ve absolutely abused the Mark 2 over the past year, and it still looks fairly new… minus somewhat flattened padding.
Battery life is great on the Sony WH-1000XM3, lasting 24 hours of constant 75dB playback… with maximum ANC running. This is an absolutely stellar result, and should keep you protected from the outside world for long trips.
How well do the Sony WH-1000XM3 cancel noise?
When you’re buying active noise canceling headphones, the main reason you’re opening up your wallet is because they make the world melt away around you, right? Because of this, we test isolation and attenuation. And just like their predecessors, the WH-1000XM3 do a fantastic job of killing outside noise—drubbing the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, anyway
While you’ll still be able to hear sounds like your office mates speaking near you, droning sounds like an HVAC system, engine noise, and other persistent notes will be muted out. That’s pretty much the best you could possibly ask for in a set of active noise canceling headphones, as the tech can only do so much. This is among the best ANC we’ve seen to date.
Can a software update make the noise canceling worse?
Yes. And no.
Essentially, many new ANC headsets require software updates for this, that, and the other. Because you have to connect to a set of headphones via Bluetooth—which has very little bandwidth—sometimes updates fail when they get marked as complete. Use the Sony app to see if there’s a mismatch in the version of software your headphones report, and what it actually has if you run into this problem. Nine times out of ten a re-install of the update will take care of it, and that’s true of Bose headphones, Sony headphones, any that require software updates over Bluetooth.
How do the Sony WH-1000XM3 sound?
Great, really. We’ve come to a point in wireless headphones that most of the big gripes are gone, replaced by minor ones. For the Sony WH-1000XM3, the sound is quite good, bolstered by the fact that they target a very consumer-friendly sound by default. Though the chart it produces is wavy for some reason, don’t take that to mean that it’s got an issue with the overall response: it’s just that pink noise as a testing signal is inherently messy. It could also have something to do with the optimizer settings for the test head, which appear to be a work in progress. The main takeaway here is that the headphones target a consumer sound, with emphasized bass, a little bump in the mids, and a peak at about 10kHz.
I mentioned earlier that the WH-1000XM3 isn’t for audiophiles looking for lossless listening, so I feel like I owe you an explanation. Sony’s headphones really are best in class here, but they’re not perfect. The LDAC codec is certainly impressive by many metrics, but only when you can get the 660 or 990kbps modes. Weirdly enough, the 330kbps default connection is worse than SBC in some ways, so you may find you should dive into the developer options in your phone to lock the WH-1000XM3 into 660kbps just to be sure you’re getting the best of what your headphones have to offer. The 990kbps mode may be tempting, but we find that 660 is a great middle ground that still exceeds your hearing capabilities.