When it comes to blocking out all outside noise (especially when you’re flying) Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II and Sony’s 1000XM2 are the two best over-ear noise-cancelling headphones money can buy.
Flyers swear by both, but Sony’s new 1000XM3 pulls ahead of the QC 35 II’s with arguably even better noise-cancellation, greater comfort, and one sweet new feature that’s perfect for cruising in the skies.
Like so many new versions of existing gadgets, Sony’s new WH-1000XM3 noise-cancellation headphones don’t look drastically different to its predecessor. Look closer, though, and you see many small tweaks made to improve what was already one of the most revered noise-cancellation headphones ever made.
4x better noise-cancellation than before
First and foremost, Sony improved the noise cancellation technology. Using a new in-house made “HD noise-cancelling QN1 processor,” the new 1000XM3 headphones are capable of 4x higher noise-cancellation performance than the 1000XM2. That translates to even better audio blockage.
I listened to a number of songs on the 1000XM3 and compared them side-by-side with the 1000XM2 and the new headphones definitely have a cleaner noise-cancellation to them. There’s less background static. Of course, the real test will be using them on a plane to see how good they are at blocking out crying babies.
In addition to the improved noise-cancellation performance is a new touch control for the right ear cup. Placing your hand over the headphones will reduce the volume, crank up the built-in microphones and let you hear the outside world without having to take them off, or readjust your eyeglasses, or mess up your hair.
It works really well and I can see it being really useful for when you’re flying and need to speak to a flight attendant for just a sec. Because of this new touch control, Sony’s made the material on the outside smoother to touch.
Sony’s also improved the hands-free calling function with better audio quality. The company says the headphones have a new microphone array (they wouldn’t tell me how many mics because it’s their own special sauce) just for handling calls.
Comfier to wear for long periods
Sony’s also improved the fit of the headphones. The 1000XM3 features a redesigned headband with more cushion on top that conforms better to your noggin and the inside of the ear cups are wider for larger ears.
I can’t say the 1000XM2’s ever felt uncomfortable on my head, but I appreciate the attention to making the new 1000XM3’s fit better on more heads for longer stretches of time (like long international flights) by reducing the gap between your head and the headband.
Google Assistant and long battery life
Like the Bose QC 35 II’s, the 1000XM3 come with a built-in Google Assistant so that with a touch of a button you can get the weather, control your smart home devices (for when you’re using the cans at home, of course), and more.
The headphones also have the same 30-hour battery life as the previous ones, but the new one Quick Charges in 10 minutes for up to 5 hours of use via USB-C (finally!).
Coming in September
From what I saw and heard, the 1000XM3 appear to be pretty sweet noise-cancellation headphones. Whether they’re better than Bose’s QC 35 II’s is something we’ll have to test in a review.
As you’d expect, the new headphones aren’t cheap: $349.99 when they come out in September at places like Best Buy and Amazon. But when have great noise-cancellation headphones ever been affordable? Good cans cost good money.