• The Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Headphones have superb sound quality, very effective noise cancellation, and a comfortable fit – making them excellent headphones for everyday wear, no matter the environment.
  • Regardless of the musical style or spoken word tracks I tried, the Sony WF-1000XM3 headphones always delivered excellent audio performance with plenty of bass and a wide soundstage.
  • Sony claims the battery lasts for six hours with the noise cancellation on, and this seems accurate in our tests. The case provides another three full charges too and can be recharged wirelessly for added convenience.
  • Reasonably priced for the features and sound quality, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are one of the very best all-round headphones you can buy, whether you compare them to other true wireless models or not.

As the world begins to drown under the weight of newly released, cookie-cutter true wireless headphones, models with desirable features instantly standout – and Sony’s latest set is one of them. But just how good can true wireless earbuds sound, and how effective can noise cancelling really be? After all, by design they are all small, rarely pack in much additional technology outside of the drivers and the battery, and most can do without the additional power draw of a noise cancellation system.

When it comes to the Sony WF-1000XM3, the answers to the questions above are “superb” and “shockingly effective.” Released during the summer, Sony’s second attempt at true wireless earbuds far surpasses our expectations. What’s more, they come close to matching the excellent over-ear (and confusingly similarly named) WH-1000XM3 headphones for both sound and noise cancellation performance.

How? It's achieved by packing in the same crucial tech that makes the over-ears so good. I've been testing these out on the heels of our most recent true wireless earbud test, and since starting out with the WF-1000XM3, I haven't returned to any of the others, not even the winner.

Here's my review to explain what makes them so good.

Design and build

Sony WF-1000XM3 Headphones

Foto: sourceAndy Boxall/Business Insider

Almost an inch long and surprisingly thick, the earbuds are quite large when you take them out of the case, and they are definitely noticeable when plugged into your ears. Whether they look as strange as the Apple AirPods, or as Frankenstein's Monster-like as the Cambridge Melomania will be down to personal preference. I don't mind the way they look at all, especially in the champagne color, which is less in-your-face than the black and gold versions.

A selection of ear tips are inside the box, and it was easy to get a great fit. The tips are angled, which not only makes it easier to see which is left and which is right, but also makes it so they don't poke out of your ear at an odd angle. Comfort is very important, and because the selection of ear tips is varied, I found the right fit in moments. I've worn the earbuds for several hours at a time, and do not suffer from fatigue or aches, which is helped by the low 0.3oz/8 gram weight.

The metal circle on the outside of each bud is touch sensitive and performs different functions depending on the settings applied and the operating system of the connected phone. The touch control can turn on or off the noise cancellation, play or pause a track, or call up a voice assistant. Like all touch controls that you can't actually see when trying to touch them, they take some getting used to, and even when you do get the location settled, there is no haptic feedback or anything to confirm a touch. I would often find myself jabbing at them randomly until the feature I wanted worked. This is hardly unique to this Sony model, however, as it's a problem found across all touch-enabled headphones.

Initially, the headphones did not have an onboard volume control, which meant you had to get your phone out to adjust it, but at the end of our review, this feature was enabled through a software update. Sony's commitment to delivering new features like this is to be admired. There is also a pulsating LED light on the leading edge, which flashes blue when it's connected, and red when it's not. In the dark, these lights are quite bright and are actually very noticeable. I received some very odd looks on the London Underground.

You store the earbuds in a custom case which also recharges the buds using an internal battery. They are securely held in place with magnets, and the top closes with a satisfying click. On the underneath of the case is a USB Type-C connector to charge the case and buds. Alternatively, you can wirelessly charge it up just by placing the case in a Qi-compatible wireless plinth. It's all very convenient and there is a red LED under the case top to show charging is in progress.

Overall build is very good, as you'd expect from a Sony product. However, the plastic case top did become scratched after being placed in my bag, and the soft-touch body slightly discolored from the same treatment. It's a shame this has happened in a matter of months. The earbuds themselves, though, are still like new.


  • Driver: 0.24-inch/6mm dome driver inside closed earbud.
  • Weight/Case Weight: 0.3oz/8 grams, case is 2.8oz/78 grams
  • Battery life: Six hours with noise cancellation, eight hours without. Case provides three additional charges.
  • App: Available for iOS and Android.

Connection and app

Sony WF-1000XM3 Headphones

Foto: sourceAndy Boxall/Business Insider

If you have an Android phone with NFC and Google Assistant, all it takes is a tap of the NFC-enabled case and pairing will instantly activate. Rarely is this process so simple. It's also quick and easy using iOS too. The only problem I did have, was trying to connect to a smartphone without Google Services onboard - the Huawei Mate 30 Pro in this case - otherwise, it was seamless. Stability is also great, especially after repeated software updates from Sony.

The headphones are best used with Sony's dedicated app, which is available for both Android and iOS and operates in the same way. Here you can apply software updates and, more importantly, control the graphic equalizer and preset sounds, along with the noise cancellation settings.

This is one of the most technically impressive noise cancellation systems I've tried. It's adaptive - meaning it alters the profile depending on your surroundings and movement - and what makes it great, is that it actually works. Sitting on the train, the noise cancellation profile sets itself to Transport with maximum noise cancellation active. When you get up and leave the train, the headphones quickly sense you're moving around and switch to the Walking profile where ambient sound is let in, ensuring you're aware of your surroundings.

There is also a Staying profile, which I set to maximum noise cancellation and a Running profile where even more ambient sound is let in than the Walking profile. Each one can be altered in the app, or the feature can be turned off entirely. I found this to be a very useful feature, as it works when it should, without prompting from me. Hearing the outside world when walking around removes the slightly unsafe aspect of noise cancelling headphones, and Sony's Adaptive noise cancellation takes it a step further by switching between profiles for you.

What it's like to listen to the Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony WF-1000XM3 Headphones

Foto: sourceAndy Boxall/Business Insider

The general school of thought is that noise cancelling can affect sound quality, and tiny earbuds aren't always known for strong bass. Well, get these thoughts out of your head now. The Sony WF-1000XM3 headphones are fabulous and, if anything, sound better with the noise canceling on than the other way around. The bass delivered is punchy and tight, way beyond anything you'd expect from such tiny earbuds. This comes from a 0.24-inch/6mm driver and neodymium magnet in each bud, Sony's clever and very effective upscaling DSEE HX engine - which makes low-quality files sound much better than they should - and its QN1e noise cancelling processor. Including these features means you're getting all the high-end tech and sound quality from Sony's more expensive over-ear WH-1000XM3 model inside a smaller, more convenient package.

Using Mat Zo's wonderfully immersive electro dance track "The Sky" as a test, the WF-1000XM3 headphones dazzle. The soundstage is wide, every little detail shines through, the percussion sparkles, and the deep bass drop several minutes into the track is met with a controlled thump you can feel. It's truly excellent and representative of how the headphones treat other tracks too. The vocals on "That Day" by Lovelyz are never overpowered by the song's strong hook, and even songs mixed so the vocals blend into the track - Keyakizaka46's "Kuroi Hitsuji," for example - are pleasantly balanced.

All this makes the Sony WF-1000XM3 a wonderful daily audio companion. The mature sound means they're effortless to listen to, they never get tiring, and they suit every music genre. You can confidently sync these with your phone, play almost any music at all, and be assured the sound will not just impress, but often really surprise you with its accuracy and vibrancy. Spoken word when listening to podcasts is great too. These really are an excellent all-rounder.

Call quality was also good for both listener and caller. That said, the worst part of the listening experience was when walking into the wind outside. This sometimes generated a lot of noise and feedback which was usually exasperated by the noise cancellation. There's no way to get around this, and if you intend to use these for running, it may become a problem. However, for typical use, although annoying, it didn't cause regular problems.

How about the noise cancellation? The ear tips seal in your ear anyway, initially isolating you a little -but turn the noise cancellation on, and noisy environments disappear. I've used them in cafes, on trains, on the subway, and even on airplanes. With the effect turned up to maximum, I was suitably removed from my surroundings, the drone of the plane's engines was minimized, and the background chatter inside a cafe was almost gone. Activate the ambient sound, and voices and your environment are re-introduced. It creates an artificial sound which can be jarring and distracting, but it ensures you don't miss something important.

Sony says the battery inside the earbuds will last six hours before needing a recharge with noise canceling on, and there are another three charges inside the case. This fits with my tests. When the case's battery needs a recharge, it takes about 90 minutes. However, a 10-minute quick charge will give you 90 minutes play time - ideal for a workout or run.

The bottom line

Compared to the Sony WF-1000XM3, every other pair of true wireless headphones is a compromise. With no significant downsides, they are highly recommended. Once you experience the Adaptive Sound feature and noise cancellation, plus the excellent sound quality, you won't look back for a moment.

  • Should you buy it? Yes, absolutely. At $230 they cost a little more than many other true wireless headphones available, but the excellent noise cancellation, superb sound quality, and great battery life makes them worth it.
  • What are the alternatives? There is no shortage of true wireless earbuds out there, and more are coming with noise cancellation all the time, making the WF-1000XM3 headphones less unique than they were at launch. The most obvious competitor is Apple's AirPods Pro. These minimize the challenging looks of the originals thanks to shorter stems, and add silicone ear tips for an isolating seal in the ear, along with effective noise cancellation too. The sound has not altered though, so performance is good rather than outstanding. The Cambridge Audio Melomania won our recent true wireless shootout with their superior audio, long battery life, and excellent $130 price, but they do not have noise cancellation.

Pros: Excellent sound quality with plenty of bass and a wide soundstage, complements any musical genre or spoken word track, very effective noise cancellation with Adaptive Sound, excellent battery life with 24-hour use possible from the buds and case.

Cons: Can pick up wind noise in certain situations, case can get scratched and discolored quickly.

Buy the Sony WF-1000XM3 on Amazon for $228.00

Buy the Sony WF-1000Xm3 on Best Buy for $229.99