Reviews: Audio

Sony sets the mark for active noise-cancelling

One huge plus point about Sony's WH-1000x M2 is its long battery life - almost 30hr on a single charge.
One huge plus point about Sony's WH-1000x M2 is its long battery life - almost 30hr on a single charge.PHOTO: SONY

The WH-1000x M2 has more features, better sound than predecessor but is $50 cheaper

The original iteration of Sony's wireless active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones, the MDR-1000x, was released last year to great acclaim, and was cemented by the audiophile and mass-market consumers as one of the top ANC headphones of the year.

The Japanese firm has followed it up with the WH-1000x M2, which keeps the sturdy construction, high sound quality, and superb noise- cancellation in a polished - and cheaper - package.

The headphones retain the posh, industrial vibe of the original, coming in two serious colours of black and beige.

The earcups do look bulky and can feel quite heavy after hours of listening. But, underneath all of that is top-notch sound quality, as well as noise-cancellation that I feel is leading the market today. They lose out, in my opinion, only in terms of comfort.

For example, I can wear the Bose QC35s for more than 8hr on a long flight and forget I have them on, which is not the case for the WH-1000x M2. I need some respite from them after about 2hr of use, which is a shame given the level of ANC these cans have. If they had the same level of comfort as the Bose headphones, I would never take them off my head.

Another huge plus point is the long battery life, which lasts almost 30hr on a single charge. I never had to charge them in over a week of heavy use (about 4hr per day).

I dare say Sony has comfortably taken the industry standard for noise cancellation with the WH- 1000x M2, leaving competitors - like Bose who have traditionally held on to that throne - in the dirt.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $549

    DRIVER DIAMETER: 40mm

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 4Hz - 40kHz

    WEIGHT: 275g


    RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 5/5

When you put them on, the outside world goes quiet but without the sensation of pressure or muffled-ness that some might experience when using ANC headphones. Background noise is eliminated very smoothly and naturally, and the headphones deal with sudden spikes in volume very effectively as well.

A quick switch button on the left earcup lets you quickly toggle between noise-cancelling mode and the ambient sound mode, which makes use of the headphones' external microphones to pick up outside noise. This is useful when crossing a busy road or when you don't want to be surprised by a sudden tap on the shoulder from a co-worker who has been yelling your name for the past minute, although I dislike how artificial the feedback sounds.

The WH-1000x M2 is $50 cheaper than its predecessor, despite coming with more features and better sound. At $549, they are still priced at a premium, but will be worth their cost to the frequent traveller who can maximise the headphones' use.

The WH-1000x M2 is capable of reproducing clear, detailed audio, with a nice, fun warmth. It does err towards the bassy side of the audio spectrum, which tempers out the trebles a fair bit. So you don't get the most neutral pair of cans, but rather a tight, robust pair that would suit most users' needs.

The headphones excelled on rock tracks like Foo Fighters favourite Everlong, providing an intensity and well-balanced mix that doesn't get washed out despite the frantic clash of instrumentation.

The WH-1000x M2 plays very nicely with Sony's new mobile app, Headphone Connect, which lets you adjust equaliser settings and manage sound profiles for various occasions.

The app also uses the phone's accelerometer sensor to detect motion, which you can then set customised profiles depending on your level of activity. For example, if the app detects a steady walking cadence, it will trigger the ambient sound mode so that you can be aware of your surroundings.

But when it detects no motion - such as when you are sitting down in the office or on public transport - it'll automatically switch to noise-cancelling mode.

• Verdict: The WH-1000x M2 is a worthy successor to Sony's noise-cancelling headphone line, with top-notch noise-cancellation and superb sound quality at a slightly lower price.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2017, with the headline 'Sony sets the mark for active noise-cancelling'. Print Edition | Subscribe