After the WF-1000X, Sony continues its drive to offer wireless headphones with active noise reduction A real feat for such a small format. Without going through a second generation in the nomenclature, the multinational company markets the WF-1000XM3, whose name is very close to the award-winning WH-1000XM3 helmet.
Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless headphones in their case // Source: Numerama
Parentage is understandable: Sony intends to get closer to the performance of its headphones, but with headphones whose ergonomics are closer to Apple AirPods. In short, it is a quality alternative for those who would like to be – a little – cut off from the world without using a helmet. All for 249.99 euros.
It is apparently very complicated to design very nice wireless headphones. AirPods? Overly caricatured for their protruding stem. Powerbeats Pro? You look like a jock with it and then you have to take it to the gym afterwards. For its WF-1000XM3s, Sony doesn’t do much better. If they do everything to be discreet, the ear cushions take the shape of a small bean that protrudes cheerfully from the ear. At least the form is a little more all-purpose and, Sony obliges, the quality of manufacture is there. We also appreciate the logo which is displayed in copper colour – a touch of originality.
The quality of manufacture is at the rendezvous
This copper finish is also found on the case delivered with the earphones. As with the AirPods, it is used for storage and recharging. Sony has opted for simplicity and practicality in design. We can protest against its size, which does not allow it to slip easily into a pocket. But, excellent point, the WF-1000XM3 are housed inside at high speed v. And if you ever have any doubt when you put them back on, a colour code is there to remind you of the position of the earphones in their case. Clever and well-thought-out.
Each earpiece is equipped with a tactile surface to trigger a few actions. By default, the one on the left manages noise reduction (by staying pressed, it can be turned off for a few moments if necessary) and the one on the right manages playback. Via the Sony Headphones Connect application, they can be configured independently to provide access to other shortcuts (but not volume management). Be careful, however, the surface is quite sensitive and it is not uncommon to unintentionally launch a command just by touching it.
Cover of Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Headphone Box // Source: Numerama
Application of the WF-1000XM3 Earphones
When you open the packaging, you’ll find a note inviting you to download a companion application to fit and configure the WF-1000XM3 (don’t worry, you don’t have to restart it every time to listen to music). Although the connection is sometimes capricious, we must recognize that it offers several appreciable possibilities of personalization. You can activate the adaptive sound control (not recommended), turn off the DSEE HX (which improves audio quality), act on noise reduction access an equalizer, choose a sound mode (customization is recommended) or update the headphones.
Not all competitors of the WF-1000XM3 offer as many features and this distinction is a strong argument in favour of the product designed by Sony. For the connection, it is important to note that each headset is autonomous (only one of the two can be used if necessary). During our few days of use, we suffered a handful of untimely cuts (which totally disappeared after an update).
Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones (Rear) // Source: Numerama
Delivered with seven sets of tips of various sizes and finishes, the WF-1000XM3 strives to be as comfortable as possible. On this point, we were not entirely convinced – and perhaps it is because of the shape of our ear. After several hours of use, our observation is the following: when you wear them, it feels like you’re losing them, and when you take them off, it feels like they’re still there. More positive on this criterion, our confrere from FrAndroid nevertheless pointed out a discomfort after long sessions. All in all, the WF-1000XM3 are not the most comfortable in-ear earphones on the market.
For example, it would have been nice if Sony had used a technology similar to thefit wing of the MW07 from Master & Dynamic. It facilitates insertion into the pinna and provides a more convincing fit. At the finish line, the WF-1000XM3 will be used more often in sedentary mode, just as we would advise against taking them with us in a gym (they fell quickly when we wanted to run with them). Anyway, they don’t have the design for and give the best of themselves with a plus laid-back listening (which doesn’t mean in a quiet environment).
Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones (Front) // Source: Numerama
Before talking about sound rendering, we should come back to the main argument of the WF-1000XM3: their active noise reduction. This technology allows you to cut the sounds coming from outside to create a kind of bubble to better isolate yourself from the world (and enjoy your playlists). Without reaching the prowess of the WH-1000XM3 headphones, renowned for its high-flying performance, the headphones do very well. Especially when compared to competitors selling in the same price range, but without this specificity. Admittedly, they are unable to guarantee total silence. But if you’re looking for an accessory that removes – really removes – all noise, choose headphones.
The WF-1000XM3 provides a very, very balanced partition
As far as sound rendering is concerned, the WF-1000XM3 provides a very, very balanced score with a signature that plays on the accuracy rather than emphasizing on a portion of the spectrum (example: the bass, never tiring). We may find that they lack a hint of personality, if not drive. Except that nothing is muffled and everything seems in its place, ensuring welcome versatility, well-cut highs and airy mids. And, at worst, there’s always the very complete equalizer to tweak at will (avoid presets that distort more than they satisfy).
In any case, the WF-1000XM3s do not blush when faced with solutions positioned at the same price and easily justify the price difference that separates them from the more affordable ones (yes, the Apple AirPods are bland on the side). In terms of performance, they are on par with the Powerbeats Pro (more generous on bass) and the MW7 from Master & Dynamic (a little more detailed) – headphones that sell for 250-300 euros.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Headphone Box // Source: Numerama
One might have thought that active noise reduction would limit the range of the WF-1000XM3. Nay! With more than six hours of listening time without going through the USB-C recharging case, the headphones fit into the top of the basket. With the noise reduction turned off, the eight hours can easily be exceeded. Including the case, total autonomy is given to more than 24 hours, which is more than enough to last a week without having to refill the tank.
However, like the Powerbeats Pro, Sony has forgotten about wireless charging. Maybe it’ll be for the next generation…
Indicative note : 4/5
With the WF-1000XM3, Sony is taking the gamble of offering the best of its WH-1000XM3 headphones in a smaller format. In broad terms, it is successful. Without being able to offer the same efficiency in active noise reduction earphones have the merit of offering what some competitors at the same price do not.
As a bonus, active noise reduction does not affect the very convincing sound quality (which can be customized via an application) or the Battery Life which has many hours of listening time in reserve. One will simply have reservations about the comfort and the very sedentary side of the product. So much so that I prefer… a helmet.
- Beautiful finish
- Impressive noise reduction
- No wireless charging
- Questionable comfort
- Not for athletes