Sony WH-1000XM3 – The best Bluetooth noise-canceling headphone around

Why Sony WH-1000XM3 over Bose QC35?

Bose has a decent track record for sound quality and superb active noise-canceling with its vast product lines. Bose established itself well in the audio business, period. It is also one of the first mover into the wireless active-noise canceling headphones space.

I didn’t really take notice of Sony until the notorious WH-1000XM2 whose headband cracks under normal usage.

The Bose QC3 and Sony WH-1000XM3 are equally good according to various audiophiles reviews. I delved into the technicalities and it became clear that I should go for Sony.

The ABCs of Audio

To me, sound reproduction is only as good as its source and delivery channel. To the audiophiles, they invest in decent audio files, players with DAC, audio cables, etc. to improve the SNR and push more audio notes to the ears.

Similarly for wireless audio, it is important ensure that the delivery channel is capable of delivering high quality audio. That is, having the necessary bandwidth (bit rate) and timeliness (latency). This depends a lot on the Bluetooth codec as it is doing all the heavy lifting of compression and delivery.

The common Bluetooth audio codecs are SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, etc. So how do they differ from one another other than just a bunch of jargon and acronyms?

Codec Bit rate (kbps) Supportable bit-depth and sampling (bit/kHz)
AAC 250 undocumented
SBC 328 undocumented
aptX 352 16-bit/48kHz
aptX HD 576 24-bit/48kHz
LDAC 990 24-bit/94kHz

In short, the different codecs are capable of pushing different amount of data over the Bluetooth channel. Does this matter? Yes, the logic is simple: the bigger the pipe equals more data can be pushed over and that usually results in better sound quality. The codecs use lossy compression so it would sound slightly different if you hear it over the wire.

So if you are listening to audio files in typical lossless format like FLAC, you would be better off with at least aptX.

SBC marginally handles Spotify’s ‘Very High’ quality streams (supposedly clocks in at 320 kbps). If you primarily listen to Spotify, SBC would pretty much suffice.