Sony WF-1000XM3 tipped for new feature you won't get with the AirPods Pro

Sony WF-1000XM3
(Image credit: Sony)

The Sony WF-1000XM3 are the best true wireless earbuds you can buy right now – and they may be about to get even better, with rumors mounting that the wireless earbuds are about to get support for Hi-Res Audio

The earbuds appeared very briefly on the Qualcomm aptX website, being described as 'aptX HD enabled'; this post was swiftly taken down, but not before it was spotted by The Walkman Blog

While we don't know whether this was a mistake or a premature post on the website, it could mean that aptX HD support is coming to the Sony WF-1000XM3 in the form of a firmware update. 

aptX HD is a Bluetooth codec that can wirelessly transmit Hi-Res Audio files at 24-bit/48kHz – something that, until now, the Sony WF-1000XM3 haven't been able to handle. 

What's the benefit of aptX HD?

Unlike lossy MP3 files, Hi-Res Audio codecs are capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better-than-CD quality music sources, a sound that closely replicates the quality that the musicians and engineers were working with in the studio at the time of recording.

The increased bit depth of Hi-Res Audio improves the dynamic range (or, how loud and quiet a track sounds), basically giving you a greater breadth of things to actually hear from the recording, making tracks sound more expansive and detailed.

Audiophiles swear by Hi-Res streaming services like Tidal, Amazon Music HD, and Qobuz for this reason – and if the Sony WF-1000XM3 can appeal to this market by bringing the fidelity of Hi-Res Audio to the convenience of true wireless earbuds, it could reinvigorate its already-brilliant earbuds.

aptX HD support is a feature that only a few true wireless earbuds can claim, including the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 and the Master & Dynamic MW07. The Apple AirPods, and the newer AirPods Pro certainly don't come with Hi-Res Audio support. 

aptx hd

A screenshot of the post before it was taken down.  (Image credit: Qualcomm via The Walkman Blog)

If the Sony WF-1000XM3 really are getting aptX support, it does raise questions about the brand's own wireless Hi-Res Audio codec. 

As What Hi-Fi? points out, Sony already owns its own 24-bit capable codec, called LDAC, which it could use free of charge – unlike aptX, for which Qualcomm charges a license fee. 

Saying that, the WF-1000XM3 have never supported LDAC, and its class-leading over-ears, the Sony WH-1000XM3 support both aptX HD and LDAC, and come with a very similar processing chip to their true wireless sibling. So, it's entirely possible that the buds will one day be capable of handling both codecs.  

With rumors of yet another competitor coming to the market (the AirPods Pro Lite, to be exact), adding Hi-Res Audio support in any form would be a savvy move from Sony – and could secure the WF-1000XM3's place at the true wireless top spot for the rest of 2020.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.