This will be my first attempt on review of a non-flight/hotel/travel item. It is still very much related to enhancing one’s traveling experience though. 😊
Disclaimer – this post is NOT sponsored.
I was never a fan of good earphone or headphone until my first experience with the Bose QC15 on my maiden Suites flight on SQ866 back in 2013. Prior to that, I have always used the stock earphone that came with the phone.
Bose has been regularly featured on many airlines’ premium class – especially on Singapore Airlines. After QC15, next came the QC25 which gave a better comfort and noise cancellation over its predecessor. Since last year, Singapore Airlines made a change and now the standard issue in First Class/Suites is B&O H9i. It gives a more premium look and feel over the QC25 but not necessarily better quality or noise cancellation.
Over the last few years, Sony has slowly made a steady gain over Bose in the Noise Cancellation department with the 1000XM series. After years of contemplating, I finally splurged on the 3rd edition of the series, the 1000XM3. I bought it from Lazada at $357 (slightly cheaper than the Bose QC35 ii but significantly cheaper than the newer Bose 700 at $529!).
The headphone came in a fairly compact box (to my liking). Inside the box, you will have a compact carrying case, the headphone, a 3.5mm wired connector, a USB-C charging cable and an airline adapter.
Setting up was very simple with my iPhone. I managed to link it in less than 1 minute and it can be used immediately. You can also download the headphone app from the Appstore that can help you to adjust settings of your headphone (such as ambient noise level, EQ, soundstage etc.)
The first impression is that the earphone looked and felt rather cheap and plasticky. There are 2 colours for this model, silver and black. The earphone can be folded at the hinge to fit into the carrying case. Despite the size, it is not at all heavy and is very comfortable wearing it for long period.
There are 2 buttons on the left earpiece, a power button and a noise cancellation button (which can be configured to Google Assist or Amazon Alexa button).
There are no control buttons on the earphone and track controls are done on the right earpiece using capacitive touch. It is a sleek design but not without flaws. Many times, my vertical swipe for volume control ended up being interpreted as horizontal swipe (for track change).
What stood out for this headphone is the Noise Cancellation. At max noise cancellation, I barely notice the surrounding sound on public transport and on the plane. It shields the external noise significantly even without any music. Once played, you will probably not notice what is going on in the surrounding. The noise cancellation can be temporarily suspended by pressing your palm against the right earpiece. This enables the noise cancellation mic to pick up surrounding audio while your music is muted. Noise cancellation level can also be manually selected on the headphone app (or automatically adjusted using the Adaptive Noise Cancellation protocol).
Music quality in my opinion is excellent. For those who enjoy punchy bass, this is one headphone that excels in it. The mid and highs are no slouch either as one can hear the clarity of the vocals and the instruments pretty well too. Forgive me if I am not able to dwell into the details as I am no expert when it comes to sound quality – but for a layman like me, the 1000XM3 is certainly excellent and is superior to all my previous earphones and headphones.
Battery life is nothing short of excellent. Rated at 30 hours, I am able to get by a few days without charging (about 2 to 3 hours of usage per day). The headphone uses a USB-C charging port and also has fast charging capability.
I have used it for 2 weeks and although it is so far so good, the lightweight headphone may work against it when it comes to durability. I shall see how it holds 1 year later.
Change of the ear pads may not be straightforward but there are tutorials on YouTube on how it can be done.
The headphone app helps you to customize the headphone to your liking. One can individualize the following:
- Enabling adaptive noise cancellation (this helps the earphone to adjust to your situation whether you are sitting, walking, running or in public transport which in turn automatically adjust the noise cancellation level).
- EQ setting (both preset EQ and manual settings)
- Positional sound
- Customizing the Noise Cancellation button
What is interesting to note is the Adaptive Noise Cancellation (ANC). In theory, this is very good for someone constantly on the move (like me) – going from public transport to walking (and vice versa). It works but at times the change can be painfully slow! There are times that after getting onto the bus, my setting is still on ‘walking’ and despite trying to switch to ‘transport’ mode, it kept switching back to ‘walking’ mode. I ended up manually overriding it by disabling the ANC and re-enabling it. The other drawback is the 10 sec lag to connect on launching the app.
I personally would choose the 1000XM3 over Bose QC25 and QC35 for the music quality and noise cancellation. The new Bose 700 is supposed to offer an even superior noise cancellation and a more balanced sound (less bass) from reviews with a more premium look and feel. At $599 (or $529 on Lazada), I am willing to settle for the Sony at almost $250 cheaper!
- Superior Noise Cancellation (even on public transport)
- Excellent sound quality
- Customizable noise cancellation level and EQ (via app)
- Significantly cheaper (source dependent) than Bose
- Lack of the premium look / feel – more plasticky looking
- Adaptive Noise Cancellation can be a hit and miss at times
- Rather slow app launch
- Durability may be questionable
Top L – Sony WH-1000MX3, Top R – Bang & Olufsen H9i, Bottom L – Bose QC25, Bottom R – Bose QC15