Sony has a long-standing history of making great audio products, but somewhere in early 2000s, the companys strategy and product focus had gone awry. Quickly course-correcting, Sony has been on a roll in the last few years to releasecompelling audio products, particularly with a focus on High-Definition Audio. After releasing a series of products, Sony recently launched the Sony WF-1000X, the companys first truly wireless earbuds. The most attractive feature of these earbuds, however, is the fact that they come with active noise cancellation built in. After spending a significant amount of time with the WF-1000X, heres a definitive guide on whether you should pick up a pair or not.
Build & Design
The WF-1000X are incredibly small, with a scarab like appearance. The design of the earbuds is very minimal, which makes them rather well balanced when put into the ear. Unlike other wireless buds Ive tried, the ones from Sony dont randomly drop out of my ear and neither do they feel heavy. Each of the earbuds has a button, the one on the left being for power while the one on the right brings up Google Assistant (when held pressed down). Sony has nailed the fit of these earbuds thanks to rear fins that fit into the outer structure of the ear. The earbuds come with a carrying case that also serves as a battery pack to charge the earbuds. The case itself feels very premium, although the hinge felt a little delicate to me. I do like the fact that the hinge raises out of the case as you lift the lid, giving enough room to plug the earbuds into the case. I wore these while on a small off-roading session on my mountain bike and did not have them drop out at any instance.
Whats in the Box
Typically, I dont get into the contents of a products box, but Im going to make an exception for the Sony WF-1000X. Besides the earbuds and a battery case, Sony also provides five sizes of long hybrid silicon rubber tips and four sizes of Sonys Triple Comfort Earbuds, which are a hybrid between foam and silicon. There are also two sizes of the fitting supporters. Sony has tossed in a whole host of tips and sizes, so sizing should not be an issue. Additionally, theres a micro-USB cable to charge the carrying case (since you cant charge the earbuds otherwise) along with the user manual and warranty card.
Music on the Sony WF-1000X
Pairing the WF-1000X with my Google Pixel 2 XL was literally as simply as aligning the NFC chip built into the case with the one on my phone. One quick tap later, the earbuds were pairedwith the phone and I was able to get all audio output on the earbuds. However, if you want to get the most out of Sonys latest, you would want to install the Headphones Connect app, which allows you to choose the noise cancelling profile, the equaliser preset and the sound quality of the data stream being transmitted. The EQ presets when selected through Sonys app really transform the sound profile of the earphones, instead of making the music sound over processed.
I listened to the WF-1000X with the silicon tips because I listen to a lot of electronic music, which tends to be bass heavy. The Triple Comfort earbuds seem to eat up a little bit of the bass, so the silicon tips should be your choice if youre into pounding bass. For people who enjoy music with more emphasis on mids and highs, the Triple Comfort buds could be a better fit for you, but sound signatures tend and fit tend to be a very personal preference. I didnt find the buds slipping out of my ears with either type of the provided tips, so fit should not be a concern.
The first pair of earbuds I received from Sony had one critical problem; the right earbud would continuously drop its connection to the left earbud, making it impossible to listen to music. Sony offered a number of troubleshooting tips, but none of them worked, after which they replaced the review unit with another fresh pair. I faced the same issue with the new pair too and isolated the issue to my office space which has over a dozen MacBook Air laptops with their Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios on. Sonys website states that the WF-1000X might have issues when used in spaces with a lot of devices that emit 2.4GHz radio waves. I did not face this issue while using the earbuds at my home, where only one MacBook Air was being used. Unfortunately, what this meant for me was that the earbuds were of little use in office, which is where I need them the most.
When the WF-1000X work, they sound truly amazing. The sound from these little earbuds is so pleasing that it is hard to imagine that everything is being produced by just a 6mm driver. When you choose to use an EQ preset from the Sony app, the music wont sound like a filter was applied on top of it. The sound quality fundamentally seems to change, which I personally found to be very impressive. Listening to Infected Mushrooms Return to the Sauce on the Sony WF-1000X was just as pleasurable as listening to it on my V-Moda LP2 (playing on an LG V30+ through PowerAmp). These are impressive earbuds in every way that you would expect them to be, but the problem of potential interference messing with the right earbud is a deal breaker.
Calls on the Sony WF-1000X
Sony has designed the WF-1000X to use the left earbud as the master and the right one as secondary. For calls, the left earbud is prioritised, acting as both the speaker and the mic. The left earbud also comes with noise cancellation for the microphone so that you can have conversations without the trouble of too much disturbance. In my use, people I spoke to using Sonys wireless earbuds said that they heard me loud enough and that my voice didnt sound like it was coming from far away. One person did report excessive rubbing noise during the phone call, but that just turned out to my hoody rubbing against the earpiece.
The WF-1000X also come with Google Assistant support,and you can invokeit by long pressing the button on the right earpiece. Unfortunately, saying ok Google does not do the trick, which is a bummer. Having the Assistant button on the right earbud when the left one is Master also makes for a cumbersome approach. This means that if you want use Google Assistant to make a call, youre going to have to have both earbuds in your ear. Bad news for people who use Bluetooth earpieces while driving. Hopefully, Sony can release a software update that will map the button on the left power button to also invoke Assistant, maybe using a combination of presses.
Sense Engine and Noise Cancellation
Sony has really made some noise about the Sense Engine built intoitsnew line of wireless audio products. Sense engine essentially works by detecting your movement and surrounding sound at all times, and tunes the noise cancellation accordingly. There are four profiles here, Staying, Walking, Running and Transport. You can define the noise cancellation level for each of the profiles and the Sense Engine automatically toggles between them based on the input it receives. You get three noise cancellation settings; complete noise cancellation, noise cancellation which allows ambient voices through and noise cancellation with some ambient sound (helpful if youre on a busy road).
As small as the WF-1000X may be, this also means they come with a relatively small battery. Sony says the WF-1000X will last about 3 hours of continuous playback with noise cancellation turned on, which is more or less within the range I got. I managed to keep playback going for 2 hours and 48 minutes before the earbuds died. The case provides two top-ups, meaning an additional 6 hours of playtime. Again, my experience was in-line with Sonys claims. The case itself charges through a micro-USB port at the back, but does not offer a battery level indicator. All you get is a single light that lights up when the case is charging and switches off when it is fully charged. The lack of an indicator is worrisome because the likelihood of getting onto a flight without enough charge on the battery pack is a very likely scenario, especially for people who are on the move a lot.
The Bottom line
Would I buy the Sony WF-1000X? Absolutely. Am I going to buy the Sony WF-1000X? Not until Sony fixes the connectivity issue on the right earbud. There is literally nothing else I can find wrong with these earbuds. I love the way it is able to handle such varied types of sound signatures so effectively. Whether I was listening to Modeselektors Black Block (with its skull thumbing bass) or to the riveting voice of Maynard James Keenan of Tool, these buds were a great way to listen to it all. I would buy this for the convenience it offers while I walk my dog, having both hands free in case I need to pry him away from going places where he shouldnt. All in all, every aspect of the WF-1000X is impressive by itself and when you take into account just how much Sony has managed to squeeze out of (or rather into) something this small, the earbuds become even more impressive, with one critical flaw; the connectivity issue.
Expert Rating: 3 / 5
- Plenty of fit options
- Great sound
- Good noise cancellation
- Right bud suffers from connectivity issue
- No battery indicator for the charging case
- Ok Google voice command doesnt work