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  1. Asspirin
    The almost perfect noise-cancelling headphones.
    Written by Asspirin
    Published Apr 22, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - good enough sound for most people
    stylish looks
    comfortable to wear
    easy to use
    folds flat
    great carrying case
    USB-C
    Cons - sound quality not up to the price tag
    could get sweaty in summer
    wobbly, unstable fit
    equaliser reduces sound quality
    Build and design

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    When you unpack the XM3 for the first time, you will first be surprised by its low weight. In your hands as well on your head, these headphones have a tendency to disappear, which is quite a respectable feat, regarding all the technology Sony has stuffed In there. Such a lightweight construction is, of course, a double-edged sword. Although the Sonys don't feel rickety or fragile, they don't give the impression of being built for eternity. The XM3 are all plastic and faux leather, which is a questionable choice of material in this price range. At least the headphones do not look cheap: Their stylishly sleek design and some well-placed copper accents give the XM3 (and its case) a pretty classy overall look.


    Operation, comfort, isolation

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    As one would expect from a Sony product, the XM3 are smooth and easy to use. Vital functions are explained in the enclosed quick-guide or otherwise quite self-explanatory. The XM3 have a total of two buttons: An on/off/pairing switch and a button for turning the noise-cancelling on/off. The right earcup features a touch surface that adjusts the volume and skips tracks. This works even well while walking, which deserves a big compliment. Special gimmick: Holding your hand over the earcup reduces the volume and activates the ambient sound control, in order to have a short conversation or to respond to the environment in any other way.

    In order to access most of the headphone's functions, installing Sony's app is an absolute must. Here, not only a fine-tuning of the ANC can be made, but there is also an auto-adjustment to air pressure and head-shape as well as many other useful settings. Sony even provides an equalizer, but it doesn't work with the LDAC codec. Instead, you have to be satisfied with AAC or SBC and therefore sacrifice some sound quality. Overall, the app is very clearly and simply structured and connects quickly and reliably with your headphones. Sony has done most things right with the app, only its constant presence in the notification bar is a slight disturbance.

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    In the category "comfort", Sony also earns a high score. The ear pads and headband cushion are soft and comfortable to wear. And due to their lightweight construction, the XM3 almost disappear on your head and can easily be worn for extended periods of time. At higher temperatures, however, Sony's decision to use faux leather fires back and you'll start sweating very quickly where the pads make skin contact. The isolation from outside noise without ANC is, due to the aforementioned weight and material density, pretty weak. As a result, you have to turn on the noise-cancelling already at very low external noise levels to enjoy your music without interference. Sony's countermeasure against this weakness is a bass-boost in non-ANC-mode, but that doesn't necessarily help.


    Sound

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    With its V-shaped tuning the sound signature of the XM3 is targeted towards mainstream tastes: Bass and treble are raised, the mids are slightly recessed. This makes the headphones particularly suitable for hip-hop and electronic music, but fans of orchestras and acoustic guitars will not be happy with this kind of signature. The low spectrum as a whole has been enriched and sounds rather "fat," which gives bass-heavy tracks like Run The Jewels' "Legend Has It" an appropriate fun factor. For fast metal tracks like Trivium's reissue of "Pillars of Serpents," Sony's driver can't quite keep up with the pace and the entire bass foundation sounds rather uncontoured, inflated and sluggish. If we listen further to the same track, we notice the rather underrepresented mid-frequencies, rendering both Matt Heafy's baritone and the guitars with a lack of volume and plasticity. Luckily, a slight peak in the presence area prevents vocals and instruments from disappearing completely, but all in all, the XM3 are more focused on easy listening than on Hi-Fi-grade performance. The high frequencies are raised and show a peak around 9-10kHz and thus appear clear and detailed, but unfortunately also somewhat artificial. The treble is indeed the driver's big weakness because not only do hi-hats and cymbals lack plasticity, but also the spatial positioning of the instruments is rather vague and imprecise. Of course, I don't want to badmouth everything. Overall, the XM3 offer a very harmonic and coherent sound, which can be enjoyed on long trips without fatigue. However, in this price range, higher sound quality and more sophisticated tuning would be more than adequate.


    Connection

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    The Bluetooth connection supports AAC and SBC as standard, as well as Sony's LDAC codec for high-definition sound. A 3.5mm jack is also available and I have to praise Sony here because, as opposed to Bowers & Wilkins' PX, the XM3 can also be driven passively! The point for utilising the USB-C port goes to the competition though: The XM3's port can only be used for charging.


    Noise-cancelling

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    Sony has rightfully received a lot of praise for the noise-cancelling of the XM3. It works effectively and without significant deterioration of sound quality. However, even today, the technology is not quite mature. Although, with the latest firmware update, Sony got rid of the wind sensitivity issues, but vibration and sudden changes in air pressure (train driving into a tunnel) severely confuse the ANC system. While it works reliably and pleasantly effective on a plane or a long-distance train, it causes annoying distortions or even cracking during bumpy bus rides, short runs and anything that involves tunnels. That's sometimes so irritating and annoying that I simply turned off the NC for certain parts of my commute. The reason for these issues is ultimately not Sony's noise-cancelling system, but rather the XM3's radical lightweight construction, which makes it too shaky and unstable on the head. A bit of metal and real leather wouldn't have hurt. Despite this physical flaw, Sony's ANC is the best and most effective on the market. If noise-cancelling is your number one priority, here's your buying recommendation.


    Conclusion

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    The Sony WH1000-XM3 is dubbed the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market in most reviews and that is correct for the average consumer. In terms of comfort, operation and noise-cancelling, Sony does everything right and most of the features seem pretty mature and reliable. Audiophiles looking for the absolutely best sound quality in a wireless headset won't find that in Sony's corner, but should instead consider trying out the Bowers & Wilkins PX (which is less comfortable though).
    1. miguelito
      Active noise cancellation in the WH-1000xm3 has been ruined by firmware 4.1.1. Already 272 people have decided to sign a petition for Sony to fix this issue: http://chng.it/mLwLcb2M5M
      miguelito, Apr 22, 2019