The Sony WI-1000X Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones come jam-packed with a whole host of features designed to improve your listening experience on the go. They promise to block out annoying background noise, offer Hi-Res Audio, the latest LDAC streaming technology all with a ten-hour battery life.
To test out how all these features work, Sony sent us a pair to put them through their paces.
Neckbands can be quite polarising. Some people point blank refuse to even consider headphones with them while others will understand the need for one when active noise cancellation is included.
My biggest concerns are generally to do with comfort when wearing them for extended periods, how if at all they’ve managed to create a one size fits all band and if that band tugs on the earpieces when you move your head from side to side. I don’t have a small neck so I’m always dubious.
The inside of the band that wraps around the back of your neck is very soft to touch and feels similar to the padding you’d find on a set of on-ear headphones. There’s just the right amount of tension in the band to hold it in place on your neck without it agitating you. I wore the headphones all day in the office and on commutes and most of the time I forgot it was there. Sony has done a great job with the band and after my two or so weeks using it, I found it really great to be able to take an earphone out and just drop it knowing that it was attached to the headband. It’s a simple thing but it makes a big difference and offers a better experience than other wireless headphones like the Beats Powerbeats 3 which you need to unhook from your ear to remove.
While the neckband allows for a battery large enough to handle the active noise cancellation, one thing I didn’t enjoy while using it was the buttons. They’re small and not easily identified by touch so I had to keep looking down awkwardly to remind myself of the layout. The on/off button has to be pressed for what seems like an age and on my neck, it ended up being positioned under my left ear so it felt unnatural to be reaching back so far to fumble with it.
Overall though the band didn’t get in the way and it’s certainly not a reason to avoid these headphones in my opinion.
Like most earphones, finding the correct tip to fit and stay in your ear is essential. Sony includes a number of different sizes in the box and when you find one that works well the earphones stay in place and aren’t tiring to wear at all. Even though they look quite big, the earphones are actually very light so there’s no stress on your ears and you don’t feel like they are going to fall out every time you move your head.
To set up and use the WI-1000X you need to download the Sony Headphones Connect App which is available for Android and iOS.
Once you have gone through the normal Bluetooth pairing procedure, the App allows you to control features such as the noise cancellation, equalizer and things like a simulated sound direction or position.
The App allows you to adjust the level of noise cancellation, letting you block out or allow more ambient noise depending on your situation. It also lets you adjust the settings to compensate for differences in air pressure. I didn’t get to test this feature out in the time we had the headphones but frequent flyers should find this useful.
There are a number of different presets for the equalizer and the option to save a couple of user-created profiles which was great as I found packaged ones to be too extreme for my taste. There’s plenty of adjustment available so it should be easy to change the sound to your liking after a little fine-tuning.
After I had set things up initially I didn’t find myself adjusting things too frequently but obviously, your mileage will vary depending on how many different environments you’re listening to music in.
To deliver Hi-Res audio the WI-1000X include a 9mm dynamic driver and airtight Balanced Armature driver working alongside software features such as DSEE HX which is a Digital Sound Enhancement Engine for upscaling compressed music files.
There’s tons of bass and in general, for wireless headphones, they sound great. We used Tidal on an iPhone X to put the headphones through their paces and once you’ve found an equaliser setting that works for you, audio sounds clear and is one of the better listening experiences we’ve had with wireless in-ear headphones. At louder volumes and for some of the more extreme equaliser presets the sound distorted badly so you need to spend some time in the set up to get things right.
There’s a limit to what wireless headphones such as these can deliver and I think the main feature that will attract people here is noise cancellation rather than the inclusion of Hi-Res Audio compatibility.
Simply put, active noise cancellation on the WI-1000x is excellent. I haven’t come across another set of in-ear headphones yet that are also wireless and can offer this level of noise cancellation. I tested the headphones out in all of the everyday scenarios such as busy diesel trains for the morning commute, noisy office areas, restaurants and bars and even at a rugby match and in all cases they were excellent.
Being able to enjoy music on the train at a volume that doesn’t make your ears bleed to drown out the surrounding noise is fantastic. Noise just disappears and you can forget where you are. It’s a little too good if you have a habit of falling asleep on trains so be warned!
While waiting for friends to arrive in a packed pub I could listen to the news, podcasts, whatever really without the surroundings interfering and at volume levels that make for easy listening.
If you frequently travel on public transport or work in a busy open plan office you’ll find these headphones great. The fact you don’t have to listen to music so loud means your ears are never stressed and it’s easy to wear the headphones for hours with no discomfort.
The battery life is quoted by Sony as lasting 10 hours and I was easily achieving this with noise cancellation activated all of the time. When I took them out of the box first I charged them to full for a couple of hours and over the next two weeks I only charged them fully twice and topped them up here and there when possible.
You can use the bundled 3.5mm headphone cable to extend the listening time out to 14 hours if you wish but it will also be handy for long flights where you can tap into the aeroplane’s audio system with an adapter.
Apple/Beats had been class leading with battery life but when you consider the WI-1000X has active noise cancellation it’s fantastic to not have to keep charging them all the time.
Overall the WI-1000X are an excellent set of headphones. The noise cancellation is top notch, sound quality is great and battery life is fantastic considering all that’s going on.
Should you buy them? If the features above sound like they’ll solve a problem for you then you won’t be disappointed.
The Sony WI-1000X can be found online for €299.