Sony, a brand which needs no introduction at all in the first place since even a child knows the brand. It’s the brand headquartered in Japan producing a wide range of electronic gadgets which we can’t number since they are numerous in quantity. From a small memory card, camera, music players to the high end television, household items and the infamous PLAYSTATION!
The WF-1000XM3 is their 2 year old product launched worldwide but got released in India after a year since that’s what Sony does every time ☺. This Is their previous flagship Truly Wireless Earbuds featuring a lot of features and now the XM4 has been launched and yet to release in india. In this review let’s see whether this 2 year old flagship still retains its value in this current time.
DRIVER UNIT – 6 mm, dome type (CCAW Voice coil)
DSEE HX – Yes
FREQUENCY RESPONSE – 20 Hz–20,000 Hz (44.1 kHz Sampling)
NFC – Yes (Case)
BATTERY LIFE (CONTINUOUS MUSIC PLAYBACK TIME – Max. 6 hrs (NC ON)/Max. 8 hrs (NC OFF)
BATTERY LIFE(CONTINUOUS COMMUNICATION TIME) – Max. 4 hrs (NC ON)/Max. 4.5 hrs (NC OFF)
BATTERY LIFE (WAITING TIME) – Max. 9 hrs (NC ON)/Max. 15 hrs (NC OFF)
BLUETOOTH® VERSION – Bluetooth Specification Version 5.0
EFFECTIVE RANGE – Line of sight approx. 10 m (30 ft)
FREQUENCY RANGE – 2.4 GHz band (2.4000 GHz–2.4835 GHz)
PROFILE – A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
SUPPORTED AUDIO FORMAT(S) – SBC, AAC
Noise Cancelling – Yes
Auto Play/Pause: Has the proximity sensors to automatically play or pause the song and works on both the android and Apple devices.
Connectivity: One gripe I have with the connectivity is that the earbuds don’t get connected to the smartphone when the lid is opened where you need to take any one of the buds out to establish the connection which is kind of a let down for me.
The other good thing with it is that after taking any of the buds out of the case the connection gets established very faster hence this nullifies that con.
DESIGN AND FIT:
The design of the XM3 looks industrious and professional to me. Ofcourse the size of the earbuds are pretty big but they look completely different from the other products in the market which created that unique factor. The whole construction is made of plastic which all the tws in the market utilise the same thing but in hands they don’t feel cheap at all. They feel premium in hand and looks. The Sony branding is done on the faceplate along with a vent for the Mic to ensure the effective noise cancellation. The earbuds are matt finished hence scratches are very minimal to occur. The nozzle area has a bulge on the top end consisting of the driver which also gives good grip in the fit. The grill is covered by the sponge and they do have the ear tip lock seal for secure placement. The touch sensor is pretty big hence can be easily accessed and has a disadvantage too since its very big while adjusting the earbuds the accidental touches may occur.
The build of the case is the same plastic but feels premium in the hands. The hinge is ofcourse metallic hence the durability will be good. The hinge closes and opens smoothly and no problem in opening the lid using one hand. The lid and the case have dual tone contrast colours where the case is rubberised finish in black and the lid is shiny matt gold finished with branding in gold lettered.
The led indicator is situated in a nice position and looks futuristic where it is neatly embedded in between the lid and the body of the case. The earbuds too have the led lights and they will blink only when the earbuds are not in ears and while in the case which is nice since this will attract the viewers while wearing it in your ears.
At the bottom of the case there is the Type C port for charging the earbuds and there is no wireless charging coil on the back of the case. The case won’t stand upright which is a con for me.
Fit wise I have no complaints with the XM3. Even though they are bulky and pretty big they didn’t cause any discomfort while wearing it even for more than 2-3 hours which shows the ergonomics of the earbuds. Sony claims that they have designed it using the tri support system where the earbuds have contact with the natural ergonomic shape of the ear hence the comfort will not be an issue. But if you have pretty small ears then this might cause you discomfort. I have used this in the gym and even after intense deadlifts the earbuds securely stayed in my ears. Due to its size of course they sometimes dangle in your ears but they never come out of your ear which is more than enough for me.
The sound signature of the XM3 is pretty much balanced in all the three frequency ranges which is quite interesting to see from the sony audio gears. I had a bad experience with the Sony in my previous purchase with the XB55 wired earphones where the bass is too excessive and the other frequencies are completely out of focus which made me to never buy any sony audio gears. After a long time I reconsidered it and bought the 2 year old model from Sony to see what the actual sound was and when I plugged them into my ears the rest of the moments were filled with AWW!!!!!! IT’S FANTASTIC!. In this review let’s dive into the sound section of the XM3 in detail.
This review is done using the stock equaliser setting to get the idea of the sound out of the box. You can change the sound to your liking via the app. My settings are the ANC turned on with the CLEAR BASS to +7.
NOTE: The XM3 has no background hiss issue thankfully which is present in lot on TWS in this budget range and even above the price point. The background hiss is one of the most annoying issues that ruins my listening experience which is thankfully not present in the XM3! This just shows the quality of DSP the brand uses.
The Bass in this XM3 is just marvellous! The out of the box sound signature is pretty balanced and the bass is never overpowering the mid section. They sounded like a wired iem with nice impact and resolution. The separation and texture are above average for a TWS and even they are pretty much comparable to the wired high end iems. The sub bass and the mid bass are well controlled and sounded very tight. No bleed of the mid bass into the mid section which is very nice to hear.
There is an option called the CLEAR BASS which is the ultimate game changer here. It’s a slider where you can adjust the level of bass you need which is quite interesting where adjusting them really makes a difference. They don’t sound like the usual EQ’ed bass boost instead they just sound pretty clear even after sliding to max and looks like a hardware based bass boost which we see in the High end DAC AMPS. I kept it at +5 which is a sweet spot of bass for me by providing me with enough rumble in the low end with a nice mid bass body overall.
Both the sub bass and the mid bass impact are delivered beautifully and it’s very addictive to hear. The resolution is great with above average texture and separation. The bass has that nice 3D effect by providing nice rumble and width to the overall track. In conclusion the bass in the XM3 is just Fantastic. I got addicted to this bass over any wired iem i have ever tried.
- Madness – Muse
The sub bass presence is felt evidently here, at the start of the track the low end kicks in very deep with nice texture and separation from the mid and sub bass. The vocals the proceeds which sounds very nice without any scooping out due to that excessive bass which i liked the most in this TWS. The bass never overshadowed the Mid section which I liked a lot. The low end drops along with the sub bass rumble sounded very sweet without any distortion.
- The Demon Dance – Julian Winding
Those sub bass drops literally just hit your eardrums deeper and rattles your entire skull! Excellent control with nice separation from the drums and the low beats. The piano notes are heard very well with nice separation
- SHED MY SKIN – WITHIN TEMPTATION
At the start of the track you can feel the expansive soundstage where the bass just resonates in your eardrums which is quite satisfying to hear. The drums and the electric guitar are separated very well. The imaging is spot on and sounds very precise. The vocal sounds at a sweet spot; it’s neither forward or laid back. The soundstage is very evident here where it has such a nice expansive stage with 3 dimensional imaging. Mesmerised with its ability of bass reproduction. At 2:39 the depth of the soundstage is awesome, the instruments just go and hit deeper creating that nice depth effect.
The Mid section is done beautifully here with nice clarity and the full bodied vocals. I’m a fan of full bodied vocals rather than the thin sounding one. The vocals are very nice getting that warmth from the mid bass and neatly separated out from the rest of the frequencies. The taylor swift voice is very sweet to hear and both the male and female vocal sounds very nice. No graininess is observed in the vocal section. The drums sound impactful yet maintain that texture and preciseness. The guitar and piano tones sounds as natural as possible
The tonality of the XM3 is pretty realistic with slight warmth and the timbre has no issues and sounds natural. The guitar strings sound beautiful. The background instruments are clearly heard without the need of raising the volume. The full bodied vocals along with some warmth gave me that engaging and forward mid section and that’s a full 10/10 from my side.
- Point Of No Return – Expose
In this track the drums sound clean and tight while the piano notes in the background are playing. The vocals sound centered and has a nice distance between the instruments and the vocalists. The piano notes are natural and the drums sound realistic and nice. The electric guitar at 2:35 sounds very realistic with natural tonality overall.
- Long Long Time – Linds Ronstadt
The acoustic guitar sounds very natural and realistic. The vocal is nicely centered while the violin in the background sounding sweetly and the acoustics on the left sounding beautifully. This track is very nice to listen to on XM3. This track just made me realise how versatile the XM3 is, whatever the genre you throw at it!
- HOSPITAL(LIVE VERSION) – Jonathan Richman
The acoustic guitar accompanied with the vocals is very sweet to listen to and it’s just a perfect track to relax with the XM3. This thing just sounds amazing in all genres.
The treble has enough sparkle and if you want more just choose the bright preset in the EQ which just makes the highs even more crispier and nice. In the stock settings the highs are really good and in my opinion they don’t have any harshness or sibilant issues in the upper end. They sound very clean and it’s not ear piercing. The treble is smoothly done yet maintaining that airiness in the upper end. The female vocals especially sound very nice with no graininess. Those full bodied vocals along with the sparkly treble sounded very nice giving life to the track.
The cymbal strike is very natural and very smooth yet detailed to hear. Even at higher volumes the highs are not very disturbing to my ears and myself restricted to 60 percent volume which is more than enough to hear since the headroom for the volume is more than adequate.
- Love Story – Taylor Swift
This track has varied high pitched instruments but the XM3 handled this very well providing nice detailed separation and airiness. The cymbal strikes are very natural with a good amount of air presence in between the instruments. The electric guitar strings are harsh and the overall track is very pleasing to hear.
- Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
The cymbal crashes here in this track are very pleasing to hear and nothing harsh at all. I loved the way that XM3 sounds, which is very versatile and furnished. The vocal sounds full bodied and the accompanied sparkly treble with null harshness is a treat to hear for longer periods of time.
- Suffer – The Smashing Pumpkins
The guitar strings and the cymbal strikes are very nice and harsh. They sound nice and smooth and make this even a better pair for relaxing sessions. The thumpy low end along with the sparkly yet harshness highs are the perfect pair for the relaxing sessions.
When it comes to technicalities I usually don’t have any high expectations with the Truly Wireless Earbuds since there are limitations in the Bluetooth. But surprisingly this product has above average technicalities which is very nice to see in a wireless product range. The DSEE HX helped a lot in bringing out the best from the XM3 mainly in terms of technicalities.
SOUNDSTAGE: The soundstage is pretty impressive here where they have enough width with above average height and depth. The soundstage gets even improved when some app changes are done . After turning on the ambient mode to +1 and the voice focus mode the soundstage got improved a lot by providing some open back headphone kind of experience.
- HANS ZIMMER LIVE IN PRAGUE
There are several tracks in the live album but everything depicts the expansive soundstage. The audience clapping in the background while the instruments playing at varied distances clearly depicts the soundstage size. In all the dimensions the XM3 is expansive and sounds very spacious.
- Global Gear (Instrumental) – Punya Srinivas
Her vocal in front while the instruments in the background are depicted vey well and has excellent separation between each instrument. The air in between the instrument is very good in quantity thus providing that nice and wide spacious soundstage.
IMAGING: The imaging is pretty impressive here. The surprising fact is that most bass heavy earphones tend to have a hazy imaging due to the masking of other frequencies by the bass. The instruments can be easily pointed out even in busy tracks. The transition between the channels is pretty smooth and nice.
- Murphy’s Law – Recondite
The piano notes just move nicely from one channel to the other smoothly at 3:00. The whole track depicts the imaging quality. This track is mastered very well producing a wide variety of sounds with exceptional imaging capability and the XM3 perfectly executed this track.
The touch controls can be altered to your taste through the app. You can keep one set of controls for each earbud. For example it comes with playback controls for right and ANC controls for left earbuds as a default. You can change to your liking by adding the volume controls too but you need to compromise on any of the other two controls mentioned above.
One other thing that I noticed in the touch sensor area is that the sensing takes around 3 seconds to react which looks weird but sony intentionally did this to make the operator sure about the taps he did.
ACTIVE NOISE CANCELLATION:
The ANC is the prime feature in the XM3 and it’s the one Sony advertised very much. The noise cancelling technology in the WF-1000XM3 is the most advanced ever in truly wireless headphones, with our HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e. So you can lose yourself completely in your music.
The ANC is pretty good in this XM3 cancelling out most of the low frequency noises but when it comes to the mid and high pitched noises they are still not upto the level of Airpods Pro. The ANC is the feature that I don’t use frequently since they are not of use when you are listening to music at moderate volume since the earbuds and the volume itself will block out most of the noises. The advanced ANC chip in the XM3 does its job well and I am quite impressed with it.
AMBIENT MODE: Now this is the feature that I use frequently since they help in a lot of situations for example while taking phone calls and talking to people while listening to music. The ambient mode has 20 levels of control and you can slide level by level to attain greater precision. Surprisingly the ambient mode helped in opening up the soundstage and the bass resolution along with the voice focus feature turned on. The Voice Focus is the other feature where even after turning on the Ambient Mode this additional mode will allow only the voices to be heard and the rest of the unwanted noises are blocked out.
QUICK ATTENTION: This is one of the prime features I used most. Tap and hold on to the left earbud to activate this mode and this works instantly. They just activate the ambient mode and lower your song volume hence you can have conversation without taking out the earbuds or pausing the music.
ADAPTIVE SOUND: This is another unique feature in the XM3 where the app utilises your location and your movements and based on that it analyses your patterns to optimally activate the ANC and ambient mode at certain situations. I mostly turned it off since it continuously tracks my locations which of course will drain the battery a lot.
The call quality in the XM3 is pretty good in the indoor environment but this thing changes in the outdoor surroundings. In the indoors the receiver can hear me clearly without any disturbance and sounds very natural. Tin the xm3 however makes your tone very warm hence if you already have a bold tone then this might even make it warmer. The connection quality is good too and I did not experience any call drop outs during my calling session.
In the outdoors the XM3 struggles to cancel out the external noises. It picks up a lot of external noises and amplifies to the receiver though the voice is also picked up very well. Mostly i won’t recommend taking calls via the XM3 outdoors and using your smartphone itself.
Sony claims that they have used an array of mic systems creating a tripod effect but in reality they are OK but nothing extraordinary in the calling department.
The brand claims that it will last 6 hours with ANC turned on and 8 hours with ANC turned off and in my experience this lasted to true with a half to 1 hour shortage in ANC mode and the same to ANC mode off which is pretty impressive.
The charging is supported by the TYPE C hence no more cable fuss searching for the Micro USB. The earbuds charge very fast in the case where placing them for 10 minutes will provide you 90 minutes of listening.
With ANC turned On you will be getting 24 hours usage with the case and 32 hours with the case if ANC is turned off
Charging the case with Type C cable will take upto 1.5hrs to charge fully and unfortunately there is no wireless charging support which I never use in the first place since they will heat up the gadgets very sooner and degrade the battery of it.
The idle battery drain of the case when it is not in use is very minimal and due to this i charge my xm3 only once a week even after using 2-3 hours everyday which is very impressive comparing the other brands because most of the brands fail in this.
The Sony app is one of the best furnished and functional apps I have ever used in my opinion. The full controls of the earbuds are present in it and it’s very intuitive to use. The custom eq band is very useful to change the sound signature. The clear bass works marvelously and the control for ambient mode levels are freaking insane. The earbuds are updated via the app and also displays the battery stats of the earbuds and the case.
The one gripe I have with the battery stats is that they don’t show the real time value whereas they have some fixed value like 5, 30, 70, 100 ( in the multiples of 5) . These are the values they will display and cant display the accurate real time time stats.
The connectivity is pretty strong and i have used it with only iPhone hence the mileage may vary to your android usage. The connection is very stable even after going beyond the recommended limit range and even with several wall blockages there are no interruptions in the connection which is really better than the other brands like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
WF 1000XM3, a two year old audio product from Sony is still very much relevant in this current period purely because of its exceptional sound quality even after the release of their successor XM4. The sound is pretty balanced out of the box and can be tuned to your liking with its companion sony app which is one of the best highly customisable apps in my opinion. The CLEAR BASS slider just works magically by boosting the low end evidently without masking the mids and highs. The DSEE HX does its job by nealty upscaling the lossy file to give a nice audio experience. The overall sound signature may not be a DF neutral or pure audiophile grade but as an overall package the XM3 sounds way better than many wired iem at its price point especially in tonality. The overall sound signature is pretty fatigue free and very much enjoyable. For unmatched pure sound quality this is the DARTH WADER of TWS!
PROS AND CONS:
- Exceptional Sound with Balanced Profile
- One of the best bass response with CLEAR BASS slider
- Top of the line App Customisation
- Above average Technicalities especially Soundstage
- Good ANC and Battery life
- Average Call Quality in Outdoors
- Very Subjective Fit
- No wireless charging considering the price.
This Review is Written By KATHIRAVAN.C
I’m Kathiravan from Tamilnadu. A budding audiophile here with high love towards music and audio equipment. My first experience of enjoying the hifi audio came when I started to use budget chi-fi gears and now it came all along the way of reviewing the gears with high end stuffs. I love reviewing audio products.