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Sony WF-1000XM3 Review

Last updated: 4 years ago
5 min read
Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds review

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Note: Sony WF-1000XM3 are the 3rd generation of flagship wireless earbuds. Today, they’re an older model superseded by the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sony WF-1000XM5, which offer improved performance.

Check the newer versions for the latest in true wireless audio.

And while the previous versions (X & XM2) were lagging behind the competition, these are possibly the best flagship true wireless headphones with active noise cancelling.

XM3 are packed with features and technology, reliable, sound better than most competition while not breaking the bank, at MSRP $229.

These Sony’s are one of the best for everyday use and commutes, but not for sports.

  • Great noise cancelling performance
  • Feature-packed mobile app
  • Solid battery life
  • Fun, punchy sound
  • Tri-Hold design isn't comfortable for everyone
  • No IP rating
By HeadphonesAddict
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CONTENTS (show more)

    Key Features

    Star Rating
    4.5 Almost Perfect
    • Best-in-class audio quality with EQ but otherwise balanced sound signature
    • Screw-in fit with ergonomic tri-hold structure and high-friction surface that stays stable and is suitable for working out, though they aren’t sweatproof
    • Active noise cancelling is the best yet seen in true wireless earbuds
    • Good battery life, up to 6 hours with ANC or around 8 hours without ANC – 3 more charges in the case
    • Quick charging – 10 minutes for 1.5 hours of music
    • Feature-rich app for iOS and Android (EQ, Ambient Modes, Customizable controls, DSEE HX…)
    • DSEE HX function removes the need for aptX or LDAC, but it only works with the Connect app installed
    • Voice assistant support
    • No multi-point connect, can’t connect to 2 devices at the same time
    • Auto turn off when you take one bud out
    • No water protection, so not suitable for sports
    • Average built-in microphone, okay in quiet places, a no-go in louder environments
    • No volume controls on the headset, you need to use the smartphone to do that

    You Need the Sony App to Get All the Features

    Sony Headphones Connect app adds a lot of functionality that you otherwise don’t get out of the box. It’s a must-have install, and it works with Android and iOS.

    You get complete control over active noise cancelling. You can choose from different levels of ambient cancellation. Starting at zero ANC, each removes a bit more of the ambient sound ending in full noise-cancelling mode.

    Also, you can put the TWS buds into the adaptable mode that changes depending on the environment.

    Sony WF-1000XM3 ambient sound control

    Plus, you can customize how the touch controls work if the original setup isn’t your cup of tea.

    But there’s no way to control the volume with the buds themselves, you have to use your smartphone.

    Moreover, the lack of aptX and even Sony’s own LDAC Bluetooth codecs might be a surprise, but a feature called DSEE HX comes to rescue.

    What’s DSEE HX?

    Sony’s audio tech explained: DSEE HX

    It basically upscales compressed audio files like MP3s and streamed songs to almost high-resolution audio. Effectively, it makes the before-mentioned codecs unnecessary.

    To save battery life, the true wireless buds turn off automatically when they sense you took one of the buds out of your ears. It’s a nice feature to have that improves the user experience.

    Now, there’s no multipoint feature, you can’t connect them to 2 devices at the same time, which might be a shame for some. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to pair Sony earbuds.

    Sony WF-1000XM3 related:

    Sony WF-1000XM3 beige
    You can get them in silver/beige color too.

    Audio Quality is Best-in-Class for True Wireless Headphones

    Star Rating
    5.0 Best in class

    The WF-1000XM3 earbuds (WF=wireless free) come with a fully customizable sound that you can change according to your tastes with the Sony Headphones Connect app.

    Out of the box they come with a balanced sound signature that delivers strong, punchy bass, vibrant vocals that aren’t masked and clear, distortion-free highs.

    Sony WF-1000XM3 are one of the best sounding true wireless earbuds.

    You can easily amp up the bass with changing the settings in the app. But you have to make sure to get an airtight fit first; otherwise you won’t hear the lows.

    The equalization also offers you to create your own custom sound presets if you have your personal preference.

    You can change them depending on the genre of music you’re listening to.

    ANC doesn’t change the sound…

    Which is a good thing. So many active noise cancelling headphones change their audio quality once you turn on the ANC function. That’s not the case with these Sony noise-canceling earbuds.

    All in all, there aren’t many buds that can compare to the audio quality of the XM3. But you need to make sure you get the right fit and set the app the right way.

    There are too many people complaining about the lack of bass or bad audio quality.

    The truth is, these sound great out of the box, and you can make them sound even better with the EQ.

    MORE: The best noise-cancelling earbuds

    Surprisingly Good Fit and Comfort

    Star Rating
    4.0 Great

    While the WF-1000XM3 true wireless buds are bulkier than most alternatives, it’s understandable since they include a lot of technology, and the fit is surprisingly comfortable.

    There’s a way of putting them in by inserting and “screwing” them into the ear canal. The whole process is seamless and offers lots of stability, even for sports use.

    Sony WF-1000XM3 black bud
    The buds are quite large but fit well, thanks to the ergonomic design.

    You can choose from 7 pair of ear tips.

    If you don’t “screw them in” properly, they’ll fall out, and you’ll cry about lousy fit.

    But know that the XM3 buds aren’t suitable for sports due to no water resistance at all.

    Best Noise Cancellation in True Wireless Buds

    Star Rating
    5.0 Best in class

    Because they use the same noise-cancelling chip as the competition-beating WH-1000XM3 over-ear headphones, the ANC is highly effective and without distorting the sound.

    There aren’t many true wireless buds with effective ANC, and the XM3 are probably the best yet.

    You can choose from many different ambient options, from full noise cancellation to different levels of ambient modes that let in some background noise.

    Alternatively, you can use the automatic adaptive mode (Adaptive Sound Control) that changes based on the environmental cues.

    ANC is slightly less effective than with WH-1000XM3 over-ear headphones, which is a compliment for true wireless headphones.

    The diminished noise cancelling performance largely comes down to more energy-efficient chip settings (24-bit compared to 32-bit in over-ears) and in-ear noise isolation that might let in more noise.

    Overall, you won’t find better true wireless headphones with active noise cancelation.

    They’re almost as good as the bigger over-ear alternatives that are much larger and heavier.

    Solid Battery with Quick Charging

    Star Rating
    4.0 Great

    The battery life is improved and gives up to 6 hours with ANC on and 8 hours without ANC, plus 3 more full charges in the carrying/charging case.

    You might think the battery performance might suffer due to all the features, but that’s not the case.

    You get a good amount of music out of them even with all the technology activated.

    Sony WF-1000XM3 in charging case
    The earphones snap into the case and start charging automatically.

    To make managing the battery even easier for you, you can do a quick 10-minute charge and get 1.5 hours of music in return (with a USB type-c port), perfect for any commute.

    Not Suitable for Sports but Durable

    Star Rating
    3.0 Good

    Due to the lack of any water protection, the WF-1000XM3 are not suitable for working out. See best workout headphones instead.

    They were never meant for that use anyway. The casing is too bulky and heavy for any serious exercise.

    Sony WF-1000XM3 left earbud
    The TWS earbuds fit well for daily use but aren’t fit for serious activity (no water resistance either).

    But an IPX4 (sweat-resistance) might be nice to have.

    Who Should Get the Sony WF-1000XM3?

    If you’re looking for high-end true wireless earbuds with noise cancelling and are willing to pay a premium price, then the WF-1000XM3 are your top choice.

    Currently, in September 2019, there aren’t any wireless earphones that would be real competition in terms of features, technology, and sound quality.

    You can get a sportier version like the Beats PowerBeats Pro or the Jabra Elite Active 75t. But if you’re an iPhone user, check the Apple AirPods Pro, which offer similar features, but work better for iOS.

    The combination of everything true wireless headphones can offer right now, the WF-1000XM3 buds are the top dogs in the market.

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