Sony WF-1000X wireless earphones review: Pint-sized powerhouse

0
Sony WF-1000X Review

Late last year, Sony announced the launch of its refreshed headphones and earphones line-up in India. The models that were announced back then included the WH-1000XM2, WF-1000X, WI-1000X and WH-H900N. Shortly after the event, Sony handed us over the WF-1000X in-ear, wireless earphones for review. After using the earphones for well over two months, it is safe to say that we are in a good position to offer our opinion on this new piece of hardware from Sony. In this review, let us find out if the Sony WF-1000X has what it takes to be your next wireless, in-ear earphones.

Sony WF-1000X: Design and Ergonomics

Sony WF-1000X design

While the Apple Airpods might be the most popular wireless earbuds around, I am sure the general consensus is that they’re certainly not the prettiest. In fact, I thought they look downright ungainly drooping down from both the ears. The Sony WF-1000X, on the other hand, looks much classier and had it not been for the lack of wires, it would have looked like any other normal wired in-ear earphone.  Sony has done a remarkable job at keeping the dimensions of the WF-1000X compact especially when you take stock of the technologies that they have managed to cram in such a small space. The earphones themselves weigh just 6.8 grams each and thanks to the multiple earplugs supplied, they should feel comfortable for most people. In fact, even with the charging case, the WF-1000X should not take up too much space inside your gadget bag thereby making them a great option while travelling.

As for ergonomics, there is only control one button on both the earphones to be worried about. After you pair the earphones using Bluetooth or NFC (you need to tap your NFC enabled phone to the case and not the earphones themselves), you can use these control buttons for various functions. For example, pressing left button once switches on and off the noise cancellation and ambient noise functionalities. The button on the right earphone can similarly be used to skip tracks (double click), invoke Google Assistant (long press) or even make and answer calls. Note that during calls and Google assistant functionalities, you will only hear sound from the left earphone. The left earphone also gets a tactile dot to distinguish itself from the right one – useful in dimly lit areas.  

As far as overall usage is concerned, it will take you at least one week to get used to the physical controls. If you do not wish to fiddle with the buttons at all, full control is also available using Sony’s Headphones Connect application that lets you control every aspect of the earphones from your phone.

Here are a few screenshots of the Sony Headphones Connect app:

Sony WF-1000X: The Insides matter

Sony WF-1000X insides matter

As mentioned in the introduction, you’ve got to give it to Sony for cramming the `sheer number of abbreviations that they have managed to in that tiny frame. The WF-1000X not only incorporate decent-sized (6mm) dome type dynamic drivers, but also squeeze in two microphones (for noise cancellation, phone, and virtual assistant support), Bluetooth and NFC circuitry. This is of course, apart from the battery that also needs to be inside the earphones. While proprietary stuff like S-MASTER HX and DSEE HXare missing, the WF-1000X does support A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, and HSP audio profiles along with the SBC and AAC audio formats. As far as noise cancellation is concerned, while it cannot match its full-fledged over-the-ear brethren when it comes to sheer NC performance, the WF-1000X does manage to deliver satisfactorily on this front. It would be simply too much to expect features like personal noise cancellation optimiser, automatic noise cancelling or atmospheric pressure optimising on a product its size.  While Sony hasn’t revealed the battery capacity of the earphones, what is claimed by the company is a charge time of 1.5 hours for the case. With noise cancellation on and off the WF-1000X can go on for around 3 hours. I often found myself using the WF-1000X on short haul flights within India.

Sony WF-1000X: How does it sound?

Sony WF-1000X HOW does it sound

One of the first tracks I played on the WF-1000X to start off my review was ‘Hunter’ by Bjorg. One of the reasons this is my favourite track to evaluate the soundstage of any piece of audio equipment is the continuous drum beats that ebb across the right and left channels through almost the entire duration of the song. Not only did the WF-1000X manage to play back the track with incredible detail, it managed to get the soundstage almost right. Obviously, any wired headphone or even Sony’s own larger over-ear headphones would have sounded better – but I had to constantly remind myself of the fact that this was a tiny 6mm driver at work. While it would be hard to please an audiophile with any piece of wireless equipment, I am sure even the most discerning of audiophiles would agree over the fact that getting the soundstage almost right on something the size of the WF-1000X does call for some ingenious engineering skills.

Unlike most music connoisseurs, most of my time with the WF-1000X was spent listening to Bollywood and Malayalam tracks – both of which tend to have a high emphasis on the mids. The WF-1000X delivered exemplary performance on this front. One of the earbuds did face a distortion issue towards the higher frequencies half-way into my review. However, I was pretty convinced this was caused due to the two drops that the right earphone had endured during the course of the review. Typical of Bluetooth in-ear earphones, the WF-1000X maintained its neutral tonal balance throughout the entire duration of the review. Even tinkering around with the equalizer (Sony provides one with the Headphones Connect app) did not help things much. If you love your bass, we would recommend you to stick to a good quality set of wired headphones. The WF-1000X, however, doesn’t fare too badly in this department and the earbuds are fairly competent in reproducing the lower frequencies without sounding muddled or overbearing.

Noise Cancellation

Sony WF-1000X Review: Noise cancellation

Sony makes some of the best Noise Cancellation headphones that money can buy today. The catchword here is ‘headphones’. Thanks to the size of the WF-1000X, I did not expect them to fare really well in this department. Imagine my surprise then, the moment I set up the earphones and started using them in a relatively loud environment. While the loudest, high-frequency noises did make it through, the WF-1000X did a great job at blocking off most of the other noises. Sure, you cannot compare the NC performance of this one to what say an MDR1000X can do, but you’ve also got to remember that the MDR1000X is ten times the size of this one! While I am yet to use other similarly sized NC earphones, I am told that this is as good as it gets for a device the size of the WF-1000X.

Sony WF-1000X: Issues

Being a first generation Bluetooth earphone, the WF-1000X did come with its share of quirks and issues. One of the major issues that I faced with the product was the fact that these were almost entirely unusable for consuming video content. The audio and the video are never in sync and you will be forced to abandon the video and switch to a regular wired headphone/earphone. Sony has officially acknowledged this issue on their website. While I am not sure whether this will be addressed in say, a future firmware update, going by the wording on Sony’s support website, looks like this issue might be around for the time being. So, yes. Forget using the WF-1000X for consuming video content. From what I infer, the latency issue is caused due to the fact that one of the earphones acts as a primary ‘receiver’ for the signals which then transmits the signal to the other earbud, thereby resulting in noticeable delay.

Sony WF-1000X: Verdict

Sony WF-1000X review

At its current price tag of Rs.14,999, it is evident that Sony does not intend to target the masses with the WF-1000X. Make no mistake, this is a high-end product that would make a great travel accessory for the young, well-heeled, jet savvy traveller. Its near three-hour-long battery life is good enough to last most short-haul flights and the additional 6 hour charging time provided by the charging case ensures that these stay powered on throughout the entire day of intermittent usage. The issue with the WF-1000X, however, is that it would currently appeal to only a narrow band of users who would want a tiny, wire-free in-ear earphones. Thanks to the lack of any water resistance certifications, these earphones might not appeal to fitness enthusiasts that form a large chunk of the headphones market.

Then there is the audio-sync issue with video content which again, limits the overall appeal of the product. How many people would like to disconnect, remove and re-connect another headphone just because you want to switch from audio to video content?  While the WF-1000X is right up there when it comes to overall sound quality, we feel Sony should give another shot at the product and come up with a version that has some sort of water resistance certification, and is free of the video latency issue. If you do not mind these nagging issues and have nearly Rs. 15,000 worth spare cash lying around, go ahead get the WF-1000X.

Sony WF-1000X earphones

Rs.14,999
7.4

Design

8.5/10

Build Quality

8.0/10

Sound Quality

7.5/10

Software

7.5/10

Performance

7.5/10

Battery Life

7.0/10

Value For Money

6.0/10

What Is Good?

  • Extremely compact and lightweight
  • Easy to set-up
  • Great sound quality
  • Excellent Noise Cancelation

What Is Bad?

  • Small size, difficult to handle
  • Audio lags during video playback
  • Not water resistant

Having spent the better part of the last decade writing about technology, Rahul is among the most experienced tech journalists in India. His writing career began back to 2006 when he started off as a member of the Microsoft PYPC (Protect Your PC) team. At Microsoft, most of his time was spent on creating and updating Microsoft’s Knowledge Base articles. In 2008, thanks to his proclivity for consumer technology, he joined Techtree, then India’s most popular consumer tech website. In his decade-long career, Rahul has contributed to several Indian and International publications including GQ Magazine, Onlygizmos, iPhoneHacks, and The Inquisitr.