Sony WH-1000XM2 noise-cancelling headphones review

Nick Broughall 14 December 2017 NEWS

The Sony WH-1000XM2 noise-cancelling headphones have mind-blowing noise cancellation.

Quick Verdict
Sony has managed to balance comfort and audio quality in these exceptional headphones, though the touch controls are a little touch and go.

The Good

  • Mind-blowing noise cancelling
  • Customisable settings via app
  • Comfortable for extended wear

The Bad

  • The touchpad controls aren’t reliable
  • Average call quality
  • Doesn't automatically power down when not in use


Sony has been making high-quality Bluetooth headphones for a long time, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the new WH-1000XM2 flagship set of noise-cancelling headphones perform well.

But where Sony has truly excelled with these headphones is in the noise-isolation technology, which uses noise-cancelling microphones to deliver crystal clear conversations to you over the top of your music, without impacting volume.

They’re not perfect, and they have some significant hurdles to overcome with the touch sensor used to control the music, but Sony has once again demonstrated its prowess when it comes to personal audio.

WH-1000XM2 Flagship Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

WH-1000XM2 Flagship Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones from Sony

Experience Sony's incredible noise cancellation technology with hi-resolution audio playback with the WH-1000XM2 headphones.

View details

Sony WH-1000XM2 review

Design

It would be rather challenging to go wrong with an over-ear design in noise-cancelling headphones. While the 1000XM2 headphones don’t break the mould in terms of design, they are perfectly functional and even comfortable for extended wear.

The padded earcups fit comfortably over your ears, folding inwards to rest on your collarbones when you aren’t using the headphones. The adjustable strap clicks confidently as you adjust the band to fit your head.

The left earcup boasts two discreet buttons: the power button, which is closer to the bottom, and the ambient noise toggle, which rests slightly higher. Also on the bottom of the left earcup is a 3.5mm headphone jack for an old-fashioned wired connection, which is essential if you want to use these with a Nintendo Switch, for example.

The right earcup houses a micro USB port for charging as well as the touch controls to help you navigate through your music or answer phone calls.

Sony WH-1000XM2 review

Setup and Sound Quality

Thanks to the inclusion of NFC in the left ear, setting up with Android is super simple. You just turn the headphones on and tap your phone against the left earcup.

Setting up with iOS isn’t much harder though, with a long press of the power button switching into pairing mode and the rest done through your iPhone or iPad – much like every other pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Sound quality is where Sony likes to stand apart, and the 1000XM2 headphones do a fantastic job of it. The headphones are capable of playing back hi-res audio, even though most users won’t take advantage of it. Even just playing standard quality Spotify songs sounds incredible.

At louder volumes, the range is still well balanced between bass, treble and mid-tones – and that’s just in standard listening mode. Switch on noise-cancelling, and the headphones will cancel out practically everything outside of your music. Even in an office undergoing renovations, with drills and saws and nail guns making all kinds of noise, these Sony headphones made the world incredibly quiet.

And while that is impressive, even more praiseworthy is the ambient noise mode.

With another press of the ambient noise button, the 1000XM2 will go from complete noise cancelling to noise cancelling with a bit of extra surround noise actively piped in. By default, the ambient noise mode will prioritise voice, so you can completely immerse yourself in your music and still hear when someone starts talking to you, which is perfect for an office environment.

Sony also has an app that lets you dictate the level of noise cancelling in different situations. So if you are walking through the city, for example, then it is probably a good idea to hear a fair amount of ambient noise so you don’t walk in front of a taxi, but you probably don’t need to focus on voice sounds.

With the right permissions in the Sony headphones app, the 1000XM2 will adjust the ambient noise to whether you’re sitting still, walking, running or on public transport. You can also adjust the noise cancelling based on the atmospheric pressure, so you can get an even better result when cruising at 20,000 feet up in the air.

And once you’ve preset the levels you prefer for each situation, the Sony headphones can adjust on the fly, switching from full noise cancellation with a focus on voice while you’re sitting at your desk to letting in more ambient noise but no focus on voice as you walk down to the bus stop; all without missing a beat.

Sony WH-1000XM2 review

Performance

While the audio quality is massively impressive, Sony’s touch sensor for music control is a mixed bag.

You use the right earcup for all your music playback control. Drag your finger up and it increases the volume; drag it down and it decreases the volume. Dragging forward skips a track, and dragging backward goes back a track.

That all seems fairly straightforward and mostly works. It’s the tap to play/pause that posed significant problems during our review. In order to actually start or stop playback, I would need to tap the headphones three to four times, with increasing levels of frustration.

Regardless of where I tapped, or the strength with which I pressed the touch panel, problem persisted. Overall, the performance of the touch controls was a bit disappointing.

What’s more, if you do decide to plug in the headphone cable for a wired experience, the touch controls stop working completely, meaning you have to use your phone or laptop to control all aspects of your music experience. There are no in-line remote buttons on the supplied cable, and the touch panel just seems a bit unnecessary for such a high-end device.

It’s not all bad though. Sony’s “Quick Attention” mode, which lets you quickly mute music and hear your surroundings clearly by placing a flat palm across the right earcup, works incredibly well and is useful for those moments when you need to make an order on a flight or want to hear what the train guard is saying about your delayed train.

The other area where the Sony headphones didn’t really deliver was in call quality. While the active noise cancellation is fantastic for music playback; for voice calls, the results were disappointing for people on the other end of the line.

People I spoke to on the phone using the 1000XM2 repeatedly struggled to hear me, with my voice seemingly mixed in with all the ambient noise equally. Given the strength in noise isolation for music, this seems like an oversight.

Battery Life

From a full charge, you can get about 30 hours of music playback from the 1000XM2 headphones, which is going to be good enough for almost any international flight schedule. It does take about four hours to get that full charge though, which can feel like an age when you just want to listen to music.

The upside is that 10 minutes on the charger will give you a little bit more than an hour’s worth of music playback, so you can get the fix you need in an emergency.

You do need to be careful though because unlike the Plantronics BackBeat 505 and other Bluetooth headphones, the Sony headphones won’t turn off if you take them off and leave them on your desk when they’re paired to a device.

Verdict

Despite its flaws around touch controls, Sony has crafted an exceptional pair of noise-cancelling headphones, with incredible audio quality and customisable noise cancellation. If you travel frequently and need a pair of headphones to mute the noise of your commute, then the 1000XM2 is hard to go past.
Sony WH-1000XM2 review

Pricing and availability

The Sony WH-1000XM2 has an RRP of $499 and is available now.

WH-1000XM2 Flagship Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

WH-1000XM2 Flagship Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones from Sony

Experience Sony's incredible noise cancellation technology with hi-resolution audio playback with the WH-1000XM2 headphones.

View details

Specifications

Product Name
Sony WH-1000XM2
Speakers
1.57" HD driver unit
Frequency Response
4 Hz-40,000 Hz
Connectivity
Bluetooth, NFC

Latest headphones reviews


Follow us for all the latest technology news and deals


Get more from finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
Ask a question
Go to site