Sony WF-1000X full review
Wireless earbuds are great and you might even need some if your phone doesn't have a headphone jack, but not all of them have great sound quality and noise cancelling is almost impossible to find. Well those a problems solved by the Sony WF-1000X, so here's our full review.
Apple's AirPods are just £159 and will be a simple choice for iPhone users but Sony offers things like better sound quality and features such as noise cancelling so could well be worth the extra.
Check out the best wireless earbuds for 2018.
Design and build
The WF-1000X might not be the best looking earbuds around, they look a little like old-school Bluetooth headsets you'd expect a taxi driver to wear in the 90s, but there's also a lot to like about them.
For starters, they're small indiscrete (unless you get the gold colour) and lightweight at just under 7g each. All of this makes them one of the more comfortable pairs we've tested and the compact body means you don’t feel conscious about the way they look when out and about.
Comfort is also down to the large selection of different tips supplied in the box. You get no less than four sizes of regular silicone ones and three sizes of 'Triple-Comfort' foam tips.
There are also two options for 'fitting supporters' – similar to Bose's fin tips – but we haven't found them to make the same impact due to the shape.
Each earbud has a button on the bottom, the left is for power and cycling through the noise cancelling modes (we'll explain those later) and the right one is for playback control. They're small but fairly easy to use.
As usual you also get a case to store the headphones which will also charge them up. It's sleek but doesn't have any LEDs to indicate its level of charge which is annoying. It does have NFC which makes it easier to pair the headphones with your phone (not iPhones though).
The WF-1000X earbuds aren't waterproof so aren't particularly suited to intense sport and fitness use. If you are then the Bose SoundSport Free and Jabra Elite Sport are better options.
Sound quality and features
We had a little trouble setting the headphones up at first – with the lack of NFC on an iPhone for this purpose anyway. It's not obvious that you need to press the button on the earbud for a whopping seven seconds to engage pairing mode, and even then we needed the official app to get it to work.
Once we got going though, the WF-1000X are pretty good at auto connecting once you get them out of the box. The right earbud, which is the slave, did fail to join in quite a few times though.
Using the foam tips provides a comfortable fit and one that also offers better noise isolation compared to rivals. This means you might not even find the need to use the active noise cancelling in situations like an office.
One key reason to get the WF-1000X is the superior sound quality on offer here. Despite the relatively small 6mm drivers, these earbuds sound simply brilliant. They produce a full 20Hz-20,000kHz frequency range matching the theoretical human hearing range.
What's refreshing here (or hear) is that Sony hasn't tried to be over the top with the sound profile, nothing part of the sound is shouting louder to get all the attention. The entire frequency range is given space to breath; the bass is rich and powerful when needed, the mid-range is detailed and top-end is crisp and clear.
A nicely balanced response and tuning means the headphones sound great for all kinds of music, whether you're listening to the delicate tones of Dry the River or bopping to a big dance tune from Rudimental.
Sony says that 'the internal antenna and fitting supporter keep the signal strong for constant streaming'. However, we have experienced drop outs – almost exclusively with the right earbud as it's not the one connected to the phone. Luckily it's only occasional and you can swap to stable connection priority over sound quality in the app – we'd like both though.
Not only do the WF-1000X earbuds sound great, they offer active noise cancelling unlike rivals – even Bose. The noise cancelling on offer here is up there with the best available on any pair of headphones with the feature. Understandable since Sony makes plenty of products with it.
There are different modes too so the noise cancelling isn't simply on or off. Using the button on the left earbud you can switch between regular noise cancelling and 'ambient sound' which lets you hear what's going on around you. There's a bit of a pause when switching between modes.
Ambient sound has normal and voice modes but you need to choose which one you want in the phone app. They're not hugely different so try them out and see what you prefer.
Furthermore is a feature called 'Adaptive Sound Control' which automatically detects whether you're staying, walking, running or on transport. Each has a different setting for the noise cancelling which you can adjust in the app.
You'll also need the app to choose different EQ presets such as 'bright', 'excited' and 'bass boost'. However, no matter what genre of music we listened to we found switching the EQ off always sounded better.
The WF-1000X earbuds can also be used for hands-free calls and even the Google Assistant or Siri depending on what phone you're using. Just hold down the button on the right earbud to summon your digital assistant.
With a maximum of three hours battery life, the Sony WF-1000X are pretty standard for wireless earbuds. We found them to cope with a two hour flight playing music and full noise cancelling.
The charging case can top the earbuds up twice so that's a possible total of nine hours, a few hours short of some rivals. As mentioned earlier there are no LEDs on the case to indicate it's charge and the earbuds need carefully clipping into place otherwise they won't charge.
Sony WF-1000X: Specs
- 6mm drivers
- 20 - 20,000Hz frequency response
- Active noise cancelling
- Portable charging case with NFC
- Bluetooth 4.1
- Long Hybrid silicone rubber earbuds (SS, S, M, L)
- Triple-Comfort Earbuds (S, M, L)
- Fitting Supporters (M, L)
- USB cable
- 6.8g (per earbud)/70g (Charging case)