Hardware Phones Reviews

Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones: what do I need to know before I buy?

Sony WH-1000XM3

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The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones are the best wireless headphones money can currently buy, taking top spot in specialist hi-fi magazines, websites and national papers. But they’re also expensive. Before you buy the WH-1000XM3, what do you need to know? Having bought a pair myself, I’m in prime position to answer your questions.

Where’s the best place to buy the WH-1000XM3 headphones?

I bought my pair from Amazon and it’s still my preferred choice because the price is so competitive and the delivery so quick: today, it’s £285 for the black style and £270 for the silver version. Buying from johnlewis.com does bring you an extra year’s guarantee, however, so is a good choice if you aren’t in a rush to get them.

I’ve trawled through a couple of different airports recently, but haven’t found it cheaper than Amazon. In fact, typically the WH-1000XM3 costs £299 on high streets, airports and online retailers.

Which colour of Sony WH-1000XM3 should I buy?

My theory: the silver versions of the Sony WH-1000XM3 are shifting much more slowly than the black ones, which is why you can save £15 by opting for silver. Having seen both designs in the flesh, though, I think that’s a saving you might come to regret: the black versions (in my opinion) look far more classy.

Is the Sony WH-1000XM3 worth the money?

Yes – if you can afford to spend almost £300 on a pair of headphones. This isn’t just my opinion: the headphones have a 4.9/5 rating on Richer Sounds, 9.3/10 on Currys and 4.3/5 from Amazon.

It gets these high ratings for three key reasons. First, the sound quality is exceptional – widely praised as the best you’ll find on a pair of wireless headphones and I’ve enjoyed listening to everything from Bjork (you can hear her every breath) to Radio 4.

Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones

Second, their noise cancelling is absurdly good. I’ve tried the WH-1000XM3 on planes and trains (no automobiles yet), and it does an amazing job of reducing annoying whines. I also love that you can switch off the noise reduction to listen to an announcement, say, simply by cupping the right earphone with your hand.

And the third reason is that these headphones are so comfortable. In the office, I still prefer to listen to my Echo, but I can wear my 1000XM3s for 2-3 hours and barely notice I’m wearing them.

Can I listen to what’s going on around me?

Yes, and actually this is a killer feature of the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones. With the noise cancelling feature switched on, you can activate the Ambient Sound Mode by pressing the dedicated NC/AMBIENT button.

You have an immense amount of control how Ambient Sound Mode works in the accompanying app (Headphones Connect). Here, you can choose from 20 settings depending on how much ambient noise you want to hear, and switch on “Focus on Voice” if you want to listen out for announcements.

Does Sony WH-1000XM3 have a microphone?

Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones

Yes. There’s one built into each speaker – it’s the lozenge shape in the photo above – and they work well. I’ve taken phone calls on the headset without any problems.

Is the Sony WH-1000XM3 waterproof or sweatproof?

No, these aren’t the headphones to choose if you’re thinking of taking to them to the gym. They can handle a rain shower, but that’s about it.

Are the Sony WH-1000XM3s suitable for vegans?

Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones leather

Not as weird a question as you might think, because many high-end headphones do use leather. However, the Sony WH-1000XM3 uses leatherette material, so no worries there.

How do you pair the Sony WH-1000XM3?

To pair the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones with your phone, PC or Mac, you need to press the power button for a few seconds (Sony says seven seconds). The blue lights will start flashing, at which point you can search for them using the Bluetooth settings on your phone or computer in the normal way.

You can pair the headphones with up to two devices; I’ve currently got them paired with my Android phone and Windows laptop.

How do you charge the Sony WH-1000XM3?

There’s a USB-C slot built into the right headphone and Sony includes a (very short!) USB cable in the box. You simply need to plug this into a USB plug or your laptop. It takes around three hours to fully charge and you can tell it has because the red light that appears when you plug it in will go off.

Do they only work over Bluetooth?

No: you can plug in a 3.5mm cable, and Sony includes a short, 1.2m cable in the box. There’s also an adapter for planes that use a weird double prong.

Does it come with a carry case?

Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones

Yes. It’s a semi-hard shell, which means you can’t sit on it but it does offer good protection from bumps. It’s sturdy enough that I sling it into my carry-on bag without worrying.

How long does the Sony WH-1000XM3 last on a single charge?

This depends on how you use them. Sony reckons the maximum is 38 hours and the minimum 18 hours, with the biggest factor being which mode you’re using it in.

Ambient Sound Mode is a battery killer, pretty much cutting its running time in half. Noise cancelling shaves off around a quarter of the time.

What codecs does the Sony WH-1000XM3 support?

SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD and LDAC.

SBC is the default for all Bluetooth devices, AAC is the format favoured by Apple, while aptX and aptX HD are supported by higher-end devices and allow for higher sound quality (than SBC).

LDAC is a Sony technology, but it became a core part of Android from version 8 (Oreo). As such, any recent Android phone should support it.

More questions about the Sony WH-1000XM3? Pop them in the comments below. For instance, I plan to cover the voice assistant more in a future article.

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About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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