Full disclosure: It’s been a very long while since I had the chance to put together a gadget review; that is until the Sony WI-1000X Wireless NC In-Ears Headphones came my way. For the uninformed, NC is short for noise-cancelling.
Keep in mind that my long absence from the gadget review scene would have some adverse influence. The last time I worked on a high-spec pair of headphones had been the Sony MDR-1000X. Now that is a dream to review!
It’s a Sony
Since it’s a Sony device – and headphones at that – it feels very much like the perfect way to reinvigorate myself. Get back into the game, so to speak.
On a personal level, this could be a ‘Welcome Back’ salute. Indeed, that may be the case when I put on the Sony WI-1000X Wireless NC Headphones, AKA Sony WI-1000X. Upon turning it on and putting in the sound-test list, positive vibes and feelings of nostalgia immediately surged forward. Without any doubt, this is a flagship entry that is very much filled with Sony DNA.
Well, it’s a Sony after all!
The mark of a premium device always starts with the packaging. If it falls short, then it will affect the initial impression. Of course, for now, I would allow for any minor misgivings the Sony WI-1000X may have. The packaging, at first glance, feels like some forgiveness is necessary.
Simply done in white with the device parked on the right, with some crop done. It feels a little plain at the first glance.
However, upon closer inspection, I felt Sony did consider the design purposefully. A plain white package with just the product and some feature markings placed below – it’s minimalist to a point.
Seamless by Design
Honestly, how much can Sony do to make a neckband in-ear headphones look and feel like a premium product? Plenty, since the electronics giant took into consideration every minute detail it could meddle with.
Unlike the packaging, the all-black case within is seamless and free of markings. Only the brand name – Sony – is present on the centre of the top-lid. Within, the Sony WI-1000X sits in protective soft-foam and stored underneath are the basic accessories. This includes the soft-pouch, in-flight adaptor, 3.5mm audio jack, and micro-USB charging cable.
Oddly, two have been missing from the review unit: the in-flight adaptor and micro-USB charging cable. This is not a big problem, especially with the latter. It just feels strange not to be able to have the complete set in my hands.
In terms of looks for the Sony WI-1000X, it is definitely a few notches higher than the average neckband-type in-ears. While most brands would mostly use plastic with some metal accents thrown in, Sony took the road less travelled. Where the housing for the electronics and noise-cancelling system is all hardened plastic, the neckpiece is uses smooth gunmetal that. Soft leather completes the list of materials to ensure maximum comfort.
The use of lightweight materials and putting user comfort first are big plus points. Personally, I had no issue going about my day with the Sony WI-1000X hanging on my neck all the time. Most times, I even forget the in-ears are even there.
Materials are not the only aspect Sony has considered when it made the Sony WI-1000X. Even the user experience is part of the thought process as every aspect, design wise, has a function.
User controls are on the left-side of the neckband with large embeds to make it easy to identify by touch. This is where the micro-USB port, for recharging and what the 3.5mm plugs into, is at as well. As for the right end, only the noise-cancelling soft-toggle is present.
Knowing how dangling in-ears can be annoying, the Sony WI-1000X has subtle grooves placed on the ends of the neckband. This is for easy-storing of the cables. It’s a matter of tucking the wires into the slots and simply tugging them out when they’re in use.
Silence is Golden
The Sony WI-1000X is not the first noise-cancelling in-ears entry for the electronics giant. It is, however, the latest in its segment to offer more than a fair bit of functions. On the in-ears, the noise-cancelling is exactly like the previous Sony headset review I did years ago: the Sony MDR-1000X. It’s the very first entry from Sony with impressive noise cancelling and that left a very lasting impression on me.
With the Sony WI-1000X, there are two user modes available for the noise-cancelling function. Full-on, this feature knocks-out all sound that can filter through the ear-buds. Only the deepest of frequencies make it in and, even then, the NC quashes it to the point of non-existence.
On the train, the only thing I could hear from the outside surroundings are the clanking of the wheels. Even the high-pitch screech from the brakes are no longer audible. The Sony WI-1000X NC capability is that effective in terms of performance.
The second mode – Ambient Sound – opens the way for external sounds to filter in. This makes sure users don’t lose themselves in the music, making it very suitable for those who prefer walking. It also works for commuters who want to remain aware of their surroundings. The same goes for drivers, though I must insist not to take calls if at all possible when driving.
Interestingly, with the NC off, there is some level of passive blocking of external noises. The in-ears fit in snugly, ensuring there is some level of sound blockage. Does it really work? To a point, yes. Personally, it does the job well and comes in handy if the battery runs out.
Week Long Use
As for the battery life of the Sony WI-1000X, it is truly impressive. With the way I have been using it for this review, it chug along for close to a week; from full-to-flat. The usage experience consists of occasional music listening all-day mixed in with sporadic usage while on the road. All-in-all, it did better than what Sony has promised on paper.
Keep in mind that the NC aspect switched from Full On to Ambient Sound and back throughout the review. This contributes somewhat to how the battery performed.
Sony WI-1000X Delivers
Short summary of the performance of this high-spec Sony NC wireless entry: superb sound.
This being a pair of earphones from Sony, its features and the innovations used cover a few critical milestones. Beyond the unparalleled NC, the Sony WI-1000X packs in studio-grade sound-staging.
Using it to play Spotify streams and YouTube videos, I can boldly declare the audio delivery packs a punch. Every nuance from instruments and vocal elements in the songs that have been used in this review can be detected easily. It might be me, but I feel they also have gained new audio characteristics.
From the quiet hums of Madonna’s This Used to be My Playground; to the howling chants of Freddie Mercury’s Blue Rhasphody; and the roaring riffs of Steve Vai’s electric axe – everything came out with sharp clarity and sweet precision.
Even movie soundtracks gain new perspectives on the Sony WI-1000X, all thanks to its 9mm Balanced Armature dynamic drivers. While the test-list for headphones that PC.com use is varied and extensive, these are the ones Spotify feature:
For personal pleasure, I also put on my favourite jams, a mix of KPOP and Anisongs. It’s pretty long too so here are a few for anyone’s listening pleasure
Other Sony proprietary audio optimisations are also available on the Sony WI-1000X. This includes the Sony High-Resolution Audio feature that leverages on the powered hardware the in-ears use. Comprising the the S-Master HX and Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX, both enhance the sound delivery of this earphones.
The Sony Headphones App adds a couple of other user functions that enhance the sound delivery too. This includes the Sony Sense Engine and Adaptive Sound Control. Both allow users to tailor their listening experience to ensure they are always aware of their surroundings.
Whenever I go for walks, the app can detect what I am doing and adjust the mode accordingly. Most times, the switch is spot-on. There had been one minor error – when I sat at my desk, the app switch to ‘Walking’ a few times. This has occurred several times.
All-in-all, I expected studio-grade sound delivery and got more than what I asked for. The performance stepped up when the noise-cancelling engages, adding more audible depth that are usually achieved with proper sound-proofing.
I truly did not expect the Sony WI-1000X to blow my ears away and my mind. It did that and more with its audio delivery and near-perfect NC capabilities. Personally, this would be my go-to-headphones if I didn’t manage to get my hands on the dated Sony MDR-1000X or brand-new Sony WH-1000XM2.
Verdict: This, hands-down, is the best in-ear headphones I have used to date. Studio-grade sound with pro-active noise-cancelling go hand-in-hand so well with this Sony personal sound device.