Technophile

Sony WI-1000XM2 Review: Noise cancellation on top of excellent sound

Mala Bhargava | Updated on January 06, 2020 Published on January 06, 2020

Back in September at the Berlin IFA tech show, Sony had unveiled a relative of its very popular WH-1000XM3 over-the-ears headphones: the WI-1000XM2, a neckband with noise cancellation. It’s now been brought into India. At this rate it may not be long before active noise cancellation becomes a regular feature in all headphones and earphones.

According to Sony, the neckband format has a specific audience that prefers the comfort of just resting the device in a barely-felt way around the neck. This includes executives that find it a nice way to take calls through the day and travellers who like to pass the journey listening to music. With noise cancelling added, it becomes a more compelling option. 

The neckband on the WI-1000XM2 is made of some soft flexible silicone. It feels very sturdy and built with no compromises in strength. I noticed immediately though that it does pick up the natural oil from the skin with an instant shiny smudge visible where fingers touch the material. It’s easily wiped though. Other than that, this is a particularly good looking neckband in a market where they often tend to look flimsy and cheap. When you put them on around your neck, you can feel their presence, but rather in a nice way. The wires that extend to the earbuds are also flat, thick and stronger than you’ll find on other neckbands.

The two earbuds snap together magnetically when not in your ears preventing them from hanging around in a way that both looks ungainly and can cause them to snag in something as you lean forward to do something. Sony says this is a feature that users clamour for and like to see in neckbands and it’s quite understandable.

 

The left cable has a little controller with buttons for controlling volume and play/pause/navigate tracks and one for calling up the assistant of your choice, including Alexa. The Google Assistant can read out your messages and Android system notifications on button-press. The power and pairing button is a little hidden on the left arm of the neckband. On the arm, you have to prise open a flap to get to the USB-C slot for charging. There’s also a 3.5mm slot for a cable in case you want to bypass Bluetooth. If you don't, the WI-1000XM2 pair very easily with your phone. Charge them up and turn them on and your phone will notify you of the request to pair. Tap and you’re done. You should also get the Sony Headphones Connect app and let it detect the device and connect. The app not only is a guide to the headphones but a way to control noise cancellation, equaliser settings and more. There’s a lot of complex stuff in there, so be ready to dig into the settings and options. 

Lately Sony has been exploring 360 Audio, a way of listening to music so you hear sounds from the directions the artist intended you to. For this, the Sony app first needs to analyse your ears so you have to position your head as instructed and let a photo of each year be shot. But we couldn’t experience the difference this makes because the music available for this is only through certain music services such as Tidal which are not officially available in India.

But you can adjust the sound to your liking using equaliser pre-sets or making your own settings. The music needs to go off to change equaliser modes but each mode does make a big difference to the sound. The sound, speaking of that, is really very good. It supports hi-res audio, if you have access to that level of music anywhere, and otherwise sounds ever so clean and crystal clear.

I do believe audiophiles would also be fairly comfortable with it. I truly loved the sound in its default settings but adding bass when needed was also really nice. Though the bass can get powerful with the 9mm dynamic driver, you can still hear delicate details in the music making for an overall satisfying sound. Those who don’t like the bulk and warmth of full over-the-ear headphones should consider these. 

These earphones share the QN1 chip for noise cancellation that the WH-1000XM3 have. That’s the pair of headphones that many publications and reviewers have said are the best headphones of the year and for which the upgrade is awaited at the CES event. The noise cancellation is very good, though not magical. There were still consistent hums that I could hear, such as that of a heater.

Sony says these earphones are ‘made to fly’ using their Atmospheric Pressure Optimising specifically for high altitude. You can also enjoy in-flight cinema using a wired cable. Adaptive control beings ambient sounds in for when you’re in situations where you need to be aware of the sound cues around you — just as when walking on the road. You can also prioritise voice so that you can hear announcements while letting other background noise recede. 

Included in the box is a very nice case for the neckband and a whole army of ear-tips. The default didn’t fit my ears too well, so I experimented and found the right size. This is important to do because the seal for the noise cancelling is going to depend on that. The sound quality seemed to sound as good either way. The battery life is around 10 hours but very dependent on the volume you like. Quick charge is available so that a 10 minute charge gives you 80 minutes of listening — just about enough for short flights. 

Price: Rs 21,990 

Pros: Exciting sound quality, good noise cancellation, comfortable, well-packaged, sturdy, supports hi-res audio, uses Bluetooth 5.0, has quick charge

Cons: In-app settings not very intuitive

Published on January 06, 2020
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