FOR Fine timing; refined highs, punchy lows; noise-cancelling AGAINST Touchpad controls take a bit of practice
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But after barely a year in production, the MDR 1000Xs have been replaced by the WH 1000XM2S.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?
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.
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