If you’re looking for the best high-end Bluetooth headphones, your search will return a few results that everyone talks about. You’ll almost always find references to the Bose QC 35 IIs (read our full review here), Surface headphones, and the Sony WH-1000MX3, but it’s hard to discern which may be the best for you. Bose has the legendary name, Microsoft produced an impressive first try that deserves a ton of consideration, but Sony might just be the best overall headphones out there right now.
I’m not an audiophile but I do love music and I am pretty much listening to it at all times. What I’ve never really put a ton of value on is noise cancelation. My previous experience with active noise canceling headphones was positive, if brief. The $99 pair of Soundcore Space NC headphones are great, but don’t begin to touch what’s possible with the Sony WH-1000MX3s.
Let’s touch on the noise cancelation before we move on. If you do any traveling, work outside in the yard, or work in a noisy environment where you need some peace, you’re missing out by not using a pair of ANC (active noise canceling) headphones. I also like to have my head up and know what’s going on around me, which includes sights and sounds, but I’ve truly fallen in love with popping these on and tuning out the outside world. I routinely wear them while cutting the grass and hear absolutely nothing. I am careful to keep my daughter and dog inside because they’re so powerful that they can sneak up on me and I want to keep everyone safe.
Just to give you an idea of just how well these work, I want to take you to a recent project my father and I have been working on. We recently replaced a french door at my house with a sliding glass door which was a bit smaller than the space the previous door occupied. This required us to use a table saw to cut wood to frame the door in and if you have any experience around table saws, you know just how loud they can be. Sitting about seven feet away from my dad while he cut 2x4s, I heard nothing. The sound was up at about 50% while I played music, but they ANC cut away everything else as I sipped on my Sprite Zero and watched him work. Thanks, Dad.
As pointed out by the excellent comparison of the Bose QC 35 II and Sony WH-1000MX3 video done by SoundGuys (no relation), the Bose headphones do a better job of drowning out lower frequencies (car engines, airplanes) but Sony does a better job at pretty much everything else. If you’re a frequent traveler, you may want to consider the option from Bose, but my testing says you’ll be pleased if you decide to go Sony regardless. Walking around downtown around plenty of traffic was a joy as I heard absolutely nothing outside of the new Spotify playlist I recently put together.
Sound quality is a win here too. With a slightly bass-heavy sound signature, the Sony WH-1000MX3 headphones sound fantastic from start to finish. Versace on the Floor by Bruno Mars and I Can’t Stop by Flux Pavillion both sound full with plenty of bass, without being overwhelming. I’ve often had to stop midway through planned long listening sessions with other headphones due to my sensitivity of sharp sounds and overdone bass, but there was none of that here.
Long listening sessions were made even more enjoyable by just how comfortable these are too. The earcups don’t breath as much as I’d like and can lead to some sweat while working outside, but they’re otherwise perfect. The band is thin and light while being flexible and strong. The headband provides enough padding, which isn’t a ton due to the lack of overall weight here. I was pleasantly surprised at how the headphones clamped to my head with just the right amount of pressure to keep them in place but without causing any kind of fatigue, even after multiple hours of listening.
The two areas where the WH-1000MX3s do fall a bit behind its competitors are controls and pairing. There are only two buttons on the headphones, a power and ANC/Ambient Mode button that doubles as the Google Assistant button. Holding it down will allow you to trigger our favorite assistant to check messages or query Assistant. These work fine and the buttons are tactile and provide good feedback. Holding down the power button for three seconds turn the headphones on and off and a longer press (around seven seconds) puts it into pairing mode. You’ll need to use this button often if you use these with multiple devices as they can only pair with one device at a time. That’s a bummer, but there is an NFC chip in the left cup for quick pairing with devices that have that feature (most phones do).
The right earcup houses a touch-sensitive panel that allows you to change tracks and volume with swipes. Swiping toward the top or bottom of the pad or holding a finger in place changes the volume, while going front to back, or vice versa, changes or restarts your track. I’ve had mixed results with these with many swipes just not being recognized but when it works, it’s nice. I enjoyed being able to swipe through my music without taking my gloves off in the yard, but it can be a bit of a pain to get it to trigger at all. Users have also complained about phantom touches in colder temperatures, although I didn’t have this issue after throwing these in the freezer for a while (yes, seriously) and then wearing them for about an hour after.
Overall, these are fantastic headphones and easily my favorite thing I have ever reviewed. I’ve been doing this for many years and have had several hundred products come across my desk and the Sony WH-1000MX3 headphones are at the top of the pile. There are plenty of other little things that make them great like USB type-C fast charging (seven hours of battery with 10 minutes of charging), long battery life (20+ hours), an optional wired connection, and a really nice hard carrying case. But what you need to know is this: if you want the best sounding headphones with the best selection of supported audio codecs and the best noise cancelation, you buy the Sony WH-1000MX3 headphones.