Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds now feature volume controls, but there’s a catch

The Sony WF-1000XM3 truly wireless in-ear headphones are my favourite pair of truly wireless in-hear headphones that come with a silly name. They sound great, look pretty good and has great battery life. But, sometimes I really wished that they also came with volume controls. Well, today, that changes because with the latest update (ver. 2.02), Sony adds volume controls.

However, as you can probably tell from the title of this article, these controls come with a small but significant catch: you have to make a trade. Sony’s basically integrated volume controls into the WF-1000XM3 touchpad controls, but instead of adding a new set of commands, the company has elected to make users choose between volume controls and the other pre-assigned controls on the headphones.

If you own a pair of these, you’d probably know that there are several ways you can interact with them. Playback, for example can be controlled with a single tap, double tap and triple tap of the assigned bud. There’s also the option to press and hold on an earbud to access voice assistants or activate Quick Attention in the ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) controls.

And the best part is that you can freely map Playback. ANC, and specific Voice Assistant controls to either earbud in the Headphones Connect app. These new volume controls come in the form of a new preset that you can also assign to either earbud, but the problem is that you’ll have to give up on one of your existing control layouts and replace it with Volume.

I personally haven’t changed the control scheme that was preset out of the box because for me they just work. So I have ANC controls on the left and playback on the right–super useful. But now, if I want volume controls, I need to change one of those to the Volume preset which uses a single tap to increase volume, and a tap and hold to reduce volume. The problem is, I don’t think volume is quite as important as ANC and Playback controls.

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Partly, this is because I can always control volume by reaching into my pocket and adjust it with my phone’s volume rocker. Or, I could even tell Google to do it for me. There isn’t, however, a “volume rocker” for the ANC toggles nor is there one for Quick Attention. That means that if I want to tweak those settings, I need to launch the Headphones Connect app and do it there instead. Or rely on the unreliable Adaptive Sound Control to figure it out.

Personally, that’s no bueno for me.

On top of that, using the touch Volume controls isn’t quite what I was expecting. Now, the controls themselves I think are fine. Volume Up isn’t easily mistaken for Volume Down, for example, and having down mapped on tap and hold is pretty intuitive. That said, I was expecting the headphones to beep or give me some indication that the action was being triggered the same way it beeps when I use any other control preset.

Even on the big Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones, the control would beep when you change the volume so I know whether or not my input is being registered. I’m a little bummed that Sony didn’t include this, but adding beeps and boops is often as simple as pushing another update or hotfix. So, Sony, I hope you’re listening because I want my beeps and boops.

To update your headphones to the latest firmware, simply head into the Headphones Connect app (iOS, Android) and the app should automatically notify you of an update. It takes a couple of minutes, so you’ll need to keep your headphones nearby for a bit while it updates. Make sure to not let your headphones turn off otherwise the update process will be aborted.

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