Tech Review: Sony’s WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones are our new favourite cordless cans under $400

Sony’s WH-1000XM2 wireless headphones are some of my all-time favourites. The perfect storm of comfort and great sound that I look for in any pair of headphones I own, they have become a constant companion on my daily commute. This is why, when a pair of Sony’s new WH-1000XM3 wireless headphones arrived on my doorstep, I was very excited to try them out.

The WH-1000XM3 aquits itself against the WH-1000XM2 extremely well in many respects. The sound quality is of an equally high level and they offer a similar or perhaps greater level of comfort. Sony have shaved a few extra grams off the weight of the device by changing the chassis to a lighter plastic. This has the mildy unfortunate effect of making them look and feel slightly less luxe than the previous model. I can mostly overlook this, however, because the overall build quality is still extremely strong.

If I have a problem with the build of the WH-1000XM3 its that there’s a greater degree of audio bleed on these cans than there was on the WH-1000XM2. If If I’ve got the volume up on my way home from work, everyone in the carriage around me knows what I’m listening to. This will be one of those things that either doesn’t bother you at all, or makes you utterly paranoid the whole train can hear your embarrassing show tune collection and are judging you harshly for it. I’d like to take these cans on a plane and see how they go, the engine roar might be enough to tamp them down.

Another major change from the WH-1000XM2 to the WH-1000XM3 is that the mini-USB charge port is gone, replaced by USB-C. This makes me happier than I can say, because now everything can be charged off my portable laptop battery while on the move.

For those who weren’t wild about the bulkier shape of the WH-1000XM2, you’ll be pleased to know that Sony have lightly refined the design. The WH-1000XM3 sports more rounded ear cups that sit closer to the ear, keeping you from looking too much like Lando Calrissian’s bro. The arch of the headband is also slightly higher than the WH-1000XM2, allowing for look that sleeker on the whole. The earcups and headband come equipped with the same extremely soft, comfortable leather of the WH-1000XM2.

Alright, no more beating around the bush — they sound bloody amazing. While the sound quality is directly comparable to the WH-1000XM2, this is in no way a bad thing. The WH-1000XM2 was one of the best wireless cans I’ve ever heard and the WH-1000XM3 carries that tradition on with aplomb. Everything sounds so clear and resonant, multilayered tracks can be picked through all the way to the very back of the mix.

These are the kind of headphones that let you hear a song you’ve listened to a thousand times¬† before as though it is totally new. Everything is skillfully leveled, the bass is polite and never gets in the way of the rest of the mix, the high end sound is just crisp enough to make the hats and cymbals pop. The volume goes all the way to 11, but still offers beautiful sound at 50% capacity.

I’m every bit as enamoured with the WH-1000XM3 as I was the WH-1000XM2. Sony just keep kicking goals with their wireless cans, and I look forward to seeing how they continue to evolve them in the future.

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights: Excellent sound; Strong build quality; Nicer look than the WH-1000XM2
Lowlights: Some may not be wild about the cheaper feel; Fair bit of audio bleed
Manufacturer: Sony
Price: $399 AUD
Available: Now

Review conducted with a retail pair of Sony WH-1000XM3’s provided by the manufacturer.

David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously worked as a freelance games journalist and critic, appearing on PC World Australia. He tweets at @RhunWords and plays the odd game at twitch.tv/RhunWords when the internet works.