Sony WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling headphone with Xperia 1 review: Dream combination for audiophile

ByFields Corrielus 2019-06-27 12378

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are the new generation of Bluetooth headphones with noise cancelling of the multimedia giant. While they have been available since September last year, the new flagship Sony Xperia 1 has been available since June. And especially in their interplay, they really knocked me out! The magic word is Dolby Atmos.

Sony WH-1000XM3 noise-canceling headphone with Xperia 1

Sony delivers the headphones in a smart fabric-covered case, in which all cables are compactly accommodated. How Bluetooth headphones can be folded together in this way is always one thing. Looks kind of funny. Apart from that, little that really stands out, except for the Sony copper lettering and the noise cancelling microphones framed in the same colour. Discreet design and black: I like it!

But first the first feeling: When unpacking the over-ear headphones I noticed the rather low weight. A look at the data shows: 255 grams, that's only a little lighter than my own (260 grams), at the start of sales about 140 euros cheaper noise cancelling headphones. Nevertheless, the Sony feel lighter - and more valuable. Apropos cheaper: Sony had estimated 379 Euro for its noise cancelling headphones. In the meantime you can get them for about 100 Euro less.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 in the test: Fun from the first moment

For example, on the cushions. They are much softer, feel smoother and the seam is also closer to the earcup. At the beginning I found the relatively free fluttering auricles somewhat irritating, which do not snap in at any point. But if you don't rest, you rust - not! Joking aside, the headphones definitely have more flexibility to adapt to your head shape. And they feel good. Even without operating a button, they noticeably attenuate ambient noise.

Otherwise, the operation is simple, catchy and unobjectionable. A long press on the "Power" button starts or stops the Sony WH-1000XM3, an even longer press puts it into "Pair" mode. The "NC/Ambient" button controls noise cancelling and ambient sound mode - more on that later. It can also be used as a button for the "Google Assistant". The noise cancelling is controlled by your smartphone app.

The outside of the right earpiece is a touch control panel. A press on the middle means play or pause, a wipe up or down controls the volume and you navigate forward or backward through the playlist. Once you've done that, you won't need any buttons.

Noise Cancelling: Sony's highlight

Personally, I'm totally into over-ear headphones, and especially noise cancelling. And with the Sony WH-1000XM3, this is not only possible actively, but also adaptively: With "Ambient Sound", the headphones automatically recognize whether I'm on the road or riding the subway, for example, and adjust what I currently need. In concrete terms, this means that when I walk through the city and go to the subway station, I hear important things in the situation, such as announcements at the station. When I drive, everything is quiet.

Of course, everything can still be adjusted. And especially when it comes to setting options, Sony is driving powerful guns. But in the test I was a bit annoyed at first. Install an app to connect the smartphone to the headphones? All right. After I've silenced the Google Assistant, which wanted to connect as well (if you want, you can use the Noise Cancelling button on the headphones as an assistant button), the headphones are ready to use in a few seconds via the app.

Sony's headphone app "Headphones" is intuitive and effective

Whoever wants to is served from now on. But I recommend to play around with it a little, because then it really starts. From the battery status of the Bluetooth headphones to the control when the headphones should switch off automatically. There's an equalizer to adjust the function, where the sound should come from, or set "Surround" options: Do I want to feel like I'm in a concert hall, arena or club? The headphones even optimize the air pressure, which is particularly useful in airplanes.

But most exciting is the adaptive noise control. There I can adjust each mode again separately and in no less than 20 steps how strongly the ambient noise should be suppressed. The modes are: linger, walk, run and be promoted. In addition, I can also activate a "focus on voice" so that I can still understand people who, for example, want to ask me for directions.

The only thing that annoys me is the signal when the mode switches. A kind of chime tells me that I and my headphones have switched from walk mode to transport mode. The playback is interrupted.

Well, that all sounds not bad. But the headphones unfold their full potential especially with the Sony Xperia 1. And not only because both are from Sony or the headphones are connected with Bluetooth and the Xperia has no jack socket - this is about the whole multimedia experience package. By the way: Even a cable connection would not be a problem, because a corresponding adapter is included by Sony and also the WH-1000XM3 has a cable.

The Sony Xperia 1 is a multimedia giant

The Sony Xperia 1 is unusual. The especially long display in 21:9 format is immediately noticeable, as is the 4k display, which can be raised to a brightness level that almost dazzles you compared to other mobile phones. Why all this?

With the new flagship, Sony apparently wanted to bring a new standard in multimedia to the market. A pre-installed video recording app with extensive functions, a not quite borderless display, which offers the advantage that the image is not disturbed by a notch or a "hole" in the display and Dolby Atmos.

What is Dolby Atmos

With Dolby Atmos, you get additional sound options that complement those of the WH-1000XM3. You can choose either the presets for music or movies. In addition there is the "Dynamic" mode, which automatically detects what you are listening to and adjusts the settings. And under "Customize" you can still select the desired settings yourself, even under each preset mode you can make adjustments using an equalizer.

Dolby Atmos can also be used without headphones. Makes only limited sense. The same goes for the vibration function, which is supposed to offer you a haptic experience with vibrations that match the picture and sound. I find that rather unnecessary.

But with the Sony WH-1000XM3 on your ears and activated Dolby Atmos on the Xperia 1, it's a real pleasure: With "The Dirt", the Netflix biopic about the glam rock band Mötley Crüe, it feels as if you are actually standing next to them during their rehearsal sessions. It just sounds like a rehearsal room, a bit dirty, too much reverberation and you can hear the amps where they are: Guitar amp on the left, bass speaker on the right, drums in the middle. And during a live performance the explosions of the fireworks fly around your ears as if you were standing in the first row. Awesome!

Another example: "Spuk in Hill House". I love this horror series, but with the combination of Sony WH-1000XM3 plus Dolby Atmos plus Sony Xperia 1 I even get goose bumps while binge-watching on my smartphone. Here the display is fully filled, there's nothing wrong with the picture quality anyway and the sound, which simply catapults me into the middle of the room, is nerve-racking. In front of me someone walks past, behind me a nervous clatter, on the right a chime - with this dense atmosphere created by sound, every Jumpscare simply lands.

The little flaw

And of course "just listening to music" is also really fat in this connection - and together with the noise cancelling my heart beats 180 BPM (beats per minute) faster. Of course headphones can be as strong as the often compressed file? Well, you can't shake that. But: Sony's "Headphones" app wants to remedy this with digital post-processing and promises to automatically improve the quality with "DSEE HX" (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine).

Hard to find a drop of bitterness there. But the strengths of both devices can also become their weaknesses: If you don't want to deal with the settings, you may not be able to exploit the full potential. It's not always possible to make full use of all possibilities, even with the 21:9 display of the Xperia 1. On YouTube you can zoom in on the picture, which then cuts away a small part at the top and bottom - but that's hardly noticeable - but otherwise you already need films or series that were produced in this format. Apropos production: Not all movies support Dolby Atmos. But Netflix, for example, already has a good selection.

Sony WH-1000XM3: A dream combination for demanding people

Of course you can also activate all modes, work with the basic settings and have everything controlled automatically - in the Dolby Atmos settings of the Sony Xperia 1 as well as in the noise cancelling and ambient sound options. But there's even more to it and it's really fun to get to grips with it. So much fun, that when I switched to my old headphones - which I really loved - I got on the subway with a crying eye.

So if you like multimedia, stream a lot on your smartphone, such as a train driver, and are a demanding listener, the combination is highly recommended. In any case, I'm in love - and I'd spend a little more money on it than I did on my last headset purchase.


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