Sony WH1000 XM3 1
Jeff Li/IBTimes
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Most of the people reading this article will most probably have owned a Sony product at one point in their life, which is a testament to the impact this electronic giant has made to the world and to each of our lives.

In recent years, Sony has seen its share of fierce competitions and challenges, but is making a comeback of-sort in the headphone category in being one of the top-selling noise-cancelling wireless headphone makers.

The Sony WH1000 XM3 being the current flagship model of its headphone line up, after spending a good period of time with it, here are my reasons of why Sony is running ahead in the wireless headphone race.

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Highly effective noise-cancelling circuit

I recently had a chance to visit Southeast Asia where it was a perfect time for me to try out the Sony flagship headphone. What made the test even more interesting is that the airline I took happened to put me on a B737-800, which due to its age, could be one of the loudest cabins that I have been in -even noisier than the A320 that many budget airlines are using these days.

With great anticipation I had the Sony headphones on, and turned on the active noise-cancelling (ANC) during the takeoff when the engine sound was on the border of being unbearable. As soon as the circuit was activated, almost all ambient sounds disappeared in an instant. If I were to describe the leftover ambient sound that does manage to get through the ANC, it sounded like a muted air conditioner vent in the car.

One never grows tired of that magical sensation when the ambient sound goes from 100 to near 0 in a split second, but not from stuffing your ear with earbuds or some sort of earplugs. Not having plugs constantly applying pressure in your ear cannel results in fatigue setting in much later. With Sony's XM1000 XM3 it means comfortably having them on for the 10+ hour flight, enjoying either the music or sometimes having only the ANC on and enjoying a moment of quiet with my own thoughts.

But my test of the XM3's ANC didn't end there, I put it to the test further when I mowed the lawn a week after coming back from the trip. As ANC circuits are best at dealing with relatively repetitive noises, it blocked out the lawn mower sound extremely well. Wearing them with ANC on gave a weird sensation because my hands on the lawn mower handle could feel the vibration, but my ears could barely hear it audibly. Needless to say, it was a blissful 45 minutes of grass grooming.

Simply said, Sony is one of the best, if not the-best at active noise-cancelling (ANC) that I have used so far.


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That classic Sony sound

Taking away unwanted noise is only half the story, the other half - probably the more significant half is how good the sound reproduction is. For the XM3, my first reaction upon hearing it was a knowing smile. Anyone who has owned Sony headphones/earphones in the past (That's everyone who's over 35) will immediately recognize the classic Sony sound coming out of these cans. The soundstage is focused and present; the frequency response is a tad on the warmer side but has that signature Mega Bass sounding punch on the low end; the sound dynamics is vibrant and full of life.

If you are a fan of the Sony sound, then this is definitely your cup of tea. There is a reason why Sony sticks to this sound signature - it is able to reproduce most genres of music in a pleasing way, and especially shines in bass heavy songs for those who are looking for thumping beats.

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Touch control that was more intuitive than expected

Other than the power and ANC buttons, the Sony XM1000 XM3 is button free. The surface on the side of the right cup is a touch control pad that can also handle gestures. By tapping you get your play/pause, swiping up or down you control the volume, and by swiping forward or backward you can skip tracks - it's all quite intuitive, and I had no trouble with it even without reading the manual.

What did pleasantly surprise me is by swiping up and holding the finger on the top of the pad, it simulated holding down the volume button and kept increasing the sound until I let go. They could have made it so that I need to swipe up each time for one increment of volume increase, but Sony went a step further than the basic navigation by adding another dimension like this.

Light and durable

Headphone manufacturers have to make some tough decisions to get the right balance: metal band means stronger more durable, but heavier; while plastic band is more light weight, and can look aesthetically more uniform, but is less durable than metal. Sony went with the latter, and though only time will tell in regards to its durability, it felt very durable during my use. The size adjustment is easy but not tight enough to hold the size that I want. These basics are where Sony's years of experience really counts.

Who is the Sony XM1000 XM3 for?

If you're looking for an excellent noise isolation headphone that is light weight and doesn't cause fatigue easily - Sony XM1000 XM3 is a good bet. The ANC is one of the best in the market, if not the best, and if you are a fan of the classic Sony headphone sound signature, these are definitely the best wireless headphones to pickup right now.

Sam is a production engineer turned tech writer who specializes in seeking out gadgets that enhances productivity while still looking sharp. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travelers.

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