After making its mark on headphones with active noise-canceling, Sony wants to do the same in the true wireless earbud market. Are they as successful as his WH-1000XM3 over-ears? Are they up to the competition? The answer in our full review.
- Active noise-canceling
- Very good battery life
- Sound quality
- Sony app
- No wireless charging
- No waterproofing
- Disappointing hands-free car kit
- No volume control commands
Sony WF-1000XM3 release date and price
Designed to replace the WF-1000X that appeared two years ago, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are already available for sale at the recommended price of $230/£220. Sony's true wireless headphones are therefore a little more affordable than the company's over-ear active noise-canceling headphones. Two colours are available: black and silver.
Aesthetically, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are not necessarily the prettiest headphones on the market. They are not inelegant, however, with a design inspired by the WH-1000XM3 over-ears. The black model (that we tested) features a nice gold trim on each earbud, and the design is also only a step away from the Apple's earphones, which are currently all the rage with a body that protrudes forward, not downward. Despite this design choice, the headphones are still quite large.
Unlike Apple's famous AirPods, the Sony WF-1000XM3s are also in-ear headphones, in the sense that they fit snug into your ear canal. Sony attaches great importance to comfort and therefore delivers a wide range of silicone tips in the box in different sizes. I strongly recommend that you choose the one that is best suited to your ears. In addition to the gain in comfort, your choice will affect the sound quality, and in particular the isolation. It is important not to neglect this small detail.
On each earpiece, there are charging contacts inside and a touch-sensitive zone on the outside that you can use to set up in the Sony Headphones app, available free of charge on Android and iOS. You can control active noise reduction (ANC and ambient sound), playback controls, Google Assistant etc. with these touchpads. In practice, the tactile zones work correctly but this is not the most practical solution.
A microphone is also present for the active noise cancelation. Finally, for storage, the WF-1000XM3s come in a chic black metal case that also acts as a charger, but we'll talk about it that later.
Two main defects are to be noted here. The absence of volume buttons on the headphones is one of them. You must use your smartphone to turn the sound up or down. The lack of waterproofing and certification for water and dust resistance is another negative. For sports practice, this is quite important.
Overall, I appreciated the ergonomics and design of the Sony WF-1000XM3 with a housing well adapted to the shape of the ears. You also have nothing to complain about in terms of the quality of the finish, which is very good. The Bluetooth earbuds are also lightweight (8.5 grams) and comfortable to wear. You can answer calls with either earbud, and Sony has even thought about pointing the Bluetooth antenna outwards to keep our brains free from the waves.
Easy pairing and a stable Bluetooth connection
Inside the Sony WF-1000XM3 is the QN1e chip, a miniaturized version of the QN1 chip found in the WH-1000XM3 headphones. In addition to its role in making it easy to pair headphones with your smartphone, the chip is responsible for managing active noise cancelation.
Let's talk about pairing - it is very easy, whether it's on iOS or Android. The charging box offers NFC functionality for ultra-fast pairing on Android. Simply pass the box over your smartphone and the headphones are recognized. On iOS, simply open the box and add the headphones in the Bluetooth settings. Like the recently tested Powerbeats Pro, both earphones automatically detect when they are inserted into your ears. You can also start playing music independently when this detection takes place, on request in the settings.
The Sony Headphones app is also very pleasant to use. It allows you to customize controls, sound quality or update your headphones' firmware.
Amazing active noise-canceling technology
Let's be clear, the active noise-cancellation offered by the Sony WF-1000XM3 is simply excellent.. . for in-ear headphones. Indeed, it is useless to compare this ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) with the one offered by over-ear headphones. The latter, by design, offers more isolation and has more sensors and microphones for active noise reduction. That being said, Sony's work on these WF-1000XM3s is remarkable and no other headphones can claim such a good result.
As for the sound quality, I was also very seduced. In terms of audio codecs, Sony has opted for AAC and SBC formats here. The sound of the WF-1000XM3 is superior to that of the Powerbeats Pro or Apple AirPods in my opinion. The sound is very well balanced, clear and offers a lot of bass by default. Treble is also good and the mids are satisfactory (present without being annoying). Voices are also heard very well. Finally, the Bluetooth connection has always been very stable during my testing.
In short, the WH-1000XM3 headphones offer good sound quality and a sound close enough to what you get with the over-ear versions, without quite matching them. If you are not satisfied with the sound, you still have the equalizer in the app to adjust the audio to your preferences.
In the end, the only negative point concerns hands-free kit calling on the Sony WF-1000XM3. If in a quiet environment, the sound is audible, this is clearly not the case when the outside conditions are noisy, though.
Excellent battery life
Sony promises 6 to 8 hours of listening time for its WF-1000XM3 headphones, whether or not you use the active noise-canceling, and in reality, this was the case. The headphones come with a charging box, which allows them to extend their battery life for an additional 24 hours (or three full charges).
To charge the case, simply use the USB-C cable supplied in the box. Sony has neglected wireless charging and that's a shame. Perhaps it was a question of economy on the part of the Japanese manufacturer. It is also necessary to do without a charge level indicator on the housing. These are small details but other manufacturers offer them for the same price. Sony preferred to invest in active noise-canceling technology instead.
On the other hand, the magnetic connectors that make it easier to position the headphones are very convenient. The weight of the case is also low so it is easy to carry these around with you.
Mission accomplished for Sony. The Japanese manufacturer rides on the success of its ANC over-ear headphones. The WF-1000XM3 are the best true wireless headphones around at the moment. The battery life, design and sound quality are simply excellent, and it is also appreciated that the price of the headphones is reasonable. Last but not least, they offer the best active noise-canceling that can be found on true wireless headphones. Bose should be seriously worried because Sony has just hit the market hard once again.