*Stars Picker Audio Library sent the review unit of Sony WF-1000XM3 to us, review unit will be sending back to them after this review. As usual, the review will be done in an honest and unbiased manner as possible.
True Wireless (TWS) earphone has truly changed how the world is listening to music; ever since the Apple Airpod popularised this market sector, consumers are able listening to music without being bothered by traditional wire. Here in Earmass, we still looking for one TWS IEM that can be justified as an Audiophile TWS, we have probably reviewed few TWS IEMs in the market and to be honest, some of them are quite good in TWS sector. Still, if given the same amount of money, wired IEM option always sounds better, we certainly believe TWS is the future, but the world we are living now is still refining this technology. In contrast, I have observed that the connectivity, features and battery life of TWS are getting great improvement. However, the sound quality drastically needs more improvement, most of the TWS in the market now seems to put attention in youngster (this is understandable as younger generation consumer will hug the latest technology first). I have requested review unit from Stars Picker for a few times, but the demo unit of WF-1000XM3 was always occupied, so we are difficult to have a review unit, here in Malaysia we are currently facing MCO (Movement Control Order) due to COVID-19. Most of the non-essential shop restricted from opening for business, we immediately grabbing this opportunity and request for this review, sincerely appreciating their arrangement for the WF-1000XM3.
Sony WF-1000XM3 (Retailed at RM929 in Malaysia, approximately 213USD)
Many have regarded the WFKXM3 (WF-1000XM3 in short form) as the best sounding TWS on the planet, that’s why we wish to see if the WFKXM3 will be a game-changer for audiophiles, the feature sets seem well packed but let us move to the design, build quality and finishing first.
I can immediately feel the heft and size when I am holding the casing in my hand for the first time. WF-1000X has the biggest casing that I have ever tested, and luckily it is not that heavy because the construction of the casing is mostly plastic with a rubber touch surface. The IEM itself once again is the biggest TWS ever that I have tested, but please rest assured because it is quite light in weight and I can comfortably wear it all day long despite the size. The size of the IEM casing never really causing me a problem, however, put it inside a jeans pocket will not be comfortable, something to note, because you might need a bag or something to store the case.
Build quality, and finishing of the casing is acceptable, although I have seen much better build and finishing quality in much cheaper TWS, the rubberised texture can easily get scratch too, the closing of the lid is okay but not solid enough. However, I have to be purely honest none of these bothers me because when in use it stay fit and light in-ear, I can feel the presence of it in the ear. Still, it is not uncomfortable, although I do wish that the build quality and finishing could be better for the price range. Between, I love the big light indicator which will light up when you are charging the casing (red), the IEM itself will light up too, red when not connected and blue when connected. Neat.
Battery life is good, but we are starting to see some other manufacturers able to provide same or better battery life in a much smaller casing/IEM, battery life rated at 6 hours for the IEM, and casing can provide additional 18 hours of battery life, a total of 24 hours of battery life seems reasonable. However, I am expecting more from the bigger than usual case, still, no complain here because it is good enough. Another thing that I like about WFKXM3 is the quick charge function, 10 minutes of the quick charging in the case can give you 90 minutes of playtime, which is very practical and impressive. WFKXM3 will of course automatically connect to your device once you have paired it to your phone.
You can download the Sony Headphone Connect apps from Google Play Store and IOS Appstore. The app allowed you to have full control of your IEM, such as customise what the left/right earpiece will do when you tap or long-press each of them, enable DSEE HX (I keep it off all the time), you can also see the battery life of your TWS and the charging case through it, enable Ambient Sound Control (which enable the built-in microphone and let you listen to what your ambient sound or when people talking to you), most importantly you can enable equaliser and Sony Clear Bass through the apps, you can also set if you want the music continue playing or pause when you take it off from your ears (good if you want to burn it your IEM), there is a 360 Reality Audio which will place you in a studio or at a live concert, it will give you a 360-degree reality feel (I have not tried this, might try it someday and write my experience of using it). Lastly, the apps also let you update your TWS firmware, and this is a mature and useful app in general.
Noise-cancelling features make it stand out from the crowd. Sony even has its noise-cancelling chip which is a Sony Qn1e chipset. The NC is efficient, and you can’t hear people talking to you for example when you enable it, the NC does make the mid-range stand out a bit, not only that, soundstage seems smaller and sounded more upfront (and more closed in), this review, however, will be done turning the NC off. We don’t use LRT or train to commute in the place where I live, the passive noise isolation of WFKXM3 is already quite good, when you are turning on the NC, it just mutes the noise out, such a good feature especially if you always commute in LRT and always in flight or those who wear TWS while walking.
Lip syncing is generally not an issue, and I don’t find it to be lag or whatsoever when watching video on Youtube and playing games like Brawl Stars. Connectivity is EXCELLENT! I don’t see any line drop, disconnection or despairing etc., and it just stays connect and on, definitely the best TWS in term of connection quality that I have ever try. Mic quality is above average, but it is still apparent that you are using a Bluetooth microphone, I am not sure why but microphone quality seems quite a difficult technology for the manufacturer to achieve with great result.
Surprisingly, Sony only housed a 6mm driver inside the WFKXM3, the housing of the IEM seems big enough even fitting few drivers inside of it, or maybe Sony can fit bigger driver, maybe Sony is also considering the negative impact on battery life. There is no LDAC support, and I am quite surprised, although we don’t necessarily will ‘hear’ better result with LDAC, for TWS IEM at this price it should be equipped with LDAC. Another complaint, the WF-1000XM3 doesn’t design for sport, there is no official IP rating as well.
I have tested the Sony WF-1000XM3 with my Huawei Mate 20 with priority on sound quality on. Noise-cancelling and ambient sound feature are both off, the equalizer is set to the default setting, and Clear Bass feature is set to 0. 360 Reality feature is all set to off. IEM is a demo unit in an audio shop, it should have enough of burning in time, but I have burn-in for another 12 hours with Cascade Noise Burn-In (Tara Labs) and Full System Enhancer and Rejuvenation lossless files (ISOTEK). The review was done when listening to Tidal Master and Spotify Premium through the phone, and lossless music is listened at minimal because this is not important at all for the intended market.
I like how it sounds for my first listening. WFKXM3 sounded quite full, thick and musical. It is quite forgiving too if your music recording quality is not audiophile grade. You will definitely like the sound signature if you are not from an audiophile background, especially when you are those listening to Top 40 Hits (Techno, R&B etc.), the sound signature is non-fatiguing and thick.
It has some kind of a V-Shape tuning, treble has good quantity but not overly sharp. However, I will prefer a more transparent presentation. Still, for the intended market, this is not important, you won’t notice the enhancement in the treble region because the treble is thick and not that transparent, the treble is not clean and clear kind of sound tuning, this is what I will normally call as ‘Youngster tuning’ (which suit the younger crowd music listening genre, this is not a bad thing, and I am perfectly okay when Sony is doing this). There is some sibilant, and sometimes treble can be a little uneven, nothing too bad honestly. There is also some recessed treble at the very end.
The bass is quite satisfying, turning to something like M.O.O.N (Spotify), turning up the volume above average listening volume. The bass is really thumping, punchy and dynamic, satisfying and if you want some bass-torturing performance, then this is it. Like usual, you must have the perfect seal/fit to get the most out of the bass. While I love the performance of bass when turning up the volume, I do have to warn you that because of the tuning behaviour, the bass will make everything muffled and too thick for general listening. While it is quite dynamic, the transient response is quite mediocre.
Midrange though is where I don’t like on the WFKXM3, it is too thick, recessed and muffle, making some vocal that I familiar with sounded way too thick, detail level, in general, is not that good, nuanced and transparency are quite lacking.
Generally, WFKXM3 is quite warm, full and thick. Detail level, transient respond and speed are not WFKXM3’s strength, however, to be frank, these qualities that I have mentioned WFKXM3 is lacking is not important at all for the intended listening market of this TWS, the youngster will surely love about it, that kind of engaging and warm of sound signature will surely gain their love, you can see the sales of this TWS and instantly get to know why it sold so hot globally, old folk like us rarely will buy a TWS, but the youngster will, and they will love this TWS.
As an audiophile, I don’t enjoy, and like the WF-1000XM3, I love the features and connectivity of it, and the recent price cut of it make it even a very good purchase. However, I have to be super clear here if you are an audiophile you might not like the sound tuning of it, It will be good if you already owned some audiophile IEM and headphone and just want to have something that has a more engaging and fun listening when you are doing sport etc., but if you want an honest presentation and audiophile-quality out of it you will surely be disappointed, it can be a sidekick for the audiophile, but not the main earphone for sure.
Young people or those who always listen to Top 40 music, those pop, R&B, Techno etc., will surely love the tuning, the sound signature is quite warm and thick like I say, I can ensure that you will listen to it day and night because it won’t be fatiguing to your ears. The sound is lovely from this standpoint, the feature set etc. are all very promising too, the best thing? Price has been significantly brought down recently, and it is quite a value for money. I recommended if you want something that is fun to listen and won’t break your bank.