Pros: Sweet Vocals, Connection, Solid charging case, Fit.
Cons: Prolonged listening due to comfort, Highs, Noise Cancelling
*Disclaimer : This is my personal opinion on my set, which was bought directly from SONY Singapore.
Non-Sound Impressions :
Box and Charging Case
The Sony WF-1000XM3 has a elegant design, definitely standing out from the crowd. Opening the box immediately reveals the earphones as well as a charging case. The charging case has a tacky feeling to it and feels good in hand. But it's prone to scratches from keys and rough surface, hence for my set, i got a casing for it.
Fit and Comfort
The earphones have a bulge which houses the 6mm dynamic driver, which for me, it allows the earphone to stay in my ear without much discomfort(At first). After wearing it for 2hrs on the train, i do feel discomfort on both of my ears, which turns into pain as time continue passes. I find that the eartips which sony provides provides a deeper insertion and seal as compared to other eartips i've tried. Such as spinfit and ultimate ears eartips.
The connection of this earphone is no doubt, really good. It did not even once disconnect on a really packed train. With so many other individuals using TWS as well. Thumbs up for that. Even so, it's still flawed, with frequent disconnection at shopping malls and nearing PA sound systems. Just try to avoid using at this areas if you can.
Sound Impressions :
The isolation of the earphones are already very good itself, making the noise cancelling a bit overkill here. Even on a really packed train where people are chatting away. In my opinion, i never felt the need of the noise cancelling, hence most of the time, i turned it off. This also eliminate a con of the earphone, which is present on my set, turning on the noise cancelling actually makes the sound stage so much narrower, making the singer seems like singing directly at your face. I'm not sure if this happens to others, but as for me, turning off the noise cancelling actually fixed the issue for me.
Pixel 3(AAC) : Wide. Really wide. On a scale for TWS of course, as compared to other TWS of similar pricing i've tested such as Aviot and Jabra. I've always enjoyed listening it to pop songs such as Maroon 5 - V, and most of my mandopop songs with it. Vocals sounded really natural and it's by far the best as compared to others. Separation is good in which i can easily identify the instruments in their respective positions.
Sony ZX300(SBC) : Slightly narrower as compared to AAC. Vocals pretty much remains unchanged with it's natural sounding. 1 difference which is feel is the fuller bodied sound probably by the more presence of mid bass.
Pixel 3(AAC) : Punchy sub-bass but not boomy. Bass is well controlled but not well textured. Lacks mid bass which made some songs such as Hotel California sounds flat. A complete opposite of the first generation. Nevertheless, it's more than sufficient for most of my genre of songs.
Sony ZX300(SBC) : Retains it punchy sub-bass. With elevated mid-bass, the earphone now have a more full bodied sound as compared to listen on AAC, as mentioned in the soundstage. The bass is also more textured as compared to AAC.
Pixel 3(AAC)/Sony ZX300(SBC) : Wow.Both player sounded really similar, This is where the strength of the earphones are unleashed. Sweet sweet natural vocals. especially for female voices. Really smooth with characteristics from my ultimate ears reference remastered.
Pixel 3(AAC) : Bad. Almost unlistenable. Distortion and grain throughout when used with wifi. What? Even when turned off, it still happens on and off, I can't seem to fix this, sony support merely mentioned not the use near interference such as router. Not very useful. Anyway, treble is really tamed that it sounded rolled off, doesn't extend well but better than when used with SBC.
Sony ZX300(SBC) : At least it doesn't have weird issues and i'm able to listen to it, just fine. But, it just sounded empty. Treble is even more tamed, really lacks extension.
Its a Sony, its a TWS, unparalleled convenience and it looks cool. Your friends are gonna love it. Currently the best on the market with competitive price point. But I believe Sony can do better than this. We know it.
Over the past few years, Sony's line of wireless products has had a very big presence in the market, especially here in Asia, where Sony claimed that their wireless headphones, WH-1000XM3, has reached the highest sales amongst other brands. As the wireless trend continues, TWS earbuds are gaining in popularity, with many companies joining the game, such as the Apple and Sennheiser, amongst others. Here, Sony tries to set themselves apart, by incorporating noise-cancelling technology into their TWS earphones. The WF-1000XM3 is the latest member to Sony's wide range of wireless audio products, taking over its predecessor, the WF-1000X. Do not be fooled by the "M3" labelling, which insinuates a 3rd generation product, the WF-1000XM3 is actually a second gen successor.
Here Sony proudly showcases their current line up of wireless products
Disclaimer Sony has provided me with a sample unit for the purpose of this review. I am neither a paid affiliate nor an employee of Sony.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The WF-1000XM3 comes in a neat package, and the unboxing experience is straightforward yet elegant. You can pull out the box from the side to reveal all its contents. You'll immediately see the charging case and the earphones. The included accessories are:
Charging Case with in built battery
USB-C Charging Cable
S/M/L Silicon Tips
S/M/L Foam Tips
So altogether I've found the accessories given to be very sufficient, after all it's meant to be a portable product, I wouldn't want to carry too many accessories with it other than the charging case and the earphones. I've also found the range of ear tips to be very agreeable. The foam tips are similar to those found in the Sony M7's and M9's packaging, and are very comfortable from my experience. My preference still err towards the silicon ear tips for a clearer sound as I felt the foam tips toned down the treble slightly. Note that I've read accounts of users saying the case is unable to close fully when using other some large ear tips. I've not tried many different tips on it yet as I've been happy with the tips provided!
BUILD AND DESIGN
The WF-1000XM3 has gone for a more subtle look, with more of a matte finish, whereas its predecessor had a slight sheen to it. Definitely a plus in my book, as I've always felt that TWS earbuds are meant to be more inconspicuous and seamless. That being said, the WF-1000XM3 is not exactly small and unnoticeable. My sister, who uses the Apple AirPods, was not impressed by the size of the WF-1000XM3, saying that it juts out a fair bit. Similarly, the charging case is also not small, nearly doubling the size of the case of the AirPods. The case flips open very nicely to reveal the earphones, and the slots that hold the earphones also has a magnet that helps to secure the earphones as you're moving about. It also provides a very satisfying "click" when you slide the earphones back into their case.
Personally, I'm okay with its size, it fits well in my ear and does not drop off easily, even when I'm running to catch my bus. Sony uses this design called the tri-hold structure alongside high friction rubber surface for the earphones to get a good grip on your ear. This has worked well enough for me though after extended listening (i.e. 2hrs), my ears will start to itch.
Moving on to the internals, the driver unit is a 6mm dynamic driver, the same one as the original WF-1000X. The noise cancelling processor is QN1e, which is adapted from the QN1 from the headphone variant WH-1000XM3. The QN1e is present in both left and right earphones, and they carry out their noise cancelling autonomously. There are two microphones, one located on the outside of the earbuds, which is known as the feed forward mic. This mic attempts to predict noise that will reach your ear drum. The other microphone is known as the feed back mic, and it is located on the side of the earphone that leans into your ear. This mic will monitor the sound that leaks into your eardrum. The QN1e uses these two mics in tandem in order to invert the sound waves that cancel ambient noise.
Moreover, Sony's new bluetooth chip enables both earphones to receive signal from the bluetooth devices concurrently. This is supposed to significantly reduce latency compared to its predecessor, where only the left earbud could receive bluetooth signal, followed by a left to right audio relay (shown in the picture below). Sony claims the new latency is can be as low as 1/4 of the original model. I've had no issues watching YouTube and Netflix with the WF-1000XM3, which is very pleasing.
Both earphones also have a small circular surface that allows some touch control. On the left earphone, you can tap to turn ambient noise control on or off, or simply touch and hold it to allow you to hear your surroundings. On the right side, you can tap once to play or pause, twice to skip to the next track and thrice to go back. Sadly, you cannot control the volume using your earphones. The touch surface is significantly smaller than that of the headphone variant, and takes a while to get used to when trying to access the touch controls. Nevertheless, still a very useful feature and is much quicker than having to take your phone out to skip tracks.
There is also a proximity sensor located on the earphones that can detect when you are wearing your earphones. This means the earphones is always in a trichotomy: either they're in the case, in your ear, or neither. If you leave both earphones in the case, bluetooth disconnects and the earphones are turned off. If you take them out of the case and put it in your ear, the proximity sensor will wake the device and it connects to the bluetooth device automatically. If they aren't in either scenarios, then they disconnect and turn off after a period of time. Taking either or both earphones off from your ear automatically pauses your music, and wearing them again resumes it. Handy.
Battery life is also a crucial aspect that needs mentioning. As far as TWS earphones go, I would say the battery life is directly correlated to the longevity of the earphones. Once the battery has degraded, the earphones are no longer useful. On this end, I am glad to say Sony has given battery life a very high priority. With ANC turned on, each earphones can last at least 6hrs, with the battery case providing additional 18hrs. If ANC is turned off, each earphones can last at least 8hrs, with the battery case providing additional 24hrs. These are amongst the highest numbers for TWS earphones and would greatly help in the longevity of these earphones. Overall, I've had no issues with battery life.
Without a doubt, Sony's ability to implement all these features in such a small space is simply remarkable. However, the WF-1000XM3 is not without compromise. Firstly, they lack LDAC and any of the Aptx features, and rely solely on AAC. In an interview session, Sony's response to the lack of LDAC is that they were trying to find the best compromise between sound quality and battery life, and that currently, they felt that the gain in sound quality using LDAC was not worth the sacrifice in battery life. They were very insistent on obtaining at least 24hrs (6hrs + 18hrs) of total listening time. Also, since they were using a new bluetooth chip which does not support Qualcomm's Aptx.
There are no IPX ratings on this device, which is a bit of a bummer. When asked how these earphones would hold up to some levels of moisture such as perspiration, Sony replied saying they cannot give an official answer, but only said that many users have used the WF-1000XM3 for gym and exercise and none reported any issues.
I have to admit, coming into this review, I was a little skeptical of needing noise cancelling on an earphone. I've always felt that passive noise isolation is sufficient to block out ambient noise. The IEMs I use is the Etymotic Research ER4SR, and with the triple flange tip, I have always been able to block out most of the ambient noise. Nevertheless, the WF-1000XM3's noise cancelling are effective and I was drowned in my own music along the busy streets of Tokyo. After a week of using the WF-1000XM3, I have to say every bit of effort that blocks out ambient noise is greatly appreciated, as a darker background always helps you appreciate your music more. I've kept ANC on for the most part simply cause it is just more effective during my daily commutes.
In any case, I've found the WF-1000XM3's sound signature to be smooth and ever so mildly warm. It is a safe sound signature and generally works for most genres. In some sense, it's lacking the Sony's usual penchant for a generous amount of bass. The overall tuning is fairly tamed, without significant emphasis on any section of the frequency range, resulting in an inoffensive sound that is easy to listen to.
The soundstage of the WF-1000XM3 is ample, and I've found the imaging to be good. In more acoustic songs, these earphones sound really enjoyable, with vocals sounding natural and instrument placement being rendered nicely. However, in more complex songs involving more instruments, the soundstage and imaging starts to suffer. In one example, "Sit Next to Me" by Foster the People, instruments throughout the song suffered from lack of separation and air, and it was hard to distinguish clearly the different instruments present in the song.
The bass on the WF-1000XM3 is well controlled, with good impact. Inherently, the quality of the bass is not very high quality, the mid bass is lacking texture and the sub-bass extension is rolled off. In this regard, I've found Sony's tuning to be very sensible; by controlling the bass quantity, the WF-1000XM3 does not have the bloomy mid-bass that plagues so many TWS earphones. There is also sufficient quantity to add body to the vocals.
The mids are probably where these earphones shine the most, providing sweet sounding vocals that has good body and clarity. "Crazy for You" by Madonna sounded great on the WF-1000XM3, and the vocal textures were rendered well. They are also smooth and pleasant for extended listening. Occasionally, I'd wish the sound was a little more energetic and a little faster, but thats a matter of preference and I've very much enjoyed the mids on these earphones.
The highs are tamed on these earphones. Perhaps even a little too tamed for my preference, lacking a certain brilliance in the upper frequency. The treble is a little rolled off, sometimes making vocals sound flat. Listening to "ocean eyes" by Billie Eilish, the earphones did not quite have the extension needed to portray her crisp vocals. Personally, I like to increase the treble slightly using the equaliser, to provide a more balanced tuning and increase the clarity of the earphones.
TWS earphones have always intrigued me, but I've never liked how they sounded. However, after hearing the WF-1000XM3 and having used them for about two weeks, I'm happy to say that I'm satisfied with how they sound, given the sonic limitations of TWS. The smooth and easy sound signature works well with many genres, and its noise cancelling function is able to provide a blacker background when theres ambient sound. They have also checked important boxes, such as low latency and long battery life that altogether makes this set of earphones a very complete package.
Heard this back to back with the 64 Audio U12 and I think the Sony is 80% as coherent, maybe a little bit cleaner even than the custom iem. Hard to believe, yes but Sony has done some magical stuff on the sound tuning of this fantastic TW.
It is unbelievably revealing as new information start to show up in songs I heard a million times before. The tonal balance is also nigh-on perfect, instruments and voices sound lifelike.
Never have I been more satisfied at a purchase of a new earphone.
Anyone else having issues with bitrate suddenly dropping with iOS devices? Happens using Spotify (with max settings) and only these earbuds. It’s more apparent on tracks with a lot of treble or snare percussion and typically happens about 60-90 seconds in. Please post if you’re experiencing this too!