Updated: Aug 18, 2021
Written by Cheryl Tan
Excellent sound quality, with plenty of bass
Noise cancelling works beautifully, and Quick Attention mode is very useful
Long battery life (24h with ANC on, 32h with ANC off)
It’s a bold claim, but I truly believe that the newly released WF-1000XM3 true wireless earphones from Sony is a winner. The winner, in fact.
The first thing you’ll notice is how gorgeous these earphones are. Taking their design cues from the WH-1000XM3 headphones, these come in black and silver, with the same accents. So if you already own the headphones, you’ll be able to match if you get these earphones too.
The case, though bulkier than others, sits in the hand well, and has a matte finishing on the body with a metallic-looking plastic hinged cover. What I particularly liked about this case is the fact that you can use NFC to quickly pair the earphones to devices. It’s a feature that’s more often seen on headphones, and I’m glad Sony decided to include this here. It’ll definitely come in handy, since only one device can be paired to the earphones at any given point.
But let’s talk about sound quality. These sound beautiful. I think these are some of the best sounding true wireless earphones yet, with only the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless on par. The bass is powerful and punchy while not crossing the line into bloatedness, which isn’t standard for true wireless stuff at all, but I love it. There’s plenty of power for these too, I’m actually listening to my music at a lower volume than my usual setting (around 80%).
The treble is clear and crisp, guitar riffs are beautifully textured and separated while vocals are expressive and prominent. The soundstage is expanded and provides plenty of space for imaging, which is great as well. Overall, this is a really engaging pair of earphones, with great musicality.
Battery life is a winner as well. You’ll get either 24 hours of total playback with ANC turned on, or 32 hours with it turned off. That’s the same amount as the Klipsch T5 True Wireless, and the WF-1000XM3 actually blows the T5 True Wireless out of the water, in my opinion.
We spoke to the engineers at Sony and while they couldn’t give a concrete number, they mentioned that standby time from fully charged earphones and case should be close to two weeks. After experiencing the battery drain issue with the Sennheisers, this is good news. I doubt I’ll ever be able to make myself put these earphones aside for more than a day, however.
The noise cancellation works like a charm. The engineers made tweaks to the chip in the WH-1000XM3 and came out with the Q1Ne chip for the earphones. That chip is paired with Dual Noise Sensor Technology, where two microphones catch the ambient sound and work towards cancelling it.
While the noise cancelling can’t be on par with headphone standards, it’s exceptional. Even if you decide to turn ANC off, the fit of the earphones themselves creates a snug seal, providing a good amount of isolation.
On a noisy train, I found that the seal blocked out most noise, with the rest able to be removed via ANC. It’s more than capable for blocking out noise on public transport, but I’ll be interested in testing this on a flight as well.
Instead of using a left-right relay system like most other true wireless earphones, Sony’s new Bluetooth chip allows for simultaneous transmission to both earbuds. This reduces latency by three quarters, and is supposed to result in less connection drops and cutouts.
I found that despite having 20 people in the same train carriage using the WF-1000XM3, the connection was stable with no stuttering. I do have to point out that if you enable both the auto-pause and automatic sleep mode, and one earbud is out of your ear when the earphones go to sleep, you’ll have to manually reconnect the earphones to your device.
Sony has added the Quick Attention feature from the WH-1000XM3 headphones, thankfully. I loved it and was upset nobody else had implemented something similar for earphones. It’s here now; all you have to do is hold a finger to the touch panel on the left earbud and the music volume will be lowered and ambient sound piped in through the microphones. I found it to take a second longer to kick in than the headphones did, but the sound piped in is pretty high quality and you can easily hear everything, with voices seemingly picked up more easily than other noise.
There are only a few downsides I can think of. The first is that there’s no IP rating, but Sony has mentioned that the product will be able to stand up to normal day to day usage.
The next is the lack of aptX and Sony’s own LDAC high-res format. There is, however, Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX (DSEE HX) for upscaling, which did add a bit of sparkle to the sound. There is also no wireless charging, which is a feature that true wireless earphones really need to add in. Thankfully, there’s a USB-C charging port, which is definitely the way to go.
Amazing battery life, excellent noise isolation even without the active noise cancelling turned on, spot-on sound quality and a beautiful design, what’s there not to love?
The Sony WF-1000XM3 (S$349) is now available at selected Sony Stores, Sony Centres and Sony authorised dealers. More information can be found at Sony’s website.