If you still depend on headphones that cabin attendants dole out on long flights, you’re part of a shrinking tribe. From frequent fliers to commuters on local trains the world over, Bluetooth headphones are soon becoming a bare essential. It’s why Sony has kept refreshing its top-of-the-line, Bluetooth headphones portfolio on a regular basis. The WH-1000XM3, or simply the M3 is the latest offering from the Sony stable and it is aimed at audiophiles and frequent travellers alike. The M3’s major battle will be with the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II; does the M3 have enough tricks up its sleeve to take on this formidable rival?
It certainly scores with form and function. It’s not just good looking – we are partial to the platinum silver colour variant, but also has some thoughtful design touches. The M3 wins full marks for its ergonomics. The larger and deeper ear space structure makes it more comfortable for long periods. This is further augmented by the urethane earpads with extra foam. It’s also lighter than its predecessor by almost 10%. It’s a tad heavier than the Quiet Comfort 35II though. The M3 doesn’t just fit more snugly around your ears and over your head, it’s also more comfortable. This pair of cans comes with a host of touch audio controls but that can take some getting used to.
Whether you’re in a noisy airport or on the street, contemporary headphones with superior noise cancellation abilities can transport you to a different space. It’s why Sony has put a lot of energy on the M3’s noise cancellation skills with a new noise-cancelling chip – the QN1. It’s certainly paid off. The M3 is probably the headphone to beat on this front and backs this up with its top-class Hi-Res Audio that reproduces a full range of frequencies up to 40kHz. A companion App allows you to switch between three sound modes. There’s walking or street mode, waiting mode and our favourite – travelling mode, where you are totally cut off from the external world and all sounds.
It’s incredible to be able to shut off completely and immerse yourself into your favourite Imagine Dragons playlist or when you’re playing catch up on Ozark on a flight. You don’t need to take your headphones off or pause when the flight attendant needs your attention. The M3’s ‘Quick attention mode’ allows you to instantly connect with the external world. All you need to do is place your hand on the right cup. This is a feature that the Bose headphone doesn’t boast of. The travel-friendly features don’t end there. The M3 bundles an in-flight adaptor and an audio cable that allows you to switch from the Bluetooth mode and plug into the in-flight entertainment.
The other deal breaker for premium Bluetooth headphones is battery life. After a week with the M3, we tend to agree with Sony’s claim of a 30-hour battery life. That’s more than you need for a short business trip or a holiday and slightly more than what the Bose Quiet Comfort II delivers. Sony finally ditches the Micro-USB charging slot for a USB Type-C slot, about time too. If you use an Android flagship phone, you don’t need to lug an extra cable. We hope more headphone and Bluetooth speaker manufacturers will take this cue. We also like the fast charge option – a 15-minute charge can deliver 5 hours of battery life.
The WH-1000XM3 is a sheer joy to use and is one of the finest pairs of headphones we’ve seen from Sony in a while. It’s arguably the finest pair of noise cancellation headphones in its class and also ticks other key boxes like battery life and stellar sound quality.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 costs Rs 29,990 and is available in Black and Platinum silver.