Sony WH-1000XM3 measurements and thoughts

Discussion in 'Audio Science' started by Vtory, Nov 6, 2018.

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    [​IMG]

    I wasn't a big fan of sony's first and second generations of anc cans. While they made a great point in noise-canceling, the sonic characteristics of 1000x didn't convince me. Particularly disappointed with 1000xm2 (note: xm1 and xm2 sound different by a significant margin). Uneven response and overly emphasized mid were definitely a deal-breaker. xm1 had the same weirdness but to much less degree. To me, xm1 was sound-wise a better pair of headphones, although xm2 a bit outdoes xm1 in NC.

    Aside from rave reviews of pro shit-makers, which might be partly explained by Sony's money power, I heard many good things (about the sound) from some reliable friends. I finally get my hands on xm3.

    Here are my findings after experiencing xm3 for nearly one-week.

    1. ANC

    Bose has been a king of ANC. Many companies have challenged but none of them achieved the level of bose qc35 regarding anc ability imo. Sony's progress was very impressive. Even the first generation of 1000x was already close to bose anc cans. xm2 reduced this gap, and showed equivalent performance. Now Xm3 outperforms bose qc35ii. Improvement is very noticeable in cancelling dynamic and transient noise, such as human voice. Pink-noise measurements usually don't capture this effect.. so perceived anc performance of xm3 is way, way better than existing noise measurements suggest. Of course this might be an overkill for most. But more is always better in the context of anc.


    2. Sound

    There is no more weirdness in midrange and treble. Midrange and treble are fairly smooth unlike previous generations. I also like Sony-ish sparkling top end. Potential problem is bass, as already indicated by many. I thought qc35ii was slightly bassy.. xm3 is even much bassier. It's not like "Beats by Dr Dre" in their notorious days.. but far more than I would like. Think of "somewhat lesser" version of nighthawk bass. Fortunately, sony has a nice app to control tonal balance (as an aside, their app "headphone connect" is one of the best anc control apps I've ever seen). Be aware that wired connection and non-smartphone connection cannot benefit from this app. Details and dynamics were decent for anc wireless headphones. Overall, xm3 is very good for causal or non-critical listening purposes.


    3. What I didn't like
    • Touch control is hit-or-miss. Swipe volume control works well. But double tap (to pause) sometimes failed. There is some learning curve. Moreover, gloved fingers hardly activate sensor.. potentially inconvenient in winter.
    • Power-on takes too long. 14-15 seconds (14.8 seconds on average; based on 10 measurements) are needed until bluetooth established (with my old iPhone 6s plus). By contrast, bose qc35ii takes only less than 3 seconds (2.65 seconds on average; based on 10 measurements) to be fully connected. This point is very annoying when I try to answer a call with (turned-off) xm3.

    4. Others
    • Comfort is much improved. Clamping is a bit stronger than qc35 but very acceptable. I like xm3's headband and ear pads -- looks and feels premium-ish. Qc35 and 35ii still win in overall wearing comfort mainly due to larger inner space around ears. But the gap between sony and bose has been significantly reduced. Depending on your head sizes and ear sizes YMMV.
    • Build quality is superb. Sony has been always good at this aspect (even in some epic failure products).

    Measurements to come..
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
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  2. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    All my measurements were done with Minidsp EARS with my original compensation curve version 3. See this for details: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...g-minidsp-ears-part-2.6880/page-2#post-231868

    Also measured at 90db SPL at 300hz.

    upload_2018-11-6_13-20-14.png

    LR channel matching is very good. I am starting to suspect if anc headphones use their mics to actively compensate channel imbalance. 20-200hz looks like harman target very much.. Did sony ask any advice from Dr Sean Olive? haha.. Some dips appeared in lower trebles sound pleasing rather than annoying.


    upload_2018-11-6_13-27-51.png

    Comparison with Bose QC35ii, 1/6 oct smoothing


    upload_2018-11-6_13-28-31.png

    Distortion characteristics look nice (note that my measuring environment tends to get higher distortions than others), except a strange peak of D2 around 2.4k. I don't know why and that wasn't audible to my ears, either.


    Also briefly compared between wired connection and bluetooth. Above are all wired results.

    upload_2018-11-6_13-31-7.png
    upload_2018-11-6_13-31-24.png

    Honestly, I can't distinguish connection types based on measurements. Subjectively they are somewhat different to my ears, but possibly placebo.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
  3. StageOne

    StageOne Friend

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    Appreciate the review and feedback as I was looking at getting a pair of these. How is the bass quality? Clean and controlled or more towards the bloomy side? The latter I can't seem to handle for longer sessions.
     
  4. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    It's not bad at all. Still kinda one-note bass but I don't expect lcd2 or hd800 bass for this product category.

    Potential problem is the balance between bass and midrange. But that's not a big deal, as long as you are using smartphones and tablets (i.e., iOS or Android). Eq in Sony's "Headphone Connect" provides a convenient and intuitive way to customize. With the aid of this app, I regard xm3 as "bass-adjustable" rather than "just bassy".

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    There's a significant (4-5dB) dip in frequency response at roughly the same place.
    Here's some theorizing:
    • Sony ninjas knew about distortion and sneakily tuned FR to hide it
    • D2 and dip have the same physical root cause
    • D2 is a mathematical artifact from additional noise (because signal is lower at this frequency)
    • Coincidence; we live in a random, cold and uncaring Universe, there is no God
    What source and settings did you use for Bluetooth measurements? All Blueteeth are not equal (very roughly speaking, SBC < AptX <= AptX HD or LDAC). Most Sony phones and DAPs (including the venerable ZX1 and cheaper models like A35) should support LDAC and the newer ones also AptX. Most Android smartphones support AptX. I think for Apple devices you are going to be using SBC or AAC, not sure.

    PS: thanks for review!
     
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  6. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    I used macbook pro and aptx connection. Ldac or aptx hd needs extra hardware like you said. lol

    Regarding D2 peak, my guess is either acoustical breakup mode (more likely) or something related to noise canceling -- maybe combination of both.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2018
  7. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Forgot updating fr graphs.

    Here is sbaf-compensated version. 1/6 octave smoothing

    upload_2018-11-15_9-10-50.png
     
  8. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    The sony cans are embarrassing unless you're using LDAC.
     
  9. fraggler

    fraggler A Happy & Busy Life

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    LDAC is better than wired? Is this due to added functionality via app? Or just superior to other Bluetooth protocols? Apparently my Note 8 has LDAC capability so I am intrigued now.
     
  10. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    It's really lossless, at least for Redbook bit rates.

    Wired would mean either an extra pair of AD/DA conversions, or directly driving the transducer with no ANC or EQ. I think the latter.
     
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  11. jnak00

    jnak00 Acquaintance

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    Thanks for the review. Did you like these? Would you buy them if you were in the market for wireless ANC cans?
     
  12. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Indeed yes. I finally got them for myself via trade. Haha
     
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  13. Slaphead

    Slaphead Almost "Made"

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    Wait, what - you’re kidding - that’s ridiculous.

    I’m running the original 1000x as my commuter phones, and they connect to my old iPod touch in less than 2 seconds after I hear “power on”.

    Also your comments about the midrange on the 1000x make me reticent to upgrade - I really enjoy the midrange being a touch forward on the 1000x. While the noise cancelling does kill most of the bass interference, people speaking still get through, and the forward mids help with drowning that out, not to mention I do find it quite musical.

    Nope, not ready to give up my 1000x at the moment.
     
  14. Roen

    Roen Rando

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    What would be the main differences compared to the Bose QC35II sound signature?
     
  15. jnak00

    jnak00 Acquaintance

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    There's a new firmware for these, and it appears they've adjusted the sound a little. I'd be curious to see how they measure now, if you still have them
     
  16. FirstAidPoetry

    FirstAidPoetry Rando

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    I'd like to add a few impressions:

    1) Power on including bluetooth connection takes about 3 seconds, maybe 6 including the wait time while holding down the power button. Tried on an iPhone 6+ and a 7. Maybe they improved things with a later firmware?

    2) Touch controls are indeed insanely hit and miss. At least for me, often just a gust of wind will initiate the voice assistant. Sometimes the headphones will simply get confused and lower the volume to ~10% and stay that way until rebooted. Don't even try using anything with big collars that might hit the touch controls.

    3) Sound is really bass heavy. Not badly so, but enough that when used cabled I have so far, had to change the EQ on the source. What's worse to me, is that it lacks sharpness in the upper frequencies. I'm not an audio pro by any means, but I've compared the sounds using a pair of Turtle Beach vr 350 and a pair of Sony MDR-7506 and for reference: Dire Straits - Private Investigations - and there's a clear lack of sharpness in the white noise in the song when using the MX3. I'm suprised this hasn't been mentioned in a single review.

    Now, I know, I may sound like I have nothing but complains for the headset, but overall I love them. Comfort, NC and battery time are top notch and I hope at least a few of these irks may be improved with new firmwares.
     
  17. jnak00

    jnak00 Acquaintance

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    I picked up a pair of these a few weeks ago, after my 6-year-old PSB M4U2s developed a crackling sound in the left channel. I quite like them - they're comfy, NC is phenomenal and I prefer a touch of extra bass so the sound signature really appeals to me. I think the new update reduces the bass a little, at least compared to the in-store demo I had tried previously.

    The ambient mode, which actively pipes in outside noise, is actually really useful - much more so than I had expected.

    I generally just use the NFC spot to turn them on, since I've got my phone in hand to start music anyway, but either way, they turn on and connect within a couple seconds. Not sure why Vtory's take so long,

    I get the phantom touch pad activations when I wear them outside in cold weather - this appears to be a common problem and only sometimes resolved by Sony's recommended fix - reboot the headset.

    I did not realize using the EQ would drop the Bluetooth codec to SBC. You need to leave EQ off to use LDAC or apt-X. Or use Sonarworks.
     
  18. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    Neutron app for Android has a good EQ.
     
  19. jnak00

    jnak00 Acquaintance

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    I used to use Neutron on BlackBerry years ago. Most of my listening is via Spotify now, so Neutron doesn't help me.

    Also I don't really EQ these headphones that much, so not being able to do it in the app without changing to SBC isn't that big a deal. More of a mild annoyance.
     
  20. DigitalMaven

    DigitalMaven Rando

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    Can't believe no ones reviewed the sennheisers hd1 bluetooth phones. I originally got a pair of good sony bluetooth headphones that I really liked. tried the sony m2's on sale and literally puked at the audio quality. Purchased the hd 1 on sale for $250 and they are the best sounding bluettoth headphones I've ever owned. The sennheisers also do a great job at noise cancelling. Sony has lost me as a customer in some areas. When they're charging big bucks for garbage I definitely will always be looking over my shoulder when buying sony headphones going forward.
     

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