Sony WH-1000XM3 Review - 2019's BEST ANC Headphones

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Over the past year, the Sony WH-1000XM2 have been my go to ANC headphones. These headphones set the bar when it came to active noise cancelation; they blocked out the most amount of noise with little to no cabin pressure. The M2’s have the best technology built in them… but they do fall short when it comes to comfort and build quality. But now… we have the Sony WH-1000XM3… I’m going to be honest, I didn’t expect these headphones so soon… but man I’m glad they’re here. Here’s what I like about the Sony 1000XM3’s, here’s what I HATE about the Sony 1000XM3’s, and do you really need to upgrade from the Sony 1000XM2’s. 

The Sony 1000XM3’s are new for 2018 and they’re already gunning for the tittle of The best ANC headphones of 2019. The Sony 1000XM2’s are now a year old since they came out in September of 2017, and I feel they were the best ANC headphones of 2018. The newer 1000XM3’s are currently retailing for $350; the same as the M2’s when they first came out and the price of the M2’s has been reduced. If you want to pick either of these headphones up I’ll have links in the description below, and if you use the links it really helps out the channel. I highly suggest you check them out cause Sony’s headphones routinely go on sale so you’ll might get lucky. And also check out the new merch shelf down below. 

First lets talk about the accessories that come included with the 1000XM3’s cause they’ve also changed. The hardshell carrying case of the M3’s is slightly bigger than the M2’s, and instead of a faux leather front its now fabric. I like both cases but I do like the M3’s more cause theres a little storage compartment on the inside for your cables. One of the most obvious upgrades to the M3’s is the use of a USB-C port instead of a Micro USB port like on the on the M2’s. You get a USB-C to USB-A cable for charging but I hate the fact that its so short compared to the M2’s charging cable. But its not like you’re going to be using it all that much. The M3’s also come included with a 3.5 millimeter audio cable… and unfortunately it’s much cheaper compared to the cable that comes included with the M2’s. Its much thinner and its much shorter. I know we’re moving towards a wireless future and the majority of smartphones don’t have audio jacks any more, but as a content creator I do use a wired connection to edit my videos on a regular basis. And unfortunately I’m worried the M3’s included audio cable is going to wear out much faster, and since its not as long I don’t have as much slack compared to the M2’s. This is one of the minor things that peeves me about the M3’s, but you can always just get another cable. 

Now with all of that out of the way, lets talk about the headphones themselves. In a lot of ways the M3’s are very similar to the M2’s. They have the same basic shape, they can either be laid down flat or you can fold them up, they both have a touch pad on the right ear cup and they even use similar building materials. But the M3’s have some very significant differences on the outside from the M2’s. Over all the build quality of the M3’s has been improved, theres much less creeking and squeaking, tolerances are much tighter on the M3’s and the majority of the ear cups are now covered in soft touch material which actually feels very nice every time you reach to put these headphones on. The headband on the M3’s also has significantly more padding than the headband on the M2’s which is something I didn’t even realize I needed till now. The only two physical buttons on the M3’s have also been upgraded from the M2’s; they’re much easier to find, they’re easier to tell apart, and they also have much better tactile feed back.

But perhaps the most important upgrade to the M3’s are the ear cups. The ear cups on the M3’s  are much more spacious than the ear cups on the M2’s and since theres less padding in contact with your skin, the ear cups on the M3’s over heat much less than the ear cups on the M2’s. And even though the ear cups on the M3’s are more spacious than the ear cups on the M2’s… the M3’s still manage to be a little more low profile than the M2’s. Even though both of these headphones are big head approved, the Sony 1000XM3’s are significantly more comfortable to wear than the 1000XM2’s. All of the physical upgrades on the M3’s really add up… they feel better in the hand, theres more padding under the headband, the ear cups are no longer cramped and since the M3’s are 20 grams lighter they’re a little less noticeable when it comes to extended wear. 

Now when it comes to tech specs, both the M2’s and M3’s are rocking a 30 hour battery life. And for me the M2’s usually last me about 2 weeks in between charges. And thats with me using them with ANC turned on when Im commuting with them, or when I’m using them with a wired connection to edit a video but with ambient mode turned on, so its like editing with open back headphones. But the big difference the M2 and M3 is that that M3 has far better fast charging. if you plug these headphones in for 10 minutes from a dead battery they’ll get you 5 hours of playback time, which is a big step up from the M2’s cause they would only get you one hour of playback time. 

The M3’s have also been upgraded from bluetooth 4.1 to bluetooth 4.2. Both of these headphones have stable connections that don’t cut out, but they both have a little bit of latency so they aren’t the best for watching youtube videos. But its doable. But one major things I hate about the M3’s is that they can only be connected to one device at a time just like the M2’s which means you still cant hot swap. I know a lot of people including myself were looking forward to connecting to multiple devices… but you cant. It could have something todo with Sony’s DSEE and LDAC technologies, but thats just a guess. 

But now lets talk about the 1000XM3’s active noise cancellation cause believe it or not its actually been improved from the 1000XM2. Both of these headphones have an atmospheric pressure sensor which first came out on the M2’s last year, but new to the M3’s is Sony’s dedicated HD noise canceling Processor which they call the QN1. And this processor does two things, it analyzes the ambient sound so in theory it can block out more higher frequency sounds like chatter and it also has a built in amplifier so theres less distortion in your music. And I have to say, the 1000XM3 does in fact manage to block out more noise than the 1000XM2’s all while having very little cabin pressure and no hissing in the background. It’s not a huge difference, but you do notice a difference across the board if you use these headphones back to back.

Now if you noticed during the ANC test the M3’s were able to block a little more noise than the M2’s, which honestly is rather impressive. But one of my favorite things about about the ANC on the M2’s and M3’s is that they actually pick up very little wind noise. And this is a big deal cause with a lot of other ANC headphones if you use them in a windy environment you start hearing some WHOOOOSH playing in the back ground of your music. The ANC microphones of these headphones are located in the same spot, but since they’re recessed in the body then they greatly reduce the chances of annoying wind noise getting into your music. 

And speaking of music, im actually very happy to report that sound quality has also been improved on the 1000XM3’s from the 1000XM2’s. Most notably the bass. The bass on the 1000XM3 is able to get much deeper than the bass on the 1000XM2 and it takes a lot more for it to bottom out. But when it comes to soundstage, clarity, and instrument separation those characteristics are still very similar 1000XM2. And thats not a bad thing, both the M2’s and M3’s sound good but the bass on the M3’s is deeper and cleaner. 

But just like the M2’s, the 1000XM3 also connects to Sony’s headphone app. And from this app you can either go in and select from a few pre made EQ settings or you can make your own. So you can make the 10000XM3 sound however you like depending on the type of music you listen to. But just keep in mind, the 1000XM3 and M2 are mostly suited for easy listening. Even though you can crank the bass up all the way to 10 if you’re a bass head you’re better off picking up the XB950N1 or the Skull Candy Crushers 360. Sony’s app also allows you to mess around with surround settings and you can also control the sound positioning on these headphones. Personally I don’t even touch these settings cause all they do is distort your music. But Sony’s app also allows you to calibrate both the M2’s and M3’s so you can get better noise cancelation out of them. And from personal experience I’ve found that this calibration process does in fact work. And finally, Sony’s headphones app also allows you to pick how much ambient sound you want to let in when you’re wearing these headphones. And and this is a great feature to have if you’re walking around in the city. But the cool thing about the ambient sound setting on these headphones is that its still selective of what sounds it lets in. It limits the amount of noise pollution it lets in and instead focuses on voices. And if a random loud sound comes along like a siren, the headphones will still completely block them out. So you don’t have to worry about Jump scares or going deaf. 

Like I mentioned earlier both of these headphones have touch pads on the right ear cups. You double tap to play or pause your music, you swipe up or down to adjust your volume, and swipe front or back to skip or go back track. And the accuracy on both of these headphones is the same, which is good. The touch controls on both of these headphones are very easy to use once you get used to them and very rarely are there unrecognized inputs. But perhaps my favorite thing about the touch pad on both of these headphones is quick attention. If you fully cover the touch pad then the headphones will lower the volume of your music and they’ll pump in all of the ambient sound so if you have to talk to someone, you can do so without having to take your headphones off.

But even though I really do like the upgrades found on the 1000XM3, I think sony really dropped the ball by not adding a dedicated google assistant button on their new headphones. Both of these headphones have google assistant integration and the rest of Sony’s headphone line will soon follow. But in order to use google assistant on either of this headphones you have to sacrifice your NC Ambient sound button. So you’re not going to be able to manually cycle through your Noise canceling settings like this…

And not having this functionality can get pretty annoying cause I switch from ANC to Ambient sound mode on a regular basis. Now I'm fully aware that if you press and hold on the touch pad you can summon your voice assistant. But pressing, and holding, and then talking isn’t as efficient as having a dedicated button where you just press and talk like this… 

So what im getting at is, I do like that both of these headphones have google assistant integration but I wish the M3’s had an extra physical button so that we don’t have to sacrifice the NC Ambient sound button. I feel that sony should have had the fore site to add this extra button to the M3’s like Bose did on their QC 35 Series 2. And if you don’t want to use google assistant maybe you can use the extra button to toggle between preselected EQ settings. Im just spit balling here. 

And finally the microphone on the Sony 1000XM3 has also been improved from the M2’s, I’ve actually been able to take phone calls with these headphones without having people complain about the audio

Cause for comparison heres the microphone on the Sony 1000XM2. Theres much more static and theres much more echoing going on. 

So over all, I personally feel the new Sony WH-1000XM3 aren’t just an incremental upgrade from the 1000XM2, the 1000XM3’s are a whole new beast that has been redesigned from the inside out. Even though the design is familiar, the 1000XM3 have better build quality and are much more comfortable to wear than the 1000XM2 cause of their redesigned ear cups and padding. They look better on your head cause they’re more low profile and the fact that they manage to block out even more noise than the 1000XM2 is truly impressive. And I personally really enjoy the fact that the bass on the M3’s is deeper and cleaner than the M2’s. But still the Sony 1000XM3 aren’t prefect, the lack of multi device connections is a bummer for power users like myself and I really feel a dedicated google assistant button on the M3’s is sorely lacking. But none the less, the Sony 1000XM3’s are still a very solid pair of ANC headphones that have been improved from its predecessor where it matters most. Build quality and fit. If you already have the original Sony MDR-1000X then its definitely time for an upgrade. And I feel that if you already have the Sony 1000XM2 you don’t really need to upgrade… but you’ll be really happy if you did. I don’t think I could be able to go back to the M2’s from the M3’s.