Sony WH-1000XM3: The perfect rival to beat the other headphones with noise cancellation

11 min read

I feel compelled to confess it. It’s been a long time since some headphones have surprised me so much. Especially, a wireless model. This type of headphones is not “holy of my devotion” because they do not usually offer me the overall quality of sound that I aspire to enjoy with my music, but I recognize that my sensations are changing. And these Sony WH-1000XM3 have a good part of the blame.

I propose that we start at the beginning. As you can see if you look at the opening photo of the article, the headphones to which we are going to spend the next few minutes are wireless (although they also work with cable and in passive mode), enclosed, circumaural (the pads completely enclose our ears) and diadem. This other data is not deduced with such clarity observing the photograph, but I can anticipate it: its transducers are electrodynamics (as one might expect because it is the usual operating principle of affordable headsets).

In any case, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What makes this model really different is none of these characteristics. What makes it desirable is, on the one hand, its sound quality, and, on the other hand, its surprising noise cancellation technology. If you want to know all the details you just have to keep reading a few more minutes.

Sony WH-1000XM3: Technical Specifications

Sony WH-1000XM3

An interesting feature of these headphones in which we have not yet deepened is the material used by Sony in the manufacture of the diaphragm, a very light and rigid liquid crystal polymer that is largely responsible for its deep extreme end. According to the Japanese brand when we use them via Bluetooth they are able to “lower” up to 20 Hz, but when in connection with the source we use the cable this figure reaches 4 Hz (although hardly a recording will contain frequencies below 20 Hz).

Above these headphones do not go bad either. In fact, according to the Japanese brand, they are capable of reproducing frequencies up to 40 kHz. The liquid crystal polymer diaphragm is largely responsible for these figures. In any case, leaving aside the numbers, which have a relative importance, the most attractive feature of this model is that it exhibits a really extensive subjective frequency response. We will deepen more in this section a little later.

Another interesting feature: unlike its predecessor, the 1000XM2 model, which uses a Micro-USB port, the version we are analyzing has USB-C connectivity, a design decision that seems very wise because it reduces the load time of the battery from 0 to 100% in almost an hour (in about three hours we will have the battery of these headphones completely full). Of course, it shares with the previous model the possibility of allowing us to use it not only through a Bluetooth link, but also with cable and in passive mode (with the unit of amplification, noise cancellation and equalization off).

COUPLING Circumaural
TRANSDUCER Electrodynamic
DIAPHRAGM LCP coated 40 mm aluminum, dome type (CCAW coil)
MAGNET Neodymium
IMPEDANCE 47 ohms (unit on) / 16 ohms (unit off)
SENSITIVITY From 101 dB / mW
WEIGHT 255 g
PRICE 369.38 dollars

Construction and ergonomics: They are not luxurious, but they are very comfortable

Sony WH-1000XM3

These headphones have been designed to accompany us wherever we go, and this means that we do not necessarily have to treat them with care. In its construction Sony has used a poly-carbonate of very good quality that gives them a great lightness (weigh 255 g) and quite robust, despite not having a luxurious appearance. In any case, in a headset of this price segment we cannot expect to find materials from models of a higher price level, such as leather or wood. The WH-1000XM3 are an all-terrain headset and its aesthetic is in keeping with its function, so in this area I have nothing to object.

In my opinion, the only feature of a headset that rivals its importance with sound quality is ergonomics. As good as they sound, if they are not comfortable we will end up using them. Fortunately, these “helmets” are comfortable. Very comfortable, really. I have had the opportunity to test them thoroughly for almost twenty days, with sessions of continuous use of up to four hours, and I think the most accurate thing I can say about their ergonomics is that you end up forgetting that you are wearing them. And a good part of the merit is the homogeneity with which the diadema distributes the pressure on our skull.

The pads also seem very comfortable. They are soft and, like the headband, evenly distribute the pressure. The material that the engineers of Sony have decided to use in its manufacture is urethane foam, a very light component that has the curious ability to adapt very well to the contour of our face to maximize the contact surface of the pads with our skin. This property is what makes it possible for the distribution of pressure to be so uniform.

Sony WH-1000XM3

As far as the durability of the pads is concerned, I am afraid that, honestly, the almost three weeks that I have invested in the analysis are not enough to discover how they can withstand friction with our skin over time. My feeling is that they have the necessary quality to offer us many years of frequent use, but it never hurts to moisturize their surface from time to time by rubbing them gently with a cloth slightly impregnated in a nutritious product designed to moisturize skin items. It’s just a small suggestion that could help you take better care of your ear pads.

To act on reproduction and volume, all we have to do is touch the surface of the headphones enclosure, which is tactile. The gestures are the usual in other devices: dragging our finger upwards we raise the volume, downwards we lower it, forward we jump to the next track, with double touch we pause the reproduction, etc.

A gesture that seems very practical is to place your hand on the surface of the enclosure to lower the volume of blow, so that we can hear the ambient sound. It is useful, for example, if someone approaches with the intention of telling us something while listening to music.

The tactile control seems a great idea because it allows us to manipulate the reproduction intuitively and without the need to locate any button. But, and here comes the “snag” that I am forced to put these headphones in this context, their sensitivity should be higher. And it is that with certain frequency we will be forced to repeat the gesture because at first our touch on the touch surface will not have any effect.

They sound very good, but the surprising thing is their noise cancellation

Sony WH-1000XM3

The technology of noise cancellation has improved a lot during the last years. Brands such as Bose, Sennheiser, AKG, Plantronics or Sony itself, among others, have succeeded in placing several generations of headphones on the market capable of canceling environmental noise more and more efficiently. With these precedents I expected that these Sony headphones were even better in this area than the previous model. And they are. But not better; they are much better.

During the first few minutes of testing, its ability to suppress ambient noise is overwhelming. They are able to recreate a sound space so clean that music costs much less flow naturally and a greater level of detail. Ambient sounds that have a certain homogeneity, such as the noise of the cars’ engines or the friction against the tracks of the Metro trains, are canceled almost entirely.

The human voice does not disappear completely, but it loses a lot of intensity and is placed in the background, which allows us to listen to our music without masking it even minimally. The head of the great performance of the noise cancellation technology of these headphones is the HD QN1 processor, a new chip designed by Sony engineers that, according to the Japanese brand, is much more powerful than the one responsible for the cancellation of the noise in the model WH-1000XM2.

Sony WH-1000XM3

In short, the WH-1000XM3 headphones are, without a doubt, the ones that better cancel the ambient noise of all those that I have been able to try so far. In addition, and this also seems to me very important, its cancellation is quite comfortable. Some headphones equipped with this technology generate a sensation of auditory pressure that can be annoying. At first that feeling also appears in this model, but it is lighter than in other headphones with noise cancellation that I could try and disappears almost completely in a short time, once you have got used to it.

A very interesting feature of the WH-1000XM3 headphones is that the same button on the room that allows us to activate the cancellation allows us to enable an additional operating mode that uses the microphone to pick up the ambient sound, or a part of it, and deliver it to us. In this way, if, for example, we walk down the street while listening to music, we will not remain completely isolated from the environment, something important so that we do not suffer an accident.

However, this does not mean that the background noise is mixed with our music and emborrone. To avoid this, these headphones have a software called Sense Engine that determines the type of activity that we are carrying out to dynamically adapt the environment sound configuration to those specific circumstances. And it works really well because it allows us to enjoy our music, but without completely isolating ourselves from the environment.

In any case, we also have the possibility to modify the equalization to our liking and to control the configuration of the ambient sound using Headphones Connect, a free app available for smartphones with iOS or Android that, in addition, guides us through the connection process of the headphones with our mobile phone. No one, not even less experienced users, will have trouble connecting these headphones to your smartphone wirelessly (remember that they can also connect with cable).

Sony WH-1000XM3

And finally, the time is right for us to talk about the quality of sound that these headphones offer us. As usual, I tried them with all kinds of music (pop, rock, classical, jazz, reggae, etc.), using the same cuts that I have used to analyze dozens of headphones and hi-fi equipment. One quality that I think it is important to highlight is that the effectiveness of the environmental noise cancellation technology makes a decisive contribution to presenting the music with such a clean background that achieves that the level of detail of these headphones is superior to other models of the Same price segment.

On the other hand, its subjective frequency response is very broad. The treble is detailed, and, when the quality of the recording accompanies, they do not have any type of roughness. The voices, on the other hand, are warm and have the harmonic complexity that I have only found in quite expensive headphones. And the serious has stuck and control, although, in my opinion, it lacks the level of detail that, curiously, do have these headphones when restoring the rest of the spectrum of audible frequencies. Even so, it’s nothing dramatic at all.

Its overall sound quality is, in my opinion, comparable to the models of both Sony and other brands significantly more expensive and wired, so I decided to start the article confessing that my impressions about the wireless headphones are changing. The best, of course. Two last notes also important: its autonomy in real conditions of use, with the cancellation activated and a moderate sound pressure level reaches 28 hours, which is a great mark. And, in addition, this model integrates Google Assistant, which allows us to use the headphones to derive direct requests to the assistant of our smartphone.

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