Sony has a long history of making some really awesome headphones. But so far, it hasn’t really made a name for itself with true wireless earbuds like the AirPods or Samsungs Galaxy Buds. That’s about to change. Because of the new $230 WF-1000XM3s are some of the best AirPod competitors I’ve seen to date. Now if that awkward name sounds familiar it’s because Sony already makes the 1000XM3 noise-canceling headphones. These things get rave reviews, and the earbuds are cut from the same cloth.
They have the same matte black design with rose gold accents. And there’s a gray color option as well. More importantly, they also have excellent active noise cancellation. It’s not quite on the same level as Sonys headphones, but it makes a difference when it comes to drowning our city streets or subways. So most earbuds that you buy offer some level of noise isolation. As long as you have a good seal in your ear you’re gonna drown out some of the stuff around you. But noise cancellation goes several steps beyond that. Now it’s not some miracle.
If you’re not playing any audio or music you’re gonna hear things around you but once the music starts everything else just kinda fades away. Sony packs in a ton of different ear tips right in the box. So it’s pretty easy to find a nice and secure fit. And the lower part of the earbud itself, that rests inside your ear, has this extra grippy finish to help it keep it snug. And that actually works really well. These M3s fit me great and never came even a little bit lost during my tests.
Now they’re a bit on the larger side, but overall I think Sony made them look pretty classy. And they’re a huge improvement over the plastic design from the first model. Now of course sometimes you do want to hear what’s happening around you. And so when that happens you can turn on Ambient Sound Mode. Or if you just wanna hear an airport announcement or a subway platform announcement you just press your finger down on the left earbud. That pauses your music, turns up all the sound around you, then once you let go, noise cancellation kicks back in and you’re blissfully back to your music.
Now to control the M3s you’re gonna do a lot of tapping on the sides. The left side controls the noise cancellation. On, off. Or the Ambient Sound Mode I just talked about. The right earbud controls playback, so you press once to pause or play. Twice to skip forward a track or three times to go back. You can hold the right earbud to do Siri or Google Assistant. But you’ll notice that I didn’t say volume. There are no built-in volume controls on here so you’re gonna have to use your phone or a voice assistant.
Now let’s talk about sound quality. It’s obviously very subjective, but what I’ll say about the M3s is that they’re very balanced. There’s a lot of basses, nice mids, and sparkling highs. Now I don’t know if the sound stage is as wide or all-encompassing as higher-end earbuds like the Sennheiser Momentums or the Powerbeats Pro. But at this price, the Sonys easily win out over the AirPods, Jabra, and the Galaxy Buds. Now for me, I think their best competition is the new Powerbeats Pro. These are Beats, so of course, they’re gonna be super bass heavy. But both of these earbuds sound fantastic.
Now you audio nerds out there are gonna wanna know that the Sonys only supports AAC and SPC. So they can’t do aptX or Sonys own LDAC codec for higher quality music streaming. Now a lot of people have asked me how the M3s are at phone calls. People can tell that you’re on a headset. There’s really no way around that. But they haven’t complained about being unable to hear me clearly. Now, unfortunately, you can’t pair two devices at once. So if you wanna watch a movie on your laptop and take a call when it comes in, there’s no way to do that.
Sony, please figure this out. Now the one biggest downside of the Sony is that they’re not sweating or water resistant. It’s summer in New York City and I’m a sweaty human being. The idea that I can spend $230 on earbuds and have them ruined just on a hot summer day. That sucks. Battery life in noise canceling mode is six hours which is pretty good. If you turn that off, you get eight hours of battery life. And the carrying case holds enough juice for three extra charges.
So you get 24 hours with noise canceling on or up to 32 if it’s turned off. That charging case is a little bit. It’s twice the width of an AirPods case and about the same height, but it’s still plenty pocketable. And I think it’s worth it for all the extra battery life that you get in exchange. Plus it’ll charge over USB-C, and, in a pinch, you can charge it for 10 minutes and get 90 minutes of listening time. But unfortunately, there’s no wireless charging option.
Now, a lot of the problems from Sonys first truly wireless earbuds have been solved for the M3s. I didn’t really notice any connection dropouts. And the bad audio delay from the first model is gone now. Lips move in sync, and the connection is rock solid. How did Sony fix those problems? Well now, both earbuds connect to your phone simultaneously. Whereas before, one had to relay your music to the other one.
That also means you can use them individually if you wanna leave one in the case and use one like an old school Bluetooth headset for making calls or just listening to music. So, we’ve covered all the big picture stuff but Sony also added a lot of small touches that I like a lot. For one, both earbuds tell you their Bluetooth connection status and battery level when you put them in your ears. Two, there are a lot of LED lights on the earbuds themselves and the case.
So you definitely know whether you have to charge them or not. And three, when you take an earbud still pause your music until you put it back in. That’s pretty common nowadays, but it’s still a pretty great feature to have. Now, of course, Apples AirPods is the best-selling true wireless earbuds on the market. So if you wanna take those you’ve gotta offer something that Apple cant. For Sony, that’s noise cancellation. We’ve seen it before in their headphones to amazing results and now it’s coming to the earbuds that you can just put away when they’re not in use.
There are downsides of course. I would love to have seen sweat resistance and be able to use them with two devices at once. But I guess, I know what to look forward to for the 1000XM4s.