Noise-cancelling headphones aren’t exactly uncommon. Over the past decade or so, dozens of headphone manufacturers have come out with their own take on noise-cancelling headphones. None of them, however, have really come close to replacing the Bose QuietComfort 35 noise-cancelling headphones, which have so far remained our top pick for over-ear noise-cancelling headphones.
That, however, was before Sony released the new Sony WH-1000X M3 headphones, which are the third generation of Sony’s much-loved noise-cancelling headphones that many argue are the best noise-cancelling headphones around. Are they worth the $350? We put them to the test to find out.
When you first take the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones out of the box, you’ll notice their design, and they look great. The headphones feature a premium build, and they’re clearly strong and able to handle most of the abuse that you’ll throw at them on a day-to-day basis. The headphones are available in a few different colors, including black and silver. We’re reviewing the silver version, and they look great.
On the left ear cup, you’ll find a power button, a button to toggle between the noise cancellation and the ambient noise, and an aux input. On the right, there’s a USB-C port, and a touch-sensitive surface, which is where you can control playback, volume, and so on. While the gesture controls do take a little getting used to, we actually quite liked them in the end. You can swipe up or down to control volume, double tap on the surface to play and pause, or swipe forward or backward for the next or previous tracks.
The ear cups on the headphones can swivel nicely, which is helpful in ensuring they’ll fit nicely on your head. On top of that, there’s plenty of padding in the ear cups and under the headband.
Generally speaking, the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones look great and are clearly well-built. They come with a nice selection of accessories too — there’s a USB-C charging cable, an aux cable, and a well-built and strong case, which is a must for headphones that will likely be used for traveling a lot.
As mentioned, the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones are relatively lightweight and feature plenty of padding in both the ear cups and under the headband — all of which results in a very comfortable fit. That’s important for headphones that will be used on planes a lot — we were able to wear the headphones for hours on end without any issue, and found them to be perfect for long listening sessions.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones look awesome and offer excellent noise cancellation, but while they sound pretty good, they could still sound better. Sony, on the other hand, has clearly given sound quality a ton of attention — because the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones sound great.
Let’s start with the bass, which is deep, powerful, and strong. Lots of headphones in 2019 overdo it with bass response, and while the headphones certainly are bass-heavy, we didn’t find that they went too far by any means. It’s important to note that given the bass-forward tone, these headphone probably aren’t best for audiophiles, but most everyone else will love what they have to offer.
The mid range is pretty well-tuned too. The low miss offer decent warmth, while there’s plenty of high mid response to help things like vocals and guitars shine through a mix.
The high end response is pretty good, but we couldn’t help but feel the highs were slightly overshadowed by the low end performance. A little extra sizzle in the high end would definitely have been appreciated. Still, the highs that were there were detailed and clear, which we quite liked.
Then there’s the noise cancellation, which is awesome on these headphones. The level of noise cancellation quality matches, and we think even surpasses, the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones. Safe to say, if you plan on using these headphones for traveling, you’ll love how much outside noise they can cut out.
While the headphones are relatively high-tech, they use a slightly outdated version of Bluetooth for connectivity, sticking with Bluetooth 4.2 over the newer Bluetooth 5.0 standard. With that, you’ll get a listening range of up to 10 meters, or 33 feet, which is fine.
Then there’s battery life, and the battery life on these headphones is amazing. It sits in at a whopping 30 hours with noise cancellation on, though you can extend it to 38 hours if your turn noise cancellation off. That’s better than the already-good Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones, and means that even the longest-distance travelers should be perfectly fine with these headphones.
Sony has hit an absolute home run with the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones. They look great, are very comfortable, offer excellent noise cancellation, and sound good too. In fact, we would argue that these are the best noise cancelling headphones on the market, beating out even the likes of the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones, which have long remained the go-to.
There is one downside to the headphones — and that’s the fact that they can be a little expensive. At $350, you’re really making an investment into making your travels a little more comfortable. Still, the headphones routinely get discounted on retailers like Amazon, so you might be able to pick the headphones up for a little less.
Thanks to the fact that these headphones are so high quality, they’re one of the few pairs of headphones to receive the Headphone Review Gold Medal.