Sony has changed the shape of the headband. The WH-1000MX2 (left) has a more rounded shape while the WH-1000MX3 (right) has a more oval shape.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is still lighter at 235 grams versus 254 grams for this. But Sony is now neck-and-neck with Bose in terms of comfort, which had been one of Bose’s advantages.
The other big change is that Sony has moved from Micro-USB to USB-C charging. As part of the switch, there’s a new quick-charge feature that gives you 5 hours of use from a 10-minute charge. That’s pretty impressive — and the 30 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels is also great.
I was a little critical of the headset performance in my review of the earlier 1000X models. For the WH-1000XM3, the engineers shifted to a new multimicrophone array system that filters out background noise while picking up your voice during calls. I made several calls, and headset performance definitely has improved and has now become more of a strength than a weakness.
There are a few other cosmetic changes. The exterior finish on the ear cups, where you’ll find the touch controls, is smoother. And the carrying case is slightly different. It reserves a spot for the short USB-C cable as well as the included headphone cable — yes, you can use this as a wired headphone, great for the plane’s in-flight entertainment system — and it sounds great in wired mode.
Sony reps told me this model has the same drivers as its excellent MDR-1AM2 headphone, and I think this sounds better than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II: it sounds more natural with a little better definition, clarity and strong, punchy bass. There is some bass push — I found myself wanting to lower the volume on one our test bass tracks, Alt-J’s 3WW, to tone things down a bit. But the bass doesn’t get boomy, it’s just muscular. Overall, the headphone is very clean sounding for a Bluetooth headphone and sounds nice and open (for a closed-back headphone anyway).