Sony’s recently launched WF-1000X is the latest in a range of true wireless earbuds we’ve been testing at #GNTECH. Samsung’s IconX may have kicked off the true wireless movement, but it was Apple’s AirPods that brought the technology into mainstream consciousness. There’s also B&O’s E8, which sells itself on premium design, as well as the Bose SoundSport Free and Jabra’s (recently re-released) Elite Sport, both of which are aimed at gym junkies.
What’s Sony’s USP in this newly busy space? Active noise cancellation (ANC).
Build and battery
The WF-1000X earbuds don’t look like your typical true wireless set. Instead, they’re more akin to Bluetooth headsets of the mid 2000s. Looking in the mirror, the set looks a bit awkward at first but the WFs do blend in after a certain point. If you can get used to looking at yourself wearing the set, others can too.
The included charging/carry case promises three full charges for the earbuds, which was accurate in my experience. However, I wasn’t able to get the claimed three hours’ playback time per charge on the WFs, with the set running out of juice 120 minutes into a Soundcloud playlist with ANC running throughout. Popping the 150mAh buds into the case for ten minutes provides an hour of playback time.
In terms of build, the case is larger than that of both AirPods and IconX. It’s cool to the touch, with a brushed metallic finish, rounded edges and curves on corners. Opening it takes a bit of getting used to, as the pop-out hinge mechanism isn’t too conducive to one-handed use, which is a shame. However, the case does keep the earbuds secure and it takes a gentle press downward to begin charging them.
Their 7g weight and included range of seals makes the WF-1000X an easy fit for most types of ear, and mine were no exception.
Adaptive noise cancellation
The WF-1000X has been designed for people transitioning between different aural spaces. The Staying, Walking, Running and Transport modes dynamically adjust the amount of sound from the outside world being let into your ears. Staying allows voices in while Transport blocks almost everything out.
Switching between ANC modes is indicated by a tone in the left ear bud. When getting up from my desk to go to the canteen, the noise allowed in slightly increased so I could hear a person’s footsteps walking behind me. While sat in the relatively noisy canteen, the audio readjusted back to Staying, allowing the ANC to turn itself up a bit to block out chatter from nearby tables.
While the WFs’ fit and noise-cancelling features make them useful at the gym, the lack of any kind of waterproofing – or marketing showing users working out with the set – means using these for an hour on the exercise bike is strictly at your own risk. That said, I’ve worked wearing the set a number of times, and the only real issue was cleaning it without using water.
In terms of music output, the WF-1000X stays true to Sony’s reputation of farily balanced audio in its recent wireless products. These earbuds offered, in my opinion, deeper than expected lows – though nothing close to over-ear sets such as the QC35 or even Sony’s own MDR1000X. This was particularly clear when the booming bass kicked in 44 seconds into Oppenheimer’s Gambit:
Thankfully, there’s no high-frequency distortion at high volumes. Synthesizers, guitars and vocals on tracks such as Hey You come through clearly.
It should be noted that there is a minor delay – just under half a second – while watching videos on YouTube. The lag is smaller on Netflix. If you use an app such as MX Player for files on your device’s storage, it’s possible to offset the lag.
The earbuds connect to a paired device immediately upon removal from the case. At 10m, the range is what it should be. One issue I noticed while using the WF-1000X on a treadmill was that the right (slave) earbud had a tendency to lose audio. The problem wouldn’t solve itself, though using the Sony | Headphones Connect app allowed me to fix it by changing a setting that places emphasis on a stable connection over sound quality (though any decrease in quality wasn’t immediately noticeable to my ears – this seems to serve as a disclaimer more than anything else).