Listening to your favorite tunes while you are traveling is one of the better ways to commute, and you can do that by using wireless noise-canceling headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM3 provides you with an uninterrupted music listening experience without disturbing the others around you. To further enhance this experience, you might think that a headphone amp will help but hold that thought.
First, we should find out more about the Sony WH-1000XM3 such as their merits and sonic characteristics, how good they really sound. When we have consolidated all these important details, we can then decide if is necessary to get an additional headphone amplifier or DAC. So without further ado, let’s learn more about these noise-canceling headphones.
Sonic Characteristics and Merits of Sony WH-1000XM3
The Sony WH-1000XM3 is one of the most popular wireless headphones and is highly rated by their satisfied owners. One of their greatest strengths is how good they look, with their stylish and sleek design. Is a pity it uses plastic instead of metal, as it does make it look less premium. The positive side of things is that it does make them lighter in weight thus more comfortable to wear. The soft and pressure-relieving earpads help to evenly distribute the pressure, making it even more comfortable to wear and feel even lighter. The level of comfort that the Sony WH-1000XM3 provides allows us to wear them for a long period of time without feeling fatigue which is great for long traveling sessions.
Looking past the comfy earpads, you will see 40mm dome type (CCAW Voice coil) driver units. These are exceptional drivers capable of producing a frequency response of 4Hz-40kHz. When it comes to Bluetooth, the frequency responses of Sony WH-1000XM3 are different, for 44.1kHz sampling is at 20Hz – 20kHz and for LDAC 96kHz Sampling 990kbps, it is at 20Hz – 40kHz. The closed-back design does provide a more powerful bass performance though. Another notable feature of the WH-1000XM3 headphones will be their Voice Assistant feature, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Siri.
You can easily fold the ear cups and put them into a compact carry case, it also comes with a cable for wired listening. The impedance of the Sony WH-1000XM3 via wired listening is 47 Ohm (1kHz) with the unit turned on, and 16 Ohm (1kHz) with the unit turned off. It seems to be quite easy to drive. For a closed-back headphone, it has quite an expansive and spacious sound, which is mesmerizing, to say the least. The soundstage is focused and highly defined, not to mention, there are plenty of musical details to boot. The vocals are clean-sounding with clarity, and the imaging is precise.
As expected from a closed-back headphone, the bass reproduction of the Sony WH-1000XM3 is superb. It is tight and deep, which blends in nicely with the rest of the higher frequencies. The overall music delivery is engaging and powerful, but it does lack a little refinement and the subtlest of details are overshadowed by the emphasized bass. The noise-canceling feature is really superb, one of the finest in the world, the Sony WH-1000XM3 effortlessly blocks out most of the environmental noises, allowing you to listen to more of your sweet music. The sound leakage control is good as well but at very high volumes, it does leak out the music/sound you are hearing.
With such amazing noise-canceling capability and a high level of comfort, furthermore, the sound quality is really impressive for a headphone at this price point and category, the Sony WH-1000XM3 is really worth the investment. This headphone not only looks good but also sounds good, more important it serves its function really well. What Sony WH-1000XM3 needs now is pairing with the right headphone amp but wireless headphones have this predicament which does deter them from getting or have a need of any headphone amps at all.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Specifications
- Wearing Style: Circumaural
- Headphone Type: Closed, Dynamic
- Frequency Response: 4Hz-40kHz
- Frequency Response (Active Operation): 4Hz-40kHz
- Frequency Response (Bluetooth Communication): 20Hz-20kHz (44.1kHz Sampling) / 20Hz-40kHz (LDAC 96kHz Sampling, 990kbps)
- Impedance: Via wired listening is 47 Ohm (1kHz) with the unit turned on, and 16 Ohm (1kHz) with the unit turned off
- Inputs: Stereo Mini Jack
- Cable Length: 1.2 meters (3.9 feet)
- Weight: 255g (0.56lbs)
Best Headphone Amps to pair with Sony WH-1000XM3
Wireless headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3 have their own internal DAC/Amp when powered up so you can’t really change their base sonic character. Still, you can make full use of their best quality which is wireless/music streaming. You can use a Portable Bluetooth Audio Transceiver with aptX Low Latency and plug it into the source such as your laptop, etc. The Creative BT-W2 will be an amazing choice and is really affordable. This will really make full use of Sony WH-1000XM3 wireless mode.
Another way to enhance sound quality will be improving the audio sources, for instance, a compressed mp3 audio file will never beat the sound quality of a lossless audio file. Music streaming services such as Spotify will provide higher audio streaming quality when you subscribe to their premium services. Tidal will be another amazing music streaming website to go for as it offers CD-quality streaming. One of the most important factors that determine the sound quality will always be the audio source so you may want to look into this area more. You can also use a DAP and connect directly to it, see if you like the sound quality coming from a wired connection. You can check out Sony NW-ZX300 which is a highly rated 64GB Digital Music Player.
You can do a test on your own, by auditioning some of the more popular DACs and/or headphone amplifiers, see if you can hear any difference or improvements. More than likely the sound quality is more or less the same and you must also take into account the environment you are in when auditioning these headphone amps. The EarStudio ES100 might be a good start and is really affordable, furthermore, it is highly rated. Talking about the environment, sometimes a change of listening area where is quieter will help improve the sound quality and your music listening experience.
Updating the firmware of Sony WH-1000XM3 to the latest version might help with improving the sound quality. You can find out what’s your current version by using the Sony Headphones Connect application. You simply need to follow the steps which you can find on the Sony Firmware Update to Version 4.5.2 page. By updating to the latest version, you not only improve the security and might even get new features/updates which will improve the overall sound quality of your Sony WH-1000XM3. Do a periodic check for updates, it is worth the effort.
To Sum It Up
If you really want better sound quality for your music listens, we will suggest going for other headphones which are non-wireless and do not have an inbuilt DAC/amp. You will be trading off the convenience and noise-canceling function of which the Sony WH-1000XM3 has though. There are also cases where users have multiple headphones specifically for different purposes or needs. All in all, the Sony WH-1000XM3 is an amazing all-rounder headphone that you can really enjoy without the need of any headphone amplifier, as long you are not trying to be too analytical when listening to your songs/music.