Well, sooner or later it had to happen: recently I searched for a long and persistent Sony WH-1000XM3 review on our website and only then I remembered that I had not written it. It’s never too late to fix a mistake, especially since the headphones have not become worse over the past couple of years – on the contrary, better!
The price has dropped, but the device is still in the golden pantheon of great headphones and gadgets in general. Decide to buy – feel free to do it without even reading my review. Well, I’ll tell you about everything in order and try to imagine how it would be possible to improve the impeccable “thousandth” model, glorified for centuries (in short – in no way).
I remember very well the moment when the Sony WH-1000XM3 was announced, we then worked at the IFA exhibition in Berlin, shot a video about the headphones, everyone liked them very much.
Now almost two years have passed, and this gadget has not lost its relevance at all, on the contrary, now is the time for such headphones. Millions of people are sitting in self-isolation with their relatives, they have to somehow continue to work, the noise is MADLY distracting and not everyone has a separate office in their apartments.
Of course, you have to improvise – and I recommend buying noise canceling headphones first. You don’t even have to turn on the music, just sit and work quietly with headphones, the noise ceases to be an annoying factor.
Another thought: what a nice thing! Especially for today’s price. I just can’t get enough of it. Here you have a chic package, a hard case, an audio cable and an adapter for the plane, USB Type-C for charging – you take a cable for iPad or MacBook Pro, charge everything as expected. Here you have both comfort and good noise reduction, but let’s talk about everything in order.
There are two versions: black and beige. It is strange that Sony has not released headphones of other colors in a year and a half – it would be nice to go white or green. I chose beige for the review, but I recommend a black device to all practical gentlemen. Rather, like this: these are black headphones with inserts reminiscent of bronze. The whole set of delivery, mind you, in one color.
In any case, a very pleasant feeling. The headband is finished with the same material. The plastic on the outside of the cups is velvety, the rest of the details are ordinary. The assembly is good, nothing rattles, no creaks, the gaps are even, there is no flash. There is quality control and painstaking work of designers and engineers. I think that in three or four years these headphones will be quite relevant – that’s what a good design is all about.
Wearing “thousandths” is a real pleasure. There is enough space for the ears, the headband does not press, the headphones themselves are not very large and noticeable, especially when compared with the Blue Satellite and some other models. No ventilation system is provided, but sitting in an apartment with the air conditioner turned off, even after two hours of wearing, I don’t feel heating, my ears don’t seem to sweat, everything is ok.
I really liked how smoothly the guides come out – the clicks are palpable, again I want to praise the team of engineers and designers. A simple increase in the headband turns into a ritual, you want to move the bar back and forth, like a Nokia 8800 slider.
The buttons are just as nicely made, the physical ones are on the left cup – switching on, switching modes. The sensor is on the right cup, you need to put your palm here so that the microphones begin to amplify the sounds around. Convenient if you need to talk to someone.
The same touch panel is responsible for controlling playback, answering a call, and adjusting the volume. You get used to it quickly, everything works well. In the warm season, everything is close to ideal. The velvety surface allows you to accurately calculate the effort, over time you begin to set the volume at the desired level without errors and deftly move from track to track.
The claimed operating time is 30 hours with noise cancellation on, if you turn off the noise cancellation, you can get about 38 hours. You always have the opportunity to take the complete multimedia adapter on the plane, connect the headphones with a cable and not think about the operating time at all.
While charging, the earbuds continue to work, a nice opportunity – connected to an external battery or to a long cable for charging MacBook Pro, keep listening to music.
The headphones can be folded, the set includes a hard case, the color matches the model’s color (in my case, beige). There are pockets for accessories, the case is not very large, I recommend using it – spare the velvety plastic on the cups.
All the same application as for other models of noise canceling headphones, it was recently updated – in my memory this is the first Sony program with such active development, new chips appear, firmware updates for headphones are released, life is in full swing. It’s good.
Since the Sony WH-1000XM3 is the older model in the lineup, there is at least one very interesting feature here: atmospheric pressure optimization. You only need to put on headphones, listen to sounds, under normal conditions (for example, at home or office), the pressure in the cups is optimized to 1.0 atm. In flight, the pressure will be different so that you do not feel discomfort. Obviously, there is a question when the flight will take place now – but in any case, the function is useful.
I’ll tell you more about adaptive sound control. Since there are several microphones, the headphones understand what is happening around – if you are walking down the street, the microphones try to amplify the noise of the cars, all for the sake of safety.
In the office, if it is not very loud around, the headphones will turn on noise cancellation – in which case, put your hand to the cup, answer the question, remove your hand from the cup, continue to sit in blissful silence. Compared to previous models, the function has become more accurate.
Based on the noise around, the headphones themselves change the user profile, the study of frequently visited places is supported, but you can also register frequently visited places so that the profiles are turned on automatically. For example, it can be your home, office, cafe where you dine (okay, the coronavirus will end someday and we will go to cafes, airports and other places).
In advanced settings, you can edit the main profiles. I really like to play around with the “Focus on Voice” function, with the slider you can increase or decrease the volume of nearby voices. That is, the surrounding noise is cut off, the voices remain. A thing for the office! The people around think that I do not hear anything – AND I HEAR EVERYTHING!
A lot of the app has to do with sound quality. These are VPT (surround sound) settings, and equalizer, and sound position control, and 360 Reality Audio setting. I talked about the last function in detail in the review, in short – play at once and forget.
The rest may help you depending on the music playback program, file type. DSEE HX function is designed to “finish” the musical picture, but in the case of working with iPhone and Apple Music, I highly recommend trying to listen to music with DSEE on and off. I like it better without DSEE HX.
The main idea about the application is simple: download immediately after purchasing the headphones, check the software version, play with the settings. Then, most likely, remember about the application in weeks or months, but it pleases me. Functional, without unnecessary whistles, everything is on the case. This is as it should be, because any modern advanced headphones are a software and hardware complex, otherwise it does not happen now.
I have said more than once that for me the best noise canceling headphones are the Bose NCH 700: as soon as you put it on, you immediately find yourself cut off from the surrounding space, this was especially noticeable during flights. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 was always in second place – worse noise reduction, better sound quality. Where does the Sony WH-1000XM3 fit into? In my opinion, somewhere close to Bose, but no better or worse – the noise cancellation here is of high quality, effective, there are no questions.
Rather, Sony decided to make noise reduction with a human face – the pressure optimizer allows you to avoid discomfort, adjusting the focus to the voice and controlling the surrounding sound help you feel more comfortable, not cut off from society. Want to sleep on the plane? Just turn on the noise reduction and turn off the “smart” functions. Do you want to sit in the office and hear your colleagues even with headphones? Move the focus slider. Or cover the cup with your palm.
I tested the headphones paired with iPhone 11 Pro Max, Apple Music and TIDAL. When connected to an iPhone, the AAC codec is used, there is also support for SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC. Such a set is not often found, headphones will work equally well with modern flagships based on Android, and with all new models of Apple technology.
Bluetooth 4.2 profile – in general, the model seems to be not new, but everything is fine here. And, let me remind you, these were the first headphones with a proprietary QN1 processor, it is responsible for noise cancellation, adaptive mode switching, and sound quality (in general, like the Apple W1 and H1 processors).
Magic 40-mm drivers are extremely difficult here, they are LCD polymer film with aluminum coating, neodymium magnets, and even indicated the reproducible frequency range with Bluetooth connection: 20–20,000 Hz (sampling rate 44.1 kHz); 20-40,000 Hz (LDAC, 96 kHz sampling rate, 990 kbps).
But the strict description on the company’s website is silent about emotions! And there are plenty of emotions here, I listen to these headphones with pleasure every day. For starters, a few side notes: Thanks to the versatile setup and driver capabilities, even downright poorly prepared tracks in Apple Music sound good.
Second thought: I don’t even remember when I saw such a volume reserve – a little less than half is enough for the eyes, you do it a little higher, and it is no longer very comfortable. Thought three: the headphones showed themselves perfectly not only with music, but also with movies on the iPad, and with games on a tablet, smartphone.
Let’s talk a little more about music. Luxurious drivers, coupled with the processor, delight with air, recoil – where other headphones will not show anything, the “thousandth” pull out some small previously imperceptible details and show them in all their glory.
It’s been a long time since I was so happy about the sound! For example, when checking, I advise you to listen to the old album Moritz Von Oswald Trio – Sounding Lines, oh, this is beauty! All the effects at a glance, with positioning, with a pleasant color, and what bass! Delight.
And the bass, the bass is not rough, but airy, with a delay (well, of course, it depends on the track, but there is no hard oak meat here). Or take the track Hey Jo, we have The Districts. There is a feeling that the music seems to be playing from the stage in a small bar, energy, sound seems to spread around.
At the same time, I feel that the track was either not well prepared, or they deliberately wanted to create such an impression – as if the musicians are playing live, and you are sitting nearby at a table, shaking your head to the beat, as if you were in a roadside bar, as at the end of every episode of the third season Twin Peaks. In general, The Districts are simply top-end, I advise you to include them in your media library.
Well, shall we listen to something else? I suggest ending with the wonderful Pink Lotus album, this is Freddie Dredd, great summer music, it’s nice to sit on the balcony with this – I would like to drive a car, but I can’t. The headphones do an excellent job with the transitions from vocals to bass and vice versa, the rhythm is ragged here, but it seems that for the “thousandths” these are all seeds, the headphones will snap easily and a nut that is stronger.
Should you buy headphones? Yes, I believe, along with the Bose NCH 700, these are the best large noise canceling headphones on the market. At Bose, I like noise cancellation more, but in terms of sound, Sony will definitely be more interesting for most people. To me personally, the sound of the Sony WH-1000XM3 after a few days seemed closer than that of the beloved Bowers & Wilkins PX7. The model is painfully well tuned, the feeling is like from old sneakers – you know for sure, it will be comfortable and as expected.
Among the pluses, I will also include adaptive sound control and many settings in the application, convenient control, good battery life, USB Type-C, a hard case included, good voice quality, high-quality noise reduction system. Comfortable to wear, pleasant to use. I did not find any obvious disadvantages. Headphones will be relevant for a long time, you can safely buy, even if you are reading this article in 2022.