Sony WF-1000XM3 review: The only true-wireless earbuds you need

The Sony WF-1000XM3 is another superb noise-cancelling headset from the behemoth company. These flagship true-wireless earbuds pack a punch with their ANC performance which effectively quiets ambient noise, be it chatter at a coffee shop or an airplane engine. Firmware updates are available via Sony’s free app, making these a smart long-term investment. Read on for our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

Read the in-depth Sony WF-1000XM3 review by SoundGuys.

What is the Sony WF-1000XM3 like?

The earbuds don’t offer any sweat-resistance, which may be an issue for anyone living in a humid climate.

From the charging case to the earbuds, the design is gorgeous. Regardless of which colorway you choose, black or silver, you’ll see that WF-1000XM3s radiate sophistication. Sony didn’t sacrifice function in favor of form, though; quite the contrary. The underbelly joins the housing to the nozzle and consists of a rounded, rubber surface. This friction-resistant material kept the earbuds in place when I was running to catch the subway, a frequent occurrence.

Each earbud has an inlaid circular panel for tap-guided touch controls, which can be remapped with the Headphone Connect app. The default settings designate the left panel for noise-cancelling and ambient sound modes, while the right earbud is for playback controls. You can say “Ok Google” to have notifications read aloud, set reminders, and so on.

The earbuds are remarkably comfortable and may be worn hours on end pain-free.

Sony markets ambient sound mode as a great way to have a quick conversation or hear the train conductor, but doing the former felt rude and the latter required more effort than removing the earbuds. After all, proximity sensors automatically pause and play music when one earbud is removed or inserted, respectively. As someone who enjoys evening strolls, ambient sound mode is a great compromise between being entertained and remaining aware of my surroundings.

Battery life and connection quality

The earbuds have fine standalone battery life, which allows for 4.76 hours of listening. You can quickly charge the earbuds; 10 minutes in the case allows for 1.5 hours of playback. A full charge cycle for the earbuds requires 1.5 hours.

The charging case looks great and matches the earbuds perfectly. Its rubberized finish makes gripping easy, which is great for butterfingers like me. The case also supports NFC pairing if you don’t want to do the whole Bluetooth menu dance. It is, however, quite large for what it affords: an additional three charge cycles. You’ll need to set aside 3.5 hours to fully charge the case  alone via the USB-C cable.

The Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds maintain a stable connection within a 10-meter wireless range. Connection strength was never an issue during testing, and there’s an option to prioritize stability over sound quality if you experience hiccups.

Is Sony’s noise-cancelling any good?

Sony WF-1000XM3 noise cancelling isolation chart.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 noise canceling is highly effective at attenuating low-frequency background noise.

Noise-cancelling is superb, especially when it comes to low-frequency sounds (think engines and A/C units.) When I flew from Atlanta to San Francisco, there was a marked difference when toggling ANC on and off. I was astonished by how well these performed, and I peacefully napped on my flight. Passive isolation is good, too, assuming you pick properly fitting ear tips.

How do the earbuds sound?

A woman wearing the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds and reaching for the touch panel of the left 'bud.

Touch controls are customizable via Sony’s Headphone Connect app.

Editor’s Pick

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Although the earbuds only support two Bluetooth codecs, SBC and AAC, sound quality and clarity are great. This can be contributed to both the DSEE HX processing and Q1Ne chip, which also improves energy efficiency. Regardless of musical genre, instrumental separation is audible and the recreation of three-dimensional space, while not up to snuff with full-fledged 3-D sound, is accurate.

Similar to Sony’s flagship over-ear headset, these earbuds generously bump bass frequencies. However, the exaggeration isn’t at the expense of vocal clarity because the earbuds also emphasize mid-range frequencies, though to a lesser extent than the bass. This sometimes made harmonic resonances from voices, pianos, and guitars difficult to hear. It was most obvious during instrumentally crowded rock songs. Even then, you can go into the Headphones Connect app and EQ the sound signature accordingly.

Microphone quality

The microphone is fine for casual calls and passable for business calls. Whomever you’re speaking with will be able to detect that you’re using earbuds, rather than a handset, because of a slight echo. Additionally, the ‘buds are not great at combating external noise. My friend could hear the wind, traffic, and passersby as we spoke. However, a major perk of the Sony WF-1000XM3 is how voices are relayed through both earbuds. Many true-wireless options only transmit others’ voices through a single earpiece.

Sony WF-1000XM3 microphone demo:

Sony WF-1000XM3 review: Should you buy it?

Aerial view of the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds in the case which is open.

You can pair the earbuds via NFC or the traditional Bluetooth pairing process. They can only connect to one device at a time.

If you have a flexible budget, yes; the Sony WF-1000XM3 demonstrate why expensive headphones are worth it. These noise-cancelling earbuds work wonders while remaining comfortable for hours at a time. Many issues that plague true-wireless earbuds are remedied by all the technology packed into these fashionable earbuds.

My only gripe is the lack of an official IP rating. If listeners were able to exercise with them worry free, they would be a much greater threat to the Beats Powerbeats Pro. As we know by now, every product has its shortcomings. Of course, you still can exercise with these, but if water damage occurs, you’re out of luck and $230.

Even with their drawbacks, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are some of the best true-wireless earbuds to date.

Buy at Amazon!

We hope you enjoyed our Sony WF-1000XM3 review. Again, if you want even more in-depth analysis on these earbuds, check out SoundGuys’ Sony WF-1000XM3 review right here.