It’s impossible to measure all that we hear. Perfect sound is what makes one feel content. For the umpteenth time the feeling punctuated my thoughts as one track of Alan Parsons Project’s Eye In The Sky faded into another. The bombastic instrumental opener Sirius makes way for the headphone-friendly title track, which in turn moves into the mid-tempo Children of the Moon. The balance between pop and progressive that APP aimed for could have easily got lost had the pair of earphones I was listening to the 1982 album on were mediocre. One of the best engineered albums of all-time deserves to be heard on well-engineered speakers. In my case, it’s Sony’s WF-1000XM3, a true wireless version of the company’s popular audio noise cancelling headphones.
Design and feel
Sony is known for noise cancelling sound solutions that take on note-for-note all other brands. The WF-1000XM3 has big-hitting features and also a couple of quibbles. The charging case the earbuds come in has a premium finish and even though it may appear slightly big, it’s not unwieldy in the pocket. Besides, it’s always good to know that the case won’t easily run out of charge.
On both the earbuds are touch controls under a circular disc. The left one by default is the sound mode and the right one is for playback options. It’s pretty simple: To pause, one tap and to play, one tap. You can receive calls by double tapping and call Siri or Google Assistant by tapping and holding for a few seconds.
There are two big options built in, which you can toggle using the touchpad on the left earbud. First, the big one: Noise cancellation. On most brands, once the mode is turned on there is almost a sucked-into-a-vacuum kind of feeling, which can be uncomfortable. There is none of that on the WF-1000XM3. Most earbuds one can buy offer a certain level of noise isolation. It’s about having a good seal on the ears but noise cancellation takes technology a few notches higher. The pandemic obviously didn’t allow us to try the pair of earbuds of planes or the subway but it’s supposed to cut out all the static around the user. We tried it on less-crowded streets and the results are very good.
Next is ambient sound mode. It is the opposite of noise cancelling and is equally cool. It uses the built-in microphones to take sounds from all around the user and shoot it into the ears. It kind of feels like you are not wearing the earbuds but, of course, you are! This mode comes in handy when one has to listen to an announcement or speak to someone without having to take off the earbuds.
Sound and feel
Sound quality is obviously subjective. The question is: Does it offer something balanced? There is certainly a lot of bass, great mids and superb highs. At least that’s what I felt. Since it’s cut from the same cloth as the WH-1000XM3, there is a similar sound signature. And even when you turn on noise cancelling, there is almost no loss on the high end. Though Sony has decided to leave out aptX support, there is DSEE HX processing, which offers clear audio. Irrespective of the genre one is listening to, there is clear instrumental separation. The sound is as immersive as one may get on say on Apple AirPods Pro or Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2. To get the most out of the WF-1000XM3, just choose the right ear tip option in the box. There are silicon tips as well as foam tips.
Phone calls? No matter which headset you use, people will know you are using a headset! But the latest from Sony is one of the best ways of taking calls. People haven’t complained about not being able to hear me clearly.
Onto the two problems we have with the pair of earbuds. First, it doesn’t offer sweat or water resistance, which is kind of weird for a premium product. It could have been a great pair for exercising because the fit is so snug that it won’t fall out despite all the jumping and running, even without having earhooks. Second, it would have been nice had the user been able to connect the earbuds to two devices at once. You can be watching a movie on the laptop but then decide to take a call.
Is it for you?
With 24 hours of playback with noise cancelling on, what more can one demand from these truly wireless earbuds? There are a lot of LED lights on the case to let you know the status of the earbuds. It even allows mono listening; just remove one earbud and the music will still continue. There is also the option to connect with an Android phone as much as an iPhone. In short, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 offers impeccable sound and noise cancellation.
At a glance
- USP: Noise cancellation truly wireless headphones
- Battery: Headphones offer six hours of power and the charging case provides a further 3x charge.
- Supports: Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX (DSEE HX) reproduces your digital music files with rich, natural sound.
- Price: Rs 19,990