Sony has taken their over-ear WH-1000XM3 and finessed it into a completely different form factor, distilling what made last year’s noise-cancelling cans universally acclaimed. The result is the Sony WF-1000XM3, a pair of sleek, attractive earbuds that combine the best of design, audio, and increasingly valuable truly wireless noise-cancelling technology.
The heavy-hitter under the hood of these slim, oval-shaped earbuds is a HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e chip, the same used in the WH-1000XM3. This allows for a superior and more reliable process of cancelling out everyday frequencies such as noise on public transport or plane engines. Although of particular note is the fact that these earbuds have two more microphones than their predecessors, making a total of four (two in each bud), which work in tandem with the chip to cancel out ambient sound.
Small circular touchpads are included on the face of each bud, with sensitive motion controls adding to the seamless experience. A quick tap on the right bud will pause/unpause music, while a double will skip through songs on any playlist, and a triple will activate a device’s digital assistant. Holding the left bud activates ambient listening mode, which welcomes important environmental sounds in without compromising on audio quality.
A love of lightweight design has been kept consistent, with Sony offering a surprisingly compact set considering all the tech that has gone into it. This includes a proximity sensor which turns on the earbuds as soon as you put them in your ears and pauses function when you take them out. There’s also enough space to include a powerful battery that offers six hours on a single charge, boosted by another 18 hours thanks to the magnetic carrying case which doubles as a power bank.
All of that impressive noise-cancelling wouldn’t mean quite as much if the WF-1000XM3 didn’t also offer a superior sound experience. Fortunately, these earbuds are some of the best performing on the market, with a sound profile that’s not only enhanced by the absence of ambient sound, but also powered by Sony’s refined upscaling DSEE HX technology.
A Digital Sound Enhancement Engine functions as an in-built digital audio converter (DAC), reliable when it comes to really opening up compressed audio files to bring them closer to high fidelity, 24-bit audio. This consistently brings a profile that’s exceptionally balanced and detailed for a Bluetooth device straight out of the box. For any tweaks, the ‘Sony Headphones’ companion smartphone app features a comprehensive EQ, that also allows control over the level of noise cancellation.
Comfort is a matter of choosing the right silicone tips for your ears, with Sony providing an excellent selection with the device. Assuming the perfect fit, the buds hold remarkably well in the ears and, most importantly, don’t start feeling uncomfortable even after long-term use.
Although Sony hasn’t indicated any waterproofing, and the buds can stutter with connection issues on occasion, the WF-1000XM3 does a lot to justify an ambitious retail tag of $399.95 AUD. The delicate balance between superior noise-cancelling in a truly wireless set, and a well-rounded, top-quality sound profile, edge this forward as one of Sony’s finest audio products to date.