BERLIN—If you want noise-cancelling headphones, Bose used to be an easy enough recommendation. Then Sony entered the market, first with the MDR-1000X then with the WH-1000X2. Both headphones boasted excellent noise cancellation that fell just a little short. But Sony’s new WH-1000XM3 take noise-cancellation capabilities to a serenely silent level, and leaves all competitors in the dust.
The headphones have a snugger, lightweight fit and come with Sony’s dedicated QN1 chip for noise cancellation. There’s also a companion app that lets you completely customize your level of noise cancellation, adapt to ambient noise, and control EQ settings.
Putting on the WH-1000XM3 in the very noisy, crowded Sony demo area at IFA was almost like going deaf. The thump of music, the roar of the crowd, and the other TV and speaker demos going on around me all muffled into nothingness. Turning music on blotted everything out completely.
I’ve previously used the Bose QuietComfort 35 and Bose QuietControl 30, which are considered the gold standard of the industry. Even compared to that heavyweight Bose duo, I was blown away by how good the noise cancellation was on Sony’s WH-1000XM3. It could very well be the best noise-cancelling headphone I’ve ever used.
Sony has all the other fundamentals down, too. You have 40mm drivers, all the high-quality audio codecs like DSEEHX and LDAC, and an interesting Smart Listening mode that can adjust the ambient sound based on your activities.
For instance, when you’re walking in the street you might want a little bit more background noise coming through so you can keep track of cars. Or if you’re commuting, you may want to block out the rattle and roar of the subway, but allow voices to come through.
The headphones do this automatically when you enable the option through the app. They can even take into account something like atmospheric pressure when you’re flying and adjust accordingly.
Because this is Sony, all the bells and whistles are present as well. This means you have NFC pairing, the latest Bluetooth 5.0 and associated codecs, and a USB-C charging port that’s enabled for fast charging. A lot of people have clamored for the change from micro USB, so it’s nice to see Sony deliver.
Of course, true noise-cancelling zen with all the acoutrements will cost you a pretty penny. The WH-100XM3 cost $349.99, which puts these headphones on par with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. That’s not a bad deal for all the extra features you get.