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Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds review

AirPods Pro for Android

(Image: © Aakash Jhaveri)

Our Verdict

The Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless earphones are the new earbuds to beat with class-leading noise-cancelling, above average battery life and loads of smart features.

For

  • Effective noise-cancellation
  • Classy design
  • Fun sound profile
  • Decent battery life

Against

  • No LDAC support
  • Fit not for everyone

Sony has big plans for the Indian wireless audio market, and the WF-1000XM3 is the crown jewel of its lineup. It takes the brand’s lauded 1000X family of noise-cancelling headphones and brings all that goodness to a new and smaller form factor.

Earlier this year, Sony shared its ambition of capturing a significant share of the truly wireless audio market of India. That included multiple offerings at various price points to cater to different audiences. The Sony WF-1000XM3 is not only the most expensive one in the lineup but also the best one.

Originally launched last year, these are finally making their way to India and is one of the only TWS to offer actual active noise cancellation. Targetted at enthusiasts, it boasts of a ton of features that set it apart from other in the market such as 360-degree spatial audio, a full-fledged equalizer and location-based sound profiles.

For high-end products such as these, it is crucial to have reliable and effective software support to back them up and use them to their full potential. While the Apple AirPods Pro have existed for a while now, options for Android users had been few. That changes now.

Price and release date

The Sony WF-1000XM3 truly wireless headphones are now available in India at a price of Rs 19,990. It will be available starting August 6 on Amazon. For the first sale on Amazon Prime Day, it can be purchased for a special introductory price of Rs 17,990.

Check out the Sony WF-1000XM3 on Amazon.in

Design

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

If earbuds were only judged on their design alone, the WF-1000XM3 would already win all the marbles: They lack the protrusive bulk of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless, and the unapologetic dorkiness of Apple AirPods. Plus, weighing just 8.5 g each, they're comfortable in the ear and they look stunning. Though, based on your ear pinnae shape, they might protrude out a little more than other TWS buds. That will inherently also worsen the fit and isolation.

The headphones come in a smart rechargeable case, with on-trend copper lid, and are held securely in place with magnets. The case itself doubles as a battery pack, if you need a rescue recharge when out and about. Neither the buds nor the case is particularly small or dainty, but considering the sheer amount of tech and battery inside, we will let this pass.

In terms of comfort, the fit of the WF-1000XM3 inspires confidence. Cleverly twisting into place, secured by the structure of your ear, they feel snug and reasonably comfortable for reasonable amounts of time. Importantly, they don’t feel as though they’re likely to drop out as you bop down the street and these are easy headphones to live with - just chuck the charging case in your pocket and you’re good to go. 

A wide selection of non-slip rubber and foam earbud covers are supplied in the box, so it’s worth experimenting to find one that offers the best fit/comfort. Sony suggests using the foam ones but we found the silicone tips to be a little more comfortable. When you get them, be sure to spend some time figuring out the exact fit and method of wearing, as they are a big part of the noise cancellation which we will touch upon ahead.

sony wf-1000xm3

The assortment of eartips (Image credit: Steve May)

Features

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

There's little missing when it comes to specifications: In addition to Bluetooth NFC pairing, there’s Google Assistant support and familiar Sony audio processing refinements, including DSEE HX, which is available to restore subjective detail to lossy streams. There’s also support for hands-free voice calling.

Even better, the partnering Sony Headphones Connect app allows you to make EQ changes, if you like the fine-tune your audio, which is an option that not every headphone includes these days. It is one of the more comprehensive audio apps available with options to customise gestures, select Bluetooth connection or sound quality prioritization, etc. 

As every wireless headphone should, even these have touch controls to control playback or summon the assistant. Not the most comfortable owing to the in-ear design, but better to have than to not. There’s also in-ear detection on the Sony WF-100XM3 — removing either of them will automatically pause the playback and resumes when you put it back in. The touch panel can also do the same. Unfortunately, there’s no on-bud volume control.

There’s also a Quick Attention mode available on the right-hand earbud that was a staple in the over-ear WH-1000X series allowing you to touch the earbud to clearly hear ambient sound. It’s a cool concept that amplifies outdoor sounds momentarily, but in practice, it is barely useful.

The other bad news? There’s no support aptX HD or Sony’s high headroom LDAC Bluetooth extension. The WF-1000XM3 also use a 24-bit audio processor, not the 32-bit silicon found in the WH-1000XM3. Audiophiles will have to look at full-sized cans if you want all the features.

Performance

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

Don’t be fooled by the tiny 6mm drivers onboard; they exude clarity and bring a believable soundstage with exquisite detail.

Not just that, they work well for predominantly vocal content (like podcasts) too with a smooth mid-range. 

The versatility extends to different genres of music as well. For instance, rock music is punchy and hard without distorting or bleeding. There’s some enjoyable bass for pop mixes too, without venturing into muddy territories. For any thumper bass, you should consider bigger headphones.

Of course, the real test for the WF-1000XM3 is their noise-cancelling abilities. To learn more we took them on a noisy commute, and a touristy sightseeing tour, then subjected them to the ultimate test - in flight. The results were surprising.

Of course, the reason to buy the Sony WF-1000XM3 is noise-cancelling abilities. There’s a limit to how far we can test them while confined indoors, but for the usual ambient noise such as fans or rain, these perform amicably. The QN1e engine seems to do a fair job. Holding a conversation with them worn is difficult.

Something like airplane cabin noise might be a little too much for these diminutive buds to completely silence, the droning should definitely be reduced.

Sony has positioned the Bluetooth antenna in the pointy bit of the headphone, and uses a new L/R simultaneous transmission system (instead of a conventional master-slave relation) which reduces latency, handy if you’re watching a show on your smartphone. It also improves signal stability, lowers power consumption and lets you connect just one earbud if you need to. This worked well for the most part, but there were definitely some sporadic cut-offs, especially if I was walking around a lot and my head came in the way of the direct line of transmission.

Battery life

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

The good stuff continues with battery life. With ANC turned on, we’re looking at about 6 hours of playback on a single charge, with a bit more with noise cancellation turned off. This helps it edge past others in this segment, such as the AirPods Pro’s 5 hours.

The charging case has a quick charge mode. A ten-minute charge provides over an hour of listening - and the case charges over USB-C in over two hours. Three additional charges are stored in the case.

Final verdict

There are very few issues with the WF-1000XM3. Sony has done a great job by adding a worthy competitor in the premium truly wireless audio space. It ticks all the right boxes when it comes to sound quality, features, battery life and of course, noise cancellation. 

For my personal preferences, I’d have a design that doesn’t stick out so much and has some more controls on the bud. Granted that this is not a recent product, but that is what I predict the entire TWS space to move towards in the future.

In its current state, the Sony WF-1000XM3 gets a strong recommendation from us if you’re looking for wireless earphones in the sub Rs 20,000 segment. Android finally has an AirPods Pro alternative.

Check out the Sony WF-1000XM3 on Amazon.in