Sony WF-1000XM3 Review
A new top dog among noise cancelling true wireless headphones.
Sony WF-1000XM3 are the 3rd generation of high-end true wireless headphones from this Japanese audio giant (hence the M3).
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.
This is a hands-on review.
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
Audio Quality is Best-in-Class for True Wireless Headphones
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 charging 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.
Surprisingly Good Fit and Comfort
While the WF-1000XM3 true wireless buds are bulkier than most alternatives, it’s understandable since they include a lot of technology, 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.
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
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 automatically 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 compare 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
The battery life is improved and gives up to 6 hours with ANC on, 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.
To make managing battery even easier for you, you can do a quick 10-minute charge and get 1.5 hours of music in return (with USB type-c port), perfect for any commute.
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.
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?
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.
Not Suitable for Sports
Due to the lack of any water protection, the WF-1000XM3 are not suitable for working out.
They were never meant for that use anyway. The casing is too bulky and heavy for any serious exercise.
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 65t. Or go for bigger and cheaper Apple AirPods which come with fewer features and technology.
The combination of everything true wireless headphones can offer right now, the WF-1000XM3 buds are the top dogs in the market.