Sony WF-1000XM3

I have been a wireless headphone geek for a long time. To give you some idea how bad it is, I have all of:

  • Beats Solo3
  • Marley Smile Jamaica
  • Trekz Titanium (bone conduction)
  • Plantronix Backbeat Fit
  • Soundcore Liberty Air
  • Corsair Void Pro (times 2)
  • Steelseries Arctis 7

… and that’s only the ones that I still currently use.

When the Apple AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3 came out, I tried them both and decided to pick up the Sony’s based on a perceived slightly better sound quality. Since then, I’ve seen several reviews of them both, with some level of agreement on the sound, and indications that the noise cancelling is also better.

However, my overall experience with the Sony’s has been quite poor, to the point that in retrospect I’m confident the AirPods would have been the better answer. Honestly, the UX on the WF-1000XM3 is so bad that I can’t help but think Steve Jobs would have fired any team that came forward with something in the same state.

The first issue is the companion app which, despite several updates since I first ran it, is still frequently unable to connect to the headphones, or drops the connection at some point after it gets connected, or simply crashes completely. It also includes something called “Adaptive Sound Control”, which has the following Engrish description:

The app detects your actions and [Ambient Sound Control] is switched.

Whatever this is supposed to do, the behavior manages to be simultaneously be both intrusive and not useful. I turned it off almost immediately.

The headphones themselves are also unreliable. Sometimes when you take them out of the charge case, they don’t BT connect at all. Sometimes they connect (i.e. show up as connected in the BT device list) but don’t become available as headphones (doh!). If they do get connected, the connection will later sometimes drop for one or both of them.

And speaking of “one or both”, the strangest thing about them is the way they start up. They behave a bit like they are two different bluetooth devices that notice while they are connecting that they can work together. The start up sequence has three voice prompts:

  1. Indicate they are powered on (“Power on.”)
  2. Indicate the current battery level (“Battery fully charged.”)
  3. Indicate they are connected (“Bluetooth connected.”)

However, because they sync up part way through the start up, you will hear somewhere between zero and three of those messages in each ear, and by that I mean a *different* number of messages in each ear. It’s a terrible experience.

[Aside: Hey Sony, there is absolutely no reason to ever say “Power on.”. If you say any of the other prompts, we know the power is on. 😉 ]

One final comment: the WF-1000XM3 — btw, who thought that was a good name for *anything*? — are quite a bit heavier on the ear than, for example, the SoundCore Liberty Airs. I didn’t realize how much of a difference this was until I used the Airs again recently. I now find myself going back to the Airs often, even though the WF-1000XM3 have clearly better sound.

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