Sony's MDR-1000X headphones are an exceptional set of noise-cancelling cans. We adored them when they launched in 2016 and we love their successors - the Sony WH-1000XM2 - even more.

It was to our great delight therefore, that Sony announced a third generation of the noise-cancelling champions at IFA 2018 in the form of the WH-1000XM3. 

The latest model offers four times the signal processing power of the WH-1000XM2's, which we thought were the finest noise-cancelling headphones money could by, so we have some seriously high hopes for these new on-ears. Here are our first impressions.

Sony WH-1000XM3 design

  • Folding with travel case
  • Premium finish with leather ear cup coverings
  • Design follows WH-1000XM2 model

The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones offer an almost identical design to their predecessors. They have a wonderful premium finish with leather ear cup coverings, just as the WH-1000XM2 do.

The super soft leather found on the ear cups completely enclose the ear, offering plenty of covering and the leather extends to the top of the adjustable headband for a lovely, comfortable fit.

Pocket-lintSony WH-1000XM3 initial review Round three for the noise-cancelling champs image 4

Sony branding is positioned on the bottom of the headband, just above the microphones that detect the surrounding sounds in order to deliver effective noise cancelling. These microphones, one on the top of each cup, have a metal trim, adding to the premium feel of these headphones.

There are a range of controls on the bottom of one of the ear cups, including an input port, power button and noise cancelling/ambient button, while the USB Type-C charging port is positioned on the bottom of the opposite cup. The right cup also offers touch controls, enabling users to mute the sound by placing their palm over the ear cup exterior, swipe to skip a track or tap to pause.

Pocket-lintSony WH-1000XM3 initial review Round three for the noise-cancelling champs image 3

Like the previous models, the WH-1000XM3 fold down into a travel case for convenience and the mechanism is lovely and smooth as it has been in the past. The WH-1000XM3 come in three colour options, all of which are fabulous, though the lighter options really show off the premium quality these headphones offer. 

Sony WH-1000XM3 features and hardware

  • Active noise-cancellation (ANC)
  • Ambient sound modes
  • QN1 processing chip 
  • EQ control and more in app

The Sony WH-1000XM3 offer active noise cancellation (ANC) with different modes for different scenarios, which is what has made these headphones so brilliant in the previous models.

Like the WH-1000XM2, the new model tunes itself to your ears and the sounds surrounding you - the ambient sound levels. Using the microphones we briefly mentioned above, as well as ones inside the ear cups, the headphones will detect sound levels, create a cancellation profile and adjust it to cancel out noise.

Pocket-lintSony WH-1000XM3 initial review Round three for the noise-cancelling champs image 6

The headphones also take atmospheric pressure into account, adjusting the sound delivery from the speakers accordingly. As with the Mark II model, the ambient sound modes and the noise-cancellation are activated using the same button on the Mark III rather than requiring manual input.

There are three adaptive sound control modes offering a different balance of ambient noise and cancellation, which will change depending on your circumstances. 

These modes can be personalised through the Sony Headphones Connect app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, as was the case with the Mark II model. The app uses the accelerometer in your phone to detect what your phone is doing and consequently how you are moving to change the noise cancellation mode to suit. For example, you'll be able to hear traffic and announcements when walking but not when seated on a train or plane.

Pocket-lintSony WH-1000XM3 initial review Round three for the noise-cancelling champs image 10

The app will also allow you to change the equaliser for the headphones and change the balance of the sound positioning.

The ANC should be even better on the WH-1000XM3 than the previous model though, because the new model features the newly-developed, proprietary HD noise cancelling processor QN1. According to Sony, the QN1 offers four times better signal processing performance than its predecessor.

Pocket-lintSony WH-1000XM3 initial review Round three for the noise-cancelling champs image 5

It's claimed the new chip is better at eliminating external daily background sounds, such as street noise and human voices, without impacting on the listening experience. There is also dual noise sensor technology on board the Mark III model and the QN1 processor also handles digital audio signal processing duties. It can process 32-bit audio and works with a dedicated DAC.

Sony WH-1000XM3 performance

  • Great sound quality 
  • 30 hours battery life
  • 4 hour recharge

So what does all this mean in terms of performance? Well, we haven't had a huge amount of time with the WH-1000XM3 as yet but in the brief time we did have, we have no doubt that we will continue to love this series of headphones.

Pocket-lintSony WH-1000XM3 initial review Round three for the noise-cancelling champs image 7

A very busy trade show is definitely very high up on the list of noises you'd like to cancel out and putting the WH-1000XM3 headphones on during IFA was absolute bliss. We could have stayed there all day with the WH-1000XM3 headphones on.

There was a conversation happening directly next to us and we couldn't head a single word that was said once those supple ear cups covered our ears, quite literally not even a murmur of the conversation could be heard. Not only that though, we couldn't hear any of the hustle and bustle either and trust us, there is a lot of that. The sound quality was also brilliant, as it has been previously.

Pocket-lintSony WH-1000XM3 initial review Round three for the noise-cancelling champs image 8

The Mark II model offers 30 hours of battery life with a 4-hour recharge time and the Mark III is promising the same, though it is charged via USB Type-C this time round.

First Impressions

We'll need to test the WH-1000XM3 headphones fully before we draw any final conclusions, but from what we've experienced so far, they remain an absolutely excellent choice if you're in the market for noise cancelling headphones.

We will update this initial review as soon as we have spent some more time with the WH-1000XM3 headphones but as it stands, we can't see us not being happy to recommend these cans without hesitation for a third year running.

Price when reviewed: