Sony WF-1000XM3: Gunning for the wireless earbuds crown

Sony’s been slaying it in the ANC headphone market recently with their incredibly capable 1000X lineup of headphones and their more affordable h.ear on series. Today, they’re launching a brand new 1000X pair of headphones and these can fit in your pocket because they’re truly wireless headphones. Meet the WF-1000XM3.

The first time I saw the WF-1000X in-ear truly wireless headphones, it was all the way back in 2017 when they debuted in Malaysia alongside the WH-1000XM2s which I absolutely loved. The problem for me back then was that they refused to fit in my ears–because apparently I’ve got a weird ear structure–so I couldn’t give them a proper test. However, from what I’ve heard, as far as ANC wireless buds go, the WF-1000Xs were killer.

Now, Sony’s giving their tiny in-ear headphones a little more oomph with a couple of new features. First up, alongside the new name, the WF-1000XM3 feature Sony’s new QN1e HD Noise Cancelling Processor and Dual Noise Sensor Technology. The QN1e–as far as I can tell–looks like an updated version of the QN1 processor that you’d find on the company’s larger WH-1000XM3 over-ear headphones.

According to Sony, not only will the QN1e (+Dual Noise Sensor Technology) cancel more noise–like cars, street noise and the roar of an aircraft cabin–but it will also be able to do so using less power. Which, if you think about it, is ideal for truly wireless headphones that are as tiny as these.

Sony also says that the QN1e will feature 24-bit audio signal processor and DAC with amplifier, plus a Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX (DSEE HX) that’ll upscale compressed digital music formats to bring you closer to High Resolution Audio. I’ll be honest, I’m not enough of an audiophile for all of that to not sound like gibberish to me, but Sony’s audio quality has always been solid so I have no reason to expect these to differ too greatly.

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Besides that, the WF-1000XM3 also features a couple of other solid specs. First off, Sony says that you’ll be able to get up to 6 hours of battery life from a single charge with noise cancellation turned on. That’s really good considering 6 hours is the average battery life you can expect from other truly wireless headphones without ANC. If you turn ANC off, that number goes up to 8 hours, and if you occasionally pop them into the charging case, you can extend it all the way to 24 hours with noise cancelling turned on. There’s even a fast-charging cable that’ll give you 90 minutes of listening time with a 10 minute charge.

Sony says they’ve also developed a new Bluetooth chip that will allow for Left/Right simultaneous Bluetooth transmission instead of the conventional left-right relay. While that sounds great, we’re unsure if this means the buds will only work with Bluetooth 5.0 devices because of the need for simultaneous streams.

Much like the larger WH-1000XM3, the WF-1000XM3 also have support for Google Assistant and the ability to hold your finger down on one ear cup to let ambient sound in so you can have a conversation. It will also detect when you’ve removed one earbud from your ear and automatically pause the music–which is a pretty standard feature.

However, the WF-1000XM3 do come with a very hefty price tag. It will retail in Malaysia in August 2019 for a whopping RM949. Not only does this make it more expensive than the original WF-1000X, but it also means it’s double the price of something like the Samsung Galaxy Buds, and pricier even than the Apple Airpods. However, those don’t have ANC, but it’s going to take a little more than just ANC to justify that price tag.