This is my personal review of one crucial piece of tech that I hardly leave the house without. This pair of wireless headphones from Sony, the WH-1000xm3 is the daily driver that I take for my walks and work.
If you overlook the naming convention that Sony chose (a mouthful for sure), you will be pleasantly surprised with this pair of wireless, over-ears, noise-canceling headphones. I'll refer to the XM3 in this article just to keep things tidy.
Sony is not a stranger to creating audio accessories, but if you do check out their website - the XM3 stands out as the one with the most number of ratings (outpacing even the current offering XM5, two generations later). IMHO, it is a showpiece that put Sony on the map of noise-cancelling audio accessories. On par with the others in the industry such as Bose.
What I use the XM3 for
1. Peaceful walks and commutes
Living in a bustling and lively city such as London has its' perks. Boredom and tranquility are hardly found.
Sometimes, it can just be a bit too much. Or I'd just like to step away from it all for a while to get my head together again. Easy - with just a quick slip-on over my ears.
In fact, I am writing this article from a cafe that is full of families, kids, and life! It is invigorating for sure, and I get to enjoy some peace when I'd like it just with the noise-canceling capabilities of this headset.
This applies similarly to when I'd like to take walks or focus on the latest podcast to learn something new. Sony did a superb job with their proprietary on-device QN1 Noise Canceling Chip.
It works well enough to cancel out any droning sounds such as the rumbling of a bus engine, or the hiss of a jet engine. Voices are a bit tricky but the XM3 does a good enough job to lower its intensity for a pleasant music experience. I don't get that weird feeling of having a vacuuming echo between my ears and the muffs that I experience with other similar products.
It also comes with a smartphone app that offers an adaptive experience. I suppose runners might find this useful, as the noise canceling 'strength' can be adjusted based on what activity one is currently doing. It is a bit of a faff for me though, I just keep them on.
2. Smart connectivity
I enjoy listening to audiobooks on my phone, as you might know. The XM3 is my primary way of experiencing the flow, pause, and emphasis of a narrator who is going through a book.
These headphones have a built-in integration with Google Assistant, which I do use more than I initially expected to.
Got a buzz on my phone, but not wishing to whip out my device from the pocket? Not an issue, with a touch of the Google Assistant button - I can catch up with any latest message, WhatsApp, or notification. I can even choose to reply by composing a message through the speech-to-text capability.
It goes beyond just communications, into other areas of my life such as keeping organized. I can be absent-minded at times, and lose my phone in the crack of my sofa. The Google Assistant on the XM3 can activate the ringtone on my phone to help me locate it easily in my house.
I can also schedule calendar events, and set reminders or timers via the XM3. All without looking or touching my phone. 'Look Ma! No hands!'
Update 2024: I broke of the side panels yet again. Turns out, adjusting headphones on does not play nicely with balancing a baby with one other hand. Good news, I did repair them.
Ease of finding parts. I got one of eBay, a 3D printed replica. (It cost me £15).
Following along on a YouTube tutorial was simple enough and I had completed the task in under 15 minutes.
Superb experience, and happy that I can lengthen the lifespan of this product. (Sustainable tech, yo!)
Only reason for the 4/5 stars is that the new part is not as smooth when adjusting headphone sizing.
For my next projec, I will try to replace the earmuff sections.
Since 2020, I have been using the XM3 for almost everything. It is difficult to imagine going back to any other headbud now.
My only complaint is the microphone uptake is not as good as I'd like it to be. I have been told several times that my voice sounds like it is muffled or 'underwater' in calls.
I had even done my own side cover DIY repair to keep it going. So far, the battery life is holding up well and the ear muffs remain supple.
Maybe I will check out the later models in the future - the XM4 or Xm5. For now, I am pleased with the Sony WH-1000XM3. Consider taking up one for yourself, and be surprised how it can enhance your life in more than one area.