Sony WH-1000XM3 Bluetooth Headphones

It should come as no surprise that given the Coronavirus lockdown that one of the most popular purchases in technology is a decent pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Here at NECL, we always read with interest the myriad of product reviews out there. Some we agree with more than others, although what we often find is that our view of a product can change over time and that you really need to live with a product in regular use to discover it’s good points and shortcomings. For this review we used a Windows 10 PC and Android smartphone.

Many families are relatively well prepared from a technology point of view for lockdown, however, with children now home-learning this is a very big change for many. Some schools have adapted quickly with lessons being pre-packaged and posted online with video assemblies from the head mistress at the start of the day, pre-recorded class lessons and daily video calls from teachers thrown in.

However having multiple children in the same kitchen both watching different school videos and attending different video calls at the same time can become noisy and a distraction for each other so with the money that is being saved by not commuting and not going out, what better time than to invest in some new headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Bluetooth Headphones – Product Review

Reading the many reviews on Which? and What HiFi many will go for the Sony WH-1000X M3 wireless noise cancelling headphones. We also added an Avantree DG40S Bluetooth USB dongle for the home PC.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Headphones

At the time of writing, we found that John Lewis were the same price as Amazon. Some will want the loyalty points from John Lewis, and we think it is the right thing to do to support a UK based retailer. They also give a 2-year guarantee which we also like. We occasionally worry about fake product reviews on Amazon, so the decision was made, and John Lewis got our business. The delivery from John Lewis was no faster but no slower than we expected, and we were very pleased when the package arrived. The Sony packaging oozes quality – it even has the What Hi-fi 5-star sticker, Google Assistant and Alexa wording on the front!

When we opened the box, we found a fantastic quality case with some very helpful accessories inside. So overall a very good start. The pictorial instructions were helpful but (as we had time) we decided to have a quick look at the detailed instructions which were also in the box.

Once past the usual standard safety notices we were surprised to read that…..

“this unit supports normal incoming calls only. Calling apps for smartphones and computers are not supported.”

No WhatsApp or Skype mobile support – Could be an issue for some

We were shocked by this as many people will use these headphones with smartphones and will expect any new headphones (particularly headphones priced at £259) to work with these. Neither the Which review nor the What Hi-Fi reviews mentioned this limitation. Do these reviewers not read the instructions when they review these products?  Do they not feel their readers should know about such a significant limitation?

We have now had these headphones for 2 weeks and overall, we are pleased with them. They are light, comfortable, the sound quality is great, they work well with the Avantree Bluetooth dongle on a Windows 10 Professional PC.

Connecting with Bluetooth on the PC is straight forward. The connection is stable, and the sound quality is great. The microphone on the headphones is also very good with others commenting that the sound is even better than when we use the microphone on our Logitech C922 Pro webcam (which was already very good).

The touch controls on the right ear are useful particularly for muting the sound if somebody is trying to get your attention. However, using this feature for turning the volume up and down is not well thought through as when you start moving your finger up nothing happens and then suddenly the sound is too loud. So, we will be using the windows slider as the volume control going forwards!

We think the noise cancelling feature is very good (although we have not yet used it in a very noise environment such as a plane for lockdown reasons). The noise cancelling can even be used to block out background noise when you are not playing anything through them as a way of creating near total silence!  The headphones have some nice electronic voice updates from a very pleasant sounding American lady telling us when you touch the power key (that the battery is about 80%), when you power on, off and when Bluetooth is connected. We have not yet used voice commands for Google assistant and Alexa, and we may post a further update if we try.

As far as youngsters are concerned, a nine year old daughter has been very happy to put these on when still wearing her pyjamas first thing in the morning to listen to assembly and then to the various video instructions and calls she is involved with during the day. This has meant that you are  able to focus on the home learning with a 7-year-old without to having to compete across the room for sound.

To our surprise having read the comments in the instructions, the headphones do seem to work with the web-based version of Google Meet and with the PC version of Skype. So, we thought we would try to connect them to a Samsung Galaxy S8 android phone to see if there is any possibility of the calling apps working there.

Our learnings so far have been that as long as you disconnect Bluetooth on your other device first then Bluetooth will connect to the android phone without any problems and that normal calls appear to work just fine. But as per the instructions we found that the calling apps on the phone would not recognise the headphones.

Get the Sony Headphones Connect App to get more from the product

There is a Sony Headphones app on Google Play and iOS which allows you to upgrade the firmware plus change a whole plethora of other settings which we will probably never have time to play with. When we upgraded the firmware on the headphones the Skype and WhatsApp apps started to work with these but then after a period of time our Skype app would not recognise them again. Reinstalling the Skype app after the firmware was updated on the headphones appears to have fixed this for now and so far, we are now getting everything from this product that we could wish for.

However, looking at the comments on the Internet about the calling app issue, if somebody contacts Sony to ask for their help on this they will just say (as per the instructions) that calling apps are not supported so whilst we have managed to get this to work with our android calling apps for now the fact that Sony won’t support this feature really is a serious limitation that What Hi-Fi and Which? should be communicating to their consumers about.

Overall, we are pleased with this product. When we consider the reasons which we bought them they are excelling and have allowed a youngster to continue with her home learning without interrupting her younger sister.

We also now have some excellent sounding headphones for the grown-ups to listen to music with when the kids are finally asleep in bed. For now, the headphones are working with Skype and WhatsApp on our Samsung Galaxy S8 android mobile but there is no guarantee how long this will continue for with apparently no support from Sony if they stop working with these.

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Headphones