Sony's $290 wireless noise-cancelling earbuds sound so good, they might give anyone who bought AirPods serious buyer's remorse

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business InsiderSony’s WF-1000XM3 earbuds.
  • Sony’s recent Sony WF-1000XM3 Noise Canceling Wireless Earbuds offer superior sound, fit, and noise cancelling when compared to Apple’s AirPods.
  • Apple users won’t find the seamless connectivity of AirPods, so that’s something you’ll have to gauge for yourself: Do you value sound quality, fit, and noise cancelling in earphones, or do you value the Apple ecosystem and its proprietary pairing technology more?
  • Overall, Sony’s new offering is a fantastic pair of wireless noise-cancelling earbuds for anyone willing to spend $US200. They’re a no-brainer for anyone who isn’t trapped in the Apple ecosystem, and for Apple users who value sound quality, fit, and noise cancelling.
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Sony recently released its $A293 Sony WF-1000XM3s , and after trying them, I’d be pretty upset if I had recently spent between $A260 on a pair of AirPods.

Yes, the WF-1000XM3s cost more, but you’re getting much better sound, a better fit, slightly better battery life, and last but not least, really good noise cancelling.

You don’t get the AirPods’ fancy auto-pairing connectivity with Apple devices, and I wish Sony made it easier to switch the connection to different devices. Still, if you value sound quality, fit, and noise cancelling, and you’re willing to spend $A300, the Sony WF-1000XM3 should be at the very top of your list.

Check out the Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless noise-cancelling earbuds:

Sony’s WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds have a sleek, more-or-less compact charging case. It’s larger than the AirPods case and won’t fit quite as well in a pocket, but it’s been living in my backpack’s side pocket for weeks now without any trouble.

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The case charges via USB-C and keeps a charge of up to 24 hours. It charges the earbuds quickly and I’ve barely had to charge the case. But it’s also lacking wireless charging, which is a shame.

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Sony claims the earbuds last about six hours on a single charge, which is good for earphones that are this small and portable. Battery life was never an issue, except for one day when I forgot to put them back into their charging case when I stopped using them at work. I got the low battery signal during my commute home, charged the earbuds for about 10 minutes, and I was good to go again.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business InsiderThe earbuds are set to turn off automatically after five minutes when you take them out of your ears. You can check the battery level in the Sony Headphones app, as well as change settings on the earbuds.

The earbuds present themselves nicely in the case. They’re easy to remove and replace. When you replace the earbuds into the case, they magnetically — and satisfyingly — snap into their enclosures.

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There’s no quick-pairing like you’d find on Apple’s AirPods. You have to go through the old fashioned way of Bluetooth pairing, which is fine. They reconnect to your previously connected devices quickly and without any fuss the moment you place the earbuds in your ears.

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Importantly, the earbuds themselves sound amazing. After tweaking the sound settings in the Sony Headphones app, I got exactly the sound I wanted out of them. They have strong bass, and they sound rich and clear. It’s amazing such tiny things can make such big — and good — sound.

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These things also have active noise cancellation, and their in-ear design blocks out some noise, too. That combination makes for similar noise-cancelling performance as larger over-ear headphones.

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You can tap the sensors on the earbuds to control playback, like pause, play the next track, or play the previous track. They pause automatically when you take them off, too. There’s no volume control, but controls are going to be limited on such small earbuds. If you’re interested, you can tap an earbud to summon Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa, too.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business InsiderOne tap for pause/play, two taps for next track, and three taps to go to the beginning of the song. To go to the previous track, you have to triple-tap once, and then again.

My biggest complaint is that it’s not as easy as it should be to switch the connection to a different device. Still, it’s not difficult, either.

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The WF-1000XM3s don’t have the Bluetooth Multipoint technology that lets you connect the earphones to more than one device at a time. To switch the connection from my smartphone to my laptop, I have to put the earbuds into pairing mode and connect the earbuds manually through my device’s settings.

Putting the earbuds into pairing mode isn’t difficult. You tap-and-hold the sensors on both earbuds for a few seconds until you hear the pairing prompt. It looks like your plugging your ears with your fingers, which might look a little odd to passers by. But who cares what other people think, right? I’m pairing here!

It’s not the worst thing. I’m willing to tolerate this slight complication in exchange for great sound and battery life. If Sony added Multipoint to its headphones, they would be near-perfect.

Just in case you’re looking for a workout pair of headphones, these aren’t them. The WF-1000XM3 are not water-resistant, so sweat could be an issue.

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The Sony WF-1000XM3 are a no-brainer for anyone who wants small, wireless earbuds like Apple’s AirPods, but who care about sound, fit, and noise cancelling. But for Apple users who prefer seamless connectivity and the Apple ecosystem, the WF-1000XM3s might not do the trick.

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