When Sony launched the MDR-1000X in late 2016, it promptly received critical praise for its noise-cancelling capabilities and the unique natural interaction. I did a close comparison among other noise-cancelling headphones and found it to offer the best balance of ANC quality, audio quality, and features. Bose QC35, while delivering slightly better noise cancelling properties, has less bells and whistles.
The second generation of 1000X series is not just the headphones. Sony also includes a neckband earphones (WI-1000X) and true wireless earphones (WF-1000X). The model of the second version 1000X is WH-1000XM2 and looks identical to MDR-1000X, with minor changes to the materials and colour. The ear cups are wrapped with a coarser leather texture, and the ambient sound button is combined with noise-cancelling button.
The operation remains identical: the touch-sensitive right ear cup lets you change tracks, volume, play-pause. Placing the palm over the ear cup triggers ambient sound instantly (Quick Attention) so that you can engage in ad-hoc conversation or listen to the ambient sound. The included 3.5mm cables offers the option to listen via wired while still allowing operation of the noise cancelling, ambient sound modes, or when the battery runs flat after 30 hours of continuous listen. The headphones supports all the popular wireless audio codecs including aptX, aptX HD, SBC, AAC, and Sony’s LDAC.
Like the other new 1000X series, the WH-1000XM2 audio balance can be customised using the Sony Headphones Connect smartphone app. The app lets user adjust the noise cancelling and ambient sound, activate adaptive sound mode, adjust EQ, enable DSEE HX, select Bluetooth audio quality, update firmware, and others.
The audio signature remains largely unchanged from the MDR-1000X, which is clear full treble and strong (not mega) bass. I noticed the instruments sound closer to my ears, the vocals and leads are slightly more prominent as previous, albeit still not as exciting as many heavy-handed cans. It provides a less harsh musical experience which was similar to the original MDR-1000X.
The digital noise-cancelling effects are still less pronounced than Bose but certainly more comfortable, less pressure which could cause nausea in some cases. Via the smartphone app, user can adjust the ambient mode levels to individual preference, which is generally not very loud and harsh. The mics are tuned to be sensitive at higher frequencies so that users can discern ambient noises and human voices.
I do hope the hard case can be re-designed, as it requires a certain way of folding the headphones in order to fit correctly. The left earcup is to be folded in and both earcups twisted inwards, and then the headphones have to be placed in a specific orientation in the case. Most of the time, I carry them around in my own cloth case.
With a new improved 1000X series headphones, Sony continues to offer an intelligent, multi-function noise cancelling headphones that I would happily recommend for people who travels frequently and appreciates instrumental or vocal genres. Offering a premium executive-styled outlook, users will enjoy its elegant interaction like Quick Attention and Adaptive Sound Controls. Listeners preferring a more lightweight in-ear headphones could go for WI-1000X which allows me to wear around my neck the entire day plus vibration alert for incoming calls. If you only care for killer noise cancelling abilities, Bose is still your best bet.
The WH-1000XM2 retails at S$549, and you can get it at Sony authorised retail stores and online stores.