Sony WF-1000x true wireless headphones review: Amazing sound, lackluster noise-cancelling tech

These headphones sound great, but come up lacking in other areas.

sony wh 1000x
Sony
At a Glance

If the notion of a $198 set of true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation sounds a little too good to be true, it’s because it is. While Sony’s WF-1000x Noise Cancelling True Wireless Headphones sound great, their ANC functionality and battery life leave a lot to be desired.

Hardware 

Available in black or gold, the WF-1000x are a little larger than some of the other true wireless earbuds that we’ve looked at, like the Jaybird Runs or the B&O Beoplay E8s. Sony hasn’t referenced their exact dimensions online, but I can tell you that they’re smaller than the Bose SoundSport Free—a fact that will be welcomed by a lot of people. Most of each earbud’s 0.24-ounce weight sits outside of your ears while you’re wearing them. To ensure that they stay in place, Sony designed them to nestle far into the ear canal and provided them with rubber stabilization fins for good measure. The WF-1000x ship with four different sizes of ear caps, so most people shouldn’t have a problem making a secure fit, provided the shape of the earbuds allows you to get them into your ears.

If you planned on learning how to use these earbuds using the included instructions, you’re gonna have a bad day. In the finest tradition of Ikea, the WF-1000x’s “how-to roadmap” consists entirely of pictograms. I get that Sony ships the same hardware to a wide variety of international locales, but localized instructions would be a good get for most consumers. True wireless headphones are a relatively new technology and some people might need a bit of help to get up and running.

Once you’ve got a handle on their functionality, pairing and using the WF-1000x is relatively straightforward—pair the left headphone to your audio source and the right one will follow.

If your handset allows for NFC pairing, it’s even easier: Just tap your phone against the WF-1000x’s battery case and you’re in business. Unfortunately, controlling your music with these things in your ears doesn’t come so easy. There are no buttons or touch panels designated to handle this task. If you want to noodle with the volume of your audio or change the track that you’re listening to, you’ll have to fish your phone out of your pocket.

Sony swears that you’ll get around three hours of music out of the WF-1000x before they need to be slapped back into their charging case. I consistently found that this number is actually about 30 to 40 minutes shorter. That’s not good. 2.5 hours of use is a drag if you use your headphones to drown out noise at work or during the din of a flight across the country. As the earbuds take just over 90 minutes to gain a full charge, users will suffer long gaps between uses. That’s a shame, as they sound great.

The WF-1000x battery case holds an additional six hours’ worth of power for the earbuds. While the case’s sturdy aluminum exterior should keep the earbuds safe while they’re banged about in a purse or backpack, I have some concerns about the build quality of its insides—when in the case, the earbuds are held in place by a pair of retractable plastic clips, and I’m concerned that these could wear down or break over time.

Sound quality

The big draw of the WF-1000x is that they’re the first true wireless headphones with ANC. However, after wearing these for a week in various noisy environments, I don’t feel that the technology did much to block out any noise from the outside world. I could hear almost as much of what was going on around me with ANC turned on as I was with it turned off. I’m positive that the passive noise cancelling most users will get from ensuring their silicon or foam ear caps fit well provides more noise cancellation. In most cases with these things, passive noise cancellation is more than adequate. But that’s not what you’re signing up for when you paid for a set of WF-1000x. It’s disappointing that Sony’s excellent ANC is so unimpressive here.

Happily, with their 6mm drivers, the WF-1000x sound good enough to almost forget how much their ANC sucks. They offer excellent, warm bass response and crisp mids and highs with ample stereo separation. While they can’t match the audio provided by B&O’s Beoplay E8, they come very close for $100 less. And, like the E8s and Jaybird Run, it’s possible to tinker with EQ settings using a free app (get the app here).

The bottom line

The WF-1000x sound good enough that they could have been a hit with mobile music lovers. But their disappointing ANC performance and lack of on-headphone controls makes them hard to recommend in light of other more capable options.

At a Glance
  • The WF-1000x sound good enough that they could have been a hit with mobile music lovers. But their disappointing ANC performance and lack of on-headphone controls makes them hard to recommend in light of other more capable options.

    Pros

    • Provide great audio that can be tweaked via a free app
    • Comfortable
    • Can be paired via Bluetooth or NFC

    Cons

    • Lackluster ANC
    • No onboard controls for changing/pausing/playing audio tracks
    • Shorter battery life than the competition
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