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Sony WH-X1000M3 REVIEW

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These headphones gathered something of an online buzz due to their dethroning of the go-to noise cancelling standard, Bose. Due to their catchy name, I will refer to them as the M3 here on.

As more mobile devices lose their 3.5mm headphone ports, wireless audio is here to stay. No longer are bluetooth headphones fraught with patchy connections and low-level audio fidelity. Unless you’re an audiophile (and if you’re a proper audiophile, I recommend the blog go my friend Nathan at Ohm Image), bluetooth is now good enough for high quality streaming.

I’ve always preferred over-the ear headphones for one main reason—bass response. They also look like you’re a bit more serious than walking around with AirPods, but that’s more of a fashion statement than an audio-based observation.

My MDR-1R headphones are still going strong. I am actually using them at this very moment, watching the Wimbledon final on my iPad (and writing this in the Notes app, using iPadOS Beta 2, for those wondering). They’re a great headphone, but are not ideal on a flight or train journey, as the closed back casing does little to properly isolate. That’s fine, they’re not designed for that usage. I also use them for playing on my PS4, though annoyingly, Sony don’t allow the in-line mic to be used. Urgh.

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Sound

The sound quality of the M3 is every bit as good as the MDR-1R. Perhaps a bit better; the bass is just as good. Basically, I can’t really tell any difference. Super bass, great clarity all round, and there’s nothing more I could want from the soundstage, to be honest. There is a companion app for smartphones, that allows the user to adjust the EQ, but I haven’t felt the need.

Fit

This was a surprise. They’re more comfortable than the MDR-1R, with a softer ear cup and top piece. But it’s close. I can easily wear both for a whole day without feeling any discomfort. The fit of an over-the-ear headphone is, in my opinion, the main qualifier. It doesn’t matter how good they look, what sound they offer, what features, if they are too uncomfortable to wear for more than 30 minutes. I’ve been there before.

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Noice Cancellation

This is what really separates the headphones from the MDR-1R. This is how I justified the purchase. I travel a lot for work, both rail and flight, and being able to completely zone-out when travelling is very welcome. 

I had a paid of JVC noise cancelling headphones about 10 years ago, and they weren’t bad. They’d reduce a fan or the ambient noise in an aeroplane quite well, but the M3 almost completely remove all ambient sound. It’s absolutely amazing. Trains are completely silent. Aeroplanes, too. It’s eerie. They’re so good, in fact, that you won’t notice someone talking to you unless you see them first. 

There’s a handy (pun intended) ambient noise pass-through mode, activated by bringing one’s hand to the cup, which passes through sounds such as voices whilst still cutting out droning (insert your own joke here). Expect this to be useful when engaging with a train conductor, or an air hostess. 

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Design and usability

There’s a black model, and a silver model. I decided on the silver for a change; but mainly because it will be easier to find them in the dark on an aeroplane (or even in my bag). 

They come in a nice enough case, with a wired connection included. Best of all, there’s an airline adaptor with those annoying 2-prong 3.5mm jacks. I used to have one of these somewhere, but it’s nice to always know I have one in the bag in case I am flying with an old school airline.

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They’ve paired with everything without a problem, but don’t offer the ability to quickly switch between sources. You have to disconnect the current source and connect the next. This is a little cumbersome, in 2019, and I expect this to be addressed in the next model (I won’t hold my breath for a firmware update). I’m not sure if they can ever include the W1 chip from Apple to allow quick iCloud pairing etc, but really I find this to be the only annoyance with this otherwise stellar product. But, they’ll lose a mark for this. They make a little bit of ground back with fast USB-C charging, though. No audio pass-through, but the fast-charging is great. This is a good place to mention battery life, as well. Apparently good for 40 hours, but I’ve not yet managed below 50% remaining. They last all day without problem. I can see myself using them to simply get to sleep, in undesirable circumstances.

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Verdict

Do I recommend them? Absolutely. If you would like to cancel out ambient noise in your home office, on your commute, or when flying, then I see almost no reason not to, if you have the budget. Simply outstanding. I bet the M4 will be even better, and add quick-switching bluetooth, but I expect these to last me many years to come.

They’re currently in a nicely discounted sale on Amazon, and if you purchase through my Affiliate Link (click!) then I can help keep the reviews going :)


Upsides:

  • Sound quality

  • Fit

  • Outstanding noise cancellation

  • Useful ambient sound permissible mode



Downsides:

  • No fast BT switching

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Rating:

Sound: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Fit: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Noice Cancelling: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Usability: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★