Sony WF-1000XM3 Review: Amazing in-ear ANC in your pockets

Owning the Sony WH-1000XM3 cans was the best gift for my daily commute until Sony announced the Sony WF-1000XM3 in-ear active noise canceling (ANC) that fits in your pockets. Despite the lack of support for aptX or Sony’s own LDAC, I still decided to get it for its portability. The Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earphones retails for S$349.00.

Aesthetically, the Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless earphones is no way as sexy or slim like the Apple Airpods 2 but it does pack a fair bit of features. That is, noise canceling and great battery life. It is using a spanking new QN1e noise-canceling processor with dual noise sensors on each earphone.

New QN1e Processor

Each earphone comes with its own QN1e noise-canceling processor. This processor is adapted from the one found in the Sony WH-1000XM3 cans and sports similar noise-canceling algorithms and Digital-to-Analogue Converter (DAC).

Compared to the 32-bit audio signal processing of the WH-1000XM3 cans, the Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earphones does 24-bit processing.

The most important question – Can I notice the difference as a casual listener? Read on.

Simultaneous Bluetooth Transmission

Each wireless earpiece is clearly marked for either left or right. There is also a raised dot beside the ‘L’ symbol.

Unlike the usual wireless earphones that relies on the left earphone to throw audio signal to the right, the Sony WF-1000XM3 uses a new Bluetooth chip that allows audio to be simultaneously transmitted to both left and right earphones, resulting in lower latency.

The Bluetooth 5.0 standard coupled with the antenna structure also promises more stable connections, resulting in lesser drop-outs for your listening pleasure.

Unboxing the Sony WF-1000XM3

The Sony WF-1000XM3 in black color.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 in black color.
Don’t attempt to open any flaps. The tray slides out instead.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 in all its glory.
Underneath the tray holding the earpieces are the additional earbuds, manuals and charging cable.
The contents of the Sony WF-1000XM3 all laid out.

Design and Fit

The Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earphones

Each wireless earphone is clearly marked for either left or right. There is also a raised dot beside the ‘L’ symbol.

Both wireless earphones are clearly marked to ensure that I do not poke the wrong one into my ears. There is also a raised dot just beside the ‘L’ marking, which I supposed is, for the visually impaired. A nice touch.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless earphones is mainly smooth matte plastic and metal for the contact pins. The touch control pads on both earphones have glossy finishes.

The charging contacts at the bottom and a glimpse of the noise sensor beside the ear tip.
The touch sensitive round pad on the top edge of the earpiece and the noise sensor just beside the Sony branding.
Without the ear tip. The glossy black patch on the right is the proximity sensor to detect whether it is being worn or not.
For those who are deciding what ear tip to order while waiting for your Sony WF-1000XM3 to arrive.

The charging case

The Sony WF-1000XM3’charging case has matte rubberised body with a smooth finished lid. The entire built should be mainly plastic. The lid is held closed with magnetic force instead of clips.

Aside from keeping the earphones, it also boasts three (3) charges for them. It itself is charged via the USB-C port at the bottom of the case. Nope, it does not support wireless charging like newer earphones.

The USB-C charging port at the bottom of the case.
The insides are also clearly marked to ensure you do not squeeze the earphones into the wrong slot.
The magnetic pads to snap and hold the earphones in place for charging and storage.
It only supports normal USB charging. Not Quick Charge or Fast Charge.
The earphones and case gives a reddish glow when it is charging.
How do you know whether the earphones are done charging? Answer: The reddish glow is there when it is charging them.

Performance

Audio

The Sony WF-1000XM3 uses 6mm neodymium dome drivers and DSEE HX digital sound enhancement engine. It does not have support for aptX or Sony’s own LDAC.

So what does all these means? Can a casual listener notice any difference? Honestly no. The music sounds clean and fresh. However, I find the need to switch the equalizer to the ‘Bright’ setting which works well for the genre of music that I listen to (mainly guitar and pianos).

Battery

Based on specifications, the Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless earphones last up to six (6) hours with ANC enabled and it goes all the way up to eight (8) hours when disabled. With the case providing another three (3) charges, the Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earphones can last you somewhere between 24 to 36 hours.

The other great thing about the earphones is the quick-charging capabilities, you can get up to 90 minutes of play-back by just letting it sit in the charging case for just 10 minutes.

The important question is that whether the Sony WF-1000XM3 earphones live up to its stated battery endurance? I am not totally sure yet because I am still on my first charge.

Closing Thoughts

I use the Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earphones for my daily commute on the trains, buses and cars. To better reap the benefits of the active noise canceling magic, it is important to use the correct ear tips for a good seal. Too small and sounds leaks through. Too big and it will be uncomfortable. The material of the ear tip plays a part too. Personally, I prefer foam over silicone ear tips.

The WH-1000XM3 cans easily mutes the occasional chatter from other passengers and makes the announcements barely noticeable. I find the WF-1000XM3 true wireless earphones does not cancel as much chatter and announcements but it handles the train’s rumble pretty well. I am waiting for the Comply Audio Pro Smart Core foam tips to arrive to hear if it would fare better.

Initially I was hesitant about getting the WF-1000XM3 wireless earphones due to its lack of aptx HD and/or LDAC. What made me go ahead with the purchase was that it can easily handling the bandwidth and latency of my music source – Spotify. Spotify, at the ‘Very High’ quality, streams at approximately 320 kbps while SBC can handle up to 345 kbps without breaking a sweat.

As for the lack of splash resistance, I think I will just need to take note of sudden downpours or when walking in light rain. Easily addressed.

In short, the Sony WF-1000XM3 does what it is supposed to do well – playing good sounding music with active noise-canceling. It also looks great. The best part? It fits in your pocket. This convenience would probably hit the right note with plenty of people.