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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones Review

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Goh Beng Yeow
Goh Beng Yeow, the Founder / Editor at Porta-Fi™, is a recipient of the IT Youth Award in Singapore. Twice nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, Beng Yeow has previously founded startups such as PDALive.com, Coded Pixels Consultants and was a Tech writer for TODAY, a national daily newspaper under MediaCorp. Since 2017, he has been writing, editing and producing commentaries, interviews, news and reviews on Porta-Fi™. In 2019, Beng Yeow was appointed Advisor to LHDC™, the industry's latest low latency and high-definition Bluetooth audio codec.

Usability

Like the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless and other high-end True Wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM3 features a proximity sensor in each earbud, allowing playback to be paused when either of the earbuds is taken out and resumes when the earbud is back in place.  Each earbud also sports a glossy circular area which functions as touch controls, by default, the left button is preset to Ambient Sound Control and is customisable via Sony’s Companion app, Headphones Connect for Playback Control or Google Assistant functionality.

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones - Left and Right Button Customisation

The right button is preset to Playback Control: a single-tap pause or plays the music, double-tap advances to the next track while triple-tap returns to the previous track, tap and hold and one would have access to Siri or Google Assistant depending on whether one is using an iPhone or an Andriod Smartphone. Similarly, the right button is also customisable via Headphones Connect for Ambient Sound Control or Google Assistant functionality.

Similar to Sony’s other headphone offerings, the WF-1000XM3 offers complete integration with Google Assistant. What this means is that one has the ability to have Google Assistant read incoming messages aloud, the ability to have Google Assistant respond to them immediately as well as the ability to have Google Assistant perform real-time translation when travelling to a foreign land.

Sony has brought over my favourite feature from the WH-1000XM3, the Quick Attention mode. Placing a finger over the left earbud activates the Quick Attention mode which similar its over-ear sibling turns the volume down and lets in ambient sound and stays that ways as long as one holds the finger in position; once the finger is out of position, audio playback resumes with earbuds returning to the previous Ambient Sound or Noise Cancelling mode. This allows one to listen to an announcement on a train or a plane or simply have a quick verbal exchange with another individual.

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones - Quick Attention Mode

What is noticeably missing from the touch controls is the ability to adjust the volume, one will have to do that either directly on the smartphone, via the voice assistant or the Headphones Connect app.

I like how the earbuds are secured in place magnetically when placed back into the case, this ensures the earbuds are in position and avoid scenarios where earbuds fail to charge. When placed in the case and charging, the embedded LEDs on the earbuds and the LED on the front of the case will light in red. While the earbuds provide its battery level verbally when one first put them on or via Headphones Connect, there is no battery indicator on the case. One would know it is time to charge the case when the LED light on the front of the case blinks rapidly in red indicating that it does not have enough juice to fully charge the earbuds.

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

A significant number of readers have asked me about the quality of voice calls. I have done a few calls with the WF-1000XM3 with my friends during the review process and the general impression was that I was calling them using a Bluetooth earpiece, however, none of them had issues of making out what I was trying to say or cite any difficulty about hearing me.

The earbuds lack of a water-resistant rating is particularly glaring in the sea of True Wireless offerings today. While the WF-1000XM3 is not designed for sports, an IPX rating would provide a peace of mind particularly for users like me who perspires a lot and lives in the tropical city of Singapore where it is summer the whole year-round.

During the review period of 2 weeks, the earbuds registered an average of 6 hours and 13 minutes with noise cancellation enabled and the volume set at 50%. On paper, the battery life for the WF-1000XM3 is rated at 6 hours on a single charge with noise cancellation enabled, one could extend it to eight hours with noise cancellation disabled. The case doubles up as a charger with a built-in 700mAh battery, capable of an additional 18 hours of battery life with noise cancellation enabled or 24 hours of battery life with noise cancellation disabled. Similar to the over-ear variant, the WF-1000XM3 also have a quick charge function where just 10 minutes of charging gives you up to 90 minutes of battery life.

Part 1: Introduction, Design and Build
Part 2: Usability
Part 3: Sound Quality
Part 4: Product Specifications
Part 5: Review Ratings, Summary

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