Top positive review
Bose has been decisively dethroned (Update)
September 6, 2018
I currently own about 30 headphones of various brands and types. I have tried many Bluetooth headphones and own the Bose QC35 II and Bowers and Wilkins PX. I bought both the Sony WH-1000x MKI & MKII but returned them after weighing the shortcomings vs the cost, my main complaints being comfort and sound (the ANC was always good). My portable-everyday-beat-them-up headphones were the Bose QC 35 II. I liked them primarily for the comfort and ANC. The sound on the Bose can best be described as adequate but generally lifeless. Always in search of something better I read a couple of “First Look” articles about the Sony WH-MX1000M3 and decided to pull the plug on the first day that they were available on Amazon. When I received the Sony’s I was pleased to see that the case was similar to the Bose QC 35, a little bigger but shaped well enough to fit comfortably in my backpack. When I removed the headphones and put them on my head I realized immediately that these would be as comfortable as the Bose. Good job Sony.
After charging for a couple of hours I paired them to my phone and went to my headphone test playlist on Spotify. My main complaint with the previous Sony model's sound was that they had very little soundstage (defined as perceived distance between your ears and the music) and little definition (defined as the clarity and separation of the various instruments in a piece of music). The M3 sounded better than the previous Sony’s and better than the Bose, but the highs appeared to be quite subdued and overwhelmed by the bass. This was disappointing.
But, Sony has a phone app that allows for EQ so I go download the app. Frustration. The app did not recognize the MK3. Patience. I figure that Sony has not updated the app yet. So I wait a day and see that the Sony app has automatically updated on my phone. I open and hurray! It is recognizing the MK3 now. Now I can play with EQ: -1 on 400 Hz. +1 on 1K. +2 on 2.5K. +3 on 6K. +4 on 16K and “Clear Bass” remains at 0. Play music and now were talking! I’m not going to say that these sound nearly as good as most of my wired headphones, but for everyday-on-the-go-beat-them-up-with-ANC these are exciting. They blow the Bose away. The Bowers and Wilkins PX which weigh about three times more than the Sony’s have decent BT sound when the ANC is off but the sound changes considerably and not for the better when you apply one of three ANC modes. They PX is OK for about an hour of no ANC listening while sitting at home, but after that my ears and the top of my head hurt.
The noise cancellation of the Sony is a generation ahead of Bose. There, I said it. Most reviewers crown the Bose as the best ANC you can get. Well, Sony has just showed Bose that they are the new big boy on the block. I did some A/B comparisons with both headphones and realized that the Sony not only cancels steady noise like jet engines or the sound of the air conditioning intake in my condo, but it does a great job of virtually eliminating all other sounds, including television voices and even other people, as my wife can attest to when she had to stand in front of me and wave her hands to get my attention because I could not hear her talking (so, if you want to block out your wife’s talking… LOL!). And this is without even messing with the settings in the app. Others reviewer here have not had the same experience, stating that it does not cancel voices. I frankly did not expect it to cancel voices, but I must say that the Sony comes as close as anything I have ever not heard.
So, if you want very comfortable headphones with the best sound and Active Noise Cancelling that you can expect with wireless Bluetooth in 2018 get these. They will not sound as good as wired closed back or open back headphones, but “you can’t always get what you want”, “nothing is perfect”, and “everybody is different”.
In addition to the Sony WH-1000XM3 during this review period I used:
Bose QC 35 II
Bowers & Wilkins PX
Bang and Olufsen H6 (wired)
Sennheiser HD650 (wired)
AKG 7KXX (wired)
Flac files on phone and desktop computer
UPDATE 2018-09-21: I did experience an issue with phone calls where people at the other end were hearing an echo of their voice. I tested the headphones with three different phones and the problem occurred with all three. So I replaced them through Amazon. I am glad to say that the new pair does not have the issue. After some tests with phone calls I will say that Sony still needs to do some work on the call quality at the other end of the call (the call sounds fine in the Sony itself). In this regard, the Bose QC 35 is better. I think the call quality is really with the sound processing that Sony has implemented and not the hardware. Hopefully this will be improved in future firmware upgrades. Another minor con that the Bose handles better is the support for multiple BT sources. But this is a minor annoyance and I only use the Sony's for my phone anyway, so I am not constantly switching sources. Small price to pay for better ANC and musical sound.