Sony WH-1000X M2 review: Oustanding over-ear headphones that bring nuance to noise-cancellation

Sony WH-1000X M2
  • Sony WH-1000X M2
  • Sony WH-1000X M2
  • Sony WH-1000X M2
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Very versatile noise-cancelling
  • Sound great

Cons

  • Touch controls still a bit gimmicky
  • Conventional, albeit convenient, form-factor

Bottom Line

Whether you’re in it for the hi-res audio, noise-cancelling, competitive-price or long-haul battery life - these headphones feel like a slam dunk.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

To many, even those who avidly use them everyday, noise-cancelling is a binary thing. A toggle. On or off. Yes or no. Click - and the silence makes makes the music sound better. It’s nice, but often another box to tick on the average feature-set of today’s over-ear headphones.

However, like anything, there’s nuance to be found here - and Sony’s new WH-1000X M2 noise cancelling over-ear headphones tap into that nuance to great effect. With these headphones, Sony aren’t treating noise-cancelling as simple box worth ticking. It’s the ‘main event’ and it is afforded the nuance it deserves, courtesy of Sony’s own Sense Engine and Sony Headphones app.

Of course - these aren’t just better than the original WH-1000X M2, they’re also cheaper. Combined with a still-solid factor and buffed battery life, they’re a strong contender for the best travel headphones out there.

Specs

The Sony WH-1000X M2s are a set of noise-cancelling over ear headphones that can pull music from a smart device over Bluetooth or via a 3.5mm audio jack. Each earcup boasts a 40mm neodymium driver with a frequency range of 4Hz to 40,000Hz. The WH-1000X come with touch-based controls, NFC connectivity, a 1.5m audio cable, MicroUSB-based charging, carry-case and airplane adapter.

Design

In terms of design, the Sony WH-1000X M2s really are almost indistinguishable from their immediate predecessors. They twist, pull, adjust and fold away in all the same ways. Still, if you never got the opportunity to try the original WH-1000X headphones, rest assured that the new version is as comfortable to wear as it looks. They fit snugly around your ears and head, but sit loose enough that they don’t feel like a constriction. They’re also sturdy enough that I never worried about them being bent or damaged when I carried them loose in my bag.

Envisioned as a travel companion, particularly for frequent fliers, they’ve got the ‘executive’ look nailed to a tee. When it comes to the form-factor, it’s definitely a case of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Conventionality, functionality and ergonomics marching in lockstep. That said, I wasn't super endeared by the touch-based control scheme. As you might expect, this felt less tactile than physical buttons. All told, the experience felt inconsistent enough that I often just resorted to controlling music using my phone.

Beyond the obvious sound quality and noise-cancelling, the biggest thing that the WH-1000X M2s are bringing to the equation is software. Specifically, the Sony Connect app.

Using the app, you can easily optimize the level of noise cancellation, adjust the ‘position’ of the virtual sound (relative to your ears), toggle between several different audio modes (arena, club, concert hall, etc), tinker with an equalizer and toggle between prioritizing sound quality or connection stability. It’s a pretty robust offering, finding a deft balance between giving you more options but not overwhelming you with them. All told, it holds up as a potent point of over a lot of the other noise-cancelling options out there.

Performance

The original WH-1000Xs won Sony accolades and it feels fair to say that the M2’s live up to the same pedigree. In short, it’s pretty close to best-in-class on all fronts- with the noise-cancellation setting the stage nicely. Vocal are crisp and clear and the bass winds its way through your ears towards a resounding and resonant conclusion. Credit here is partially owed to the integration of the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX, which upscales compressed digital music files and brings them closer to the quality of high-resolution audio to great effect.

That said, personally, I didn’t find the noise-cancelling on the WH-1000X M2s to be quite as good or on the same level as Sennheiser’s NoiseGard experience. They’re good, adaptive and make for a great foundation for your listening experiences but lack the deep isolation I’ve experienced elsewhere. Still, they are both cheaper and noticeably more comfortable to wear over the long haul.

This characteristic is further complimented by the 30 hours of hours battery life - which can be neatly extended to 38 hours if you disable to active noise-cancellation. The WH-1000X M2s also boast fast charging - offering 70 minutes of playback in just 10 minutes of charging.

As an added bonus, the WH-1000X M2’s also come with support for the transmission of hi-res audio. While the majority of streaming services don’t offer this yet, it is a nice option to have regardless. After all, a dash of future-proofing never hurt anyone.

The Bottom Line

If it ain’t broke, it’s usually not worth trying to fix it. Feel free to make it smarter though. That’s basically what Sony have done here. The WH-1000X got all the basics right. Now, the WH-1000X M2 are using software to take things just that one step further.

Nuance is always nice to recommend, and the Sony WH-1000X make a strong case for it. Whether you’re in it for the hi-res audio, noise-cancelling, competitive-price or long-haul battery life - these headphones feel like a slam dunk for the category.


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