Too Noisy? Sony WF-1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Earphones [Owner Review]

I bought these headphones in January 2020 and have been using it consistently for about 2 months.

As a real owner of this product, I would rate these Noise Cancelling Earphones 3.5 stars out of 5.

Here’s my honest review of this product:

What is the Sony WF-1000XM3?

The Sony WF-1000XM3 is a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones with active noise-canceling technology.

Here’s what’s in the box:

  • Charging Case
  • Earphones
  • Spare tips
  • Short USB-C cable
  • Box & paperwork that nobody reads

Eartips: There’s a generous amount of ear tip sizes and 2 type choices of materials.

The normal ones are silicone (shown on the right). Sony has included 3 sets of memory foam tips as well (left):

The memory foams are more comfortable if you plan to be using the earphones on hours on end.

But the memory foam doesn’t seal the ambient noise as well as the regular silicone tips.

So if you’re really concerned about noise canceling, I’d stick with the default silicone tips.

Charging Case & Battery

The case itself has a built-in power bank battery that doubles as a charging dock for the earphones.

There are 3 metal contact points on the earphone for charging as you can see in the picture above.

You only need to charge the charging case with a standard USB type C cable. The case then charges the earphones.

The process seems quite unnecessarily complicated at first, but there are practical reasons for it:

  1. The headphones themselves are so small, it doesn’t make sense to build separate charging ports into each earphone.
  2. You only need to charge 1 thing, which is the case and not individual earphones.
  3. Both earphones can be charged at the same time with only 1 cable.
Red lights showing both earphones being charged by the charging case

The charging case can recharge both earphones from 0 to 100% 3 times on its own (this is what is claimed on the box. realistically though, it would be about 2.5 to 3 times).

The battery status of each earphone and charging case can be monitored in the Sony Headphones app:

Connectivity App

The earphones connect with mobile devices using the Sony Headphones app. You have to open the app and hit ‘connect’ every time you want to use the earphone with your phone.

To connect with your laptop, you have to press and the touchpad on the earphones for 7 seconds while your laptop finds the Bluetooth device to connect.

Why Did I Buy the Sony WF-1000XM3?

I used to commute to the office in the MRT. I was using wired headphones at the time and it was fine for the most part.

There were a few times that I really wished I had wireless headphones:

  • When I’m carrying a lot of stuff and the wires get tangled with all the groceries that I’m carrying and fumbling get the front door keys out of my pocket.
  • When the MRT is just too damn noisy and I have to crank up the volume to max level and I know this is not good for my hearing health.
  • When I finally arrive at the office, my colleagues can’t shut up and gossip loudly all the time, ruining my concentration at work.

So a wireless noise-canceling headphone would make sense to me as an investment.

By the time I was ready to get one, I was comparing the Sony WF-1000XM3 (RM700) with 2 other models that other YouTube reviewers were comparing:

  • Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless Headphones (RM 1,498)
  • Klipsch T5 True Wireless headphones (RM 1,000+)

I ended up with the Sony WF-1000XM3 because it strikes the right balance between quality, performance, and price.

Who am I kidding? It was the cheapest option of the 3.

Who is the Sony WF-1000XM3 for?

People who buy the Sony WF-1000XM3 are mostly interested in its ambient noise-canceling technology above all else.

After I’ve been using them for 2 months, here is the demographic of people that would be a good fit for this product:

  • People who want better quality earphones (but not audiophile-level)
  • People who commute a lot by public transportation to work
  • Freelancers who work in public places like cafes & coworking spaces

Pros of Sony WF-1000XM3

The sound quality

Honestly, cheaper wired headphones like the included AKG headphones with my previous Samsung S8 can create similar sound quality for a lot lower price.

7 years back I had a pair of Sennheiser wired headphones. They were affordable, and the sound quality was amazing. Those Germans know what they’re doing.

I bet the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless Headphones would sound better than the Sony (I haven’t tried though, just a hunch based on previous experience with Sennheiser).

The sound quality of the Sony WF-1000XM3 is just great but not excellent. It definitely delivers crisp, clear, and loud output. But it doesn’t ‘wow’ me. It’s not like they’re so high fidelity that I discover a whole new spectrum of sound from my favorite music that I’ve played on repeat a million times.

Noise Cancelling

Now here’s where all the money you’ve paid for is channeled into in this product.

The first time I put the Sony WF-1000XM3 on and activated the noise-canceling feature, my first reaction was:

“whoah…” (with my eyes and mouth wide open)

Not to be overly dramatic, but I felt like I was transported into a new dimension where I can see things but I can’t hear anything. It took me a short time for my brain to cope with what’s going on.

The noise-canceling is awesome.

In a Noisy Office

When I had an office job, my colleagues were older ladies that tend to gossip too loud and too often. The Sony WF-1000XM3 was able to muffle out their gossips out and I can concentrate on my work. Just that right there is money well spent for me.

In a Noisy MRT During Rush Hour

Noise cancellation when in a busy MRT is also great. It’s able to drown out I’d say 80% of ambient noise so I don’t have to crank up the volume all the time. But you can hear when someone is trying to talk to you or the MRT next station announcement.

In an Apartment Next to a Busy Train Line

My lovely balcony next to noisy train tracks

My apartment is next to a busy and noisy train line. The max decibels were well around 50dB+.

The headphone can muffle around 60% of the loud train noise. I can still hear the train passing by, but I feel the high sound energy is greatly reduced when it finally reaches my eardrums.

All in all, the noise canceling is why you’re going to get the Sony WF-1000XM3.

Impressive Battery Life

I was reluctant to get any wireless headphones before because I don’t want to end up charging too many things every night.

But the battery life for both the earphone and the charging case is really excellent.

I only use the Sony WF-1000XM3, a few times a week for about an hour, and I only have to charge it once in 3 weeks.

If you use these for hours in your train commute, I’d say you’ll have to charge them up maybe every 3 or 4 days or so. Really impressive battery life considering how small and light the earphones are.

Modern Looks

It looks modern and minimalist. However, it is quite plasticky.

The black and copper theme looks great and is better at hiding the plasticky finish of the product over the white ones.

The other great thing is that it does not protrude out of your ears too much and doesn’t look weird at all. Here’s what it looks like on the side:

Really small profile from the front, almost not even visible at all:

Snug & Secure Fit

Despite its small size, the earphones are specifically designed to have maximum contact with your inner ear to ensure a secure and snug fit.

I feel confident that they will not fall out when I wear them:

I do a bit of weightlifting at the gym too and it fits absolutely fine.

I won’t feel confident using this to go running though.

Smart Features

The app is smart enough to know what you’re doing. It can automatically set different levels of noise-canceling depending on what activity you’re doing.

If you’re walking or jogging, it will automatically increase the ambient noise for your awareness and safety:

When you’re in the MRT or sitting down, the app knows this and max out the noise-canceling:

It’s very smart and you can disable the auto scene selector if you think it changes too often.

Auto Pause: I also like it when you take one of the earphones off, it’s smart enough to pause whatever it is that you’re playing.

When you reinsert the earphone back into your ear, it’ll resume playing. Now that’s smart.

Touchpad

There’s 1 round touchpad on each side of the earphone. With the app, you can program it to do several things.

This is how I configured mine:

The left touchpad is for ‘ambient sound control‘. This will toggle between the different noise-canceling modes.

  • Tap once and it will turn on the noise canceling to the max.
  • Tap the second time and it will let some ambient sound in if you’re walking in public.
  • Tap the third time, it’ll turn off the noise-canceling all together.
  • A long tap will activate quick attention. Let’s say someone wants to talk to you, just long tap and it’ll increase ambient noise so you can hear what’s going on around you.

An absolutely ingenious product.

The right touchpad is for playback control:

  • Touch once to play or pause
  • Tap twice to play next tune
  • Triple tap to go back to previous songs
  • Long press to activate Google Voice Assistance

But, as innovative as this technology is, there are drawbacks which I will discuss in the next section:

Cons of Sony WF-1000XM3

Alright, if you’re about to buy, you want to know all there is to it of this product, especially from a real owner.

It makes no sense for a ‘tech reviewer’ to use it for 10 minutes and come up with a video and blog review. That ‘review’ will be based on immature data.

Here are the brutally honest cons of the Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless headphones. One of them could be a dealbreaker for you:

Connectivity Issues

The Sony WF-1000XM3 works almost flawlessly with smartphones (I’m using the Huawei P30).

But I have issues when it connects with my laptop (Acer Swift 5). It can pair, not an issue, but the connection and music playback is quite choppy. I got fed up and only connect the earphones exclusively with my phone.

If you plan to use these earphones with mainly your laptop, I’d say find another wireless earphone product.

Garbage Call Quality

I don’t understand how reviewers say that the call quality of these earphones is great. Have they even used it? Have they tried calling someone while they’re in a busy MRT?

From my experience, call quality is complete trash.

People I call on the other line always complain that the ambient noise is louder than my voice. apparently, this is a very common problem with no solution.

Part of the reason I think is that the earphones are so small, that the microphone is so far away from your mouth that it picks up more ambient noise than it does my voice.

No online reviewer ever mentions this because they don’t really own the product and they’re trying to make a sale!

I never use the Sony WF-1000XM3 for phone calls.

Tapping the Touchpad Hurts my Ears

Every time I want to change to the next song, I double tap on the right touchpad. All well and good, but here’s the thing, the earphone fits so snugly in your ear that the gentle tap of the touchpad resonates very loudly in your ear and it frankly, painful.

It’s like when you were a kid and gotten a statoscope to play with. If you put the disc on a table and your idiot friend slaps the table, your hearing will go R.I.P. Similar concept with the touchpads.

I’d always change songs from my phone rather than using the touchpad.

The Price is Too Damn High

I bought these for around RM700. Which is absolutely nuts for a pair of headphones. But compared to its rivals that were retailing north of RM1,000, it’s a good deal by comparison.

As with anything electronic, prices are always dropping. Maybe the newer model is about to come out to iron out all the kinks.

Earphones Can Never Beat Speakers

Of course, nothing beats the sound of really good speakers. The sound traveling and bouncing on walls and objects create that 3D effect. No headphone can create that.

Charging Case Quality

The case quality itself is of high-quality plastic. But the copper-colored plastic was already scratched by day-2 when I got it.

I bet the rubberized coating on the black part will either melt or scratch away over time (it’s fine for now though).

I Wonder What Happens When You Lose a Headphone?

I doubt you can just buy another spare left earphone? So if you lose one, the other one is as good as useless.

Wrapping it All Up

The Sony WF-1000XM3 headphones have a lot of Pros and also a long list of Cons.

For someone who is practicing a minimalist lifestyle, and is careful with my spending, what do I think of this earphone? Do I really need this thing? Is it worth the money?

My answer to both is YES.

I justify owning this device because I need a real deal noise-canceling earphones when I commute in a crowded MRT and work at a noisy cafe or co-working space.

Just don’t buy the Sony WF-1000XM3 expecting to make a lot of calls. That’s not what it’s designed for.


You’re probably looking at these earphones if you work in public places and need to isolate noise. You might also be interested to see my review of an all-in-one charger.

Helmi Hasan

Hi, I'm Helmi Hasan. I am the founder and writer for the personal finance blog: www.balkonihijau.com.

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