Sony WH-1000XM2 Review: What makes them so good!

The Sony WH-1000XM2 has an unnecessarily complicated name, but its feature set is equally complete, and it’s design, features, comfort, and sound quality, make it possibly the best wireless headphone you can buy this year. Hey guys, I am Siddharth, and we’re going to talk about all of that, in this video.

In the box, you get a very nice carrying case, a micro USB cable for charging, an adapter for airplanes, and a right angled 3.5mm cable. But the input jack on these headphones is a little sunken in, so you may not be able to use your standard aux cables.

DESIGN

The design of these headphones is something that I really like, these really look tastefully modern, and even have little bit of a futuristic look. The design is pretty mimalistic, and I like it that way.

These come in two colors, black for people like me who prefer an understated look, and there’s also a gold color for people who find the black version to be too dull. The gold version also looks more premium if you care about that, and from what I’ve read, it also holds up well with time.

The headband is made of metal, and has a very soft cushioning, the rest of the headphone is plastic, and I wish they used more metal here, especially on the earcup hinges.

The earcups fold inside, and even though they have a 90 degree roration, they cannot be laid flat on your chest without adjusting the headband. The mechanism feels durable, but not very abuse proof. And with the added weight you would have to be careful about not dropping these.

We have two buttons on the left earcup, there’s a power and pairing button at the bottom, and a sound control button above it.

The ambient sound control button switches between noise cancellation, ambient sound, and an ‘off’ mode. You can also long press it to launch adaptive sound control mode, which we’ll talk about later.

All the other controls are on the right earcup which has a touch sensitive outer side. You can double tap to play/pause your media, or to attend calls, slide up and down to control volume, and slide front and back to go to the next or previous item in the playlist.

You can also long press at the centre and this will launch the Google assistant.

All of these controls work well, but you’ll often make the swipe in a less than perfect direction, which can make you go to the next song when you intend to change volume, so you’ll have to get used to making the horizontal and vertical swipes accurately.

Since the volume changes in 32 steps, it may require 7-8 swipes to change the volume significantly, which is a lot. Thankfully, if you swipe and hold your finger up or down, it’ll change the volume much faster.

FEATURES

These headphones are packed with features, and when I say ‘features’, I do not mean unusable and needless additions or gimmicks, but the kind of features that once you try, you won’t be able to live without, and you’ll wonder why this wasn’t done before.

For example, you can also put your palm on the right earcup, which lowers the volume of music, and the headphones go into a temporary ambient sound mode, so if you need to hear someone trying to talk to you, or want to cross the road, this makes it very convenient, and it’s very easy and natural to activate.

The app that Sony has for these headphones is really great, it shows you the Noise Cancellation listed as Ambient Sound Control, and this naming makes a lot of sense, because you can not only enable or disable the noise cancellation, but can also control how strong you want it to be, and this works surprisingly well.

And now let’s talk about my favorite feature on these headphones. So in the ambient sound control mode, you can enable an option ‘Focus on voice’, and what it does is cancel the noise around you, except for the frequency that human speech is in. And this works really well, the high and low frequency noise will be cancelled, but if someone tries to talk to you, you’ll be able to hear them well. And this makes these headphones very versatile, and they also remember they your noise cancellation settings, so you don’t need the app to reconfigure them if you switch devices.

The app also offers other features, like an equalizer, and the direction the sound seems to come from. These features work well, but you cannot use them in the high quality connection mode, which is unfortunate.

You can connect your phone directly using NFC, which also turns the headphone on, making the connection very convenient to make.

NOISE CANCELLATION

What happens a lot of time with other products, is that when you enable noise cancellation, it may affect the quality of sound, or it might make you feel a bit odd. But the noise cancellation on these really does not affect the sound at all, in fact when I was comparing the sound quality, they always sounded better with noise cancellation enabled because they cancelled the sounds around me which I didn’t even realize were there.

The passive noise isolation that these headphones have, is already good, but activating the noise cancellation just takes them to the next level. The low frequencies get blocked really well, the mid frequencies get cancelled well too, but you can hear the high frequencies to some extent.

So the noise of constant frequencies, like an aeroplane engine or an air conditioner will get cancelled really well, but I also found them to be surprisingly good at cancelling inconsistent sounds, like traffic on road.

There’s also an optimizer which sounds really cool when you turn it on, and this can be activated by pressing the noise cancellation button, it takes a few seconds to analyze your environment, and even the atmospheric pressure, but I didn’t find it to make a significant difference in the quality of noise cancellation, it might work better in some environments, but in my experience, it didn’t make a significant improvement. It make a difference in airplanes.

There’s also an adaptive noise cancellation mode, which adjusts the noise cancellation levels depending on whether you’re walking, standing, or sitting.

These headphones have LDAC, which is an audio codec developed by Sony, allowing a 990 kbit/s 24bit connection up to 96 khz. I really didn’t think that this would make a difference, as beyond a certain point, you don’t get much improvement by increasing the bitrate, but after listening to them with LDAC enabled in my phone, it did sound like I was listening to a higher quality DAC. So this is again, a great feature to have in a wireless headphone.

They also received a software update, which makes the Google Assistant better integrated with these, but it replaces the noise cancellation button with the Assistant button, which wasn’t my thing, as I use the noise cancellation button much more often.

SOUND QUALITY

Now coming on to the sound quality, these headphones sound really great, and with some tweaking, they can also please the seasoned audiophiles. These headphones sound good without any tweaking, but with some adjustments using an equalizer, these can really be taken to a next level.

I’d say that they are very comparable to $200 wired headphones, when it comes to sound quality.

For reference, these still don’t have the same level of detail as something like the m50x, but they come really close, with a better soundstage, and overall presentation of sound.

Starting with the low frequencies, it would actually have surprised me if these weren’t a bassier set of headphones coming from Sony. The bass is definitely boosted, but not in a bad way, it can be enjoyable in many tracks, but it definitely does bleed into the mids, which does affect the overall sound quality in a negative way. Thankfully, it is very easy to fix, and once you use an equalizer to turn down the low frequencies up to 300 Hz by 2.5 dB, the bass becomes really balanced and I enjoy it a lot.

The mids on these headphones are great, but without equalization, they may not sound that great because of the bass bleeding into it. The voices and vocals are clear, detailed, and sound very natural, so this is really great for watching movies and TV shows, and for listening to music with vocals.

Coming on to the highs, these are good, but not that great, if you do not use an equalizer, the boosted bass will result in you not really being able to enjoy the highs. I am a person who generally doesn’t mind rolled off highs, but out of the box, these do sound like just a little bit is missing in the highs. With the bass reduced by an equalizer, you can turn up the high frequencies above 9K, just by 0.5 dB, and that gives these the little bit extra they need to sound really great.

So to sum up the sound character of these headphones, these are the typical consumer oriented, and so are tuned that way. These sound good in general, but these equalizer tweaks really unlock their potential, and makes these sound amazing.

The soundstage on these headphones really surprised me with how wide it was. It is really great for a pair of closed back headphones, and that makes the music listening a really pleasureable experience, there’s also a good degree of separation, so all of that really makes these headphones stand out.

COMFORT

And now let’s talk about the comfort. So if you’ve watched my other headphone reviews, you’d see that I find very few headphones to be comfortable enough for long time wear. I have bigger than average ears, and I wear glasses, so not many headphones are comfortable for me. But I find these headphones to be really comfortable and I think that Sony has just nailed it with the softness of the memory foam cushions, the clamping pressure, the shape, and depth of the earpads.

I’d even say that these are almost as comfortable as the HD 598 for me, which are one of the most comfortable headphones available.

I can wear these for 2 hours without any problem, which is a lot for me,  it does get sweaty after a while, but that’s what you get with a seal that is as good as this.

One issue I faced with these headphones was at the gym, while doing inclined situps, these would just fall off my head, which is a consequence of a comfortable clamping force, and a heavy weight. So for gym, I do prefer my HD 4.40BT over these, which are much less comfortable, but do not slip from my head. And these headphones also get quite sweaty at the gym, so while these can be used at gym, I didn’t find them to be ideal for it.

BATTERY LIFE

Sony says that these headphones can go up to 30 hours with noise cancellation on, which I found to be quite accurate, and up to 38 hours if noise cancellation is turned off, and that is a very long period of time, a 10 minute charge on these can give you up to a 70 minute playback time, though, charging completely takes around 4 hours.

The in-built microphone also sounds great. Whenever I talk using these headphones, the person on other side does feel that I am not talking through the phone’s microphone, but it is still clear enough, and I’ve never had a problem with phone calls.

CONCLUSION

So in conclusion, I can say that while these are on the pricier side of the spectrum, they are totally worth it, especially if you need the features it offers. They sound great, the noise cancellation is really good, and the extra features these offer are truly useful, and work really well. There are a very few things that I would change about these headphones and this is one of those products, which is as good as everyone says, and if you’re planning to go for these, you can be assured that you will be really happy with your purchase.

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