Sony WH1000XM3

As I explained in my post about the Bang & Olufsen H6s, I'm not an audiophile, I don't know what I'm talking about - so take everything you read here with a pinch of salt. But I bought another pair of headphones, kinda to replace the H6s - but not for any fault of the H6s.

I wanted a wireless pair of noise cancelling headphones. I've never been a huge fan of noise cancelling headphones because every pair I've tried have always sounded a little off to me and perhaps more importantly, I didn't have a real reason to need noise cancelling headphones. When I began to, working in more noisier  open offices, I still didn't want to sacrifice sound quality.

As wireless headphones have got better, from wireless and sound performance, to other smart features and continued noise cancelling improvements, I began to feel the pull. I was interested in either the Bose QC35s or Sony WH1000XM2, they seemed to be the two top competitors, with either being better than the other at different things. I mostly preferred what I heard about the Sony's so settled on giving those a try.

Sony announced and released a new revision (WH1000XM3) , which has judging by reviews, given itself a more convincing edge in many areas over the Bose set. I'm sure Bose will respond in time though, it has been a competitive race so far - no real reason to believe it will end now.

The revision to the Sony set pushed me to actually commit to finally buying them, the better active noise cancelling, USB-C charging & the cool new copper accents made what was already an attractive proposition, even more so.

Verdict

They're good, everything I wanted them for - they work fantastically. Wireless and noise cancelling performance and the smart features (the touch controls, Google assistant integration and noise cancelling options / additions). They're not, however - as good as the B&O H6's for sound quality - and the difference is not insignificant.

I did expect this, wireless headphones are very good these days, but not that good yet. Noise cancelling does affect audio quality and I accepted that trade off before I bought them. Overall, the sound is just mushier and less clear, the bass is a bit too heavy and noisy in comparison. It has an equaliser you can play with, but I haven't wanted to yet - I'll have a proper look eventually.

But out of the box - the Sony's keep my H6's in use when I really want a light, portable, easy to drive pair of headphones to appreciate music in. That use case is mostly at home, but I'm happy with that.

Battery life is also very good and USB-C charging is convenient. An increasing number of things can be charged from the two USB-C MacBook Pro chargers I have around, adding another device that can fit under this umbrella is useful and satisfying.

Comfort, they are better than the B&O H6's, which are pretty comfortable. Where I'd have to take a break after 1.5-2 hours in the H6s, I've worn the Sony's for 3-4 hours at a time with barely thinking about comfort. So there's a nice improvement there, and given the intended use for the Sony's (at work, commuting, walking at lunch, etc) - this is a significant upgrade.

My main complaints about the Sony WH1000XM3 are:

  • Multi device support is might as well be non-existent. You can pair them to two devices and swap between two without too much effort if you set them up in a certain way, but it's not worth the effort and is a bit annoying. I believe the Bose do a better job here. The pairing process is fast if you want to just a hard swap, so it's not a huge deal, but given their competitors do this better - I expect better.
  • The microphones for call quality aren't great, they're functional, but I'm not sure I'd deliberately take a call in them.

Overall though, I'm very happy with them and would recommend them to anyone looking for a wireless pair of active noise cancelling headphones in this price bracket (£330).

As I said in my post about the H6s though, go and read a review by someone who actually knows what they're talking about before making purchase decisions..