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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Sony WF-1000XM3 Review: Stellar noise-cancelling TWS

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Sony initially launched its WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds globally last year. As it hit the retail market, I only heard about good things about the product. The claim of best-in-class noise cancelling earbuds made me very excited about the product. In fact, I wanted to buy the product for personal use. However, Sony did not release the WF-1000XM3 in India right after the global launch. Also Read – Sony A7C mirrorless camera leaks ahead of September 15 launch

Now, months after the global launch, Sony finally launched the earbuds in August for Rs. 19,990. I have been using the WF-1000XM3 for about a month while pushing it to its limit. And after extensive use, here’s my full review of the Sony WF-1000XM3. Also Read – Sony PlayStation 5 showcase event set for September 16: Everything we know

Design, fit and the charging case

Starting with the design, I must tell you that I am no big fan of in-ear style earphones and it is just my personal choice. I recently reviewed Sony’s sub-10K TWS (Sony XB-700) earbuds and I was very critical of its protruding design. Hence, coming from the XB-700 TWS, I was skeptical of the design, fit and comfort of WF-1000XM3. But, the WF-1000XM3 delightfully surprised me. I could feel the improvement both in the design and comfort while testing the earbuds. Also Read – Bose looking to rival AirPods Pro with upcoming QuietComfort Earbuds

That said, If I were to judge the XM3 design as a standalone product, then I would have a different opinion altogether. All I can say is that Sony can still do a lot better.

Coming to the charging case, the Sony WF-1000XM3 TWS offer a big battery pack in the smart rechargeable case, The case looks looks chic with copper/bronze colored lid (at least with my black review unit). It holds the buds securely in place with magnets and I never had any issue regarding the buds slipping out of the case at anytime. The red indicative light on the charging case looks stylish, and keeps you informed about the charge levels of the buds.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 offers up to 6 hours of battery backup with ANC enabled. The charging case can charge the TWS three times from 0 to 100 percent. Sony has also added support for fast charging which allows 90-minutes of music playback on a 10-minute charge.

Sony WF-1000XM3

That said, my major complain about the charging case is its size. The case is quite big when compared with other TWS cases that I have used (especially AirPods). I was rather uncomfortable keeping the case in my pocket. Majority of the times, I left it at home during my outdoor runs.

My experience and What you need to know

On paper, these Sony TWS offer 6mm drivers in each earbud along with a frequency response of 20Hz to 20,000Hz. Majority of brand will tell you that these are small drivers and that they won’t get loud enough. The competition will compared the 6mm drives with their 12mm offerings. However, don’t get fooled by them because the WF-1000XM3 reproduce the best sound for your ears. In addition, these TWS earbuds could very well be the best noise-cancellation experience you’ll have in a tiny wireless form factor. At no point, did I feel any discomfort from the noise-cancelling technology. The ANC did not put any pressure on my ears to function.

Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony has used dual-noise cancelling technology and QN1e chip from the WH-1000XM3 (compact version of course). I wish, I could put these to test on a flight, but in the meantime, I couldn’t hear anything distracting in my noisy home environment. Sony’s Headphones Connect app is a bonus. It lets you use a preset equalizers and you also have access to ambient and noise-cancelling technology settings. What you don’t get is the LDAC and aptX codec support in exchange for AAC.

It also comes with support for Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Siri digital voice assistant. Both Google Assistant and Alexa voice assistants respond perfectly on WF-1000XM3. I don’t have an iPhone, so I can’t tell how these will respond to Siri. That said, I was impressed with quick response from both the voice assistants. As per my experience, the interaction and the response time of Google Assistant and Alexa felt similar to what I get using the smartphone microphone. It also comes with in-ear detection for automatic play/pause feature, and it works perfectly fine too.

Also, the touch sensors on both earbuds are fantastic. It takes some time to memorize the functions, but once you get hold of it, you never go back to your phone for anything. It can read out notifications, reminders and more, so I mostly left my phone in my pocket.

Coming to call quality experience, this was same as any other TWS you’ll find in market right now. There is stereo calling on both left and right earbuds. While you’ll hear everything perfectly fine (crystal clear) on a call, the other person will have the issue of surrounding noise.

Should you buy?

I still don’t know, how soon people will become comfortable with TWS earphones (considering the cost and shorter shelf life). But I am certain that this is the way forward. We have a lot of choices in the TWS segment at lower price point. But the segment where Sony WF-1000XM3 operate, consumers often look for reliable products regardless of the price.

In my opinion, the Sony WF-1000XM3 is the best active noise-cancelling earbuds under Rs 20,000. Sony has ensured that the product stands out in every possible way. Unfortunately, what you don’t get is the LDAC and aptX codec support. The other drawback of these earbuds is that there is no water resistant ratings like IPX4 rating on the AirPods. That said, I would still recommend buying XM3 over AirPods any day.

Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony has done a brilliant job in my opinion. All I feel is that Sony could have consider pricing WF-1000XM3 at a little lower than Rs 19,990. This is because India is a very price-conscious market. Personally, I would have loved the Rs. 17,990 introductory price as the final price for this product. But nevertheless, it’s a good product and you should totally keep it as an option for premium TWS this year.

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