Sony has announced its take on an ‘AirPod-killer’
Sony has introduced a new set of wireless earbuds and they’re already being dubbed as ‘AirPod-killers’ in some quarters – what’s hot and what’s not about the new WF-1000XM3 truly wireless headphones?
Sony’s WF-1000XM3 headphones
These things are no cheaper than AirPods – at $230 they are in fact $30 more expensive than Apple’s high-end wireless speakers.
They are versions of Sony’s WH-1000XM3 over ear headphones and deliver a high-end sound to match. (You can check the reviews of the over the ear versions here).
The big selling point is Noise Cancellation, which Sony says it has boosted with an on-system HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e chip and Dual Noise Sensor Technology.
In use, noise cancelling can catch and cancel external noises, such as cars hooting desperately to warn you of their approach when you are crossing the road listening to Stormzy.
They can also help reduce external noise leaking into your calls with others.
What isDual Noise Sensor Technology?
The earbuds feature one feed-forward microphone and one feed-back microphone on their surface. This helps them catch more of the ambient sound around you, the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1e then creates an inverted sound wave to offset that noise.
The system is designed to use little power and is capable of cancelling out a range of noises, from annoying aircraft cabin noise to city sounds.
Sound output is 24-bit audio signal processing and DAC with amplifier. Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX (DSEE HX). The latter upscales compressed digital music files to provide better sounding audio.
Sony claims its QN1e processor has low power consumption, promising up to 6-hours playback on a single charge with Noise Cancelling on, up to 24 hours with Noise Cancelling on, “thanks to WF-1000XM3 earbuds’ sleek case that doubles up as a charger, perfect for a battery boost on the go.”
The buds have a quick charge function so 10 minutes of charging gives you up to 90 minutes of battery life.
In contrast, AirPods offer five-hours listening on one charge
In comparison with AirPods, one bleak spot is the use of Bluetooth to connect. This threatens to be slower when switching modes (talk/listen/Siri) but is at least a more advanced version of the standard that allows for L /R simultaneous transmission, rather than left-to-right relay transmission. Sony says latency has also been improved.
Sony has developed the earbuds to be small and light, but has also created systems that seem to want to stay in place – you won’t lose one when you’re running to the departures gate.
The ‘ergonomic tri-hold’ structure holds the earbuds firmly in place, with three supporting points for the ear. A high-friction rubber surface helps ensure a stable fitting.
What’s the user interface?
Place your finger over the touch panel of the left earbud to lower the music volume and let the ambient sound in.
Touch sensors are customizable and you can use these to play, pause, skip songs or activate your voice assistant (including Siri).
Just like AirPods, Sony’s Wearing Detection feature automatically pauses your music when you remove one of the earbuds from your ear and resumes playing when you put the earbud back in your ear, so you never miss a beat.
The headphones are also compatible with the Sony Headphones Connect app, which offers customisation features for sound, noise cancellation, touch controls and more.
The WF-1000XM3 model will cost around $230 and will be available from mid-August, Sony said. No doubt they will be available here.
Better than AirPods?
I’m not so sure.
Yes, I like the design as I still feel a little self-conscious with those sticks on AirPods and yes I do like that these things are black, but I’m not convinced the comparisons are appropriate.
AirPods are smaller, lighter and include Apple’s W-series chips, which I think helps deliver better audio latency.
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However, inclusion of noise cancellation is something rumor claims AirPod customers won’t be able to purchase until fall. And that’s the thing – given Apple has been described as planning to ship its own noise-cancelling AirPods later this year, then Sony’s solution will only be unique for a relatively short time.
It will be interesting to compare Sony’s new offer with whatever Apple comes up with later this year (if it does so at all).