With the Sony WF-1000XM3 Earbuds , Sony was at the forefront of the true wireless league over two years ago. With the current second version, the manufacturer is now sending a successor onto the highly competitive field.
The Bluetooth 5 headphones, available in black or silver, look classy and high quality with their matt surface. Due to their design, they protrude from the ear, but thanks to the supplied adapters in different sizes and a well thought-out construction, they sit securely in the ear canal. Nevertheless, I would not want to call them a sports listener, especially since the manufacturer does not specify any special measures against sweat and water.
The two earphones each have their own microphones and can also be conveniently used individually. They are stored in a tailor-made, decorative plastic case that not only protects, but also acts as a charging cradle with its own battery capacity. The listeners can find a secure “parking space” here thanks to a magnetic storage space, while they are refueled either through the case or via a USB-C connection.
The equipment is extensive: In addition to Bluetooth 5, the WF-1000XM3 offers adaptive noise canceling, touch functions, clever automatisms, an app with various functions and support for the Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant voice assistants. On the other hand, an internal memory like in the WF-SP900 was omitted.
Battery: Max. 6 hrs (NC ON)/Max. 8 hrs (NC OFF)
Colors: Silver, Black
Driver Unit: 6mm
Music Time: Max. 4 hrs (NC ON)/Max. 4.5 hrs (NC OFF)
Charging Time: Approx. 1.5 hrs
The WF-1000XM3 is easy to use in everyday life. Once paired, the ear pieces quickly connect to the associated smartphone (in this case an iPhone 8). According to the manufacturer, both listeners are addressed separately by the transmitter when transmitting in order to achieve better synchronicity of the sound. The Bluetooth route almost completely covers a large apartment. However, there were occasional interruptions in the coupling, which reactivated shortly afterwards. The manufacturer is allowed to make improvements here, which is possible via the app in the form of firmware updates (test status: version 2.1.0).
The test device has sensors that automatically pause the music when it is removed – useful for conversations, for example. If necessary, there is also an automatic switch-off, provided that both receivers are taken out of the ears.
The control on the device is convenient but functionally limited via the two touch fields on the outside of the ear pieces. Accordingly, Sony uses the free “Headphones Connect” app (iOS, Android) for further configuration and also provides multilingual voice assistance.
An over-function can be configured per page, which is then broken down further, depending on whether you click or touch it permanently. So you could call up the ambient sound function mentioned below on the left and use the playback control with start, stop, track skipping and an additional call of the voice assistant on the right. Call acceptance is of course also possible.
You have to get used to the sensors themselves, because they require greater accuracy than the over-ear models and, due to the concept, also leads to knocking noises on the eardrum when used.
The headphones have a realistic running time of five to six hours with noise reduction switched on. The case also offers three times the capacity, which results in considerable usage times that convincingly cover daily operation and longer trips. The charging time for the case is 3.5 hours, the charging of the earphones 1.5 hours. However, just ten minutes of placement in the case gives you 90 minutes of playing time.
Sony is considered a market leader in the area of noise canceling. This position is also supported by the WF-1000XM3, which actually delivers remarkable results for true wireless headphones. The technical basis for this is the in-house signal processor (QN1e), which carries out the associated calculations as well as the 24-bit conversion. The noise canceling not only works efficiently apart from wind sensitivity, it can also be configured variably and has a dynamic adaptation to the environment (adaptive sound control). Here, the listener changes between four positions depending on the movement pattern, which of course can also be used in a fixed manner. In the “Transport” position, the level of noise reduction is most intense and wonderfully effective. At the same time, the circuit’s inherent noise remains pleasantly low.
As usual, the noise suppression works particularly efficiently for low-frequency and static noises. The WF-1000XM3 actually creates a relaxation area that intensifies the enjoyment of music or just ensures relaxation. A real selling point, also in open plan offices. The aforementioned controllable ambient sound function allows an improved perception of the environment at the push of a button when listening and thus, for example, selective communication. But it also allows a variable dosage of the ambient noise.
Dynamic 6 mm drivers work with neodymium magnets in the test device. In terms of sound, the results are quite remarkable. The headphones are fun and convince with a powerful sound that is particularly suitable for pop and rock. The focus here is less on the highest level of neutrality, because the WF-1000XM3 sees itself less as an audiophile construction and more as a flexible device for mobile use with additional suitability for use in the office.
Even without EQ, there is a lot of pressure. Its good fit and the noise canceling result in a thoroughly intense music enjoyment. In the bass, the listener is contoured with corresponding delimitations of pitch, length and dynamics.
The WF-1000XM3 sounds quite full, but doesn’t overdo it in this area, which also applies to the very audible deep bass. In the mid-range, it presses on distorted rock guitars, transports voices with good intelligibility and, for example, gives an acoustic grand piano the necessary warmth and space. Quiet music like classical music or Nick Cave’s current album “Ghosteen” can also be enjoyed. Finally, the test device shows itself to be rich in detail in the height range, although I lacked the final transparency and airiness. I have not found unnecessary hardships but rather a meaningful drawing of boundaries with corresponding passages in the source material. Incidentally, noise canceling has an impact on sound perception. When switched on, there was not only an improved signal-to-noise ratio, but also a noticeable pressure boost.
With the equalizer you can get the sound with six bands clearly, but also musically. If you are looking for listening pleasure, you can make significant improvements here and save your settings in presets.
The support of 360 Reality Sound is also exciting. Here Sony tries a three-dimensional sound image (immersive audio), which can be accessed via streaming services such as Tidal, Deezer or nugs.net in the form of corresponding content. The app allows you to take photos of your own ears and include their specific shape in the sound processing.
In the absence of appropriate access, I could only try this function with demo material on the Sony website. A nice outlook, while I still cannot confirm any additional use of the in-house sound improvement DSEE HX.
In view of such options, I rate the renunciation of higher quality codecs as quite a glitch. The WF-1000XM3 only speaks SBC and AAC, which the inventor of LDAC has to blame as a minus point or a missed opportunity.
Finally, the test candidate once again received a good mark for the high level of speech intelligibility for the quality of telephone calls. Since only one handset can also be used, he receives another recommendation for office use or for driving.
Sony WF-1000XM3 Earbuds – Conclusion
With the WF-1000XM3, Sony has achieved a clear model improvement. The features are impressive for headphones of the true wireless class, apart from the lack of high-quality Bluetooth codecs. The wearing comfort is right, the running time, the equipment but also the sound. Sony also once again asserts its supremacy in noise canceling.
Positives of Sony WF-1000XM3 Earbuds
- Musical sound
- Good noise-cancelling
- Excellent battery life
- Snug fit
Negatives of Sony WF-1000XM3 Earbuds
- No aptX HD support