Sony WH-1000XM3 measurements and thoughts

Discussion in 'Audio Science' started by Vtory, Nov 6, 2018.

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    [​IMG]

    I wasn't a big fan of sony's first and second generations of anc cans. While they made a great point in noise-canceling, the sonic characteristics of 1000x didn't convince me. Particularly disappointed with 1000xm2 (note: xm1 and xm2 sound different by a significant margin). Uneven response and overly emphasized mid were definitely a deal-breaker. xm1 had the same weirdness but to much less degree. To me, xm1 was sound-wise a better pair of headphones, although xm2 a bit outdoes xm1 in NC.

    Aside from rave reviews of pro shit-makers, which might be partly explained by Sony's money power, I heard many good things (about the sound) from some reliable friends. I finally get my hands on xm3.

    Here are my findings after experiencing xm3 for nearly one-week.

    1. ANC

    Bose has been a king of ANC. Many companies have challenged but none of them achieved the level of bose qc35 regarding anc ability imo. Sony's progress was very impressive. Even the first generation of 1000x was already close to bose anc cans. xm2 reduced this gap, and showed equivalent performance. Now Xm3 outperforms bose qc35ii. Improvement is very noticeable in cancelling dynamic and transient noise, such as human voice. Pink-noise measurements usually don't capture this effect.. so perceived anc performance of xm3 is way, way better than existing noise measurements suggest. Of course this might be an overkill for most. But more is always better in the context of anc.


    2. Sound

    There is no more weirdness in midrange and treble. Midrange and treble are fairly smooth unlike previous generations. I also like Sony-ish sparkling top end. Potential problem is bass, as already indicated by many. I thought qc35ii was slightly bassy.. xm3 is even much bassier. It's not like "Beats by Dr Dre" in their notorious days.. but far more than I would like. Think of "somewhat lesser" version of nighthawk bass. Fortunately, sony has a nice app to control tonal balance (as an aside, their app "headphone connect" is one of the best anc control apps I've ever seen). Be aware that wired connection and non-smartphone connection cannot benefit from this app. Details and dynamics were decent for anc wireless headphones. Overall, xm3 is very good for causal or non-critical listening purposes.


    3. What I didn't like
    • Touch control is hit-or-miss. Swipe volume control works well. But double tap (to pause) sometimes failed. There is some learning curve. Moreover, gloved fingers hardly activate sensor.. potentially inconvenient in winter.
    • Power-on takes too long. 14-15 seconds (14.8 seconds on average; based on 10 measurements) are needed until bluetooth established (with my old iPhone 6s plus). By contrast, bose qc35ii takes only less than 3 seconds (2.65 seconds on average; based on 10 measurements) to be fully connected. This point is very annoying when I try to answer a call with (turned-off) xm3.

    4. Others
    • Comfort is much improved. Clamping is a bit stronger than qc35 but very acceptable. I like xm3's headband and ear pads -- looks and feels premium-ish. Qc35 and 35ii still win in overall wearing comfort mainly due to larger inner space around ears. But the gap between sony and bose has been significantly reduced. Depending on your head sizes and ear sizes YMMV.
    • Build quality is superb. Sony has been always good at this aspect (even in some epic failure products).

    Measurements to come..
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
  2. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    All my measurements were done with Minidsp EARS with my original compensation curve version 3. See this for details: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...g-minidsp-ears-part-2.6880/page-2#post-231868

    Also measured at 90db SPL at 300hz.

    upload_2018-11-6_13-20-14.png

    LR channel matching is very good. I am starting to suspect if anc headphones use their mics to actively compensate channel imbalance. 20-200hz looks like harman target very much.. Did sony ask any advice from Dr Sean Olive? haha.. Some dips appeared in lower trebles sound pleasing rather than annoying.


    upload_2018-11-6_13-27-51.png

    Comparison with Bose QC35ii, 1/6 oct smoothing


    upload_2018-11-6_13-28-31.png

    Distortion characteristics look nice (note that my measuring environment tends to get higher distortions than others), except a strange peak of D2 around 2.4k. I don't know why and that wasn't audible to my ears, either.


    Also briefly compared between wired connection and bluetooth. Above are all wired results.

    upload_2018-11-6_13-31-7.png
    upload_2018-11-6_13-31-24.png

    Honestly, I can't distinguish connection types based on measurements. Subjectively they are somewhat different to my ears, but possibly placebo.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
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  3. StageOne

    StageOne Acquaintance

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    Appreciate the review and feedback as I was looking at getting a pair of these. How is the bass quality? Clean and controlled or more towards the bloomy side? The latter I can't seem to handle for longer sessions.
     
  4. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    It's not bad at all. Still kinda one-note bass but I don't expect lcd2 or hd800 bass for this product category.

    Potential problem is the balance between bass and midrange. But that's not a big deal, as long as you are using smartphones and tablets (i.e., iOS or Android). Eq in Sony's "Headphone Connect" provides a convenient and intuitive way to customize. With the aid of this app, I regard xm3 as "bass-adjustable" rather than "just bassy".

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    There's a significant (4-5dB) dip in frequency response at roughly the same place.
    Here's some theorizing:
    • Sony ninjas knew about distortion and sneakily tuned FR to hide it
    • D2 and dip have the same physical root cause
    • D2 is a mathematical artifact from additional noise (because signal is lower at this frequency)
    • Coincidence; we live in a random, cold and uncaring Universe, there is no God
    What source and settings did you use for Bluetooth measurements? All Blueteeth are not equal (very roughly speaking, SBC < AptX <= AptX HD or LDAC). Most Sony phones and DAPs (including the venerable ZX1 and cheaper models like A35) should support LDAC and the newer ones also AptX. Most Android smartphones support AptX. I think for Apple devices you are going to be using SBC or AAC, not sure.

    PS: thanks for review!
     
  6. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    I used macbook pro and aptx connection. Ldac or aptx hd needs extra hardware like you said. lol

    Regarding D2 peak, my guess is either acoustical breakup mode (more likely) or something related to noise canceling -- maybe combination of both.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2018 at 7:12 AM
  7. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Forgot updating fr graphs.

    Here is sbaf-compensated version. 1/6 octave smoothing

    upload_2018-11-15_9-10-50.png
     
  8. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    The sony cans are embarrassing unless you're using LDAC.
     
  9. fraggler

    fraggler A Happy & Busy Life

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    LDAC is better than wired? Is this due to added functionality via app? Or just superior to other Bluetooth protocols? Apparently my Note 8 has LDAC capability so I am intrigued now.
     
  10. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    It's really lossless, at least for Redbook bit rates.

    Wired would mean either an extra pair of AD/DA conversions, or directly driving the transducer with no ANC or EQ. I think the latter.
     

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