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Sony MDR-1000X review

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Sony MDR-1000X
  • Sony MDR-1000X
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  • Sony MDR-1000X
  • Sony MDR-1000X
  • Sony MDR-1000X
  • Sony MDR-1000X

Summary

Our Score:

10

Pros

  • Light and comfortable
  • Excellent noise-cancelation
  • Superb sound quality
  • Adjustable ANC level
  • Excellent mic for calls
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • There's a knack to the touch controls

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Key Features

  • Active Noise-Cancellation
  • Bluetooth
  • Capacitive touch controls
  • Personal Optimizer mode
  • Quick Listen mode
  • Backup 3.5mm wired connection
  • Hard carry case and airplane adaptor
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £330.00

What are the Sony MDR-1000X?

Wireless over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation. This is hardly a new territory for a company of Sony's stature, but nonetheless this is a decided move to dominate this end of the market. The Sony MDR-1000X is here to take down the ubiquitous Bose, whose headphones are a common sight on every plane and train.

It's pretty good timing, too. The iPhone 7 has done away with the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack, and those who don’t want to faff about with adaptors will be needing a good cord-cutting alternative. The demand for good wireless headphones has never been higher.

Sony’s biggest obstacle is the Bose QuietComfort 35, which have all but claimed this turf. But Sony isn’t simply offering silence and freedom of movement: it also has some clever tricks to give you greater control over playback and isolation. These skills make Sony a formidable challenger to the throne. Sorry Bose, the Sony MDR-1000X are the new headphones to beat.

Related: Best wireless headphones

Watch: Trusted Explains – What type of headphones should you buy?

Sony MDR-1000X – Design

These are smart-looking headphones, with minimal branding and a streamlined silhouette. They look a little plain from afar, but get closer and you’ll see Sony has made a firm gesture towards luxury. The construction is primarily plastic but it feels tough rather than tacky. There’s polished metal in the headband, and the ear cups and ear pads are wrapped in a very believable synthetic leather that feels lovely.

They don't just look great: these headphones feel good, too. The polyurethane foam stuffed in the ear pads is very squishy and conforms to the shape of your head. The headband uses just the right amount of pressure to stay put, gripping rather than squeezing. They’re also light enough to sit on your head for hours. I wore them on a flight and managed to fall asleep.

Build quality is strong; there’s no creaking and the headband expands with decisive clicks. Compared to the Bose QC35’s basic plastic construction, the Sony MDR-1000X look and feel far more luxurious. Look after them – there’s a hard case included – and they should last you a while.

Sony MDR-1000X

Sony MDR-1000X – Features

Despite the subdued appearance, there’s plenty going on here. The left ear cup has an NFC chip for speedy Bluetooth pairing. The right ear cup offers touch-sensitive controls.

Swiping forwards and backwards to change tracks is easy enough, as is swiping up and down for volume. The double-tap pause/play command takes some practice (you need to hit the right spot) but I got used to it quickly enough.

Tucked away on the edges of the ear cups are a micro USB port for charging and a 3.5mm connection for cabling up when your 20-hour battery runs out. The fact that it's a 3.5mm jack on the MDR-1000X means finding a replacement is much easier than the Bose QuietComfort range, which use 2.5mm to 3.5mm cables.

Sony MDR-1000X

The physical buttons are here, too, with raised edges so you can press them without looking. So far so normal, but here’s what separates the Sony MDR-1000X from its rivals: there are some clever modes accessible from these buttons that give you an unprecedented amount of control over how you listen. A clear voice prompt is piped through the headphones so you know what mode you've engaged.

The Personal NC Optimizer analyses the shape of your head and tailors the sound to each listener. The Ambient Sound mode lets you choose to let some sound through, for when you don’t want total isolation. The Quick Listen mode temporarily lets you hear everything without taking off the headphones.

Internally, DSEE HX processing promises to upscale low-quality compressed music files. These headphones are compatible with aptX Bluetooth for higher quality streaming, but you also get Sony’s own LDAC codec. Sony claims it transmits up to three times more data than conventional Bluetooth, but it only works with certain devices, such as its Xperia smartphones and Walkman digital audio players.

Sony MDR-1000X – Noise cancellation

Until now, Bose has been the undisputed king of noise cancellation. Well, consider that claim disputed. I’ve used the Sony MDR-1000X for nearly two weeks and I reckon they’re just as good at blocking the outside world.

Like all ANC headphones, the Sony MDR-1000X are better at handling constant noise at low frequencies, but they’re also great at turning everything else down a few notches. I tried them on a plane, and they reduced the roaring engines to a whimper. I got even better results on my daily train commute.

Sony MDR-1000X

The general hubbub of London streets was no match, either. I’ve walked right next to road works and moving buses and my music was never interrupted. These headphones only struggled with wind noise, which seems to confuse the microphones. To be fair, I’ve not found a single pair of ANC headphones immune to this.

There’s none of the hiss and whine that often afflict wireless and noise-cancelling headphones. Like the Bose QC35, the Sony’s ANC tech is so effective that it feels like the headphones are actively pushing silence into your head. You’ll feel a change in pressure, which feels a little odd at first, but you’ll get used to it and the sensation goes away when you play music.

The effective noise cancellation also makes these headphones ideal for conversation. I made a phone call by a busy road, but the headphones managed to isolate my voice from the racket of buses, leaving the conversation clear.

Sony MDR-1000X – Extra modes

The Personal NC Optimizer feature I mentioned earlier is a weird and wonderful way of calibrating the sound to the listener. It takes into account the shape of your head, and whether you have big hair or wear glasses. You trigger it from the headphones themselves by holding the NC button and it takes a few seconds. It means you can easily change the profile to take into account wearing a pair of glasses on the fly without having to deal with the faff of a separate app.

The headphones pump out a series of test tones, in the same way that AV receivers do to calibrate surround sound speakers. The tones bounce around on the side of your head before being received by internal microphones. The headphones analyse this data and adjust the sound accordingly. It really works. When I wear glasses, I’m not able to get a good seal around my ears and the sound is affected. The calibration takes this into account and tweaks the tonal balance.

Sony MDR-1000X

Ambient Sound mode is useful too, for when you’re walking through town and want to keep half an ear out for passing cyclists. In my case, it was an irritable gentleman pushing a heavy trolley, swearing at me for being in his way. You can even choose to block out everything but voices – perfect for crying babies or airport announcements.

Quick Listen mode is my favourite. Hold your hand to the right ear cup and the music will drop away, letting in the outside world until you let go. It’s ideal for when a plane stewardess asks you what you want to drink, or when your colleague comes by your desk. Now you can have a quick word without taking off your headphones. It’s a genuinely useful feature, one that I found myself using a lot more than I had anticipated.

Related: Best headphones

Sony MDR-1000X – Sound quality

The Sony MDR-1000X are easily the best noise-cancelling headphones I’ve heard.

They are an immensely entertaining listen, thanks to a combination of rhythmic precision and hard-hitting dynamism. That agility and impact is something you just don’t get with the Bose QC35, which are a little too polite. Sony, meanwhile, offers the sort of fun and energy that might have you get up and dance about when you think nobody is looking.

The MDR-1000X are articulate, too. Detail separation is impressive, with firm leading edges that leave you in no doubt as to what’s happening to those instruments. What’s more, those instruments are given plenty of space. These headphones sound surprisingly spacious given their closed-back design.

Tonal balance is good. These headphones don’t favour any particular part of the frequency range, which makes them very versatile. The treble is crisp without grating or hardening up. The midrange is direct and expressive, with plenty of emotion in vocals. The bass is plentiful and low without ever losing its definition or manoeuvrability, nor ever threatening to overpower the rest. That’s something that even the more expensive Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless struggle with, sometimes coming across as overly rich.

Sony MDR-1000X

I put these headphones through my usual gauntlet of test tracks (from John Williams to Hans Zimmer, via Daft Punk, AC/DC, Taylor Swift and Buena Vista Social Club) and I’ve come to the conclusion that these are seriously talented performers for the money, with no obvious shortcomings. That Sony has managed to make such well-rounded headphones – despite loading them with extraneous tech – is very impressive.

And that’s just the wireless performance. Plug in the cable and the performance is even better, benefiting from a more full-bodied sound and more subtlety in the textures. You don’t get the controls, though, as the touch-sensitive pad only works with Bluetooth.

You can carry on listening when you run out of power through the 3.5mm headphone cable, albeit without amplification or noise-cancellation. Sound quality dips – clarity and energy take a hit – but the overall character remains. Compared to the Bose QC35 in no-power mode, the Sony MDR-1000X sound fuller and better defined.

Related: Best noise-cancelling headphones

Sony MDR-1000X

Should I buy the Sony MDR-1000X?

Yes. Absolutely. The Sony MDR-1000X have managed to dethrone the legendary Bose when it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, which is a remarkable feat in itself.

But Sony not only provides noise-cancellation that challenges the best in the field, it has done so with intelligence. The Ambient Sound and Quick Listen modes are genuinely useful features, which give listeners a level of flexibility that headphones are not known for.

Then there’s the sound quality, which is traditionally a secondary concern for noise-cancelling headphones. It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into the audio-only aspect of the Sony MDR-1000X, because they sound superb. Yes, these cost about £40 more than the Bose QuietComfort 35 but it's worth it.

Put it together and you have a personal bubble of high-quality music. That’s the commuter’s dream.

Verdict

Hands-down the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market – and they’re wireless, too.

Overall Score

10

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H.S

September 19, 2016, 10:16 pm

How does it sound compared to the high end momenteum 2 wireless around ear, which are actually cheaper at $380 on amazon than the Sony 1000x at $400?

Aiii

September 20, 2016, 10:34 am

Having owned the Sennheiser's in the past, and now these, I find the Sennheisers still win in overall sound as far as the balance goes, but the ANC is blown away by the Sony's, it really is no contest as the sound on the Sony's isn't really that far behind. The 1000X are also much more comfortable to wear, as the Momentum 2.0 falls a bit on a tiny side. The 1000X are the go-to ANC headset right now, imo.

Ced Yuen

September 23, 2016, 4:15 pm

H.S – I find the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless to be a little too warm and rich to feel balanced. The Sony, meanwhile, feels more neutral and natural to me, and more agile. It is close, though.

That's the music performance, anyway – when it comes to noise cancellation, the Sony MDR-1000X are way ahead.

der alex

October 19, 2016, 4:30 pm

How do they compare to SENNHEISER PXC 550?

Hurricane

November 20, 2016, 11:01 pm

Is it true it's not possible to replace the ear pads of the MDR-1000X ?
That would be a deal-breaker for me.

Apaar Arora

December 4, 2016, 3:12 am

are they fine for gym?

Clark

December 13, 2016, 2:03 pm

According to the manufacturer, the earpads are replaceable. See here: https://www.amazon.com/forum/-...

vanillasteve

December 14, 2016, 7:25 pm

I would think so. I got rid of my bose qc35s because they would fall of my head when I tried to bench press or bent over row with them. Also, they made a weird hollowly sound that amplified steps when I walked with them on. I have the qc30's now, but I do not think they do as good of a job at noise canceling. Now, all that being said, I tried the 1000x in best buy today and they felt more secure than the bose qc35s, so they MIGHT pass the gym test. The sound and feel great. Oh yeah, the qc30s', while not having the greatest noise canceling, they are very versatile. You can wear them shopping, running etc and people don't seem to notice them. Hope that helps.

Raoul

December 28, 2016, 5:26 pm

Very dissapointing. Can't be used in a plane because of power saving feature.

Donald Scott

January 10, 2017, 11:59 pm

I tend to agree. I wasn't aware of this limitation until you mentioned it, but IMHO it's a dealbreaker for flights. I like to enjoy music/movies—sure, but often there are times where you just want to sleep in silence. This is not possible with the Sony's unless you do something strange, like plug in a dummy jack.

mljk1805

January 12, 2017, 6:46 am

Can you describe more about the problem you are facing?
Did you mean that this mdr1000x won't work in a plane?

Raoul

January 12, 2017, 8:43 am

I mean if you only want to use it for noice cancelling in a plane, like for sleeping, you can not use it because it turns off when no bluetooth or jack is connected. It is a power saving feature. ALso bluetooths is still not allowed in some planes at all or during take off.

ipitydafool

January 12, 2017, 4:55 pm

Can't you just leave it paired with your phone?

Raoul

January 12, 2017, 5:26 pm

Not allowed during take off and landing and for a 12 hour flight or longer your battery will be dead.

ipitydafool

January 12, 2017, 5:43 pm

Well landing and takeoff don't take long, the battery life is 20 hours with bluetooth and ANC turned on, with many reviews saying it's actually longer in the real world. Plenty for the longest flight. It would be nice to not have to do that but it's not a big deal for me.

Raoul

January 12, 2017, 5:56 pm

I'm talking about my cell Phone battery life.

Allen

January 18, 2017, 10:12 pm

First, if your phone dies, It comes with flight adaptor to plug into in-flight entertainment system , and most of the flight companies have usb charging port (for your phone) even in economy class. Secondly, landing and take off don't take that long as ipity said. Maximum 30 minutes per flight, which is nothing for long flights(10 or 10 plus hours).

Raoul

January 19, 2017, 7:37 pm

Not all flights have charge and not all flights allow bluetooth. I think for this price its a serious drawback.

suzerain

January 20, 2017, 12:25 pm

I have this headphones for 2 weeks now. I am more than pleased. Sound is great (however I am not an audophile), battery lasts long, they are very comfortable. Noice cancelling is great, finally I do not have to speak with my coleagues ;) I dreamed to work in silence.

Just one big con for me: poor mic quality for phone calls. I do not know how could the reviewer say it is good. Mics are facing to the sides. Usually people I speak with via phone can barely hear me. I receive quite a lot calls during the day, I hoped to be able to answer them without removing my headphones. Quite often I have to. Do you have any way to solve it? Is there a way to boost that mic input on the phone maybe? Any help would be great appreciated.

Overall, I am very satisfied.

RC Photography

January 27, 2017, 8:59 pm

I have bought a pair of high end noise cancelling SONY headphones (their top model the MDR-1000X) to the tune of over 300 Euros. When I tried to plug them in they pair normally and all was good, they work ok with my phone for the most part even if I have to manually connect them sometimes. With my laptop and desktop computers however is another story. Every time I want to listen to music I need to remove the device, pair it again, restart the computer and only then can I use the device. Hard to understand that a high end pair of headphones like this wouldn't pair. I contacted SONY Support which told me to do a reset on the headphones and try again and let them know if the issue persisted. As the issue wasn't resolved I then did so. After a few days of back and forward email exchanges where SONY's support always had something extra to ask me about the issue but never a solution for my case they said they would escalate the issue and they would get back to me on it.
After over a week I was passing by the Dixon's shop where I bought this which thankfully have a little more customer skills than SONY themselves and when explained the issue allowed me to exchange the headphones on the spot for a brand new pair.
I thought the issues were resolved, certainly SONY wouldn't have put out a pair of headphones at this price range without quality control, one mistake everyone makes and it happens but to my complete surprise the new pair had exactly the same problem, over 4 different computers. 2 laptops and 2 desktops. It pairs a bit better with the phone than the old one but other than that I still have to remove the device and repair each time I pair it with another device in between the computers.
A pair of earphones from ebay that cost a couple quid would pair better, in fact they do and I've never had this issue with them.
Contacted SONY support again to see the result of the escalation since I hadn't heard from them in over a week and they simply asked me a couple more questions, (if they had them then I don't know why they waited so long to ask) and then said the issue was escalated, a few days later without any word from SONY I emailed them again, one more time they said the issue had been escalated and they would get back to me as soon as possible. This last contact was 5 days ago now and honestly I've had enough of this crap. I've paid a ton of money for a defective product and want a refund (which SONY by the way when questioned about said they would not give). I have a worthless piece of crap headset for which I paid over 300 euros and need to restart my PC each time I want to listen to music. SONY's silence about the issue is deafening and I cannot understand how there are so many good reviews about this product.
I will go to the retailer over the weekend and will request a refund from them and will buy the BOSE QC35 which can only be better.
So if you're considering buying a SONY product, no matter what it is, be aware that if something goes wrong and it is clearly deffective, SONY will stall and wash his hands from it claiming they will not refund you no matter what. I've had many good SONY products in the past and never had an issue, this was however the last time I will purchase a SONY item. In this day and age, you don't only need a quality product, you need to understand and respect your customer and deliver exceptional service. There are plenty of competitors and all it takes is one really bad experience to lose a client for life. This has been a pretty bad experience. I feel completely neglected and abandoned by SONY my issues aren't worth a email for them and they are just stalling, no matter what happens now, they've lost me as a client and I hope this review opens your eyes to how you will potentially be treated if something goes wrong with them. Good luck if you buy SONY is all I can wish you.

Dmitry Kirsanov

January 29, 2017, 1:46 am

Err... Right. And if you are flying through the North Pole then interference of Earth's magnetic field plays a significant role. Very serious drawback. I tried to put them on while in open space, and they didn't work, even on lower orbit. I mean - we are in 21st century and your headphones don't work in space? I didn't bother to contact support about it, obviously these headphones are no good.

Dmitry Kirsanov

January 29, 2017, 1:48 am

Just get the silence mp3. Or FLAC, if you are an audiophile.

Adi Crisan

February 13, 2017, 6:58 pm

Hey, mind if I share a different pov?

I understand your frustration regarding the payed price and the pairing issue with a PC, but remember: these headphones were conceived for mobile use not PC use. Moreover, the drivers from the PC's Bluetooth unit (regardless if it's an actual desktop or laptop) are not so up to date as on the mobile device's OS. I've had the same issue with Sony Ericsson MW600 (I know it's a different device but the full information that should have been displayed back in the day when I bought it, was limited to the drivers at the time used by both my mobile phone's OS and pc! - which now are solved and the same device displays full info! - which is kind of the same thing). So, while the headphones's intended use works perfectly with the mobile device (be it a smartphone or portable media player) and the pairing is doing just fine, it's no wander that you, 1st, have to unpairthem from the previously used device (regardless of it's physical nature) and only then restart the pairing process with the PC. This is because the headphones can't be paired with 2 devices simultaneously and doesn't know that when a new pairing process has started, it should "overwrite" the new device over the existing remembered one - because this is, actually, what you want. You said it yourself "With my laptop and desktop computers however is another story." Yes, it is and that's why the CC support from Sony is lacking in suggestions.

Cheers

Thomas Toye

February 22, 2017, 3:54 pm

does anyone know if the NFC on these works as NFC should i.e by just touching the 2 devices together? i ask as i cannot pair mine with either Bluetooth or NFC if the other device seems to need to have the functionality of you choosing the MDR-1000's from a pairing list, i can't get this to work automatically. My daughter's Bose QC35's do though they pair with anything!!
any help would be appreciated
cheers

sam graves

February 24, 2017, 6:46 am

Conceived for mobile use and not PC use? That's absurd. Where does it say that? Nowhere, that's where. And if it was truly designed for mobile use it would come with a wall adapter and a lightning connection for iPhones. I bought these cans a week ago and I'm returning them tomorrow as they're a HUGE disappointment.

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