True show­stop­pers…

FOR Fine tim­ing; re­fined highs, punchy lows; noise-can­celling AGAINST Touch­pad con­trols take a bit of prac­tice

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Tests -

With The Great Bri­tish Bake Off back on our screens, it seems apt to start with a hi-fi based bak­ing anal­ogy.

Sony had all the right in­gre­di­ents in place with its MDR 1000X head­phones, mix­ing ex­cel­lent au­dio qual­ity over Blue­tooth with a splash of fine com­fort and class-lead­ing noise-can­celling. In Bake Off terms, Sony was the mas­ter baker.

But af­ter barely a year in pro­duc­tion, the MDR 1000Xs have been re­placed by the WH 1000XM2S. The new cans fea­ture a few more in­gre­di­ents, which begs the ques­tion, has Sony en­hanced the flavour, or has it over-egged the pudding?

Fin­ish­ing touches

The WH 1000Xs look sim­i­lar to the MDR 1000Xs but a Cham­pagne Gold fin­ish re­places the orig­i­nal Beige, and the Black op­tion isn't quite the same.

The head­band and earpad cush­ion­ing carry across, which means com­fort is still high and the head­phones sit securely on your head with­out feel­ing vice-like.

Sony has done a spot of con­sol­i­dat­ing with the WH 1000XM2S, but it has also added a cou­ple of ex­tra fea­tures. The Sense En­gine and Per­sonal NC Op­ti­miser make a re­turn, but the in­te­grated At­mo­spheric Pres­sure Op­ti­miser is new for the WH 1000X. A tiny pres­sure sen­sor in the left ear­piece de­tects changes in at­mos­phere and ap­plies a fil­ter to com­pen­sate. Per­fect for air travel.

Con­trol­lable cus­tomi­sa­tion

Sony has re­duced the but­ton count – both the Am­bi­ent Sound and noise-can­celling fea­tures are con­trolled by just one but­ton in­stead of two. Play­back is still con­trolled by the touch­pad built into the sur­face of the right ear­piece. Added tex­ture on the sur­face makes swip­ing side­ways to change tracks and slid­ing up or down for vol­ume all the more sat­is­fy­ing. The con­trols feel more pos­i­tive than be­fore, as does the dou­ble-tap re­quired to play and pause mu­sic.

Sony’s Head­phones Con­nect app, avail­able for An­droid and IOS, isn’t ex­actly es­sen­tial, but it brings ex­tra cus­tomi­sa­tion, giv­ing you ac­cess to Sony’s Smart Au­toset­tings. So whether you’re in a ve­hi­cle, run­ning, walk­ing or sit­ting still, you can cus­tomise the amount of noise can­celling and am­bi­ent sound you want to ex­pe­ri­ence.

The head­phones de­tect your move­ments through your phone’s gy­ro­scope and au­to­mat­i­cally switch be­tween dif­fer­ent modes. It’s clever, and it means you can en­joy the ben­e­fits of noise-can­celling with the added re­as­sur­ance that you will still be able to hear some of the world around you.

Within the app, there are four sur­round modes: Arena; Club; Out­door stage; and Con­cert hall, and you can play around with an equaliser to tweak the set­tings.

Sony’s DSEE HX au­dio pro­cess­ing can be turned off from the app too. The com­pany claims this can up­scale com­pressed mu­sic to near hi-res qual­ity. It's a bold claim, but in our ex­pe­ri­ence DSEE HX works pretty well. In the MDR 1000Xs, it was per­ma­nently on – and in the new model we also pre­fer lis­ten­ing with the pro­cess­ing mode on. How­ever, turn­ing it off comes in handy if you want to pre­serve the bat­tery. On which note, four hours should su ce for a full charge, while a 10-minute rapid charge will give one hour of ex­tra bat­tery life. In use, the WH 1000XM2S dis­play all the strengths that made their pre­de­ces­sors so spe­cial. The noise-can­celling is im­pres­sive, and the sound pres­sure op­ti­miser is a nice touch that will prob­a­bly help sell more pairs, but from our ground-bound po­si­tion, it’s hard to judge whether it makes a huge di er­ence.

Re­fined, yet sparky

The WH 1000Xs time well and are just as happy bound­ing along to a bout of house mu­sic as they are com­mu­ni­cat­ing slower, more emo­tive melodies. Re­fined highs en­sure the con­stant crash­ing of high-hat and cym­bals dur­ing Idlewild’s A Modern Way Of Let­ting Go never threaten to sound edgy or bright, but there’s still enough spark to en­ter­tain. The song’s over in a flash, but the Sonys al­low you to savour ev­ery mo­ment. Wide-rang­ing dy­nam­ics at ei­ther end of the fre­quency scale sand­wich an im­pres­sive level of de­tail – so this mu­si­cal pack­age main­tains your in­ter­est at all times and keeps you com­ing back for more. Bass is weighty and full-bod­ied, but doesn’t sound slug­gish. If any­thing, this new model sounds weight­ier and even more con­fi­dent in its abil­ity. These cans go low enough to fol­low the deep­est bassline, but stop short of un­bal­anc­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion. The WH 1000XM2S stick to a tried and trusted recipe that works a treat. It's a su­perb all-round pack­age that ex­cels in ev­ery area. A show­stop­ping pair of head­phones if ever we heard them.

To help con­serve bat­tery life, these Sonys power down a er five min­utes’ in­ac­tiv­ity

The but­ton count on the le earcup has been re­duced from the old model

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