Sony WH-1000XM3 £330

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Awards 2018 -

Sony’s rise to the top of the premium Blue­tooth and noise-can­celling head­phone mar­ket has been dra­matic, to say the least. Pre-sum­mer 2016, the brand didn’t even have a pair of such head­phones in its arse­nal.

Skip for­ward to 2018 and and the Sony WH-1000XM3S kick their clos­est ri­vals, in­clud­ing the Bose Qui­et­com­fort 35s and Bow­ers & Wilkins PXS to the curb.

Com­fort lev­els are high and thanks to the thick, soft cush­ion, it feels as though there’s al­most no weight rest­ing on the top of your head. The head­band fits snug against the top of your head, pro­mot­ing a straight, less bal­loon-like ap­pear­ance than some ri­vals. The fin­ishes are smart too: Black with cop­per ac­cents and Plat­inum Sil­ver with brass high­lights.

The right earcup fea­tures a smooth touch-sen­si­tive panel rather than phys­i­cal but­tons. Dou­ble-tap the cup for play/pause or to an­swer a call, swipe up or down to change vol­ume, and for­ward or back to skip tracks.

Hold your hand over the cup to ac­ti­vate the ‘Quick At­ten­tion’ mode, which re­duces your mu­sic to a whis­per and lets in out­side noise. It comes in handy if some­one wants to talk to you.

Noise-can­celling is su­perb. These Sonys block out more of the out­side world than any ri­val, and re­place that noise with some of the best au­dio qual­ity avail­able at this price.

Fre­quent fly­ers may also want to take ad­van­tage of the At­mo­spheric Pres­sure Op­ti­miser, which tweaks the fre­quency re­sponse and mi­cro­phone sen­si­tiv­ity of the head­phones for im­proved per­for­mance at high alti­tude. Just re­mem­ber to run the Op­ti­miser again when you’re back on terra firma.

Over­all bat­tery life is an im­pres­sive 30 hours. The XM3S boast a quick charg­ing bat­tery and can go from empty to full in three hours, while a ten minute charge gives you five hours of use.

But the re­ally big deal with the WH-1000XM3S is that they use ana­logue am­pli­fi­ca­tion. The re­sult is an open, spa­cious sound that gives every in­stru­ment, ef­fect and vo­cal room to breathe. Vo­cals are fo­cused and di­rect, but the in­stru­ments around them are de­liv­ered in a way that makes it feel as if you’re in the room with the artist.

Com­bine that spa­cious­ness with greater de­tail and en­hanced dy­namic sub­tlety and the XM3S com­mu­ni­cate and en­gage like no other at this price. There’s also a gen­er­ous ex­tra help­ing of lovely, deep bass but it never threat­ens to un­bal­ance the pre­sen­ta­tion.

No ri­val at this money of­fers the all-round com­bi­na­tion of com­fort, noise-can­celling and au­dio abil­ity. The WH-1000XM3S are sim­ply sen­sa­tional and a de­served Prod­uct of the Year.

The XM3S are a mix of com­fort, noise-can­celling and au­dio abil­ity

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