Sony WH-1000XM3 review: The new king of noise-canceling headphones
Performance & Conclusion
I’m an audio geek, what codecs does it support?
For those fussy about sound quality, one of the most enticing features of Sony’s noise-canceling headphones is that they support a wide range of codecs - easily one of the widest. The new WH-1000XM3 is no different. It supports the usual SBC but also AAC, aptX and aptX HD. And if you have a compatible device, it also supports the high-resolution LDAC codec.
Alright, how does it sound?
If you like your bass thick and powerful, the WH-1000XM3 is the kind of headphones for you. Bass in this headphones dominates everything. It is thunderous and I mean that literally because the entire headphones physically throb when there is a heavy beat. Play Sculpted by Haywyre or any modern pop track and you’ll know what I mean. The bass isn’t particularly clean, however. There is a blooming quality to it that bleeds into and represses the rest of the audio spectrum. Technically speaking, it isn’t good, but subjectively, I find it to be really fun to listen to.
I then put on some jazz tunes from Beegie Adair and classical from Nobuyuki Tsujii, and I found the midrange to be present and quite forward. This gives vocals and instruments like pianos, saxophones, and guitars a clear and lively sound. The highs, however, are restrained, so what the WH-1000XM3 lacks is that last bit of air and sparkle that you find in more balanced headphones.
The WH-1000XM3 is a colored pair of headphones. If you were to listen to them critically or in a quieter space - say your office or home - there's a good chance you will probably find the bass too overwhelming. I know I did. However, if you are listening to them out and about - on the bus, walking on the streets, or in a plane - they sound pretty much perfect. That’s because bass energy is easily lost to the environment. In that regard, the WH-1000XM3 is great for portable use. Overall, the WH-1000XM3 is a pair of fun and engaging headphones that is clearly tuned with portable listening and modern tastes in mind. And yes, the bassy and energetic sound is great for movies too.
I’m not sure I like that much bass, can I EQ it out with the app?
You can in theory. The app features an equalizer that comes with a couple of presets and you can use to turn down the bass. However, I found that reducing the bass resulted in an unnatural sound. The reduction in bass also affects the rest of the spectrum and even dropping the bass by a notch results in the headphones sounding considerably more hollow and lifeless. The midrange loses its immediacy and liveliness. Best to leave it as it is or look for another pair of headphones if you don’t fancy yourself to be much of a bass head.
How’s the wireless range?
These are Bluetooth headphones and they have an effective range of about 10 meters with line of sight. Practically, I could still listen to these even when I moved into the next room, but any further and the connection becomes terribly inconsistent and the audio starts to drop continuously.
So is this the best noise-canceling headphones right now?
Sound is subjective and I suspect the bass-heavy sound of the WH-1000XM3 might put off people who prefer a more neutral and laidback sound. Objectively, however, I think the WH-1000XM3 is the best over-ear noise-canceling headphones you can buy right now. The noise-canceling is wicked and handily beats Bose’s QC35 by what I consider to be a significant margin. Furthermore, it is comfortable to wear, the battery life is good, and it comes with just about all the accessories you need. At S$549, it’s S$20 more than the Bose QC35 but it’s S$20 that I will gladly pay.
But if you are entirely convinced after reading all this, Sony has a loan program that will allow customers to borrow the WH-1000XM3 for up to seven days. Click here to learn more.