This is an in-depth review of the Sony WH-1000XM2 Bluetooth noise cancelling wireless headphones and a comparison to their predecessor, the Sony MDR1000X.
To find out what other excellent noise cancelling headphones are out there, check out my complete round-up.
Sony WH-1000XM2 vs. MDR1000X
Sony WH-1000XM2 Review
- Adaptive and customizable noise cancellation
- Incredibly authentic sound signature
- “Quick Attention” feature
- Intuitive touch controls
- Best-in-class 30-hour battery life
The Sony WH-1000XM2 is the successor to the older Sony MDR1000X headphones, and a step up from the less expensive WH-H900N. The materials Sony used for its flagship device don’t look cheap, but neither do they feel like premium build quality.
For the headband, Sony chose exposed stainless steel, which looks cool. Unfortunately, all the other components are made from the same plastic as the entry-level WH-H900N set of headphones.
The sound quality and active noise cancellation (ANC) offered by the WH-1000XM2 are top-notch and on par with the Bose QuietComfort 35 that I have owned for the past few years. I’d argue that the audio quality of the Sony headphones is even better than that of the Bose.
To help you fine-tune how the noise cancelling works, Sony provides different modes and customization options via its mobile app. Additionally, if you give the app access to your location, it can automatically detect if you’re in a car, bus, train or airplane, or if you’re stationary, walking or running.
On top of that, the Sony WH-1000XM2 has an atmospheric pressure sensor that you can use to adjust the ANC level based on how you wear the headphones and any changes in pressure (for instance, if you’re aboard an airplane). I tried optimizing the noise cancellation settings while on a recent flight to D.C., but didn’t notice a considerable difference compared to the standard settings.
In other words, noise cancellation worked excellent both before and after running the optimizer.
Audio and Sound Quality
The audio and sound quality of the Sony WH-1000XM2 are excellent, thanks to the various technology innovations Sony built into this pair of headphones, including:
- DSEE HX
- aptX HD
Without going into too much detail, these audio formats enable the transmission of more bandwidth over Bluetooth, and they restore the high-range sound lost in compression of commonly-used audio file formats.
As a result, you get incredibly hi-res audio output that you can further customize using the Sony mobile app (which is available for both Android and iOS devices).
As of this writing, I have worn this pair of headphones for approximately three hours and they still feel good—especially on my skull. But I can already tell that I’m developing minor pressure points around my ears, which is likely caused by the relatively small openings of the ear pads.
Overall, I would rate the comfort level of these over-ear headphones about the same as the Bose QuietComfort 35 and much higher than the Beats Studio wireless series.
The Sony WH-1000XM2 features the most extended battery life I have seen in wireless noise cancelling headphones. Fully charged, you can use them for up to 30 hours non-stop. If you turn off the active noise canceling option, you get eight more hours of battery life.
That’s incredible, and it competes with some of the wired headphones I have recently tested. If you do run out of battery, a 10-minute quick charge gets you another 70 minutes of battery life. That’s nothing short of amazing!
To test the quality of the microphone in these headphones, I used the Voice Memos app on my iPhone. First, I recorded a short sentence without any ambient noise, and then I added some synthetic noise via iTunes. You can listen to the results using the embedded audio file below.
If you can’t play the embedded media file in your browser, you can download the M4A file directly from here.
Overall, the high-definition microphone performed very well in quiet environments, but I wouldn’t recommend using these headphones for regular phone calls if there’s a lot of ambient noise.
Similar to the WH-H900N, Sony’s flagship noise canceling headphones feature intuitive touch controls rather than physical buttons. I have genuinely grown fond of the ability to swipe and double tap to change the volume, skip a track or pause playback.
Aside from the touch sensor, these wireless headphones do have both a real power button and a button to switch ANC on and off, and Sony conveniently located them on the left ear cup.
What would have been a nice addition is a sensor to automatically stop playback when I take off the headphones; unfortunately, that’s a feature missing from these otherwise excellent ANC headphones.
Sony’s mobile connect app lets you control the sound and noise cancellation features of your wireless headphones, including:
- Toggle on/off the ambient sound control, with optional focus on voice
- Run the noise canceling optimizer with atmospheric pressure check
- Control the microphone by selecting the direction of the sound
- Fine-tune the surround sound
- Adjust the equalizer
- Turn DSEE HX on or off
- Prioritize connection stability or audio quality
- Update the headphones’ firmware
When I took the headphones out of their box, I noticed that a firmware update was available. According to the app, the update would take 27 minutes on Android and 37 minutes on iOS to install. In my tests, the firmware update took even longer (40 minutes).
In comparison, I have updated equivalent headphones from other brands in five minutes or less, so I’m not sure what takes so long with this model.
Overall, I’m satisfied with the performance of these headphones—especially considering the lower price tag compared with some of the other high-end models I tested as part of my round-up.
The MSRP for the Sony WH-1000XM2 is $349.99, which I consider reasonable for the excellent value the headphones provide.
What’s in the Box?
The Sony WH-1000XM2 comes with a hard-shell case to protect the headphones while they’re not in use, an audio cable with a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a micro-USB cable for charging, and a warranty card.
Sony WH-1000XM2 vs. MDR1000X
If you’re thinking of purchasing the older MDR1000X to save a few bucks, I’ve got bad news for you. Based on my research, the MDR1000X seems to sell for a higher price than the newer and better WH-1000XM2.
Besides the price, the newer model also offers 10 hours more battery life with ANC turned on, and a whopping 16 hours more with ANC turned off.
|Wireless||Bluetooth 4.1||Bluetooth 4.1|
|Battery life (Wireless playback, ANC on)||20 hours||30 hours|
|Battery life (Wired playback, ANC on)||20 hours||N/A|
|Battery life (Wireless, only ANC on)||N/A||N/A|
|Battery life (Wireless playback, ANC off)||22 hours||38 hours|
|Charging time||4 hours||4 hours|
|Quick charge||✘||10 min for 70 min|
|Audio||DSEE HX, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC||DSEE HX, S-MASTER HX, SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC|
|Noise cancellation||Active noise-cancelling||Active, AI, Customizable, Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing|
|Microphone||Electret condenser microphone||High-definition|
|Playback controls||Touch sensor||Touch sensor|
|Material of earpieces||Synthetic||Synthetic|
ANC: Green = Excellent (25db+) | Yellow = Good (21 – 24db) | Red = OK (20db)
MIC: Green = Good | Yellow = OK | Red = Poor | Blue = Not tested
Sony WH-1000XM2 Review
The Sony WH-1000XM2 are among my favorite wireless headphones with noise cancelling technology for the following reasons:
First, because they are incredibly comfortable to wear for extended periods. Second, because they produce outstanding sound and provide an almost unmatched listening experience. And third, because their active noise cancellation works almost as well as my Bose QuietComfort 35.
I have also truly enjoyed Sony’s touch-enabled playback controls and the “Quick Attention” feature. As a result, I would highly recommend the WH-1000XM2 to anyone who is willing to shell out $350 for a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
I hope you enjoyed this review, and if you did, let me know by leaving a comment below. If you did not, let me know as well!
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