According to reliable sources, the WH-1000XM3 was already in development stage when the company announced the WH-1000XM2 in 2017 and the reason behind the lengthy development period is the move to analogue amplification which according to Sony, results in significant improvements to audio performance over its predecessors.
While the WH-1000XM3 sport the same 40mm driver with Aluminum coated LCP diaphragm as its predecessor, the headphones is now capable of 32-bit audio signal processing thanks to the new QN1 processor, which also include an integrated digital-to-analogue (DAC) converter as well as an analogue amplifier.
The headphones support SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD and LDAC Bluetooth codecs. Dependent on the parameters set on the Headphones Connect app, the headphones will connect via the respective codec. It is recommended that one utilises the high-resolution conduits namely LDAC which supports a maximum resolution at 24bit/96kHz, followed by aptX HD at 24bit/48kHz as the difference is noticeable, and I have to say it truly shines on devices that support LDAC. It’s a Sony after all.
While dropouts are common when utilising Bluetooth, I have not experienced any during my two weeks of review which is pretty amazing accounting that I have travelled across 4 cities via air and rail.
At the default setting, the WH-1000XM3 has a low-end that is rather emphasised, tighter, deeper and impactful. While it is enjoyable, the bass is strong and maybe too generous for same who may adjust it via the Headphones Connect app but I chose to leave it as it sort of reinforces the delivery with strength and richness similar to that of listening from vinyl. Clearly low-end is where it truly shines.
The mid-range is an improvement over the WH-1000XM2, it is richer with higher definitions, these translate into better sound imaging and separation for instruments and vocals, allowing for clarity in the presentation. The high-end, however, is recessed, lacking in airiness and sparkle.
In general, the WH-1000XM3 exhibits a coloured sound signature which is musical and energetic with an emphasis on the low-end. While it is not for the critical audiophile, what Sony has achieved is fun and engaging, allowing the headphones to be enjoyable and entertaining regardless of the genre of music.