Sony WH-1000XM3 review

Sony WH-1000XM3

Now there is no doubt: Sony is the king of noise suppression

The WH-1000X ranges from evenly even to clearly better than the Bose QC35 II.

Sony has always been well-known for sound, and although Bose has dominated the market for noise cancellation for many years, Sony was actually out of technology. In recent years, they have really gained wind in the sails, and the 1000X series has taken up the game also with superpowers like Bose.

Third generation has just been launched at the IFA fair in Berlin, and we have received a copy for testing. To be precise, the model WH-1000XM3 is called.

The new headphones have a visible design overhaul, and can be purchased in black or silver. Already at the first meeting with our silver-colored copy, it is apparent that Sony has captured one of our few objections to the headphones in the series so far; The flat and slightly buttoned buttons are replaced with varieties that clearly protrude from the headphones.

Note : The test is carefully updated with impressions also from the aircraft cabin. There was no basis for change in either conclusion or character.

Thus, it is significantly easier to operate the headset buttons when sitting on the tub than it used to be with the two previous ones.

The skin imitation is gone

The buttons that last until the bells are replaced with protruding variants that are much easier to press. USB-C with quick-charging function is also a welcome improvement.

Another visible change is that Sony has cut out the skinimitation beyond the bells. Instead, it is matt plastic that covers them. The undersigned likes the black edition, with the microphone ports on the outside in contrast with a small copper-lacquered frame. The contrast is not as visible to the gold-colored microphone ports as the silver-colored variants have, and the beige plastic looks a bit inexpensive.

Both your bank card and your ears will probably tell you that these headphones are anything but cheap – they cost around 3700 kroner.

Although the skinimitation on the outside of the bells is gone, it is still soft and delicious leather that cushions the bells towards the ears and down to the scalp.

My standard headphones for turbines are Bose QC35, Sony WH-1000XM2 and B & O H9 . After almost one year with the predecessor on the head for most of the time, it is quite surprising to find out that the latest version of Sony’s flagship has become even more comfortable to wear.

Passing Bose on comfort …

For my well-behaved ears, Bose has used to lead comfort with a nose hair or wood. The management is now completely eliminated. The difference has not been great, but to illustrate; On some twelve hours of flight, Bosene has been sitting on the head for the whole journey, while the Sony has measured the ears a couple of times at the end.

I do not have a twelve hour flight, but from my first meeting with these bells they sat on my head for six consecutive hours – without the slightest indication of “wear” on the ears.

The headphones have also become 20 grams lighter since the previous edition, and the total of all this is a set of headphones you hardly notice that you’re wearing even over long periods of time. They get “gone”, but the music stays.

… and jumps past Bose on noise reduction as well

Another thing that goes away is noise. And here these headphones are extremely effective. They are at least as capable of noise in the deep frequency ranges as the previous model. But these should also be significantly better to take more high-frequency sounds.

The improvement is noticeable.

If you do not play music, some noise is still missing. However, noise-absorbing headphones work best in combination with some audio on the player. The noise reduction takes a lot, while the sound does not need a lot of volume to mask the rest.

This means that even at low to moderate volume, the WH-1000XM3 blocks everything from voices to the noise of a nearby railway station. This does not make the previous generation as good, and the Bose headphones are for all their skill on airplane noise and similarly relatively bad at venting more high-frequency noise.

That Sony shows here is noise cancellation in absolute top class and if there is a headset with better damping capabilities, we do not know about it at least. It might not be surprising – after all, they released their first noise cancellation set ear plugs in 1995.

Updated: As mentioned, we did not have a flight available during the testing of these. However, from use in several other contexts, we assumed that cushioning on airplanes would not be worse than in the predecessor.

We have now been able to test the WH-1000XM3 also on planes and we were in no way surprised. The mutilation is at least as good here as for the predecessor, and the test is thus complete also in this area without changes in character or conclusion.

Microphone ports that contrast with the plastic around belong. It’s pretty on the gray model, but far more visible and very nice on the black model.

Harsh sound

The fact that these new headphones play well should not surprise anyone who has used Sony audio equipment. The Japanese are happy and have contributed to Google’s Android project with its near, but not completely, lossless audio encoding LDAC. Thus, we now find support in all kinds of products, such as Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 9 , in addition to Sony’s own phones that have had the support for a while.

Choosing the highest quality here, you will have good ears to manage to distinguish the sound from the one you get in a good set of headphones with cable.

The game itself may best be described as a bit bassy and “boppete”. Measure these headphones with rhythmic music and the headphones draw an extra dose of commitment. Before you know the word, the foot strokes the beat while your fingers are drumming on the table.

A little bassy playing style

But the game style here is basically not for absolutely everyone. If you prefer the most neutral sound, that is not the basic setting. If you set the sound quality from absolute max, you can also adjust the bass simply by pulling the Clear Bass lever of the app that belongs to. A few buttons below the default setting, and the headsets play neutral and fine. A full equalizer is also included for those who want to control all parts of the frequency curve.

In many cases, you will nevertheless have equalizer in both the phone and the playback app as well, depending on the service you are using and the phone you are running it on, you may want to adjust on this also without decreasing from the highest available audio quality.

In the normal mode, the middle tune may sound a bit cluttered, as it has also tended to in the previous variants. But with a slightly muted bass, it is also very nice here.

The treble is nothing to say at all. The headphones play precisely and effortlessly. It never gets sharp or cutting. On the contrary – the treble is warmly present and nicely balanced against the rest of the sound image.

Agnes Obel sounds amazing on these headphones. One of the nice things here is the support for LDAC, which provides extremely good sound quality. As before, noise reduction is automatically set in seconds. You can also set a lot of different audio choices in the app that belongs to it – it’s updated for 1000X M3, but useful it’s quite the same as the old one.

Sony WH-1000XM3 with a selection of test tracks

The stereo perspective here can also be quite violent. It is nicely demonstrated by something as strange as Nik Kershaw’s old environmental trick, Roses – Jepp, it’s from the album with the other song. Here is the song of different cubes that turn into completely different places in the stereo field. And it’s not quite everyday that it actually sounds as if these bells alternatively come from ten feet away from your ears until they are all over your head and behind you.

The song is mixed to sound like this, but in QC35 the cubes are more like worn mosquitoes that swirl all the way around the ears.

But the really big here is first and foremost the engaging style of play. It is there even if you turn down the bass a bit. In a song like Uncle Sam Goddamn by Brother Ali, the staggering hip hop track rolled effortlessly in an irresistible way. And if not hip hop is your thing, these headphones make an amazing figure of songs like Bondurant Women by The Texas Gentlemen. Once again, it’s a great stereo perspective. A couple of bongo drums work in a remote position on the left, while the right flank is taken care of by a set of maracas. The rest of the rock trail is somewhat centered.

There is simply nothing that does not sound good on these headphones. But rhythmic music gets an extra boost, and the mix plays a bit with the stereo perspective. Initially, Sony’s printing is a bit extra interesting. They love a good production, but they also do well without.

A great travel box comes with. Here is the charging cable, minijack cable and fly adapter on the inside, and a nice little pocket for passports, boarding cards and other shorts on the outside. Or just have the phone that plays in.

In their “worst” they are probably quieter music tracks, which also have weak or slightly dull production. But it never sounds worse than I’m used to hearing these tracks. The fabulous L’aĆ©rogram de Los Angeles by Woodkid does not really sound much better than expected, while Richard Buckner’s Lean-To plays a little more with the perspective and sounds better. Several of Agnes Obel’s songs, like Familiar and Aventine, are bordered on the very spectacular in these headphones.

But jazz like Go Go Penguin glides well into the ears of these bells. If there are more danceable things like Burak Yeter, or the Switch-produced Chaka Khan song Like Sugar, these headphones can not make mistakes.

Long story short; WH-1000XM3 never delivers below expectations. As a rule, they deliver far beyond, with a commitment and stereoperspectivity that Bose can only look long after. You may think of a pattern here.

It is worth mentioning that the predecessors made a slight white noise in the background if you only used the noise reduction in a completely quiet environment. It is still present in these, but is cut so much that it will take a lot of time before you notice it.

Sonys one remaining irritation momentum

The headphones are controlled by the Headphones Connect app. This app has been used for earlier editions as well, but was updated in connection with the 1000X M3 launch. Annoyingly, Sony has retained the annoying sound that signals automatic switching between audio modes.

The app can determine if you are on public transport, if you are walking around the sidewalks or sitting in peace. The result is quite often that if you have been sitting for a little while, the music is interrupted by a moment of silence before the gong-gong sound that signals mode change is played. A little while after comes the music back.

We must admit that it may be fine in some situations, but in most situations, at least I want automatic work in the background. Without the fact that I actively need to relate to it. That my goddamn interrupted by meaningless void just because I’m getting up does not really fit into the otherwise highly thought-through package WH-1000XM3. At least it should be possible to turn off the sound.

Otherwise, it should be said that the app works pretty well and switches mode largely when I expect it to.

Missing one “Bose function”

The right clock is still touch-sensitive. That means you can put your hand over to dampen music and noise cancellation, such as when the cabin crew on a plane talks to you or if you need to listen for traffic on the street.

Swipe up and down regulates as usual volume while back and forth coil. Double tap on the outside of the clock starts or stops the music. This works fine but can be annoying if you struggle to find sleep position with the bells on. Then it’s unfavorable if the mute function is triggered simply because the hand is nearby.

All I really miss from QC35 is the ability to connect multiple simultaneous Bluetooth sources. For example, if you want to use a mobile phone and a PC as a source at the same time, these headsets do not work. Then you must simply connect them manually each time. It’s less convenient than Bosene that can be connected in music mode to two simultaneous dingser.


Photo: Finn Jarle Kvalheim,
WH-1000XM3 is the so far best combination of sound quality and noise cancellation we have heard, and the latter function is the matter very best at.

The sound quality is still a bit of trouble when you look at B & O and their fabulous H9i headphones . But these are not as good at noise suppression.

And where Bose used to win the comparison of comfort and fabulous noise reduction, there are now very few things left missing if you go from Bose to Sony. The Japanese are simply better – and clearly so.

Every time I switched back to QC35 from WH-1000XM3, the longing back to Sony quickly came across me. Until now, I have used QC35 and WH-1000XM2 a bit about each other, depending on the situation – and strictly also some of which has been uploaded. So steadily it has been.

So steady it is no longer. Here we can do nothing but bend into Sony’s hat. And unfortunately, I’m just convincing myself to buy a pair of new headphones.

The best combination of audio quality and noise reduction you can buy.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Pro

  • Noise absorption that takes high-frequency sound
  • Very low weight
  • Comfortable pillows and headband
  • Better buttons than the predecessor
  • Very engaging game style
  • Broad stereo perspective
  • App with several great additional features
  • Long battery life
  • Quick-loading over USB-C
  • Close to lossless Bluetooth audio
  • An elaborate carrying case

Sony WH-1000XM3 Contra

  • Touch-sensitive controls may irritate
  • The app makes sound whenever it switches mode
  • A little bass sound without the use of equalizer
  • Unable to connect two sources at once

Sony WH-1000XM3 Video Review



Expensive but delicious

The Danes in B & O can definitely enjoy their sound and deliver a bit better sound in their top models than the Sony’s manage. But even though the noise reduction improved in the H9i, it is still a bit of reflection here, where the sound has obviously weighed heavily. These are the headphones you buy if the audio is most important, while at times you want the noise a little distant. For those who are staying a lot on airplanes, it is probably a better choice to forsake earliest neighbor sound quality for a freak in noise reduction with Sony. Overall, these two headsets are even, but with slightly different strengths.


The predecessors of Sony

That generation number three is out makes the previous generation cheaper, but not worse. And as much as these two headphones are after all, you get a lot of money if you go for the last year’s model. If you do not have the very best but still looking for quality that goes beyond most, then the WH-1000XM2 is a great choice. The question is how long they will be in sales. Remember, here’s the micro USB, and bring two cables in turn if your phone has USB-C. You’ll get 1000XM3 – for some, it’s worth the price difference alone.

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs WH-1000XM2 Headphones


The Bose QC35 still scores extremely high on both comfort and noise reduction. That the sound is now considered as moderate to the market’s two best will hardly make the Bosch unpopular with the first. That Bose currently updates frequently, and constantly adding new features is an advantage. And it’s convenient to get connected to and from the different devices if you have more you want audio from in a smooth way. The QC35 II will not be a bad choice, and for those who use multiple simultaneous audio sources, they can be the right choice. Even though the sound and noise reduction is not as good as Sony’s flagship.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Vs Bose QC35 II

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