Review: Well-balanced noise canceller from Sony: Page 2 of 2



Let’s get straight to it. How good is this noise cancelling headphone? Many reviewers usually benchmark noise cancelling headphones against Bose’s gear, and for good reason. Bose has been the leader to catch since it was a pioneer player in this area dating back to models such as the QC15 or QC3.

Bose’s latest iteration is the QC35s, which I didn’t have as a point of comparison. However, I do own a QC30, which is an in-ear noise-cancelling headphone, built on the same electronics save for the in-ear configuration as opposed to the over-the-ears QC35.

In my test, I feel that the Bose is still the gold standard for noise cancellation and that the WH falls short of this standard. That said, the Sony headphones are pretty effective at cancelling most ambient noises; for the most part it’s a credible challenger.

Where I feel the WH does better than the Bose is overall music playback quality. The dynamic range of playback is better than my in-ear style Bose QC30. Although I didn’t go head-to-head with the QC35s, I do believe Bose’s sound signature is pretty much the same across its product range. Having had first cursory tests of the QC35s before, I can say that the Sony performs better in music playing.

Whether you’re playing heavy pop material such as Bruno Mars Uptown Funk or Michael Jackson’s Love Never Felt So Good; jazz standards the likes of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York; classical materials the likes of Beethoven's 5th Symphony; the Sony performs well across all the highs, mids and lows, with good clarity.

Some may find the bass a tad strong, but that really depends on the materials you’re listening to. There is also a Sony app you can use to tune and equalise your music (see below). The soundstage is also pretty good for a headphone as stereoscopic projection is well executed.

One plus point is that Sony supports a wide range of codecs – how Bluetooth waves are transmitted from the source to your headphones – including SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC.

LDAC is Sony’s proprietary high definition sound format and while the WH supports all the aforementioned formats, you’ll need a player that transmits those corresponding formats to derive the maximum benefit from them. Head over to this site to get a primer on different Bluetooth codecs.

Finally, there is no perceptible difference in using the headphones in either wired or wireless mode – at least none that I can detect.

Review: Well-balanced noise canceller from Sony: Page 2 of 2

Sony headphone app

You can download the app for iOS and Android easily and once you’ve done so, the app does give you a number of features you can experiment with. For instance, you can boost highs and lows via EQ settings; raise or lower the amount of ambient noise you want to hear; even set the headphone to filter out ambient noise but allow voices to come through.

One feature which is unique to Sony is that is employs what it calls a noise-cancelling optimiser, which you access from the app or by pressing a physical button on the left earcup. This feature purports to tweak the noise-cancelling settings based on the type of seal you're getting from your headphones. This seal is affected by whether you have long or short hair or if you’re wearing glasses or not, for example, Sony says.

Overall, while I found the app feature-packed, I do think the adage, “too much of a good thing” applies here; I found the app confusing to use and not enough explanation within the app to make it truly useful. Unless you go Googling details, you’ll struggle to customise some of the app settings.

Finally, phone conversations using the WH were acceptable and the noise cancelling was great if you truly want to shut off all other sounds around you during a conference call.

Wrap up, pricing and alternatives

As a top-notch, high-end headphone, Sony’s WH-1000MX2 does what it promises. It is well-built, plays music in high quality and cuts off noise well. It also has a litany of features should the geek in you want it and has great battery life to boot.

There are some quibbles however. For instance, it shuts down after five minutes to conserve battery life when in ‘idle’ mode, like when you just need it to cut noise when sleeping on an airplane without playing music.

One workaround is to plug in the included cable in order to keep the noise cancelation active, but this would entail you having to deal with not being totally wire-free. It would have been nice to have a setting in the app to disable the auto cut-off timer, ala the Bose Connect companion app.

So the bottom line is should you get one?

On performance, pricing (officially RM1,599) and specs alone, I can unequivocally recommend it as an alternative to the Bose QC35, which officially retails for RM1,990. 

But in reality, shopping (and paying a lot) for a high-end noise cancelling headphone is more than about pricing. There is the comfort and form factor; audio and noise cancelling performance; and features to consider also. Along with this is whether you fancy having Sony’s touch controls versus physical buttons.

There are other options in the market. The Sennheiser models, Beats, AKG, and a host of others. However, not all of them are marketed in Malaysia, so your best bet is to look online for options.


Related stories:

Sennheiser gets down to business with its audio products

Jabra Evolves with new active noise-cancelling wireless headphones

Voice assistant war between Amazon and Google rages on in CES 2018


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