Sony WF-1000XM3 Review

The best true wireless earbuds money can buy?

Verdict

The WF-1000XM3 build upon the original for another excellent true wireless earbud. The audio quality is superb, the design refined and they boast a number of features, such as noise cancellation, that most true wireless struggle to match. While they don’t have the best battery stamina in their class, and they lack high-quality aptX Bluetooth, this is as good as it gets for wireless in-ears.

Pros

  • Great musical sound quality
  • Super noise cancellation
  • Snug, comfortable fit
  • Rock solid wireless connectivity
  • Great with all types of music

Cons

  • Adaptive Sound Control can intrude
  • No aptX

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £220
  • 6mm driver
  • Quick charging
  • Google Assistant compatible
  • HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e
  • Up to 24 hours battery life (noise cancelling on)

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The Sony WF-1000XM3 follow up the WF-1000X true wireless earbuds with claims of improved noise cancellation, stronger wireless connectivity and an even better sound.

When we reviewed the original WF-1000X, we were so impressed we called them the “best wireless earphones in the world”. True wireless earphones were still relatively new at that time, with few brands taking the “sound first” approach that dictated Sony’s entrance in the market.

It paid off handsomely for the Japanese company and since then, the true wireless earbuds market has exploded. Brands big and small have attempted to grab a piece of the pie, but the WF-1000X remained top of the pile – until now that is.

Sony has returned with the WF-1000XM3, which builds on the originals with improvements in practically every area.

With the WF-1000XM3, Sony set its stall out to make the best true wireless earbuds. On that front, it’s absolutely succeeded.

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Sony WF-1000XM3 design and build – A comfortable and elegant-looking pair of true wireless earbuds

The WF-1000XM3 are small, though not as tiny as the Earin M-2. There’s still a bit of bulk to them, but they aren’t quite as cumbersome as other pairs, but those with smaller ears may want to try them on for size before they purchase them.

Nevertheless, they’re an elegant and fetching pair of in-ears, with Sony paying as much attention to form as it has features.

Sony WF-1000XM3

Inserting them in your ears is like a capsule rendezvousing with a space station. They fit vertically, with the Sony logo pointing down, before a twist so they face forward. Sony told me that it’s studied thousands of ear shapes in the aim of producing is a pair that sits snugly and comfortably thanks to Sony’s Ergonomic Tri-hold structure.

If the default size doesn’t fit, they come with several ear-tip sizes. If I had a quibble it’s that my ears get a bit itchy after a lengthy session.

The transparent tip of the original has been replaced by an LED light that indicates charging or when they’re out of the case. On the other side are touch panels, the functions of which can be customised through the Sony Headphone app.

Unlike the originals, the WF-1000XM3 can’t be powered off by touch. That’s relegated to the Headphone app along with the battery-level indicator.

Take them out of the charging case and the WF-1000XM3 pair with the last known device, with the right ear defaulting for playback and the left responsible for ambient noise settings. There’s no volume control which means you’ll have to fish out your mobile device to change it.

On the underside are proximity sensors that stop playback when the earbuds are taken out. Bring the earbuds back in and playback resumes.

Sony WF-1000XM3

Depending on whether noise cancellation is on, the charging case holds 24-32 hours of charge on the go

While the WF-1000XM3 charging case is virtually the same as the WF-1000X, it does look particularly bulky when next to the charging case of an AirPod or AirPod Pro. You also get USB-C charging with the WF-1000XM3 arriving with the same cable as in the WH-1000XM3.

With noise cancelling on, the WF-1000XM3 have six hours of stamina and three more charges for 24 hours in total. That’s similar territory to the AirPods (2019), but below the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1.

It’s a respectable score, especially with the added drain of noise cancellation. Switch that off and battery life jumps up to eight hours with three more charges for a total of 32.

Sony WF-1000XM3 features – Snug fit makes for a very impressive noise-cancellation performance

You may have noticed Sony has called this the M3. Whatever happened to the WF-1000XM2? Well, they don’t exist.

One reason as to why Sony jumped to the M3 designation is to bring them in line with the WH-1000XM3 as the two models share the same technology HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e chip.

Sony WF-1000XM3

The charging case also supports NFC

There’s one chip in each earbud, with a DAC and analogue amplifier, digital noise-cancellation engine and a 24-bit signal processor. While the end result is, obviously, not as good as the WH-1000XM3’s over-ear performance, that it’s in the same region marks excellent progress for a true wireless earbud.

That’s due in part to the snug fit they offer, with the WF-1000XM3 ace at blocking ambient noise. I’ve tried planes, trains and automobiles, while also walking around a couple of cities and the world around is reduced to a murmur. Take them out and you’re made aware of how loud everything around you is.

There’s no support for Sony’s LDAC or aptX Bluetooth which is a shame. Regardless, there have been few moments of signal interference or latency.

Sony says this improved performance is down to a redesigned antenna structure, as well as a switch to left/right simultaneous Bluetooth transmission, instead of the signal being sent to the left earbud and passed to the right.

Related: Best noise cancelling headphones

Sony WF-1000XM3

The feed forward and feed back mic detect the noise around for appropriate noise cancellation

The touch panels can be customised in the Headphone app, so the function can be changed to voice control in Google Assistant, or the left earbud can control playback, which would be useful for left-handed users. There’s also the option to have no function assigned. There’s a mic placed in each earbud for receiving calls, too.

The Headphone app is where the equaliser, sound quality, noise cancellation et al can be tweaked. You can tinker with the level of Ambient Sound Control, from a scale of complete bliss to an ever-increasing amount of sounds as you slide through the different options. It’s great to have, especially in busy cities.

When engaged, the Adaptive Sound Control responds to what you’re doing and changes noise cancellation on the fly. The feed forward and back mic measures the noise levels, and the app can recognise whether you’re standing up, sitting down or walking, or if you’re on public transport or not and adjust the noise cancellation in response.

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The issue I have with Adaptive Sound Control is there are times where it becomes intrusive to the listening experience. It makes a “ping” sound to register the change in position, producing a brief pause in playback as it adapts. This happens more than I liked, but can be turned off completely.

Sony hasn’t confirmed an IP rating, but has said the WF-1000XM3 aren’t designed for workouts. I used these at the gym and it didn’t take long for one earbud to fall out.

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Sony WF-1000XM3 sound quality − A terrific performer that can handle any type of music

That the WF-1000XM3 have a sound signature close to the WH-1000XM3 is a remarkable feat of engineering on Sony’s part. It’s presentation is measured, balanced and musical.

Having tested everything from ‘50s pop to ‘80s R & B, nu metal, film soundtracks, jazz compositions, Motown, rock ‘n’ roll, punk rock and classical music, the WF-1000XM3 are flustered by anything you throw at them.

Sony WF-1000XM3

John Wasson’s arrangement of Caravan produces a sumptuous flow, with brass instruments well articulated and a depth to the soundstage that produces a sense of where each instrument is in the mix. It keeps up the dynamics of the track with poise, never ever dragging or sounding harsh.

They can dig up plenty of detail with confidence, but more than that, there’s a subtlety and nuance to how the WF-1000XM3 go about their business. They reveal the character of a track without being particularly showy about it.

Sony WF-1000XM3

The WF-1000XM3’s sound are produce from tiny 6mm driver

If a track requires some muscularity, the WF-1000XM3 can produce more oomph. If a track calls for a delicate touch, they can capably handle that too.

Play Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, and the vocals are rendered with a clarity and emotion that’s hard to resist. Switch to Alan Silvestri’s Portals from the Avengers: Endgame soundtrack and the WF-1000XM3 conjure up a wide soundstage, exhibiting a flair for the dramatic as it builds to a conclusion, showing an expert sense of timing and plenty of power. Turn it up to full volume and there’s little suggestion of distortion or loss of composure. Bass performance is smooth and textured without being overpowering.

I haven’t got tired of listening to them yet. As an all-round effort, the WF-1000XM3 are an irresistible pair of in-ears.

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Should I buy the Sony WF-1000XM3?

There have been plenty of great true wireless efforts, but none offer an all-round package as good as Sony’s.

The Earin M-2 put in a very good audio performance, but battery life is weaker and pairing is patchy. The Apple AirPods (2019)’ wireless connectivity is impressively stable and arguably the best of the field. In other areas, especially sound, Sony surges past.

And then there’s Cambridge Audio’s Melomania 1. They’re cheaper and have better stamina. They lack noise cancellation, though. For those on a budget, the Melomania 1 are worth considering in light of being less offensive to the wallet.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 deliver top quality features and sound. They’re the best pair of noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds since, well, the Sony WF-1000X.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

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