There’s something to be said for those times when you get to test out something that you can pretty much tell is the first of many, a first to market, scene setting product – the Sony WF-1000X headphones are those because they are the first in-ear totally wire-free headphones with Active Noise Cancelling and they do not disappoint.
When I first saw these in Berlin they reminded me of some concept products Sony had announced openly at tech shows in the year or two earlier. A voice assistant in your ear they spoke of. Now these are not the full deal yet, but given what they’ve packed into the small size already, they are well on their way.
What you do get for your $399 ($349 right now at JB HiFi) is a comfortable, easy to use set of earphones with the outstanding added benefit of complete Active Noise Cancelling.
A lot of in-ear headphones claim a level of noise cancelling just by the very nature of their fit – a tight squeeze into your ear does a good job at blocking out the noise around you.
For my review I chose to fit the memory foam style tips – I’ve always preferred any in-ear headphone with that fitting as it seems to stay snug and give the best performance.
Like all fully wireless earphones they come with a little box which also provides additional charge. These click into the box so you really know they are on charge. You’ll get 3 hours of music time from each use, another six hours juice in the charging case and you get 75 minutes of listening from a quick 15 minute charge.
Not amazing numbers, but enough for the commute and regular walks.
On a plane that’s a bit more problematic. These are most certainly a contender to replace the traditional over-ear noise cancelling headphones on your next flight. I for one like music all the time on a plane. I go from over-ear wireless to in ear wired when I want to have a nap. If you can cope with 3 hours on and a few hours off then they will be ok.
Of course, being wire-free – there’s the fear of losing them. On a plane that’s a real risk. On a walk or mowing the lawns, no issue – they work find and stick well in your ear – Probably the Jabra Elite Sport are the only ones I’ve worn that feel even more secure – these are going no-where.
Sound quality is something to behold. For something so small, it’s just amazing. Sitting hear writing this, Goodnight Saigon by Billy Joel has just hit my playlist and I am genuinely hearing sounds in those first 30 seconds of the song I’ve not heard before. Such clarity, it’s staggering.
And they aren’t set to full noise cancelling. Not that I need it – I work from home, alone, so aside from Courier drivers knocking there’s not much noise here.
The companion app allows for an “adaptive sound control” – when set to on the headphones will “chime” in your ear to indicate they are changing mode, and they can up the noise cancelling to full if you’re on a train, or bus, or plane.
Likewise there is an Equaliser control in the app too – though I must be boring because I found all the settings to be rather artificial and have stuck with “off” for all my listening.
Drum beats are clear, vocals are crisp, the Bass is great yet can be boosted, the clarity of the range from mid to high is exceptional.
Sony have somehow managed to pack the complete quality of their excellent MDR-1000X headphones and all they know about audio into these tiny, TINY little things.
I feel utterly self-conscious wearing them – but not anywhere near as much as when I’m wearing Apple AirPods – society needs to catch up with this move to in-ear wireless, and fast, to make it both acceptable to look like this, but also to ensure people take a second look before talking to you thinking you aren’t wearing headphones.
Sitting here trying to find the negatives about these headphones all I can tell you is this, the little charge box they come in is a bit strange. Aside from the orientation of the Sony logo it’s not obvious which way it opens up. It’s also not as smooth to open up as I’d like from Sony.
On the actual earphone side, I’d prefer a touch sensitive outer shell – instead there is a power button on the left earpiece and a function button (Pause, Skip etc) on the right. It’s a simple pinch to activate, but a tap would be easier.
Frankly, those are all generation two things. Get it right for quality and performance first, enhance the user interface second time round.
Finally, a voice prompt for setting changes would be ideal. Right now you get a chime in your ear and you have no idea why unless you look at the app. Again – 2.0 issue:)
I’ve had a LOT of headphones to play with over the last few weeks, nothing impressed me overall as much as these. Sure if you want the best “sound” from a headphone there are many options and frankly that’s a very personal decision based on how you like your sound and comfort – so much to choose from.
When it comes to wireless in-ear headphones though, there’s a new benchmark. It’s these Sony WF-1000X noise cancelling beauties.
Good luck getting them back from me Sony.