Over the past year or so, there's been a real arms race when it comes to noise-canceling, over-ear headphones. The dueling contenders? Bose and Sony. The former's QuietComfort line has long been the standard — hell, Bose essentially created the category years ago — but Sony's WH-1000XM2 headphones, which came out last fall, finally gave people a bona fide alternative. For the first time, choosing between the two brands wasn't so easy.
With this year's WH-1000XM3s, however, Sony's definitively tipped the scale in its favor. The new headphones share the familiar look and feel of their predecessors, but they've been gutted and revamped for the better. Let's start with the sound — it's warmer, fuller and more accurate, all without skimping on the bass response. However, you can tweak the sound signature to your liking via Sony's intuitive companion app.
Sony also upgraded the headphones with a new processor called the QN1, which makes them incredibly good at blocking out noise. In fact, Sony says that the QN1 chip makes the WH-1000XM3s four times better at noise canceling than the already impressive WH-1000XM2s.
Like their predecessors, the WH-1000XM3s are feature-rich. You can play/pause, skip tracks and initiate your smartphone’s virtual assistant — all through a series of swipe gestures on the right earcup. And there's an ambient mode so that users (especially commuters) can more safely hear the world around them.
If push came to shove, we'd argue that the Bose QC35 Series II are slightly lighter and maybe more comfortable than these Sony headphones. But if sound quality and noise canceling are what you really care about, nothing can tune out the world like these bad boys.
- Driver: 1.57-inch dome
- Frequency Response: 4 Hz - 40,000 Hz
- Charge: USB-C
This story is part of the GP100, Gear Patrol's annual index of the 100 best products of the year. To see the full list of products or read this story in print, check out Gear Patrol Magazine: Issue Eight, available now at the Gear Patrol Store.