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Sony WF1000XM3 Review – Success, Silence, & Stupidity

The Sony WF1000XM3 true noise-cancelling wireless earbuds are EXCELLENT in many areas. But a few elements of stupid have crept in on the new design!

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Sony WF-1000XM3 Review – Silence, Brilliance, and Stupidity

The Sony WF1000XM3 shows that this is not Sony’s first rodeo when it comes to wireless earbuds. I’ve been using a pair of Sony WF-1000XM’s since 2017. In spite of a few, flaws – 3 hr battery life, and HORRIFIC audio delay when watching video, I’ve been generally a fan. The metal case has protected them well over the two years of knocking around in my bag/pocket and the noise-cancelling, whilst not equal to over the head cans is good. The best fact is they have been TERRIFIC as sports earbuds – in spite of a lack of IPX rating.

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When the WF1000XM’s first launched, the only other player in town were the Apple Airpods – headphones I still consider a travesty of form over function. In 2017 the two previous issues notwithstanding, the Sony was the better product, but there have been a LOT of wireless headphones released since then and the Sony WF1000XM’s issues can’t be overlooked. Sony is back with the Sony WF1000XM3 to right those wrongs (and add a couple of new ones). Something that is worthwhile noting, we have got a Garmin Fenix 5 esq name jump, going from WF1000XM, skipping WF1000XM2, to Sony WF1000XM3 – why, so that the product names now line up with their larger over-ear headphones.

Sony WF-1000XM3 Review – Design

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So first things first, what’s in the box? We have got the charging case, both headphones, two different selections of headphones, manual and USB C cable

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Yes! I’m a little disappointed that we still have to champion when products in 2019 are released with USB-C. But here we are

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Here is also the first stumbling block of the Sony WF1000XM3, not only has the USB-C port been place on the bottom of the charging case. But the bottom of the case has now been rounded

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That might sound needlessly picky, but I’d always quite liked how the originals just stood on the desk and charged from the back. Honestly, this isn’t a huge battery, just feels a little backwards. I do appreciate that the rounded bottom makes the Sony WF1000XM3 case a little more comfortable in the pocket of trousers, but I wasn’t really troubled with the originals slim case anyway

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Whilst I’m complaining about the case, the clasp on the case has also changed. Previously it was a reassuringly strong latch, now it is a softer magnetic closure. Not actually had any issues with the Sony WF1000XM3 opening in my pocket, but it is something I’m keeping an eye out for

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As well as the positive of the USB-C charging on the case, Sony have also adjusted another function of the case. Previously you’d insert one of the buds, and they might not properly “click” into the retaining charge clips. Now there are magnets which pull, with quite a surprising amount of force, the earbud into the right location so that the three charging points align perfectly, meaning no chance of a failed charge – something which has annoying happened to me with older headphones

The case could have been a fraction longer. As both ear buds now sit almost flush when inserted to charge, they are slightly harder to remove. Leaving you to pry them out with the gap in the middle. When inserted to charge the LED on the front of the case goes red, as to the connection LED’s on both ear bud

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Now with a matt coating to the Sony WF1000XM3, the LED is very clear when shining blue to indicate a connection, but is slightly less visible in red and confirming charging

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Staying with the accessories for a moment, Sony includes two different types of earbud in the box “Triple Comfort Earbuds” and “Long Hybrid” silicone rubber earbuds, all in SS, S, M, L, with the Sony WF1000XM3 coming fitted with the large silicone buds in the box. Which I’ve continued to use

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There has been a quite a redesign of the earbuds for the Sony WF1000XM3 – if you can say that for something so small! I really did like the appearance of the original headphones, very sleek and they fitted well into the ear. The new change, and a slight increase in size, looks somehow more…ordinary

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The shape of the new Sony WF1000XM3 is a little less curved, and being a bit thicker does seem to protrude from the ear a little more

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The power and connector buttons have now been removed, replaced instead with touch-sensitive panels, you adjust the ANC with the left earbud and play/pause with the right. Both can also be customised from within the app. Sitting just in front, and proudly displayed in gold is one of the pair of microphones used hands-free, and the ANC

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At the back of ear earbud is a shiny, smooth piece of plastic, which works as a proximity sensor, automatically pausing music when removed from the ear, and again restarting it when inserted again

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Sony WF-1000XM3 – Specifications

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  • Sound Specs:
    • HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1e
    • 24bit audio signal processing
    • Drivers: 0.24 inches, dome type (CCAW Voice coil)
    • DSEE HX
  • Battery life:
    • Music: Max. 6 hours (NC ON)/Max. 8 hours (NC OFF)
    • Communications: Max. 4 hours (NC ON)/Max. 4.5 hours (NC OFF)
    • Up to a total of 24 hours with carrying case
    • (with 10min quick charge for 90min of play time)
    • USB-C charging – no QI charging
  • Communication:
    • NFC
    • Bluetooth 5.0
    • Smartphone’s voice assistant pressing on the RIGHT earbud
  • Weight:
    • 8.5g per earbud
    • 80g charging case
  • Activate your smartphone’s voice assistant with a simple touch

Sony WF-1000XM3 – Using the Device

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Personally, I’ve found the Adaptive Sound Control a bit of a waste. As with the originals and in the new Sony WF1000XM3. I either want noise cancelling, or I don’t. The Quick Attention mode which has filtered down from the larger Sony headphones is definately a win, however. Touching a finger to the LEFT earbud disc activates ambient audio, until you release your finger.

The RIGHT earbud gets a little more functionality:

  • Single tap to pause/play,
  • Twice to skip to the next song,
  • Three times to go back.
  • Tapping and holding initiates voice assistant
    • Quite important, as the onlu control which not available directly on the Sony WF1000XM3 is volume adjustment
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I originally bought the Sony WF1000X after returning from Channel 4’s The Island where after having had a month of very little noise – other than the sea or the tree canopy the return to the real world was a little bit full on. In which case the original noise cancelling was such a relief.

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With the Sony WF1000XM3 Sony has added a second dedicated noise-cancelling microphone on each side, in concert with Sony’s QN1e processor. I would certainly agree that this additional microphone has improved the ANC functional greatly. Not on par with over-ear headphones, but certainly a major help if trying to work on a train, or just wanting to tune out the background when in the gym or walking in town

Speaking of the gym. I do enjoy the AfterShokz Air bone-conducting headphones when out on the bike, or running and wanting to be aware of my surroundings. However, the Aftershokz headphones are simply DIRE when it comes to the gym. Or in any noisy setting for that matter. Thankfully the Sony WF1000XM3’s sit well in the ear. I actually prefer the fit on the previous unit, I’ve not had an issue with the units falling out running or with sweat whilst using on Zwift. That might sound an odd thing to say, using the Sony WF1000XM3 on Zwift, but there is no way I’m using over-ear headphones, and wired earphones get in the way. To be fair, I’m not using the Sony WF1000XM3’s when doing a heavy work out, then I’m using speakers, but sometimes, when doing a steady-state ride on Zwift it’s nice to be able to use the noise-cancelling and tune out the trainer and fan noise

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The point about lack of sweat protection seems on odd omission by Sony. However, when queried about it, they stated that it has not been an issue with the Sony WF1000XM’s without the specific treatment. Thus they didn’t feel there was a need with the latest model either. I cant quite work that out. Is it confidence in their product, hubris, or just foolishness. Having not run into an issue getting the originals very sweaty over the last 2 years, I’m going to suggest it is just confidence in the product.

Has Sony managed to resolve the two biggest issues of the Sony WF1000XM – the utter failure of lipsync, and abysmal battery? – Yes on both counts

The new Bluetooth 5.0 chipset inside each earbud means each is individually connected to your phone/laptop whatever. As the earbuds are no longer using a drive/slave setup as previously with the Sony WF1000XM, you get two benefits. First is a significant reduction in audio lag, meaning that you can now watch videos with Sony WF1000XM3 and not have to deal with the hideous lip sync issue. The second is that you can use either Sony 1000XM3 earbud alone – whether that is for music, or hands-free, AND this can still be done whilst one is charging inside the case. Which is a huge win in my eyes

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With all of the improvements, the greater battery life is perhaps the biggest surprise as we’re still looking at the same 120mAh per earbud. You are properly getting a full 6 hour usage now, which is more than enough for most flights if wanting to use the ANC. Switching off the noise cancelling and you can get 8 hours. Combined with the case, you’ve 24hrs of music time, which should be enough for most people!

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Sony WF-1000XM3 – Conclusion

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I’ve enjoyed using the previous generation of the Sony wireless ear buds, and this latest reworking is even better. I’m not an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination, but can say that the bass is good, the treble seems fine, and the spoke word audiobooks have a very natural tone to them.

There have been so many little positive tweaks that have made these an easy upgrade for me. I do wish that Sony had formally put in sweat/water resistance, but my previous experience as a very sweaty rider does give me confidence that nothing should have changed in Sony’s new ear buds.

The market into which the Sony WF1000XM3 launch is much more crowded for wireless ear buds than when the previous series was released. BUT I think that the latest unit has enough to justify the price premium over other wireless setups. An easy TG 4/5 and recommendation. I just wish a formal sweat protection had been included!

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. <br /> <br /> After learning a lot about olecranon fractures, I was introduced to the world Zwift, and slowly transitioned into writing about sports gadgets and the like<br /> <br /> Trying to keep up cycling, swimming and running whilst being a busy General Practice Doctor