Sony WH-1000XM3 £330
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