Sony WF-1000XM3 review: true wireless smart noise canceling headphones

By: yashnyk | 11.05.2023, 23:13
Sony WF-1000XM3 review: true wireless smart noise canceling headphones

Can true wireless headphones also be headphones with great noise canceling and good sound? Check it out in the Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

What is it?

The Sony WF-1000XM3 is a true wireless headset with long runtime and active noise canceling that adapts to your hearing and environment.

What do they look like and what's in the box?

Sony WF-1000XM3 is a pair of dynamic vacuum headphones (8.5 each) for its form factor. For comparison, AirPods Pro weigh 5.4 g each.

Available in black and silver (but appears as white in images). We had black on the review. Their logo and microphone trim are made of beautiful copper paint. In my opinion, they look a lot more expensive than those Apple headphones. In addition to the logo and the designation of the ear, there are still so many markings on them, as if the creators wanted to leave a letter to the descendants in encrypted form on them.

Sony WF-1000XM3
Sony WF-1000XM3
True wireless noise-cancelling headphones that adapt to the environment. Among the advantages: form factor, battery life (up to one day, taking into account recharging in the case), high quality sound. Disadvantages: the price factor (characteristically high for this class of devices) and the fact that it is not suitable for all use cases, which is also due to the form factor.

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Each earpiece fits two microphones, and on the front there is also a touch control panel. She is very sensitive. It works even through strands of hair and sometimes accidentally when you need to fix the earpiece in your ear. It is also very glossy and shows fingerprints under some lighting angles.

Since the headphones are quite weighty, it is important to choose the correct size of the eartips and find the optimal position in the ear, otherwise they will fall out. I coped with the first one quickly. The kit includes four silicone pairs and three foam ones. Only the smallest silicone ones fit me, the foams did not fit all - either too small and fell out due to the size, or too large and slipped out when they were straightened in the ear.

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To find the correct position in your ear, it is best to follow the instructions on the box. Moreover, they must not only be inserted into the ear in the correct way (with the logo towards the face), but it is also important to scroll inside. Otherwise, they will drop out and the sound will not go quite where it should be. Even in the correct position, the headphones still fell out from time to time, in 90% of cases - if they touched them with a hood or hand, straightening their hair, they bulge out of the ear. And this is definitely not an option for sports and other excessive physical activity. Walking, driving, in transport such as the subway, train, plane - their ideal use case.

Like other models in its class, these received a charging case in the kit. It is made of plastic and comes in two parts. The main one is made of black plastic, the cover is painted in the same color as the logo on the headphones themselves. The paint wears off quickly, especially if you carry it in a bag with keys and after a few weeks does not look luxury at all. And it's big too.

Inside, the headphones are magnetically attached, so even if you open the box and turn it over, they won't fall out. It opens with a pleasant characteristic click. One of those little things that make you feel like you are holding a non-budget device. 

How to use them?

There is an NFC module on the case, so there is no difficulty with connecting. Sony has an app to control the WF-1000XM3, but in principle you can do without it.

By default, the WF-1000XM3 works with noise reduction, and the touch buttons on both sides control playback. To pause / start playback - one click, to switch the track forward - two, backward - three to call the intelligent assistant (by the way, Samsung, for example, offers two to choose from, Google and Bixby) - long press. If you take the earphone out of your ear, playback will stop, but you can start it manually (or you can cancel this shutdown in the application settings). By the way, if you get both, the music will play again and will play until you turn it off or hide it in a case.

The application is needed to adjust the work of the equalizer or noise reduction for yourself and change the functions for the controls. For example, you can assign noise reduction mode control to one of the panels. Sony has 18 of them! You can customize modes for walking, running, transport.

Initially, I was completely comfortable with the default mode, probably because there was no particular need for the application. After installation, I tested other modes. For example, you can drown out voices or the sound of vehicles more / less. Surely there are users whose lifestyle will require such fine tuning, but I preferred to leave noise reduction at maximum and just listen to music quieter. Then, especially loud sounds can still be heard and you can react to them, but the load on the ear is less.

The noise reduction is really noticeable, especially after you turn it off. You can also enable adaptive mode in the application. In this mode, the headphones listen to their surroundings and independently change the noise canceling system settings to the sounds of their surroundings. At the moment of switching, the sound disappears for a short time. At first it seemed interesting to me, then the sound disappeared every 10-15 minutes (and this happened when changing transport, walking, being in the room) started to get angry and I just turned it off.

What the controls are not provided with are volume controls, and this is quite inconvenient. You still have to take your smartphone out of your pocket from time to time.

In my opinion, the most cosmic feature in these Sony headphones is 360 Reality Audio playback. To configure it, the application asks to take a picture of the user's ears and send it to the server for processing. They say that they adjust the sound individually to the ear of the owner of the headset! One problem - the function only works with and 360 by Deezer applications. Both are with a paid subscription. So we failed to test it.

The app displays the charge status for each earbud. Probably, this is logical considering that they can be listened to separately. It is interesting that when you press the playback control button on one of the headsets, the sound signal is sent to it and the reaction starts from it. It seems like a trifle, but it works for the perception of the model.

What's with the sound?

Sony WF-1000XM3 are equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 (A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP). There is AAC and SBC support, but aptX, LDAC and LHDC are not. I have used them with OPPO Reno2 and Samsung Galaxy A50 smartphones (both are equipped with Bluetooth 5.0).

In the app, you can prioritize sound quality or headphone connection. I chose the sound. There were no problems with the stability of sound transmission with OPPO Reno2, but with the Galaxy A50 there were, especially when the smartphone was in the pocket of a down jacket or in a bag worn on a down jacket, there were a lot and regularly. Sometimes it's like behind a concrete wall at the other end of the apartment. By the way, the Galaxy A50 had stability problems with the OPPO Enco Q1 headset. Therefore, it seems to me that this is more likely a disadvantage of a smartphone than a headset. Switching to connection priority mode helped to get rid of it.

Despite the fact that wireless technologies today allow you to transmit sound of sufficient quality, any true wireless headphones are still not a solution for the music lover. Sony WF-1000XM3 is a headset rather for the sake of style, convenience and technology, it does not have such a large assortment of supported codecs .. Taking that into account, I cannot find fault with the sound quality. I liked that the sound in them is quite clean, there is volume, the bass is felt (I don't like a lot of bass, what this model can do was enough for me to be completely happy).

Unfortunately, there was no way to compare with headphones from Apple. On hand were only my usual wired earbuds costing about 800 UAH and a wireless noise canceling headset from OPPO. Shumodav works better here. The sound is also more interesting from Sony, but there is no way to compare them directly - different price categories (Enco Q1 are half the price) and form factor. Compared to my fairly budgetary, albeit wired, headphones, the sound is also more interesting. The EQ is noticeable, although I chose to stay in the default mode because when I “pulled” the top or bottom the sound became that harsh, characteristic of a wireless headset.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 has a large volume reserve. I often listen to music close to the maximum possibilities, but here it was limited to about 50%. With rare exceptions, for example, the metro, where the sound of the train breaks through a little, then the sound was twisted up to 70%. But they are still much better than without or with other headphones without noise canceling. On the street, you can only hear when the car is very close and at a good speed. It seems to me that this is also part of the algorithms' work, they could have “cut” this noise more, but the appendix indicates that the headphones leave the sound that is considered important. If there is no brisk movement nearby, then it seems that the world around does not exist - such silence.

Sony WF-1000XM3 can also be used as a headset. They cope normally, I can't say that there were any problems or discomfort. The interlocutors did not complain either.

How is the battery?

The manufacturer promises up to 6 hours of operation of the headset and up to 18 hours from charging in the case. The charge status can be viewed in the application or listened to when headphones are connected. The case is charged using a USB Type-C cable (included). As for the autonomy, it is difficult to measure it in this format. It turned out that I charged the headphones a little less often than a couple of times a week. In 99% of cases, I listened with noise canceling. I usually listen to music on the road, usually one and a half to four hours a day. It's rare at home, but it happens, when I cook, up to half an hour. It was not possible to plant the battery of the headphones in a day without using the recharging in the case for one simple reason - they are too easy to lose, so every time I took off the headphones, I immediately put them in the case. The case, by the way, can be recharged separately.

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What other options are there?

The closest competitor is Apple AirPods Pro. In terms of technical characteristics, the models are almost identical, the Apple headset can also adapt to the ear, offers several modes of noise reduction, it costs the same. The last joke, of course. We have lived to see the days when buying a Sony means saving a little, the price for this model in the official retail is 7500 UAH. AirPods Pro - 8000 UAH

If true wireless is not as important to you as secure attachment paired with noise canceling, then you can pay attention to the good old format of Bluetooth headsets with a neck clip. For example, we quite liked the Sony WI-C600N - a collar headset with a price tag of UAH 3000. However, it is also not a budget pleasure.

In the dry residue

Sony WF-1000XM3 is not a cheap toy, but in this case the price is fully justified by the manufacturability of the device. Despite the weight and size, the headphones turned out to be quite comfortable in life, although not for all scenarios (in winter in hoods and hats, as well as in sports training, this will be a so-so solution) and they have practically no alternatives on the market, except for the recently presented ones. Apple headphones (we already have a review of the AirPods Pro).

3 reasons to buy Sony WF-1000XM3:

  • long battery life;
  • excellent work of the noise reduction system;
  • large headroom and good sound quality;

2 reasons not to buy the Sony WF-1000XM3:

  • you need sports headphones including;
  • price factor.
Main technical characteristics of Sony WF-1000XM3 headphones
The weight 8.5 g each
Emitter design and diameter dynamic, 6 mm
Frequency range 20 - 20,000 Hz
Sensitivity 106 ± 3dB
Wireless NFC, Bluetooth 5.0 A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
Functions noise reduction, ambient (listening to ambient sounds)
The claimed battery life Up to 6 hours of music playback with noise canceling / Up to 8 hours of non-noise canceling + 18 hours of charging case
Contents of delivery USB-C charging cable, three sets of silicone ear pads, three sets of foam, storage and charging case