BERLIN—Noise-canceling headphones are popular for travelers, commuters, and anyone who like some peace and quiet when they listen to music. But the trade-off is that sometimes you miss subway announcements or a honking horn.
For that reason, Sony's new line of noise-canceling headphones and earphones incorporates smarter noise-cancellation technology that adjusts to your surroundings to let the required amount of noise in while blotting out the rest.
This keeps the thrum inside an airplane cabin hushed, but still lets you hear announcements from the pilot. An app lets you control when adaptive sound control kicks in; set different levels for when you're stationary, walking, jogging, and commuting. The app offers the same features for all three of Sony's new devices, and we went ears on here at IFA.
They're a pair of earbuds with the same excellent noise cancellation as the rest of Sony's lineup, though they're not going to be as capable as over-the-ear headphones. That said, the WF-1000X support all the ambient noise controls found on Sony's other devices.
The earbuds have three hours of battery life, but a charging case can keep you going for an additional nine or 10 hours. The WF-1000X come in at $199.99.
Clamping force doesn't seem as rigid as before, but they remained firm on my head. The earcups and headband are both well padded, reminding me of the Bose QuietComfort 35's incredibly comfortable fit. The headphones connect to your phone by Bluetooth and can be paired seamlessly with NFC. Passive listening is supported with the included cable, and Sony anticipates a 40-hour battery life.
The WH-1000XM2 are powered by 40mm drivers with a strong bass response thanks to a Liquid Crystal Polymer diaphragm to handle heavier beats. High-quality audio protocols like DSEE HX, S-Master HX, and LDAC are all supported.
Listening to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," I found audio quality to be excellent, registering clear vocals, and more subtle elements like footsteps, wolf howls, and slamming doors, which you wouldn't expect to catch on a crowded showroom floor. I found that with music playing, the noise cancellation was excellent; it silenced nearly all the background noise of the crowded showroom while nearby voices become nearly inaudible.
Controlling ambient sound was also simple. Tapping the side of the earcup turned it on and off, allowing me to hear surrounding conversations and announcements if I wanted to; there's a button that does the same. All the features can be customized using the aforementioned app.
At $349.99, it's the priciest of the bunch, putting it on par with the Bose QuietComfort 35.
The Sony W1-1000X is a Bluetooth neckband that's ideal for someone who doesn't want to be bogged down by a full pair of headphones, but wants more security than individual earbuds.
Boasting the same noise-canceling features as the WH-1000XM2, the W1000X consists of pair of earbuds attached to a flexible rubber-and-metal neckband. They're lightweight and rested comfortably around my neck with volume controls on the left.
I used generic replaceable silicon tips during my demo; the fit was comfortable for my ear, but you'll notice the over-ear cups of the WH-1000XM2 are better at forming a seal to block out noise. Still, noise cancellation worked as promised.
Battery life should be 10 hours, according to Sony. The W1-1000X will run you $299.99, the same as the Bose QuietControl 30.