Tech review: Decent bluetooth headphones that will tune out the world
Sony WH1000XM3 headphones €299
Product name: Sony WH1000XM3
Where to buy: sony.ie
I like my bluetooth headphones. Admittedly, I was forced into the wireless world when Apple and other phone makers started dropping the headphone jack from their products. Sure, you can use the headphone that come in the box – lightning adapters for Apple, USB C for Samsung, Huawei and others – but that means carrying a headphone set that you can’t use with anything else and that’s just a massive pain.
I’m used to bluetooth headphones now. I can’t go back to being tethered by wires unless it’s a serious emergency.
The name of Sony’s newest headphone, the WH1000XM3, may not trip off the tongue, but it ticks all the right boxes. Active noise cancelling makes them a good choice for commuters, blocking out much of the irritating background noise.
That’s something that Sony’s MDR1000X (my current headphone of choice) and the previous WH1000XM3 headphones both did well, but the new version takes things this talent up a notch.
The headphone comes with adaptive sound control, which detects your activity automatically and adjusts the ambients sound settings accordingly. Noisier environments mean the noise cancelling works harder than it would for a relatively quiet flight, for example. It also compensates for atmospheric pressure when you’re flying.
They also share one important feature with the MDR1000X – if you need to talk to someone while listening to music, you can simply place one hand over the ear cup and the volume turns down. It can be accidentally triggered for example if you have a close fitting hood up on a rainy day, which is annoying, but on balance I’d rather have the feature than not.
You’ve also got touch controls on the ear cup: gestures that can increase and decrease volume, play and pause your music, and skip tracks. It’s all very simple, swiping up and down, and left and right, so even a new user will be able to pick it up quickly.
Sound quality is, as you’d expect, great. If you are a stickler about the details in your music you may find something to criticise but for most users, the headphones will pump out the right amount of sound and adjust to the different audio types you throw at it. These headphones are a good all rounder, so will suit people looking for something that will move from leisure time to work will find a lot to like about the WH1000XM3.
My main objection to some over-ear headphones is that they can sometimes pinch a bit if you’ve been wearing them for too long. The good news is that Sony has tweaked the design of the WH1000XM3, making them lighter and more comfortable around the ear cups than its predecessors.
Our test involved wearing the headphone set for about 10 hours at a time on transatlantic flights, and it was always comfortable. There’s only a handful of headphones of this type out there that can achieve this.
Another bonus? You can access your phone’s digital assistant, and with a software update, Alexa. If you’re into that sort of thing.
There’s a lot to love here. The sound quality is excellent, noise cancelling is top notch and the headphones are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time thanks to the padded ear cups. They feel lightweight but not flimsy, and certainly stood up to a bit of abuse during the review period. They’re not delicate, which is good for commuters who may shove them into a bag without too much thought.
The not so good
You get about 30 hours of listening time from a single charge, which is more than you’ll need for a single journey, but you’ll still have to remember to charge them. The good news is that they have a fast-charging capability that gives you five hours of play time from a single 20 minute charge.
Sony has moved to USB C for these headphones, which means you’ll have another cable to switch with your phone charger when you get stuck for power. Assuming you’re an Android user, of course.
The verdict ****
If you are looking for decent bluetooth headphones that will tune out the world, the WH1000XM3 will fit the bill.