Top positive review
An outstanding upgrade to Sony's 1000x line
24 October 2018
I've been using the Sony 1000xm3's for 4 full days now. In the house, walking, in the car, on the bus and in a busy office. I thought now would be a good time to review them and share my impressions. I'll try to cover several things that I would normally look for when testing my stuff and hopefully this will answer any questions people have about these amazing cans!
I've been using the 1000x for about 2 years at this point as my main drivers. So I'll point out any differences I've found moving from those onto the mark 3's.
Padding on the headband and on the ear cups is extremely soft and hugs my head nicely, but without applying too much pressure. The leather is synthetic, but gives a quality feel. If you've had a paid of Sony headphones before you'll be familiar with the materials they use. The weight has been reduced since the 1000x, and I have to say I'm shocked at how much 20 grams make a difference! Thumbs up here.
They have simplified the controls by reducing the button count, bringing it down to two buttons from three. This works better than before. Instead of having a button for power and 2 for noise cancelling modes, there's one for power and the other allows you to cycle through the NC modes. There is a downside to this however if you intend on using the google assistant feature, as the NC button will become the assistant button.
The 3.5mm headphone jack and cable that comes in the box is a nice length, and when plugged into the headphones there is a good amount of grip holding onto it to ensure it's not popping out while you move around. But I was a little disappointed with the over all feel of the cable, it's thinner and more flimsy than the line that came in the 1000x.
Sony's choice to change the materials on the cups was a good one. It's smooth and more responsive than the leather textured one from the previous generations, it also doesn't make as much of a rubbing sound within the headphone as you swipe.
I've tested these in a few different configurations to see how they perform.
First way you can use them is passively with the headphones powered down. The player you are using will send the signal and also power the headphones directly. I feel like what you get from listening like this is a sound that is quite balanced and flat, however this is really going to depend on the device you're playing with.
Next, power up the headphones and you'll notice right away that the signature of the sound changes as the headphones own amplifier kicks in. What you get here is more base response and a much crisper treble. It's a satisfying sound signature and it's how I prefer to listen.
Bluetooth is likely how most people will likely listen I feel, and the sound doesn't disappoint. In terms of signature, the Bluetooth connection matches what you have in wired+powered mode.
The sound is very nice and I've got no complaints here. Generally headphones will change ever so slightly over time as you break them in, but normally it's for the better so I'll assume that to be the case here also.
Phone call quality is good and is improved over the previous versions, however it's not perfect. If you're in a noisy environment, they tend to pick up everything. There needs to be a little more focus on the voice.
As I mentioned before, when using the wire the cable is held in place tight so there is no accidental popping out.
Bluetooth performance has been perfect. I use LDAC in quality preferred mode which is effectively the most likely to suffer from drop outs due to the amount of data being transferred on that mode, but I've not had any issues at all.
The headphones can remember several devices in the connection history so that you don't need to pair each time you connect a different device. You are not able to connect to multiple devices at the same time unless the devices are using a different bluetooth profile. An example would be having it connected to your Walkman for media playback, and also connected to your phone for calls, this is fine. Connecting to a Walkman and a Tablet for media playback at the same time would not work.
The app that Sony provide for controlling the headphones features offers some awesome customisation of the settings, including the noise cancelling configuration, button configuration for assistant, equaliser setting and others.
Google assistant works well enough, but I feel this is something that isn't very well suited to headphones - at least the way I'd use it, better just using my phone. I guess this will be user preference.
Noise Cancelling/Ambient Features:
As most people no doubt already know if they have been looking at these headphones for any longer than 10 minutes, noise cancellation is there reason for being. I have to say they do not disappoint! How Sony improved on the already amazing 1000x and 1000xm2 is something I'm sure other manufacturers would love to figure out, and keep in mind that the xm2 was already considered best in class!
When walking there is no thud sound which you can often get from noise cancelling headphones, the sound of traffic and people is almost completely blocked out. The loud roar of the bus engine is also blocked amazingly while commuting. The volume of people talking in the office is also reduced with amazing results. Often with noise cancelling headphones with ANC enabled it can actually negatively effect the quality of the sound you're getting through from your music. I'm glad to say that the music comes through clean as can be with ANC enabled here.
The ambient modes are something really special about this line of headphones, and they make your day much easier if you are spending a lot of time with a paid of these on. Quick attention mode works great as always, letting you hear what you need to and then getting you back into the music without having to take them off.
I was slightly disappointed in the ambient sound voice mode on the xm3s. When this mode is enabled, the cans try and let the voice of someone through, but without letting too much of the back ground noise in. In the 1000x this was balanced perfectly and I could have a conversation with someone easily. On the xm3's however the balance is leaning more towards trying to keep back ground noise out, which means they don't pick up the voices as well as the 1000x in my opinion.
There is also a wind noise reduction mode which is something I had no idea about as it hasn't been mentioned by any one else that I was looking at. I was blown away by how effective the wind reduction was, and the trade off was minimal!
In the end if someone was to ask me if I'd recommend picking these up, I'd tell them that once they have a pair of these they will find it very difficult to go back to another headphone!
These are going to be with me a lot over the next few years and I'm very happy with them.