Sony WF-1000X Wireless Headphones Review: A ‘sound’ alternative to the AirPods
No wires, clear sound, but...
The idea of true wireless Bluetooth earphones with great audio and no wires at all (not even a connecting band) sounds exciting, but for a long time, it remained largely an idea. A few companies did try their hands at it, but the results were far from great. And then, just as it did with touchscreens, Apple suddenly brought the idea into the limelight when it seemingly cut the wires off its earphones, launching the AirPods. But while the AirPods passed most tests like connectivity, stability with flying colors, they left some people disappointed with their audio quality. And that is where the competition is trying to score. Sony has now launched the Sony WF-1000X true wireless earphones which are priced at Rs. 14,990, a notch above Apple’s AirPods, but does this pair manage to blend great audio with true wireless earphones?
Futuristic, blinky looks
The Sony WF- 1000X wireless earphones come in a compact metal case which also acts as a charger for them. The case itself comes with a micro USB 2.0 charging port. The boxy case at first might look a little bulky (especially when compared with the square-ish small one for the AirPods) but generally fits most pockets. When you open the case, there are two slots labeled “R” and “L.” Once the earphones are in, a red light turns on when they are getting charged. It turns off once the wireless buds are completely charged. Just remember to put the earphones in properly – sometimes they seem to have fitted in but are not actually there. So check those lights whenever putting them in there.
The wireless earphones themselves are pretty decent looking. They do not crazy poke out once you insert them in your ears. They come in black and gold color options, both of which have a small translucent wing-y end, which points towards your face when you place them in your ears – yes, they are a little conspicuous, but we think the geek crowd will love those tiny lights blinking around its ears (so robot-y). This translucent end hosts blue and red lights to indicate charging, connection or disconnection. Both the earbuds have a small power button which needs to be pressed in order to connect the headphones to your phone. Sony has included seven different earbud tips to choose from in the box: four are silicone sets (SS, S, M, L), and the other three are foam-like (S, M, L). There are two small gold pins on the inside of the earbuds which enables charging when placed in the case. The earbuds themselves are small and lightweight, weighing 6.8 grams approximately while with the charging case weighs 70 grams. All in all, much lesser than your run of the mill smartphone.
Clear sound…and that’s about it
If there is one complaint we had with the AirPods, it had to be the audio quality of the earphones, but that is one complaint that cannot be leveled at the Sony WF-1000X earbuds. The earphones offer good audio quality, covering minute details. These are not the pair for those who want eardrum-tearing volume but will be adequate for those who want a good sound experience. The earphones offer clear sound, and the audio quality is consistently good through different genres like pop, rock, and popular Bollywood numbers.
While the Sony WF-1000X do well in the audio department, there are a few other areas where they show signs of problems. And unfortunately, these begin from the very, well, beginning. Although Sony offers a range of tips and wings to provide you with stability and support, we often found ourselves pushing the earbuds back in quite a few times, as they did not seem to be fitting snugly. There were also times when the earphones fell out of our ear (and this happened even when we had not made any sudden movement – they just popped out), although thankfully this did not cause any damage or loss of any of the buds in our case. While we had some difficulty keeping the earphones in our ears, they did not feel uncomfortable or cause any kind of pain or fatigue when used.
Whereas Apple and Bose have made connecting almost seamless, connecting the WF-1000 X earbuds to your phone can be a little confusing. You have to press the power button present on the left earbud, which results in some blue and red lights blinking. Once connected, the earphones will blink with blue light constantly when in use, which might appear a little tacky to some people, although we can see others loving it too. We also had slight issues with the general performance of the earbuds as we often witnessed one earbud switching off for a split second. It would come on almost immediately, but the whole effect is disconcerting.
The battery on the earbuds lasts for about 2.5 to 3 hours on a single charge which means binge-listening or video watching may be a small issue – the box can offer you two recharges at the most (lesser than the AirPods, again). Also, the audio warnings of the remaining battery of the earphones are not too helpful. It only tells you that the battery on the earbuds is high, medium or low rather than giving out a percentage which is more quantitative and helpful.
One of the highlights of the Sony WF-1000X is active noise cancellation feature which claims to provide you with an uninterrupted audio experience, canceling out the ambient sound. But unfortunately, the feature does not work too brilliantly – while we did notice a slight difference, it was not significant. Sometimes, even without the active noise cancellation mode, there seemed to be as much of ambient noise as there was with the mode on. One can access the modes through the official Sony headphones app which is available on both, iOS and Android platforms.
The Sony earphones app does not offer a truckload of options of features but definitely lets you play around with the Noise cancellation feature and various other sound related options such as boosting bass. We tried various different genres on the earphones like Pop, Rock, and Bollywood and there was not a staggering difference between these. While the earphones produced super clear sound, the sound itself felt pretty flat most of the times. Changing sound settings from the app, like boosting the bass did not make a huge difference, and it all remained very one track-ish. Pun intended. A bit of a pity when you consider the reputation the 1000X.
The Sony WF-1000X also does not come with water resistance or any protection from sweat which pretty much makes them an ear-sore for those who would have liked to go the gym or for runs with them. Most competitive truly wireless headphones come with water resistance at this price point (although not the AirPods themselves), which is a definite negative.
Play it again, Sony
When Sony launched the WF-1000X, we expected the wireless earphone saga to take a different turn, given Sony’s formidable reputation. Sadly, it looks like not much has changed in the journey from the AirPods to the WF-1000X. In fact, we think the Sony earphones do not offer the same level of connectivity comfort and ease of use as compared to the AirPods. Yes, the Sony WF-1000X provides clear audio quality, but we are not sure that it does enough to justify its price tag of Rs. 14,990, which is a little above Apple’s AirPods, which are premium priced anyway. It is a decent effort, yes, but our appeal would be to play it again, Sony!