When my colleague handed me the Sony MDR1000X last year, gushing about its audio quality, I was doubtful. I’ve never been a very big fan of Sony’s MDR series, so the 1000X didn’t quite inspire trust on face value. Now, I’m no audiophile, but I like a good pair of headphones as much as the next guy. And given what I do, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to enough variety so that I can differentiate.
Which is why I can attest to the fact that the new Sony WH-1000XM2 is one of the best pair of headphones I’ve ever heard. But the new 1000X series is not just about the audio quality either. Sony has put in a bucket load of interesting technology here, that should suit the premium headphone buyers’ fancy. Apart from the 1000XM2, the series also includes the neckband-type WI-1000X, and the true wireless WF-1000X.
The 1000X series consists of the Sony WH-1000XM2 (right), WI-1000X (left) and the WF-1000X (bottom)
Adaptive noise cancellation
The noise cancellation on the MDR1000X last year was excellent, but a little unnerving. Sony improved that this year with adaptive noise cancellation. The WH-1000XM2, WI-1000X and the WF-1000X all support this technology. So, the headphones will use your phone’s accelerometer to recognise movements, and change noise cancellation accordingly, to allow audio passthrough.
I tried a demo of this at the launch event. And while I could see the mode change from stationary to walking in the Headphones Connect app, the conditions were barely enough to understand the difference. You can also toggle between the noise cancellation modes manually, and I could easily hear background noise while playing Disturbed’s Down With The Sickness at full volume. There’s also a voice mode, which allows only people’s voices to pass through, though that one seemed less effective at the crowded demo zone.
The true wireless, WF-1000XM2, doesn’t use Sony’s Noise Cancelling Optimiser, making it quite noticeably weaker at this aspect. Yet, the difference is nothing you can’t forgive and overall noise cancelling is more than effective.
Sony has also added a touch panel on the earcups of the WH-1000XM2, which allows you to swipe for various functionalities. For instance, you can simply swipe up to increase volume, or swipe forward to change songs. I’m assuming there’s a learning curve here, because in my demo I ended up skipping tracks while swiping up quite often. It took me a while to figure out the trick here, but it’ll need further inspection before a verdict can be passed. Essentially, it seems you need to swipe up and keep your fingers at the top/bottom of the touch panel when you want to increase/decrease volume.
The WH-1000XM2, WF-1000X and WI-1000X can also optimise noise cancellation based on atmospheric pressure, which would be ideal for those who fly a lot. The sensor for this is hidden inside the earcups on the 1000XM2 and inside the neckband on the WI-1000X.
The Sony WF-1000X is priced at Rs. 14,990
The company promises 30 hours of battery life on the WH-1000XM2, a full 10 hours over last year’s MDR1000X, while the WI-1000X comes with a battery life promise of 10 hours. Sony even promises 9 hours of battery life on the WF-1000X and its case holds another 6 hours of charge. The headphones start charging whenever they’re in the case and are ready to go as soon as you pull them out.
But all the fancy technology aside, there are still headphones. In fact, they’re some of the most premium headphones out there, competing with the likes of the Bose QC35 II. So, they can’t trip up on the actual audio experience. And Sony has done a stellar job here. I listened to Hotel California, Down With The Sickness and Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass here, with the tracks all coming from my own smartphone.
The WH-1000X is obviously the best of the lot. The high-hats in Down With The Sickness sound excellent, while bass response for All About That Bass just as good too. My demo with the WH-1000X went on longer than it was meant to, simply because they sound so good. It does well on either end of the frequency scale, which is what makes it so amazing. I’ve used the Bose QC35 before this, and while I haven’t compared these side-by-side, I’m confident that the WH-1000X sounds better, at least to me. And that with tracks streaming off Spotify, which means hi-fi audio (which these headphones do support) will sound even better.
The WH-1000XM2 is priced at Rs. 29,990
But after last year’s MDR1000X, I expected nothing less off Sony this year. What was suspect was audio quality on the two wireless models. And quite surprisingly, they’re extremely good too. I use a Sennheiser CX7.00 nowadays, to listen to podcasts while I drive. The headphones don’t do well with noise cancellation, which allows me to be aware of ambient noise while the podcast plays on. Yet, I can’t use the CX7.00 for music, because they just don’t cut it. And after listening to the Sony WI-1000X, they never will. Of course, the WI-1000X cost a full Rs. 10,000 more than Sennheiser’s model, so it’s really not a fair comparison here. Yet, I feel any headphones priced above Rs. 10,000 should at least be comparable to Sony’s offerings here.
The WI-1000X delivers a very punchy bass response that’s quite surprising from a wireless neckband-type headset. Yet, like Sony’s own XB series, these are about more than just the bass. I found the mid-range to be quite good as well, though I can’t be sure from a few minutes long demo just yet. I’ll leave the final verdict to the audio nerds here at Digit.
Speaking of which, I’m sure even they’ll agree that it’s the WF-1000X that’s the most surprising of the lot here. I’ve not tried similar offerings from Bose and Sennheiser, but I was quite pleasantly surprised by the quality of audio on these tiny pairs of truly wireless headphones. Many would call these competitors to Apple’s Airpods or the Samsung IconX, but I’m certain those can’t hold a candle against the WF-1000X. And yes, I have tried both the Airpods and IconX.
The WF-1000X surely lacks bass, but it’s still quite impressive for a wire-free headset. I wish headphone makers could get this one right soon, but the WF-1000X does produce an impressive level of detail. But here, again, I would like to leave the final verdict to the review.
The Sony WI-1000X are priced at Rs. 21,990
Premium audio done right
While I certainly can’t pass a verdict without reviewing any of these headphones, it’s safe to say that Sony’s new 1000X line is premium audio done right. You should certainly wait for a review to understand their performance better, but you’re headed in the right direction if you’re considering these as your go to audio accessories.