Bose had been dominating the noise-canceling headphones market for years until Sony came along in 2016 with its 1000X series and suddenly Bose’s position as a leader in that area of headphone technology was a lot less certain.
Now, fast forward that to this year’s IFA Berlin 2018, where Sony announced its third-generation WH-1000XM3, and it becomes evident that the Japanese electronics giant has taken a clear lead in the noise canceling technology race.
While $350 can buy you some very effective alternatives like the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II or the Bowser & Wilkins PX, to name a couple, none can match the all-round appeal of the 1000XM3 – by far the best noise canceling headphone, due to hit the stores on October 30, this year.
The 1000XM3’s superlative noise canceling capabilities improved audio quality, and a comprehensive features list make for an unbeatable combination.
While there are no drastic deviations from last year’s 1000XM2, Sony has indulged in a huge number of tweaks, all of which combine to give you a pretty impressive upgrade.
In so far as the overall design is concerned, you will not find much of a difference from the previous versions of the 1000X series, which is not really a bad thing, considering the design has always been a clever balance between elegance and ergonomics.
While the unit may not match the design elegance of the Bowser & Wilkins PX, it certainly is more stylish-looking than the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II, but then that’s a purely subjective matter and you have every right to differ.
The 1000XM3 is being made available in two color options – black and silver, with the logo and the noise canceling microphones now having coloring around them – bronze accents for the black version and brass for the silver
The improved headband has a more prominent bend to it, making it less of a halo around your head, which effectively means that the gap between the headband and the user’s head is now negligible.
The padding on the ear cups is a bit thicker this time around, making for a bigger surface area and more room inside the cups for your ears to snuggle in comfortably – all of which make the 1000XM3 an over-ears headphone set in the real sense of the term.
Add to that the 20-gram weight cut, and you have one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones on the market today – snug enough to wear them for extended periods without feeling the need to remove them.
The chassis continues to be mainly plastic, and while it would have looked and felt more premium with an aluminum and ballistic nylon body, like you have on the Bowser & Wilkins PX or the aluminum and leather finish on the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless, the weight would have increased significantly to affect the comfort quotient.
Another change is the plastic on the back of the ear cups, which is now somewhat rubbery and softer to the touch, unlike the tougher and more textured ear cup backs on the previous edition.
The reason Sony gives for this departure is that operation noises like tapping and swiping will not filter through to your ears, thereby enhancing the noise canceling capability of the set.
The 1000XM3 will ship with a compact carrying case, a plug adaptor for in-flight use, a connect cable, as well as a USB cable.
The battery setup also gets an upgrade in this third-generation 1000X series headphones, with the old micro USB charging now replaced with the new USB C standard, especially handy for owners of the latest Android phones which use a compatible charging cable.
While the new fast charge feature gives you five hours of listening time on a mere 10-minute charge, the 30-hour overall battery life remains the same as before, which, again, is more than enough for an average user to see him/her through the entire week, with some fuel still left in the tank.
Sony attributes the massive improvement in the noise-canceling performance of the WH-1000XM3 to the new QN1 processor, which has been exclusively included for that exact function and if the company is to be believed, it should be four times more efficient in reducing mid to high range noise than in the past.
The QN1 processor is undoubtedly the most significant addition, effectively taking the headphones way ahead of the closest competition; there is no headphone set on the market, as of now, that can shut out the world as effectively as the I000XM3.
There is a marked improvement in the audio quality, as well – again, thanks to the QN1 chip’s analog amplifier that drastically reduces noise and distortion.
The touchpad is more responsive than ever before as you tap on the ear cup to pause/play, swipe forward and back to switch between tracks, or swipe up and down for volume control.
You can also mute the headphones by covering the ear cup with your palm, which is such a convenient feature to have, especially when you are trying to hear outside noise, like train or flight announcements, for example.
The Sony Headphones Connect App, which you will need to download on your smartphone, is simply brilliant, as it uses the smartphone’s motion sensors to detect your movements – whether you’re sitting, walking or running and then communicating with the headphones to set the noise canceling level accordingly.
A quick recap will tell us that the new Sony 1000XM3 has supreme noise canceling capabilities – thanks to the QN-1 processor; the audio quality is great and even if you do have any issues, you can always set it right using the dedicated app; responsiveness has certainly improved a bit; plus, the features list is pretty comprehensive.
To explain it in fewer words, at $350, there is no better noise canceling headphones than the 1000XM3, currently on the market
Key features of the Sony WH-1000XM3
- HD noise canceling chip QN1 gives the 1000XM3 four times the performance power of its predecessor
- Unique automatic personal NC, and atmospheric pressure optimization
- Wireless freedom with Bluetooth and NFC
- Smart Listening by Adaptive Sound Control automatically adjusts ambient sound to your activity
- High-quality audio with DSEE HX™ and LDAC