Traditionally, choosing a laptop has been about compromise.
Sony WF-1000XM3 Australian review
- Stylish design
- No sweat proofing / water resistance
- Software features are inconsistent
If you’re looking for the best alternative to the Apple AirPods, these ought to sit towards the top of the list.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
Should I buy the Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds?
A distinct lack of water and sweat resistance aside, the Sony WF-1000XM3s are a treat for the ears. The design and execution hits all the right notes and the extended battery life cements them as a clear winner in the true wireless category. For more, check out our guide to which 2019 true wireless earbuds are worth your time.
If you’re looking for the best alternative to the Apple AirPods, these ought to sit towards the top of the list.
Price when reviewed
In Australia, the Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds have a recommended retail price of AU$399.
Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds full review
The Sony WF-1000XM3s are the best true wireless earbuds that Sony have offered up to date. The design is a delight and noise-cancelling enhanced sonic qualities are sure to sate even the high expectations of audiophiles. Every part of the package comes together and the final results are symphonic to behold.
Without getting ahead of ourselves, the Sony WF-1000XM3 raise the bar for how good a set of true wireless earbuds can look, feel and sound. They also move the needle in a big way when it comes to battery life. It feels like the competition will have to seriously up their game if they hope to compete with this and Beats’ Powerbeats Pro (Beats).
Though it won’t suffice for fitness-focused users and misses a few notes on the software side of the equation, the Sony WF-1000X M3s are still incredibly easy to endorse.
Where to buy?
In Australia, you can buy the Sony WF-1000X true wireless earbuds through the following retailers:
Sony - AU$399
Design & Build
From the moment you turn your gaze towards them, the Sony WF-1000XM3 stand out as more than just an upgrade or iteration on the previous Sony WF-1000X (Amazon) but a wholesale reinvention of them.
If nothing else, these are the best looking set of true wireless earbuds that Sony have produced to date. They pull plenty of cues from the copper-and-black aesthetic found in last year’s WH-1000XM3 noise-cancelling headphones (Amazon). They also learn from the mistakes of Sony’s SP900 and SP700N earbuds. With a body crafted from high-friction rubber, they’re a cleaner, more professionally-angled take on the same core concept: earbuds without wires.
Aesthetically, they reminded me a little bit of Jabra’s Elite 65ts (Amazon) but they brought more than enough of their own flavor to the table to stand out. The overall material design involved manages to make the WF-1000XM3s feel both premium and deceptively tough.
Where the earlier WF-1000X came across as experimental and gizmo-esque, these really do feel like the cutting edge of what Sony can do - which they are. Honestly, WF-1000XM3 have got so much premium energy about them that I almost worried about some of that flourish rubbing off on my hands when I was carrying them about. Unsurprisingly, this high level of polish extends to the carry case.
Compared to the earlier WF-1000X, the WF-1000XM3s feature an optimised antennae design, dual noise sensors and the same QN1e found in Sony’s acclaimed WH-1000XM3 over-ear headphones (Amazon). For our full review of the WH-1000X M3s, click here.
When placed inside and left to charge, a set of magnets not only hold the earbuds themselves in place but also hold the lid of the case closed. During our usual drop test, the case for the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds managed to keep itself together under duress most - but not all - of the time.
There’s an LED light that indicates when the headphones are charging and a USB Type-C port on the bottom that’s used to charge the case itself. Otherwise, the carry-case for the WF-1000XM3 earbuds it fairly featureless. It’s minimalist as all get out and, out of the box, it also comes bundled with a good variety of earbud options - giving you your pick of both the materials and size involved.
Of course, one thing there’s no getting around is that the WF-1000XM3s are very specifically not designed for fitness. There’s no sweat proofing or water resistance here. There’s nothing really stopping you from taking these to the gym but Sony do advise against it, so you’re probably going to be better served by something like the new PowerBeats Pro.
Still, assuming you’ve found the right fit, the WF-1000XM3 earbuds are super comfortable to wear. Setup is a breeze (both with NFC and with regular Bluetooth), they’re easy to fit into your ears and I never worried about them falling out.
My experience with the control mechanism here was a little more mixed. Sony have opted to kit out the WF-1000X M3s with touch sensors on each earbud. There’s a simplistic system of commands set up out of the box but plenty of room to customise your experience using the Sony Headphones app. These weren’t always as reliable or accurate as I’d like. This aspect of the true wireless earbuds experience remains a minor inconvenience and a problem waiting to be solved.
The one exception here is the integration of the Quick Attention feature found in Sony’s other noise cancelling headphones. If you need to let the outside world in at a moments notice, you simply need to hold one finger to your ear. I maintain that this might be the most rude and impersonal thing that a set of headphones has ever asked me to do but your individual mileage may vary and it does work almost exactly as advertised.
Features & Sound Quality
Of course, Quick Attention isn’t the only feature that Sony have brought over into the WF-1000XM3s. Once setup and connected through the Sony Headphones app (available on both iOS and Android), there are a wealth of options at your disposal.
You can customise the sound signature through an equalizer, enable DSEE HX audio playback, prioritize either sound quality or connection reliability and enable adaptive noise control. This last feature works pretty similar to Jabra’s recent Elite 85h over-ear headphones (Amazon).
Basically, as you move around, the Sony WF-100XM3s will make a determination about your external environment and adjust the experience accordingly. For example, if you’re sitting on a train, it might crank up the noise-cancelling. If you’re running busy street, it’ll allow more ambient sound through to give you a better sense of your surroundings.
This is neat but it’s far from seamless. Having your audio abruptly drop out whenever the noise-cancelling mode changes as you’re moving around always feels intrusive. Still, to Sony’s credit, all of this can be extensively customised or even turned off outright.
The other feature that doesn’t quite pan out is the automatic pausing that Sony say should kick in once you take out even a single earbud. I found this to be extremely unreliable. Half the time, it didn’t work at all - which was a shame because the actually audio quality you can get out of the WF-1000XM3s is incredibly good.
And so is the battery life. The Sony WF-1000XM3s represent a major leap forward for the brand. You’ll get about six hours of playback from these earbuds per charge, plus another 18 from the fully-charged case. This totals out at about 24 hours - which is more or less in-line with the gold standard: Apple’s AirPods.
In fact, after a few weeks of using them as my go-to, I’d be willing to venture as far as to say they might be a contender for the best set of true wireless earbuds you can buy in 2019 - with a few caveats of course.
Like their predecessors, the WF-1000XM3s use noise-cancelling to clean house. Wipe the slate clean before extending their own capabilities and treating you to a gourmet course of mids and highs with a side of bass-boosted goodness.
I came away thrilled by the authentic verve of Carly Rae Jepson’s “The Sound” and the the rumbly chorus of Kongo’s “Come with Me Now”. Pretty much everything I threw at these earbuds, they delivered back to me in strong form.
Still, you don’t get the easy pairing and eye-catching design of Apple’s AirPods. You don’t get the superior fitness features and extra-secure design of the Beats Powerbeats Pro. You don’t get the improved mic quality of the Jabra Elite 65ts. You can’t have it all - but you’ll still find most of what you want here.
The Bottom Line
Again, there is no one-size fits all solution in true wireless earbuds but all the same, it’s hard to imagine you coming away too disappointed with the Sony WF-1000XM3s.
At the very least, the WF-1000XM3s are the best true wireless earbuds that Sony have offered up to date. The design is a delight and the noise-cancelling enhanced sonic qualities are a buffet for the ears.
Best of all, these earbuds move the needle. They raise the bar for how good a set of true wireless earbuds can look, feel and sound - not to mention how much battery life they can offer. It finally feels like the gap between Apple and the alternatives is beginning to tighten up.
Their arrival might be a little overshadowed by the more fitness friendly Beats Powerbeats Pro but the Sony WF-1000XM3s roar with flair, finesse and form.
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