The Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds will send chills down your spine. They might be the warm hug your ears have been waiting for.
The XM3 blew me away. I was on a three-hour drive in my rusting out 2007 Ford Expedition. My heater was on full blast. My kids had control of the radio with Megamind barely audible over the road noise. A perfect scenario to test noise canceling.
I setup the Sony earbuds at a gas station and popped them in, hoping to kill time with Mumford and Sons for my late-night drive home. The earbuds hugged my ears and time seemed to stand still and fly by simultaneously. I heard nothing but sweet melody.
I wasn’t expecting much, honestly. These are earbuds after all. I wanted to block out the background noise, wishing I had the Bose QuietComfort 35 or Phillips Fidelio instead of the XM3 earbuds. My wife started driving as I pushed the XM3 in and followed the simple steps to connect via Bluetooth to my iPhone. The first sounds from the album Delta cut through and I thought I was listening to a high-fi recording on my Audio Technica ATH-M50x.
Sony uses a Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) to upscale compressed audio. They claim it brings the audio to the quality of a high-resolution file. I didn’t think such sound was possible over Bluetooth. I was impressed.
I pulled up the Sony Headphones Connect app to see what other options there were. I started playing the latest Rubin Report to test the audio. I tweaked the EQ slightly. The bass was steady and not overpowering. The natural mids of the XM3 are consistent and bold. The highs are smooth and don’t overpower like many earbuds that sit close to the eardrum. I was impressed to say the least.
My wife started talking to me while I was figuring out the relatively limited settings on the Sony app. I tapped the left earpiece to switch off the QN1e noise-canceling feature. I could hear the ambient noise from the car. I pulled out the right earpiece and the playback stopped. After settling on a Starbucks and setting my wife’s GPS to direct us, I put the earpiece back in and the music started up where it left off. Sometimes the small things are the most impressive.
I downloaded the Deezer app to test out the 3600-reality sound option. John Denver whispered in my ear. The song “Rocky Mountain High” never gave me chills before. It was like Sony was hugging my ears and giving me all the feels. I’ve heard a lot about the power of listening to music in venues, and the work Sony is doing in 360-reality sound is revolutionary. I will happily give Sony $230 (currently on Amazon for $198) if this is the kind of innovation they’re giving the world.
I was also impressed with the battery life of the XM3. After my three hour drive, I listened to an audiobook at home, worked out in my basement, and laid down in bed to catch up on my news briefing from Alexa. All-in-all I listened for about six hours straight before setting the XM3 on my nightstand.
The next morning I popped the XM3 into the case to charge. That was the most satisfying experience I had with these Sony earbuds, and there is a lot of satisfaction in wearing them. The magnets in the buds pull them into the charging case, which provides a quick-charge feature that gives you 90 minutes of listening after 10 minutes of charging.
Letting the XM3 hit a full charge in the case is easy to do in the comfort of your pocket or while you’re getting ready for the day. The case is a bit cumbersome but provides three charge cycles when the case is fully charged. They are rated for 24 hours of total listening time.
The bummer for me is the XM3 isn’t rated to be waterproof. I’m hesitant to work out with the earbuds in. The other bummer is the XM3 is a large earbud that sticks out of your ears. They don’t naturally drop in the earlobe like the Apple Airpods Pro.
The XM3 is a superior earbud that is priced to hook you with the amazing Sony sound technology. It is easily the top earbud of 2020, pushing sound quality and experience to a new level in the sub-$250 price bracket. While the form factor and charging case are larger than I would like, the sound quality easily overshadows the negatives.
They’re a definite must-have in your backpack.