Sony recently dropped its latest offering to the sound gods - the WF-1000XM3 truly wireless noise cancelling headphones.
This inner-ear music delivery system is a bold move. It's notoriously difficult to achieve both noise cancellation and great sound quality in non-over-ear headphones.
Let's see if Sony managed to deliver.
I was really excited when Sony's 1000XM3 headphones showed up on my desk last year.
What are they?
The WF-1000XM3's are Sony's latest true-wireless noise cancelling earbuds. Yeah, it's a bit of a mouthful.
They come with a HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e chip and Dual Noise Sensor Technology that catches ambient sound via a feedback microphone and cancels it out with the chip.
It also boasts a 24-bit audio signal processing and DAC with amplifier for next-level sound quality and can upscale compressed music files with Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX.
It comes with a charging case and gets six hours of battery life from a full charge - or one and a half hours from ten minutes thanks to its fast charge capabilities. The case itself provides up to 24-hours of battery life before it needs to be juiced up.
What's good about them?
I'm always sceptical of in-ear noise cancellation. I've been so spoiled by the likes of the MX-1000xm3's that I find it difficult to believe that in-ear could come close to over-ears.
But these do a damn fine job of it.
Both on the street and in the office they do a superb job of blocking out noise without me having to pump the volume too high.
I was also fortunate enough to test them out on a flight. When set to half volume and above they managed to block out the general cabin chatter, movement and even then hum of the engine. I was incredibly impressed.
Ambient Mode can be activated easily by tapping the chic circle on the left bud, which I always appreciate from a safety perspective.
But the real surprise here was the 'Quick Attention' functionality. By holding your finger down on the left sensor the music will lower right down, returning to regular volume once you let go. The amount of times I've used that over the past few days alone is ridiculous.
It's a really nice touch that allows you to quickly talk to someone without ripping the buds out of your ears in order to hear. It's perfect for office environments and flights. Big fan.
I'm the first to admit that I'm not the biggest music freak around. I'm usually pretty happy so long as whatever I'm listening to sounds half decent and doesn't cut out.
But even a basic like me can tell that these things absolutely do your tunes justice.
Where complicated songs can become a muddy mess with some earbuds, the layers don't get lost through the WF-1000XM3's. The sounds are clean and crisp and anything bassy continues to slap like a MFer.
I'm also happy to report that the kick drum in Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen remains as brutal as ever through these little bud bois.
And if you're less of a sound Philistine than me, you have the option of tweaking the EQ settings as much as you damn please in the app. Have fun!
While chunky in-ear buds are still a little dorky looking, these bad bitches are erring on the side of hot.
They come in both black and white-ish designs that look about as elegant as something can when its jutting out of your ear on an angle.
The real sleekness can be found in the cases, with their black with bronze accents and white with gold accents.
They're not the smallest in the world (not as compact as the AirPods but not as mammoth as the PowerBeat Pros) but the design is lovely and makes you want to show them off.
What's not so good about them?
No sweat resistance
That's right, you're not supposed to use these for exercise. Sony have other headphones for that purpose.
While not every product needs to be all things to all people, wireless earbuds are already fall into a niche category. And a lot of people use them for exercise specifically because of the lack of cords.
I get that you pay a premium for Sony quality when it comes to noise cancellation. The over-ear WF-1000XM3's are still my favourite cans and those bad boys are not cheap.
But they deliver on every front when it comes to their purpose. I love them and think they're worth it.
While water resistance is probably a stretch for the buds, sweat resistance shouldn't be. When the price is that high and the product has a form factor people often use for exercise, I expect for it to be safely usable without risking damage.
I had some initial issues with the pairing process, including with the app disconnecting every time I exited it.
Even when it does work first time these aren't as snappy as AirPods or the new PowerBeat Pros. They also don't pair so immediately and seamlessly with iOS. That being said, at least they work easily enough across Apple and Android devices unlike some other products.
I wouldn't say the pairing is bad, but just fine at this stage.
Image: Alex Choros
I want to precede this by saying that the WF-1000XM3's come with a range of tips that come in two different materials. This feels like a luxury and is a nice inclusion at this price point.
I bring this up because it took some playing around with the different sizes to get them to an acceptable level of comfort.
For the most part I was originally using the medium-sized tips that come attached to the buds out-of-box. I found that they become uncomfortable after half an hour to an hour of sedentary use. Both on the ground and in the air I've consistently felt some soreness on my earlobes where outside of the buds have pushed down somewhat.
I wondered if perhaps I was wearing them wrong, and to be fair sometimes they were pointed more downwards than frontwards, which is absolutely a contributing factor. Other times they were not.
But as one colleague said "Even if it's you, it shouldn't be that easy to get wrong."
Fortunately, changing the tip sizes out did help. On the one hand, it was annoying that so much messing about was required to find the right size. But on the other, I applaud Sony for offering so many different options - something for everyone.
Because at the end of the day, no matter how good headphones are nobody wants to spend $400 on something uncomfortable.
The WF-1000XM3's come in at $399.95, which is a lot to spend on some headphones - especially when you can't use them for a workout.
That being said, their quality and inclusions are incredibly impressive and definitely future proof them for a long time.
With that in mind, if you want to buy them now you may just be getting great bang for your buck if you'll use them for years to come.
Alternatively, it means that if you wait for them to come down in price or go on sale the tech will still be hot and fresh.