Sony made waves in the consumer audio market with its WH-1000XM3 headphones, and now the same (presumably) noise-cancelling technology that helped the headset garner so many accolades is offered in a new set of wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM3. If that is indeed the case, these earbuds could give Apple's AirPods a run for their money.
The WF-1000XM3 is available to preorder on Amazon for $229.99, and will be released on August 5, 2019. A charging case is included, so the pricing has the earbuds sitting just above the current generation AirPods, which Amazon sells for $179.99 (the MSRP is $179.99). However, Apple is rumored to be refreshing its AirPods, and pricing could conceivably be higher. The AirPods 3 are what the WF-1000XM3 will be competing against (Amazon is also rumored to have a set of Alexa-powered earbuds waiting in the wings).
Even so, Sony's earbuds are the pricier option at this precise point in time. Sony says the WF-1000XM3 packs in a newly developed Bluetooth chip that allows for simultaneous L/R transmission so that both earbuds receive audio content at the same time. According to Sony, the conventional Bluetooth method is a left-to-right relay.
"Teamed with the new optimized antenna structure, this results in a highly stable connection, so nothing gets in between you and your music. Also, latency improvement means you can immerse yourself in the latest films on a paired device," Sony says.
The real star of the show, though, is potentially noise-cancelling performance. In the realm of consumer headphones, many people have lauded the WH-1000XM3's ability to muffle ambient noise as being unmatched, even surpassing the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. I briefly demoed a set at my local Best Buy and can attest that it does an excellent job, at least in a store setting.
The WF-1000XM3 goes about cancelling noise with its "Dual Noise Sensor" technology. This is a fancy way of saying that each earbud now has two noise-cancelling microphones, including a feed-forward mic and a feed-back mic on the surface to catch more ambient noise. These work in conjunction with a dedicated HD noise cancelling processor, the QN1e. I'm not sure what the "e" denotes or how this chip differs from the QN1 that is inside the WH-1000XM3.
"The processor cleverly creates an inverted sound wave to offset bothersome background noise. It not only cancels more noise across almost all frequencies but also uses less power. Anything ranging from annoying aircraft cabin noise, to hustle and bustle on the city streets, is dramatically cancelled by the buds—so it’s all about the music," Sony explains.
One of the nifty features of the WH-1000XM3 is that you could cup the left earphone to temporarily disable the noise-cancelling function. Likewise, placing your finger over the touch panel of the left earbud on the WF-1000XM3 lowers the music volume and lets ambient sound through. This can come in handy when, say, you're in line at Starbucks ordering a coffee.
Sony claims the WF-1000XM3 can last up to 24 hours per charge with noise-cancelling turned on, or up to 32 hours without noise-cancelling. The company also claims that 10 minutes of charging in the included case allots 90 minutes of play time.
Interestingly, there is no mention of water resistance. A spokesperson at Sony told The Verge that it "did not hear any complaints from the previous model for breaking from using at the gym." Nevertheless, the decision could bite Sony on the backside if the AirPods 3 emerge with water-resistance, as is rumored to the be the case.
That aside, the WF-1000XM3 is promising set of earbuds. If the noise-cancelling technology works anywhere near as good as it does on the WH-1000XM3, it could prove to be a popular choice.