Product Review: Sony WH-1000XM3 ANC Headphones

I have been on the lookout for a set of headphones that will cancel out some of the annoying and distracting street noise and peripheral conversations. I wanted something that would allow me to cut out distractions whilst working from home, as well as something that could help me relax whilst I am not at my work desk. I had lofty expectations and I was looking for something that was deemed the best out there.

After conducting a fair bit of research, the two sets of headphones that seemed to be the top of the heap were the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Sony’s WH-1000XM3’s. Both of these are over-ear wireless noise cancelling headphones. The consensus amongst many reviewers is that the Bose headphones have some benefits in that they are more comfortable and have some functional perks over the Sony headphones but the WH-1000XM3’s win in terms of noise cancellation.

I decided to purchase the Sony WH-1000XM3 noise cancelling headphones. In this review, I will outline my thoughts on these headphones and lay out whether these make a good working from home companion.

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Noise Cancellation?

Active noise cancellation technology is a really fascinating method of reducing the noise that you can hear. Headphones with noise cancellation technology work by detecting the incoming noise frequencies and then creating a sound wave with the same amplitude but with inverted phase to the original sound using its noise-cancelling processor.

At this stage, it might be worth explaining what frequency and amplitude is, as these terms can be a little bit confusing. Frequency is the speed of vibration which will determine the pitch of the sound, the WH-1000XM3’s have a frequency response of 4Hz-40,000Hz. Amplitude relates to the size of the vibration and will determine how loud the sound is.

So in the most basic of terms, the headphones assess the pitch of an incoming sound and matches it with an equally loud but opposite wave which cancels the incoming sound.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Box

Initial impressions

The Sony 1000XM3 headphones come with the following:

  • Sony WH-1000XM3 Headphones
  • Hard carry case
  • USB-C cable
  • Audio cable
  • Airline adapter
  • Manuals

The hard carry case holds the headphones in place perfectly. The case reminds me of the FLIR One Pro case which has a similar premium feel. The small touches on the hard case like the copper coloured zip slider and the internal compartments for the other accessories really demonstrate an attention to detail.

The headphones themselves look great and it was the sharp stylish look which contributed to me buying these over the Bose counterparts. The build quality is great, the headphones feel sturdy and extend easily with a light satisfying click.

The Bluetooth range also took me by surprise as I am able to walk all around my house whilst connected to the laptop or mobile phone with minimal disruption. I am probably too used to having restrictive wired headphones but I really can’t imagine going back to a wired set now. The battery life is also impressive with Sony claiming that the headphones can achieve a whopping 30 hours. I have had the headphones over a week and have been using them pretty extensively and still have over 60% charge.

These are not uncomfortable headphones by any means but I feel the comfort factor is one of the headphones weaker points. I do feel my ears heating up whilst in use which can lead to me taking them off for brief periods to allow my ears to cool down. Whilst at my desk the issue of overheating is minimal but when I was carrying out some light work in the garage I found my ears sweating within a fairly short amount of time. I will certainly not be taking these headphones to the gym.

The Sony 1000XM3 headphones utilise a touch-sensitive control scheme which allows you to change a track or alter the volume of music using swiping gestures against the right ear cup. Before buying these headphones I was sure this was going to be a downside but to be honest, they work really well. There are two buttons which control the noise cancelling and the power but all other controls are based on swiping or tapping. By placing your hand over the right cup it instantly allows you to hear ambient noise which allows you to have that quick conversation without the need to remove the headphones.

The Sony 1000XM3 headphones also are supported by an accompanying smartphone app. The app gives you a lot of freedom to adjust for different sound preferences. It also allows you to adjust the noise cancelling levels or to cut out low-frequency sound whilst allowing voice sounds through. The app is really simple to use and is good for demonstrating the headphone’s capability to friends by swiping up and down the noise cancelling slider. The only issue I had was that sometimes the app would show my headphones at 0% battery which would resolve itself after turning them off and back on.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Box 2

How they sound

Straight away I noticed the excellent bass on these headphones, I enjoy quite a heavy bass so this suited me perfectly. There are a ton of settings through the app if you are looking for a more mellow sound or something that focuses more on the vocals.

I took a phone call using the headphones and whilst they seemed to perform quite well, it would not be my preferred method of taking calls. Also switching connectivity back and forth between my laptop and mobile felt a bit clunky.

Noise control

My house is adjacent to a busy main road so I was looking forward to testing these headphones out against passing traffic. To my astonishment, they managed to cut out the low-frequency traffic noise completely. Outside the house, the traffic was still audible but greatly reduced. So I would say it passed my first test but I wanted to know how it would fair against my son gaming and my wife watching tv in another room.

With just the noise cancelling on and no music playing, I would say roughly speaking the headphones cut down the noise of my son gaming in half. With light music playing through the headphones the noise was cut out completely. I struggle to write whilst listening to music so I was reliant on just the noise cancelling feature and for me, it was good enough to allow me to work in a fairly comfortable and quiet environment. If you are looking for more detailed stats on the actual dB reduction check out RTINGS.com’s detailed review.

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In terms of price you will be able to find these for around the £299 mark, I bought mine from Argos as they do a buy now pay later scheme which gives me 12 months interest-free finance. This clinched the deal for me as I will be able to pay it up in smaller installments.

Conclusion

The Sony 1000XM3’s not only met but exceeded my expectations in regards to their noise cancelling capabilities. The headphones and carry case both look great and I would go as far as to say they are the best looking over-ear headphones on the market.

These headphones do pass the test of cutting out distractions whilst working from home as well as allowing me to immerse myself in music or podcasts in my leisure time. Even with the minor downsides I have raised throughout this review, the WH-1000XM3’s are still a great set of headphones for both working at home and commuting.

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