Sony Wf 1000Xm3 Review

By Yvonne

The Sony WF1000XM3 was purchased by us so that our expert reviewer could fully test it and evaluate it. Continue reading to see our complete product review.

The WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds from Sony is a major breakthrough in the market. Sony's WF-1000XM is a big step forward in wireless earbud market. The wildly successful (and confusedly named) WH1000XM3 over-ear earbuds made a lot more heads and they are still considered among the best Bluetooth noise cancelling earbuds. Sony took that design and technology and made a product which competes with Apple AirPods Pro and AirPods Pro. The WF-1000XM3 headphones were my first purchase. I used them for several days. Here’s how they fared. 

Design - Definitely elegant, certainly Sony

When I opened the WF-M3s, the first thing that struck me was how they had taken over from the WH100XM3 over-ear headphones. They’re available in two colors, black or silver, but those colors feature Sony’s classic copper accent tone in various places. The battery case is a great example of this. It is just as similar to the AirPods Case, but larger and more spacious. 

The magnetic lid is flat and sits on top of the case. It's copper-colored which adds a nice touch to the matte black plastic. From a design standpoint, the earbuds are quite unique. Most of the build is comprised of a flattened, pill-shaped enclosure with Sony’s logo and the noise-canceling mic array sporting the copper accent. The eartip itself comes off this outer shape at a biased angle to better align with your ear canal so that when you’re wearing them, they sit flat and straight against the side of your head. Sony took the less-traveled route to true wireless headphones with both the case as well as the earbuds. 

Other manufacturers opt to make the earbuds as dangling stems such as the Airpods or smaller footprints like the Galaxy Buds. I like that the earbuds don’t disappear into your ear, but I also like that they look more “normal” than the dangling-stem variety. This category wins my vote.

Comfort: Could there be anything better

I am an extremely tough customer when it comes to the fit of my earbuds—a fact that is further amplified when the earbuds are true wireless and could fall to the floor. Comfort is a top priority for the Sony WF1000XM3s. They have silicone ear tips that fit comfortably into the ear. There are three sizes to choose from, as well as three options of foam tips. So they aren’t just sitting there dangling. 

But I was a little disappointed to see that, even though Sony has chosen an elongated enclosure, they haven’t included an outer-ear wing or fin-like some other brands. This makes them a little more precarious than I’d like for a premium pair of true wireless buds. I also think that, though they aren’t the tightest around, they do feel really stuffy when wearing them. At 0.3 ounces, they’re also not the heaviest nor the lightest I’ve tried. 

The running theme of these earbuds is clearly a middling one, and because comfort and fit are largely subjective to a specific listener, I can’t knock Sony too much on this point. You have more options for customization than if there were no eartips.

They took all I put at them, including the most bass-heavy Hip-Hop music and even the lightest of acoustic tracks.

Build Quality and Durability: Elegant, durable

This earbuds are the best part of having them. It is constructed of soft, matte material with a copper-toned lid. It opens quickly and snaps shut very satisfyingly. 

Sony made the earbuds from similar materials and included magnets in the case so that they can be reinserted. High-quality materials and magnetic features are essential. The Jabra Elite 65t's earbuds had one major problem. They were too small to fit inside of their cases, so opening them took some effort. It is essential to have a simple, straightforward mechanism that does all the common tasks you need.

One major drawback of the WF-1000XM3s is that they don’t offer any official waterproof rating. I’m actually surprised this isn’t included here, considering how much attention to detail has been spent on the rest of the features. For those users who use earbuds to exercise, this could be an issue. While I did bring these along for a gym session and they didn’t seem to be harmed by any sweat, I can’t say with any firm confidence that they’d survive a long, strenuous session, or even some light precipitation. If you are looking for an all-purpose pair of headphones, this is the place to look.

Audio Quality: Full, rich, and fully customizable

The WF-100XM3 earbuds have the best sound quality in their class, as is the case for the WH100XM3-over-ears. I’ve tested a lot of true wireless earbuds and even when compared to other luxury brands like Bose and Master & Dynamic, I think the Sony WF-M3s edge them out for a couple reasons. 

The closed 0.24-inch driver is a very capable little speaker that provides an impressively rich response across the full 20–20kHz range. It is rare to find this feature in earbuds. In practice I found it very easy to use, despite the fact that they could handle everything, even heavy-bass hip-hop and acoustic music. 

Now, if you don’t love the sound quality of these earbuds right out of the box, there is actually a lot of recourse available. Thanks to the Sony earbuds Connect app, which I’ll dig into more later, you can actually adjust the EQ with five bands of precision—boosting bass, cutting mids, emphasizing voices, etc. This is combined with adaptive noise cancelling, which gives you the ability to tailor your sound exactly to your preferences. I did find there was more Bluetooth stuttering and distortion than I’d like, which isn’t exactly related to the sound quality, but is something to note. It was quite robust when music was being played. 

Lifespan: Reliable and excellent

For a small package of wireless earbuds like these, manufacturers have made incredible strides in battery life. When you look at Bose’s SoundSport Free, you get about 12-15 total hours when including the case. With AirPods, you’ll get a full 24 hours with the case. 

Sony WF1000XM3 Earbuds provide up to 8 hours of battery life, plus an additional 18 when you add the case. It's a remarkable feat given the volume these tiny drivers produce. Sony does caveat these numbers by stating that you’ll get closer to 6 hours with noise cancellation on and closer to 4 hours if you make a lot of phone calls and use noise cancellation. 

Although I only got 6 hours from the buds, I believe I got more with the battery case. It’s a little hard to give exact figures, because most of the time you’ll want to store the buds inside the case that charges them, losing track of the battery totals. But the reason I outlined the Sony-advertised numbers above is that I’m always impressed when a manufacturer gives you honest, conservative, real-world detail about battery life. They aren’t trying to claim best-in-class, but they want you to know this device will last you through a few workdays. To charge up the whole case it took me about an hour and change, and though I did find the earbuds charge slower than I’d like, I was still pleased with this package.

Setup and Connectivity: Simple setup, but limited connectivity

Setting up the WF-1000XM3 earbuds was about as basic as you could hope for—just pull them out of the case and select them in your Bluetooth menu. I also like how simple it is to kick them back into pairing mode for a second device: Just hold your finger on both ears’ touchpads simultaneously for 7 seconds. So far so good. 

However, I had problems with my first commute on the WF1000XM3s. Although I experienced little to no stuttering, interference, and I was able to get on a fast, crowded subway car I began experiencing real stuttering, cutouts, and other symptoms. These weren’t loud pops, and weren’t that distracting, but they were definitely there. Further investigation revealed that the WF1000XM3s can experience this problem if there is a lot of wireless devices nearby, or if your phone is not far from the headphones and people are between. It’s frustrating, because Sony’s marketing materials brag about a new dual-Bluetooth chip and an improved internal antenna. 

And considering NFC is available right out of the box, Bluetooth 5 is loaded in, and Sony even uses their proprietary DSEE HX sound-enhancing compression protocol, I was really disappointed that the on-paper specs didn’t mean anything for a rocky commute. The firmware was updated and there were no problems when I was in stable conditions. Sony does also offer a “Connection Priority” mode in the app, focusing all the energy on Bluetooth connection, rather than fancy sound quality improvements. This was, however, a real ding in my con column.

Sony WF Earbuds offer up to 8 hours of battery life, plus an additional 18 when you add the case. It is quite impressive considering how loud these tiny drivers pump out.

Software with Extra Features: Get the complete package

I was not disappointed with the WF-1000XM3s. It had a lot of standout features and technology. First, there’s Sony’s impressive QN1e noise cancellation chip here, which serves to provide noise cancellation while only minimally affecting the quality of the audio you’re listening to.

 There’s that afore-mentioned DSEE HX proprietary compression format, dual-noise sensor technology that adapts the noise canceling to your environment in a really intelligent way, and even a handy Quick Attention feature that lets you place a finger over your left earbud to momentarily lower the volume of your music and pass through ambient sound. There are touchpads on each ear that let you assign controls—such as answering phone calls, calling up Google Assistant, and the like. 

The intuitive Sony Connect app allows you to expand these controls even more. The app lets you toggle on the adaptive sound control, which I found really impressive because the app let me assign different “profiles” based on different times of the day and the activities I’d likely be doing in those moments. The EQ and noise cancelling controls can be accessed via the app. 

There’s also a whole 360-degree audio section that prompts you to take a snapshot (literally, with your phone’s camera) of your ear canal and better optimize the way that spatialization of sound is portrayed. These controls are very geeky and audiophile-centric. They can be left as is. But if you’re someone who likes to roll up their sleeves and really get your device acting how you want, then there are tons of options here.

Cost: Not as expensive as you may think

According to Sony, the average WF-M3s retail price is $230. However, Amazon can sometimes undercut this amount depending on whether you are able to catch a deal. This is a high-end price for headphones. It's surprising, however, how inexpensive they can be for their feature list. AirPods Pro (Apple’s answer to the noise-canceling, true wireless game) are $250, for example.

Considering just how good the WF-M3s sound, how capable the noise cancellation is, and how premium the full package is, I can’t help but think Sony is driving a good bargain here.

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless

The true competitor to the WF-1000XM3s doesn’t come from Apple or even Bose. Sennheiser makes it. For exactly the same price, the Momentum earbuds (see on Amazon) give you truly premium sound, but don’t offer noise cancellation. You’ll get less battery life, but in my opinion, a slightly nicer design. The Momentum does offer app control, but not nearly as much as Sony, but Sennheiser packs in IPX4 waterproofing, so they’re probably more friendly to the elements. It’s a close call here, so this is definitely an alternative you should consider.

Final Verdict Almost perfect true wireless earbuds with great noise cancellation. Sony WF1000XM3s truly stunning wireless earbuds packed with a wide range of amazing features. From the class-leading noise cancellation and beautifully rich sound respond to the amazing battery life and premium package, there’s a lot to love here. However, I find the Bluetooth connectivity problems almost inexcusable for an earbud that does everything right. You may have different preferences, but the WF1000XM3s is my recommendation.



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