End of an era: Sony's iconic XM3 headphones are finally flying to the big gig in the sky

Sony WH-1000XM3
(Image credit: Future)

Look, 2018 is a lifetime ago in the true wireless headphone space. And we should've seen this coming after Sony released a pair of newer, shinier headphones in the intervening years – after all, the XM3's subsequent, excellent Sony WH-1000XM4 and Sony WH-1000XM5 hardly slipped relatively unnoticed under the radar. 

But despite two new siblings within its own flagship family and countless releases from rival brands in the nigh-on six years since they launched – including some of the best over-ear headphones on the market – we still recommend the XM3 headphones. And we have been nudging buyers toward them for more than five years. 

Now, it looks as if Sony is finally closing the book on the excellent WH-100XM3. Why am I so certain? I tried to buy a set earlier (hoping to nab a Memorial Day deal but, well, after Memorial Day) and was surprised to see that Amazon had sold out. In fact, at the time of writing, every online retailer I have a standby cart with has a red "out of stock" sign beside the cans, in all colorways. And I refuse to let this winning product simply slip away! 

I truly believe we're witnessing the ascension of a ubiquitous office staple to the great big gig in the sky – and the birth of a modern classic. As I look over at my office colleagues, I see four pairs of WH-1000XM3. Two examples are taped up on the right ear cup; a known weak point. But not one of the wearers seems to care. 

Goodbye old friend, farewell it seems… 

Sony WH-1000XM3

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are still a regular sight at TechRadar HQ (Image credit: Sony)

We'll dance again in my dreams. It seems apt that the song lyrics above were written by The Devil Makes Three – firstly because of Sony's moniker for the headphones it has seemingly pulled the plug on, but also because the end of the road must be directly related to the fact that the 3-suffixed cans are the oldest in an XM3/XM4/XM5 trio. 

When I cut my audiophile teeth as a staffer for What Hi-Fi? in early 2019, the WH-1000XM3 were the pinnacle of wireless audio technology – easily some of the best noise-canceling headphones anyone had ever tested. Nothing else had ever come close. Don't get me wrong, wireless headphones were hardly in their infancy (we have a thorough deep-dive into the history of wireless headphones if you fancy a weekend read) but the Sony WH-1000XM3 were different; they were the first pair everyone wanted. 

I'll be honest, by today's standards, the audio might just be a little warm, full and (dare I say it?) tubby compared to the incremental sonic upgrades perceptible in the XM4 and XM5 – but at the time, forget it. They were outstanding. And even today, we'll overlook the positively ancient Bluetooth 4.2 connection because you do get aptX and aptX HD, as well as LDAC. To clarify: two of those are wireless high-res audio Bluetooth alternatives that got dropped in the XM4 and XM5.

And let's face it, the XM4 was essentially the XM3 with a few screws tightened, a tweak here, a tuck there, and a new number. The XM3 was the trailblazer. Put the two siblings together and you'll struggle to tell the difference. 

I emphatically remember being able to alter the volume by swiping up on the newly flusher, more svelte ear cup. It felt nothing short of magical. 

But enough of the eulogy. If you want to own a portable product that is quickly crossing over into modern classic territory, I recommend you visit your local dealership (and ask them to go check the back of the stock-room) or look in earnest for the best Sony WH-1000XM3 deals. I know that's my plan, first thing Saturday morning anyway. Good luck! 

Becky Scarrott
Audio Editor

Becky became Audio Editor at TechRadar in 2024, but joined the team in 2022 as Senior Staff Writer, focusing on all things hi-fi. Before this, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.