Sony WF-1000XM3 Review: The best Noise Cancelling Earbuds?

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As far as personal audio experience goes, truly wireless earbuds are all the hype nowadays. It all started with the introduction of Apple AirPods back in 2016. After that, we’ve seen competitive products from Samsung with the Galaxy Buds and Beats with the Powerbeats Pro. What everyone was waiting for, was Sony’s take on this particular product segment. Now, our wait is finally over as we now have the Sony WF-1000XM3.

While Sony was never really known for making good headphones, it surprised us with its WH-1000XM3 Noise-Cancelling over-ear headphones. When they came out, they dethroned Bose as the best noise-canceling headphones in the business. This forced Bose to finally update their ageing design and come out with the NC 700 in order to compete.

While the fight for that title still continues, Sony decided to spread its rule by conquering the truly wireless earbuds market. And thus we come back to the WF-1000XM3H. Terrible name but bold claims. How do they stack up? Let’s find out.

Design

WF-1000XM3 design
Image: Sony

In the world of wireless earbuds, the WF (let’s just call them that for now) have quite a unique design. They look nothing like their competition which is a good thing as it sets them apart. They do, however, resemble those old-fashioned Bluetooth hands-free devices that businessmen used to make calls. Unlike the AirPods and like every other wireless earbud, they feature an in-ear bud design which means you’ll have a hard time making these fall off despite not having ear support.

The overall design language is minimalist, just the way I like it. You have no physical buttons on these and instead, have a reprogrammable touch-sensitive area on each piece. Below that, you have a copper-lined microphone along with the Sony logo in the same copper color. I believe it’s one of the better-looking devices out there and personally dig the contrast made by the copper coloring.

Also, like all other truly wireless earbuds, the WF comes with a charging case that’s truly a masterpiece. The lid had the same matt copper finish which compliments the dark gray part that’s underneath. Despite having an abnormally large size, this is my single favorite wireless earbuds case just because of its design.

Specification

WF-1000XM3 case
Image: Sony

Apart from the looks, the WF is also exceptional in terms of performance. As mentioned earlier, you get reprogrammable capacitive buttons that can be set via the Sony Headphones Connect app for iOS and Android. You can also toggle the iconic Active Noise Cancellation feature from this app. Just like the over-ear headphones, there’s also a feature that allows you to temporarily pause the noise cancellation in order to listen to the ambient sound, which is the most thoughtful feature in any noise cancellation device.

As far as the actual sound quality is concerned, it is definitely above average. In fact, that happens to be an understatement as I’m genuinely impressed how Sony has managed to outperform Beats in the audio department. The sound is primarily bassy but not as much as you get in the beats. You can set it according to your individual taste via the equalizer in the mobile app.

NC chip
Image: Sony

Additional features include a smart sensor that senses if you insert/remove the bud from your ear and then plays/pauses the music accordingly. It also has Google Assistant integration that will automatically detect “OK Google” even when your phone is in your pocket. If you set the noise cancellation level to automatic, it will use its microphones to detect the ambient sound to set it to the best possible level without overdoing it.

Unfortunately, the charging case that comes with these earbuds does not wirelessly charge, which puts it at a disadvantage against the AirPods and the Galaxy Buds. However, looking at the bright side, I’m glad Sony went with the USB-C charging port instead of cheapening out with micro-USB. The battery life is also good. Each earbud can give you 6 hours of continuous music listening, 8 hours with Noise Cancellation turned off. The case can further charge the buds 3 more times which equates to 24 hours of continuous use.

Price & Verdict

Sony WF-1000XM3 on the go
Image: Sony

The Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds will set you back $228.99 which is a lot of money considering that most of the competition is cheaper. The mere fact that you’re paying over $200 for sony earbuds when you can easily get the AirPods ($199.99) and the Galaxy Buds ($129) for far less really does mess up your mind.

However, all that is forgiven when you consider the experience that you get with the WF. The only earbud that can come close (but not quite reach) to that experience is the Powerbeats Pro and it costs $249.99. This does make the WF look like a bargain at this price point and it really is. The noise cancellation is the best in the business and the sound quality will blow you away.

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