If you have to pick one of the many things you need to bring along when you are heading out of your house, headphones are probably high up on your list.
That’s because it’s one of the easiest ways to stay entertained while on the go. You can enrich yourself with your podcasts, immerse yourself in the wonders of ebooks and enjoy your music playlist.
However, as our spaces get more crowded like on public transports, you probably need to crank up your volume to block your ears from undesired noise disturbing your peace.
By doing so, it can give you temporary relief from the noises, but for a prolonged period, you may gradually experience the loss of hearing.
That’s where noise-cancelling headphones come into play. It helps block out noises so that you can enjoy your media entertainment at a lower volume, safer for your ears.
One such headphone is the Sony WH-1000XM3, which I recently tried it out myself.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 is the latest iteration of Sony’s noise-cancelling headphones, and it’s packed with features to complement your audio experience.
What’s in the box?
Everything that you need for the Sony WH-1000XM3 is all fitted nicely in its carrying case, which makes it convenient to bring around wherever you go.
In it, you will find a nicely folded headphones resting in the carrying case, a headphone cable, a plug adaptor for in-flight use, and a USB Type-C cable for charging.
It would have been better if the carrying case acts as a power bank too. That said, it would probably increase the weight of the package and cost a tad more to squeeze in the charging technology.
Look and feel
The Sony WH-1000XM3 feels light in the hands, which makes perfect sense since users expect to have it over their head and ears for an extended period during their commute or long flights.
Most part of the headphones is made of plastic, and that explains the lightweight.
Adding on to the comfort are three cushion pads for each ear cups and at the top of the headphones. They are incredibly soft and comfortable, almost like someone’s gently cupping your ears.
There are also clear indicators to separate the left and the right ear cups to help people wear their headphones properly. 😉
The Sony WH-1000XM3 is quite versatile when it comes to packing it. There are three ways, which you can fold it. One is to have the ear cups swivelled upwards, two is to have the ear cups folded inwards after another, and three is similar to two but having the ear cups swivelled, facing up.
As I have limited space in my bag, the third way of folding suits my needs the best as I can slide it smoothly into the remaining gap in my bag.
Aesthetics aside, you will find a power button, a USB Type-C port, an input for your headphone cables and a button to toggle between noise-cancelling and ambient.
On the left ear cup, you will see an NFC logo, which indicates that you can connect your NFC-enabled smartphone with the headphones with a tap.
The tech on the headphones
For first time users of noise-cancelling headphones, I would advise that you take some time to adapt to it at home because you may feel dizzy, which I experienced when I first wore it.
That’s probably because of the change in frequency to flush out the noises. That said, it does not affect everyone.
Once you get acclimatised to the headphones, everything else on the Sony WH-1000XM3 is easy to use.
I had the headphones connected to both my Google Pixel 3 XL and iPhone 7. They worked seamlessly well, except that I needed to use the Headphones Connect app to pair it with my iPhone.
It’s not a big deal because once it’s connected, the next time, it’ll do it automatically without the need to use the Headphones Connect app.
Hidden beneath your right ear cup is a touch sensor. That means you can swipe or double-tap to control your media.
When you swipe up and down, it’s to control your volume. Swiping right and left lets you skip to the next track or go back to the previous one. Double-tapping on it allows you to pause the music, receive or end a call.
Unlike the technology used in the Apple AirPods, removing your headphones will not pause your music. So whenever someone comes over to talk to you while you are enjoying your music, you can put your palm over the right ear cup to pause the noise-cancelling (not the music). Sony called it the Quick Attention. This allows the ambient noise to penetrate your headphones so that you can hear whatever is said.
It’s useful, but I thought it’ll be much better to have the auto-pause function.
Another way to disable the noise-cancelling is through the NC/Ambient button. Using the Headphones Connect app, you can also control the noise-cancelling level so that you can still hear the announcements during your commute, minimising noises.
Sony’s Headphone Connect App
I’ve been mentioning the Headphone Connect app because that’s where your experience using the Sony WH-1000XM3 can be enhanced.
There are some settings that you can change on the app.
At the top of the interface, you will see the battery indicator for your headphones, followed by the Adaptive Sound Control. Turning it on will allow the headphones to detect your surroundings and adjust the ambient sound accordingly.
If you prefer to do it yourself, you can opt for the Ambient Sound Control.
The Noise Cancelling Optimiser is probably the most useful when you are flying. Press on Start, and it will automatically detect how your headphone is worn to optimise your noise-cancelling experience and the atmospheric pressure when you are in the air.
To make your ears cry with joy, depending on your personal preference, you can adjust the virtual surround sound and the equaliser.
You will notice that there’s an option called DSEE HX.
According to Sony,
“Sony DSEE HX™ software upscales your existing sound source (those lossy MP3s or AACs) to near high-resolution sound quality. This means that the technology injects more life into your music by upscaling compressed files. So it restores the subtleties of the original song recording and simulates the sound of live performance.”
In layman terms, having it turned on lets you hear more of the audio than using one without such technology.
Though I’m not an audiophile, which I suspect that I’m slowly turning into one, the DSEE HX does make a difference, projecting clear and crisp audio.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 is Google Assistant compatible. You can customise the NC/Ambient button to activate Google Assistant instead of toggling between noise-cancelling and ambient sound.
Press and hold on the button, and you will summon the Google Assistant, press once and it will read out your notifications, and press twice to cancel your command.
If you are using an iPhone, you need to install and open the Google Assistant app to activate this function. Alternatively, you can use Siri, which you can enable it by pressing a finger on the touch sensor.
The battery life on the Sony WH-1000XM3 is nothing short of spectacular. When I got the headphones, the power was at 30 per cent. Two weeks later, I still don’t have to charge it at all.
Interestingly, it bounced back to 50 per cent, which is a good kind of weird but I’ll take that as a positive experience.
Sony says that a full charge will get you up to 30 hours in playback time and a 10-minute charge will give you enough juice for a five-hour playback.
I’ve always wanted to get a set of noise-cancelling headphones for my commute, especially for my travels, because the passengers wearing it looked so zen.
Superficial reasons aside, during my review, the audio quality of the Sony WH-1000XM3 was excellent because I was able to enjoy my Jay Chou music like I was at his concert without noise.
The connectivity via Bluetooth to my mobile devices did not have any issues, and the touch sensor worked smoothly as how it should.
The noise cancellation was good. One thing to note is that it will take a while for the headphones to adapt fully to the environment.
When I was seated near to the engine compartment of the bus, the Sony WH-1000XM3 took a few minutes to completely block out the noise, even though I manually optimised it a few times.
That said, it’s no dealbreaker because it works and it depends on your environment.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 is now available for S$549, and you can get them at all Sony Stores.