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October 24, 2018

Sony WH1000XM3 vs. Sony WH1000XM2: Should you upgrade?

by John_A

We’re a virtual company made up of tech experts from across the globe. We love audio just as much as we love phones, and we test out as many headphones as we can to find the best options for you.

Sony WH1000XM3

Cancel noise expertly

sony-wh1000xm3-render.jpg?itok=yES3tb0J

$348 at Amazon

Pros

  • QN1 processor vastly improves noise-canceling
  • 32-bit audio processing
  • Charges over USB-C
  • Intuitive gesture controls

Cons

  • Bulkier than Bose QC35
  • Assistant replaces Ambient Sound onboard control

The WH1000XM3 puts all of Sony’s expertise on headphones to use, combining the best active noise canceling we’ve ever heard with great sound quality, excellent battery life, and convenient gesture controls.

Sony WH1000XM2

Almost as good

sony-wh1000xm2.jpg?itok=Tc5AY3Xq

$348 at Amazon

Pros

  • Still has top-tier noise-canceling
  • Can be found for cheaper on the used market
  • Can be folded down for easy travel

Cons

  • Still uses Micro-USB for charging
  • Assistant replaces Ambient Sound onboard control

Sony’s previous generation of ANC headphones still sounds fantastic, with its noise-canceling rivaling that of the popular Bose QC35. If you don’t mind using Micro-USB, these are still a great buy.

They’re extremely similar

The 1000XM3 are the best ANC headphones around, but there wasn’t much to improve on in the first place.

The WH1000XM3 is easily one of our favorite pairs of noise-canceling headphones on the market, but it’s not as different from the previous model as you might think. If you already have the 1000XM2, there’s not much reason to upgrade unless you just want to have the latest and greatest.

From a hardware standpoint, the headphones look almost identical at first glance, but that doesn’t mean the 1000XM3 is unchanged from last year’s design. The cups are a bit slimmer this time around, and the inside of the earpads is more spacious, which translates to better sealing and improved comfort. The headband is also better padded on the M3, and there’s some new accenting around the microphones at the top of each cup.

sony-wh1000xm2-review-4.jpg?itok=r_kpK4C

One of the most significant physical changes with the 1000XM3 is the move from Micro-USB to USB-C. This is hugely convenient if you already have other USB-C devices like a phone or laptop, and it allows the M3 to charge significantly faster than the M2 — you can get 5 hours of playback with just a 10-minute charge, where the same top-up on the M2 will only provide 70 minutes of playback.

USB-C and better noise-canceling are basically the only reasons to upgrade if you already have the 1000XM2.

Both headphones feature the same convenient gesture controls on the right cup. You can swipe up or down to adjust volume, left or right to skip tracks, or tap to play or pause music, answer phone calls, and launch Google Assistant. You can also place your hand over the cup to quickly engage Ambient Sound mode on both headphones, then switch back to noise-canceling by simply taking your hand off. Of course, you can also turn on Ambient Sound using the dedicated button on the left cup if you’d rather leave it on for extended periods.

That noise-canceling is the biggest area of improvement with the WH1000XM3. Sony has included its new QN1 processor this year, which allows for 32-bit audio processing and noise-canceling up to four times better than last year’s model — though even with that in mind, the 1000XM2 still does a fantastic job at filtering out both high and low-end frequencies, which many other ANC headphones struggle with.

sony-wh1000xm3-review-8.jpg?itok=g1eqfdz

You can tune that noise-canceling through Sony’s Headphones Connect app on either headphone, along with how much sound Ambient Sound mode lets back in. You can also change the EQ on the headphones if you don’t like the out-of-the-box sound profile.

Needless to say, both headphones are among the best noise-canceling options on the market, but if you already have the WH1000XM2, there’s not much reason to upgrade. USB-C charging is convenient, and with the improved noise-canceling the 1000XM3 is an even better choice for frequent travelers, but most of what makes the M3 great is already present on the M2.

Sony WH1000XM3

Cancel noise expertly

sony-wh1000xm3-render.jpg?itok=yES3tb0J

$348 at Amazon

The very best noise-canceling headphones on the market

Sony improved nearly every aspect of its 1000X headphones with the M3, from sound quality to noise-canceling, comfort, and USB-C charging. These are well worth the money.

Sony WH1000XM2

Almost as good

sony-wh1000xm2.jpg?itok=Tc5AY3Xq

Most of what makes the 1000XM3 great is already present in the 1000XM2.

$348 at Amazon

If you don’t mind slower charging through Micro-USB, the WH1000XM2 offers a nearly identical experience as its newer counterpart, and can be found used or refurbished for relatively cheap.

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