Ears-On the Sony WH-1000XM3 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones – The Roaring Sound of Silence

About this time last year, I wrote a review of Sony’s WH-1000Xm2 headphones. They were a great pair of headphone with Active Noise Cancelling capability that surpassed the Bose Quiet Comfort QC35s, which I own.

Now, Sony has released the third iteration of the 1000s. Typical of YouTube hyperbole, online posters claimed this version 3 is amazing. I was guarded, but as I become curious, I took the bait and bought myself a pair to see if all the hype was justifiable.

At $450 for the third iteration of the two-year-old product, it’s not cheap. But while curiousity may very well kill the cat, in the worst case scenario, my curiousity would only kill my wallet.

A surprise welcomed me when I opened the box. Even the headphone case is quite an improvement over last year’s model. It feels more luxurious, with a high quality cloth finish unlike last year’s easy-to-scratch leather-like finish. The headphones look and feel as luxurious as headphones I’ve tested that cost upwards of $600. The fit has also been improved. The earcups are soft and smooth, and the headband is less tight than the previous model. Not that you’ll notice right away, but for a long flight from Toronto to Hong Kong (about 16-18 hours or so), I only had to take them off once, and that was for landing.

Noise cancelling capability is also improved. I brought both these headphones and my QC35s for the trip in order to do multiple A/B comparisons. The Sony ‘phones are almost dead quiet. Even the person sitting next to me at the time (also coincidentally wearing a pair of QC35s) said the same when I offered for them to give the Sony’s a try to compare.

Sound quality has improved as well. Bass frequencies are much tighter and less bloated (not that it was really bloated to begin with), and there’s also an improvement in staging. Since I always use the songs that I personally produced in my recording studio, which I have also been listening to through PSB M4U-2s for almost a decade, I truly know what they are supposed to sound like.

After listening to these headphones during a recent trip to Indonesia as well, they have become my new reference headphones. No, they are not audiophile-grade in any sense of the word. But instead of carrying two pair of headsets wherever I go, these headphones can truly replace both pairs without any compromise. And as a plus, I gained a lot on the noise cancelling side. I’d highly recommend these headphones, for both their sound quality and noise cancelling capabilities.

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