Sony’s 1000X line of wireless headphones have become the market leader for noise-canceling headsets, and this year at IFA 2018, the company has announced the latest (and greatest) model: the 1000X M3, which offer better noise canceling, an updated design, USB-C, and more.
I’ve been using the 1000X M3s for a few days, including a long seven-hour flight, and in short, they’re the real deal. It was a high bar to clear since the original 1000Xs were already some of the best noise-canceling headphones out there, and the 1000X M2 improved on that even more. But the new 1000X M3s are the best pair of noise-canceling headphones that Sony has made yet, thanks to a host of improvements both big and small. We haven’t had time to put them through their paces for a full review yet, but they’re possibly the best noise-canceling headphones on the market.
The biggest change is in how the noise canceling is handled. Sony has completely overhauled things on the M3s with a new, in-house “HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1,” which the company claims offers four times better performance than the previous generation. I’ll leave quibbling over the numbers to the experts, but the fact is that the 1000X M3s are dead quiet (in a good way). Music is crisp and clear even over the loud streets of New York, a roaring plane, and the rumbling subways I’ve been using them on.
Crucially, Sony has improved the design and fit of the 1000X M3s. The updated model weighs less than the M2s. There’s deeper padding on the ear cups and additional padding added to the headband. The headphones also sit closer to your head and put less pressure on your ears. Where the original 1000Xs were pretty comfortable, the M3s rank up there with the pillowy Beoplay headphones. I’ve been wearing the M3s pretty much nonstop, and even after a long overnight flight (and nap), they’re still great to wear.
Sony has also tweaked the design on an aesthetic level. The buttons are nicer with a new gloss finish, the faux-leather texture has been axed, and there are new copper-tone highlights for an overall more polished look.
Another big change is the long-awaited replacement of the Micro USB port for charging with USB-C. There’s still a 3.5mm jack for when you want to use the 1000X M3s as wired headphones, and the USB-C port is only for charging. (Sadly, you can’t connect a USB-C to USB-C cable to plug them directly into, say, a Google Pixel 2.) But given how rare USB-C charging headphones are at all, it’s still a big step forward.
The USB-C port isn’t just for convenience (or people who take their port standards too seriously). It also enables quick charging, offering five hours of playback after a quick 10-minute charge. As for regular battery life, Sony says that the M3s should get up to 30 hours of wireless playback (with noise canceling on) from a single charge.
There are other improvements on the software side of things that make the M3s better, too. A new Automatic Power Off setting lets users choose how long the headphones will stay on without active audio playing. This is convenient for when you’d just like to block out noise, like in a loud office or while taking a nap. The Quick Attention Mode (which quickly shuts off the noise canceling to let ambient sound in) and swappable gesture controls return from the previous models. I ordinarily dislike gesture controls when physical ones would do just fine, but the swiping controls on the 1000X M3s actually work pretty well — to the point where it’s hard to complain much. Plus, like the M2s (which had the feature added with a software update), the 1000X M3s will come with Google Assistant support.
There are a few problems with the M3s, though. The optional ambient audio modes for walking or announcements aren’t great, and you’re probably better off just lifting an ear cup to hear whatever the person near you is saying. While the audio quality is good, the bass can also be overpowering at points. These are minor issues in what’s otherwise a very good pair of headphones.
The 1000X M3s are set to cost $349.99 when they launch in September. In fact, they’re available on Amazon already with immediate shipping. The price is on par with what competitors like Bose’s QC35 IIs cost, but if you’re someone who just spent $300 on a pair of M2s last year, you’ll likely be displeased at the thought of shelling out for an upgrade so soon.
But as the saying goes: silence is golden. What’re a few extra bucks compared to that?
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