Unfortunately, at CES 2019 Sony didn’t announce any new headphones to compliment their 1000XM3’s. I was personally expecting them to announce a new pair of H.ear On 3’s and an updated version of their XB950N1’s. They did however announce that their headphones would be getting Alexa integration. And like I’ve been saying for awhile now, more and more headphones are going to have voice assistant integration here on out. Just look at how prominent cortana is on the Surface Headphones.
But over the last few days I’ve been getting a lot of comments about how the new 4.1.1 firmware update has negatively effected the Active Noise Cancelation on the Sony 1000XM3. So to get to the bottom of this I updated my 1000XM3’s to 4.1.1 and did ANC test with another pair 1000XM3’s running the previous 2.0.0 firmware. And heres what I got.
But first off lets go over what this new firmware update is all about. A lot of Sony’s headphones already support google assistant if you’re running the latest firmware even the older 1000XM2. And as voice assistants are maturing and becoming more prominent in our daily lives Sony is now pushing to add Alexa integration to their headphones as well. So now you can choose which voice assistant you would like to use if you even want it. Cause in order to use your voice assistant on your headphones you have to sacrifice your Ambient sound button. Meaning that you wont be able to manually toggle between having ANC on or Off or ambient mode… you would have to open the app every single time which is annoying if you frequently switch between modes like I do. But if you choose to have a voice assistant in your headphones, as soon as you press and hold this button you can start talking to your voice assistant like this.
And personally, I find voice assistant integration is very useful in a pair of headphones. If you’re working at home or at the office you can quickly ask it to do basic arithmetic or unit conversions for you. Or if you’re walking around in the city you can ask it to play a specific song or playlist for you or get walking directions to somewhere without having to take your phone out of your pocket. And I find that having a dedicated physical button on your headphones for a voice assistant is more efficient and faster than having to press and hold the touch pad or multi media button on other headphones and its more efficient than having to say “Hey Cortana” on the surface headphones.
But shortly after the new 4.1.1 firmware update started to roll out I started to get a lot of comments about how some owners noticed the Active Noise Cancelation on their 1000XM3’s wasn’t performing as well as it used to and that people’s voices were now much more audible. Theres even a reddit thread dedicated to the issue and there are a few Sony Help Forums Posts as well. So to be as fair and as objective as possible I performed an ANC test in a controlled environment, with a pair of M3’s running the 4.1.1 firmware update, a pair of M3’s running the 2.0.0 firmware that the majority of people still have, and I also threw in the Surface Headphones. Keep an eye on the lower right corner of your screen.
So after performing an ANC test were I was able to keep the ambient sound around me at a constant volume, I can objectively say that there is no difference in performance of the ANC on the 1000XM3 whether they’re running the 4.1.1 firmware update or 2.0.0 firmware. And subjectively, I can also say the same. I haven’t noticed any performance decrease in the ANC on my personal pair of 1000XM3’s. And to avoid any confusion, there is no 3.0 firmware for the 1000XM3’s. Sony just jumped from 2.0.0 to 4.1.1.
There are also some people claiming that the microphone audio quality on the 1000XM3’s has been improved from firmware 2.0.0 to firmware 4.1.1.
But personally I don’t hear any difference between either of these headphones. And if Sony did in fact improve the microphone in the 1000XM3’s I think they would have mentioned it in their change log.
So over all, I think people shouldn’t worry about updating to Firmware 4.1.1 cause contrary to what some people are saying, the ANC hasn’t been negatively effected on the 1000XM3’s. But if you just want to be safe I don’t thinks theres really any need to update to 4.1.1 in general. Cause theres always the possibility a small portion of users could experience issues when updating their products. It just didn’t happen to me. But After using Alexa for a few days on my headphones Ive found she’s not as useful as Google Assistant. With google assistant if you press the Ambient Mode button she’ll tell you the time and any notifications you might have like this…
And google assistant also notifies you as notifications come in and you can interact with them like this.
And finally before I wrap this video up I also wanted to address the cold weather touch pad issue circulating the Internet right now. Personally I never experienced that issue when my 1000XM3’s were running the older firmware and I still haven’t had that issue with my 1000XM3’s running the newer firmware. And if you were hoping that the new firmware update would fix that issue, Sony makes no mention of it in their 4.1.1 change log either. So again, I really don’t feel theres any rush to update to 4.1.1. cause like I said earlier, I think google assistant is more useful than Alexa. But if you really need to have Alexa in your headphones I think you’re alright updating to 4.1.1 cause like I demonstrated earlier in my controlled ANC test, theres isn’t a drop in performance when it comes to ANC.