Sony WF-1000XM3 review

One of the best-sounding pairs of truly wireless buds ever

Sony has made a real name for itself in personal audio over the past couple of years. First, it took the crown away from Bose for over the ear ANC headphones, and now it’s looking to dominate the truly wireless headphone market with the WF-1000XM3.

Design

As far as truly wireless buds go the Sony WF-1000XM3 are slightly bulky with a fairly large case. However, when you consider the long battery life along with the active noise canceling capabilities, the WF-1000XM3 buds are rather svelte.

Despite the size, the buds themselves are rather lightweight and feature touch controls on both the left and the right side. Touch controls aren’t the most user-friendly to begin with but placing them in a little divot makes it easier to use.

Besides the larger than average size, the only real downside with the design of the WF-1000M3 comes from the lack of water/sweat resistance. Which is something to be aware of when you’re spending this kind of cash on some headphones.

The case is made of plastic and features a soft-touch feel and charges with USB-C, which I am a big fan of and makes me oh so happy. The buds only fit into the case one way and are held in place with magnets making it easy to insert while ensuring they won’t fall out even when the lid is open.

Comfort

Sony provides you with two different sets of ear tips in a range of sizes making it easier to find the optimal fit for your ears. As someone with smaller than average ear canals, I was still able to find a set that fit my ears comfortably and prevented the buds from falling out. Well, prevented them from falling out more frequently, because it did happen on the rare occasion.

While using the WF-1000XM3 headphones I was able to listen to music well over an hour before I felt any sort of ear fatigue. Oddly, instead of feeling it in my ear canal, the discomfort began on the inside of my ear where the buds rest.

User Experience

The WF-1000XM3 buds are easy to remove from the carrying case and after you’ve paired them once, they will automatically power on and pair with your device each time you remove them. They will also power down and disconnect from your device once placed back in the case.

I mentioned before that touch controls are not the most user-friendly on headphones. I’ve never been a fan of this interface but Sony placed the controls in a divot making it easier to find, while also preventing accidental touches when inserting or removing from your ears due to the placement. Which, in general, accidentally activating the controls is one of my biggest complaints with touch controls on headphones.

The controls offer all of the typical controls you expect from headphones such as, play/pause, skipping tracks, answering calls, and activating different modes.

One function that is not offered though, is the ability to control the volume, which I found to be a big bummer. If you want to adjust the volume you’ll have to reach for your phone or smartwatch.

There is also a built-in sensor that will automatically pause your music when you remove one or both of the buds and start the music again once you place them back in your ear, or cover the sensor.

App

The Sony Headphones app adds a lot of useful functionality to the buds and I recommend you get it as soon as you get the buds. It allows you to enable different audio settings, change the equalizer, control the active noise cancellation, and even customize the touch-sensitive buttons.

By using the app I was able to switch on Ambient Sound Control, which is one of my favorite features on these headphones. Have you ever needed to stop and hear your surroundings for a second or answer a question for someone real quick? That requires taking your headphones out and is a huge annoyance. Not with Ambient Sound Control.

By using this setting you can long-press on the touch-sensitive button and it lets in all the ambient noise, making it quick and easy to listen to what is around you without the need to remove the headphones.

Sound Quality

The Sony WF-1000XM3 is not only one of the best-sounding pairs of truly wireless buds I’ve ever heard, it’s also one of the best pair of Bluetooth earbuds I’ve heard period. Combined with some of the advanced audio settings and equalizer in the app, I was blown away by the sound these produced.

As someone who enjoys a nice thump of bass, I was able to adjust them to give me the deep clean sound that I crave. What’s more, it did not make music sound muddy. The highs were restrained and yet so clear and it gave plenty of sound separation to help you pick out individual instruments in each track.

The WF-1000XM3 also provide a nice open sound stage allowing you to feel as if the music is all around you and not just jammed into your ear canal. That’s something I particularly look for in headphones because I enjoy a nice open sound and these Sony buds definitely delivered.

I must note that in order to really get the best out of the audio quality, I had to enable the DSEE HX processing, enable Ambient Sound Control, and make slight adjustments to the equalizer for my own preferences.

Noise Cancellation

Considering Sony’s reputation with the WH-1000XM3, it’s no surprise I found the active noise cancellation on the WF-1000XM3 buds to be more than acceptable. While they won’t tune out all the noise around you, it’s great for blocking out some of the background noise like what you’d experience on an airplane or from your air conditioner.

Pair that with the tight seal with the comfy ear tips Sony provides and enough volume, and you should be able to block out all of those monotonous sounds and focus on your music.

Sony’s app will even allow you to adjust how much ambient sound you allow in which is handy for when you’re out and about and don’t want to be caught off guard.

Bluetooth Connection

For the most part, I found the connection to be good on the Sony WF-1000XM3 buds, except for the occasional drop out here and there. However, I did have the buds set to sound quality priority within the app during those occasions.

If you leave it set to the default, which puts a priority on a stable connection, then you can most likely avoid those stutters. For me, I felt it was worth the rare drop out to ensure the best audio quality for my ears.

Battery Life

Sony quotes the WF-1000XM3 buds for six hours of continuous listening with a case that provides three additional charges. That all adds up to 24 total hours of listening time.

In my experience, I rarely listen to music for longer than 2-4 hours at a time and with charging the case every few days, I never experienced the buds dying on me.

If you do find the buds running low then one of the best parts is how fast they do charge, 10 minutes of charging will get you 90 minutes worth of listening time. It’s for that reason that most of the time when I removed the buds they reported having a full charge.

Final Thoughts

Once again, Sony has stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. Similar to the over the ear WH-1000XM3 counterpart, the new truly wireless WF-1000XM3 are some of the best sounding headphones on the market with class-leading noise cancellation.

It’s rare to find a pair of truly wireless headphones with this level of sound quality and number of features. It makes the $230 price tag worth it if you care about solid build quality, impeccable sound, and owning the most fully-featured pair of truly wireless headphones on the market.

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