Whenever someone asked me which headphones offer the best active noise cancelling (ANC), most people, myself included, would quickly recommend Bose QuietComfort (QC) series. They are pretty much unbeatable. After reviewing the Sony MDR-1000X, I think I might just change my recommendation.

Sony MDR-1000X review by musicphotolife.com

Powerful ANC

Putting on the 1000X, my ears suddenly feels the deafening silence that could put claustrophobic people into panic attack. So deafening that I hope there is a feature to ease that intensity. High-pitched sounds like voices can still be heard albeit softly, unlike most other ANC systems where it actually accentuates high-pitched sounds.

To further ensure the ANC on the 1000X works for everyone, Sony provides an option to calibrate the noise cancelling algorithm by press-hold the NC button for 2 seconds. Sony calls it “NC Optimizer”.

Sony MDR-1000X review by musicphotolife.com

Thanks to the powerful ANC, I am able to enjoy music at lower volumes yet I can still hear the details.

The ANC is not the only star feature of 1000X. The headphones only has 3 buttons: power, NC, Ambient Sound. Anytime you need to check power, just tap the power button and the voice prompt will read out the battery level (high, medium, low). The NC button activates or turns off active noise cancelling.

SENSE Engine

Ambient Sound has 2 modes: voice mode or normal mode. The voice mode lets in higher frequencies while the normal mode lets in general sounds while still eliminating the low hums. This mode is designed especially for public transport commuters and air travellers who can enable the mode to ensure they can still hear the PA announcements. Either modes are subtle in letting in noise while the main audio remains at the same level. Hence to really hear ambient noise better, the music volume should be lowered.

Sony MDR-1000X review by musicphotolife.com

On the right ear cup is where the touch sensor is located. Double-tap to play or pause, swipe towards the front to skip track forward, swipe backwards to skip back, swipe up and down to adjust volume. Touch the entire sensor and the headphones immediately enables ambient sound, which is extremely handy for that sudden need to hear the ambient noise without removing the headphones. Sony calls it “Quick Attention”. I won’t use it for long conversations because it just looks socially awkward holding your hand to the headphones while carrying a conversation.

Sony MDR-1000X review by musicphotolife.com


The design of the MDR-1000X exudes taste and luxury fit for the travel executive. Sony fits synthetic leather on the earpads and the housing, as well as metal frames for durability. I love that the MDR-1000X can be folded neatly and transported in its custom case, which has a pocket inside to store the in-flight adapter. The exterior of the case also has a stretchable compartment to store other items.

Sony MDR-1000X review by musicphotolife.com

The 3.5mm audio cable is made of hefty materials at the connectors as well as the insulator, giving the assurance of durability.

Sony MDR-1000X review by musicphotolife.com

Audio Quality

The MDR-1000X maintains the familiar Sony audio character. The bass has the boom at mid bass upwards but not bloated, while the treble is almost airy with that slight sparkle. The sound staging is wide and offering the listener a somewhat laid-back feel. It might lack the closeness or excitement, but I don’t think Sony is targeting the MDR-1000X to the youth segment who demands hype and tension to their music.

The headphones can be used with wireless, wired without power, and wired with power. The last option allows direct audio while making use of the digital noise cancelling and ambient noise feature. It also sounds better than direct wire without power, by improving the treble clarity and bass response.

A smart feature of MDR-1000X is that when you are in wired power mode, unplugging the 3.5mm cable from the headphones will automatically power off the headphones.

The MDR-1000X supports LDAC, Sony’s proprietary wireless codec to deliver lossless high-definition audio, as well as aptX. Even with standard SBC codec, the audio quality remains good without compression or distortion.

Sony MDR-1000X audio rating by musicphotolife.com

Could Have Been Better

The Sony MDR-1000X has all the ticks for an amazing headphone, with just one design flaw. When the voice prompts play out, the music would be disrupted. Not cool. When I press the NC or Ambient Mode button, the music mutes and voice prompts comes up. The music doesn’t even pause, more so when I was touching the right sensor pad to activate Quick Attention, so it totally breaks from the flow of music that I’m sure some people would be irritated. Sony could have just paused the music so that we do not miss any musical section.

While the sensor pad design really makes music control a breeze, it can be quite frustrating to adjust volume quickly, as one has to swipe up or down repeatedly and yet still looking cool, hoping that others are not wondering if this person is playing Pokemon Go on the headphones.

And if you have multiple devices that you would like to connect to the headphones, note that the MDR-1000X does not support active connection between devices, unlike many other models in the market where the headphones automatically switches between 2 devices based on active audio streaming. It can however, connect to 2 devices by manually assigning the different Bluetooth profile to each device, e.g. audio profile to one and voice profile to another.

Finally, if Sony can auto-pause the music when removing the headphones, just like the Plantronics BackBeat PRO headphones, that would be perfect.

Sony MDR-1000X review by musicphotolife.com


Sony has created a pair of headphones that will easily win frequent commuters of public transports and airplanes. Designed for the working executive who dresses smart, the MDR-1000X complements the style with the needed subtlety and functions that give them ease of control between music isolation and ambient awareness. If you feel the Bose QC headphones are overpriced with limited functions, the added features of the MDR-1000X might make you feel that the money is worth paying for. Get your peace and quiet for S$599 at all good electronic stores in Singapore and Lazada.

Sony MDR-1000X review by musicphotolife.com

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