Active noise cancellation headphones are great for focusing on the music and not what's going on around you. Bose has been a clear market leader for a good while, but has found other companies snapping at its heels of late – including Sennheiser and Sony. The latter impressed us at IFA 2016 with its MDR-1000X cabled over-ears, and now the consumer tech giant has done it again with the wireless WH-1000XM3 headphones.
Sony says that its already impressive noise cancellation prowess has been taken to the next level thanks to a newly-developed QN1 processor, which performs about four times better than Sony's previous noise canceling processor – dual microphones route daily background sounds like street hum and human chatter, as well as transport noise, through to the processor for silencing.
The circumaural headphones feature 40 mm drivers with a Liquid Crystal Polymer diaphragm for full range reproduction up to 40 kHz, and digital-to-analog conversion working together with the amp and 32-bit signal processing promise "exceptionally high sound quality, best-in-class signal-to-noise ratio, and low distortion for portable devices."
Like the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless headphones we reviewed a while back, Sony's WH-1000XM3 cans feature touch-enabled earcups. Users can place a hand over the right earcup to temporarily turn down the volume to allow for quick response to folks around them, and can also increase/decrease volume with a swipe or skip tracks.
The headphones will automatically change modes according to different situations, such as allowing ambient sounds through during playback when walking in traffic or being able to hear announcements when waiting on a train platform. When traveling, full noise cancellation is engaged. And if you prefer more control over such things, preferences can be customized using a Sony mobile app.
There's also a control in the app which can instruct the headphones to remain powered on even when there's no music playing through, so you can take advantage of the quiet zone created inside the earcups for a bit of shut-eye.
Sony says that long haul travelers can look forward to improved comfort over previous models, thanks to deeper earcups and a thicker headband. If you're a frequent flyer, Sony's made your journey a little easier with onboard sensors that detect air pressure and adjust noise cancellation performance accordingly. Battery life is pitched as 30 hours per charge with noise cancellation and Bluetooth active, and there's a quick charging feature that offers 5 hours of listening for 10 minutes of being juiced over USB-C.
We got to spend a little time with Sony's new wireless noise cancelers, and were very impressed. The booth at IFA 2018 had a speaker outputting street noises, and the stylish headphones not only managed to cut that but the significant buzz from the Sony floor too, reducing both to a very very soft white noise under the music (which wasn't particularly loud). It didn't ruin the silences and breaks in the music.
Sony's latest 1000X series headphones will go on sale next month for a suggested retail price of US$349.99.
Product page: WH-1000XM3 headphones
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