Cake
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    • I've owned many pairs of earphones over the years and an occasional headphone or two, but I've never gone the full mile to purchase a really good (and expensive) pair. A couple of years ago I bought the most expensive pair of earphones I've ever used, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless. The sound quality was as expected, better than anything I'd ever owned before. Then a few months ago I had an urge to buy a good pair of wireless headphones and was looking at some good midrange models which would be slightly more affordable than the high-end alternatives. But after some further research, I ended up getting the flagship Sony WH-1000XM3 which was on sale, so I didn't end up spending that much more than I had originally planned. I've been using the headphones for almost three months now, and as a first-time high-end headphone user, I have a lot of good things to share.

      For starters, we have to talk about the sound quality of course. Coming from someone who isn't an audiophile, the sound quality is amazing. I've never used any other high-end headphones before so I have nothing to compare to, but the sound just blew me away. The first night I used them for over an hour just appreciating how good the music sounded. Instrument clarity was incredible, very discernible. I could hear instrumentation I never heard before. My sister tried them on but she didn't like how it sounded like the music was in her brain. I guess that's a good way of describing the depth that the headphones are capable of? I do feel like music has more layers when listening through these headphones, whereas other times when listening through speakers or earphones the music would sound "flat", if that makes sense.

      Another major selling point of these headphones other than the sound quality is the noise cancelling. When you put on the headphones and listen to music with noise cancelling on, you're pretty much cut off from the outside world. The sound of my fan in my room is blocked out, the sound of colleagues talking to each other in the office is blocked out, and the best use case for the noise cancelling for me so far has been in a cafe or a coffee shop. All the ambient noise is completely cancelled out and all I can hear is the sweet crisp sound of my music. The noise cancelling is absolutely amazing.

      Since I find myself wearing the headphones for long periods of time it's important that they feel comfortable, which they do. The ear cups are big enough to go fully around my ears, which means they aren't pressing down on them. And the padding on the cups are nice and soft, as is the padding on the headband. The band can be adjusted and made bigger which is expected, so you can get the headphones to sit nicely on your head and not press down too much. The band also squeezes the ear cups to the side of your head just hard enough to keep them in place without squeezing too hard.

      The right ear cup also doubles up as the controls for the headphones with a touch panel on the outside. Swipe up and down to adjust volume, swipe left and right to skip tracks, double tap to pause/play. I like having the touch interface instead of buttons. I think it feels more modern and having a big touch panel makes it easier to control the headphones compared to needing to feel around for buttons. You can also place your palm on the touch panel which will turn on the external mics to allow you to have a conversation with someone without taking the headphones off. Really handy and it works really well.

      The last big plus of the headphones is that it comes with Google Assistant integration, which is pretty sweet. When I receive a message the Assistant doesn't just inform me that I have a message, it actually tells me who sent it and in what app, and if I want it can even read the message out for me. And of course, I can always pull up the Assistant and ask it anything via my headphones the same way I would with my phone.

      There's a lot I didn't write about like how the headphones can detect your movement and change the degree of noise cancelling accordingly (like if you're walking it'll let in some sound so you can be aware of your surroundings), the battery life and charging speed (via USB-C which I love), and using the headphones for voice calls. If you want to know my thoughts on all of that (and more) you can check out my Twitter thread following the Tweet I linked above. I absolutely love these headphones and despite the recent announcement of the successor, the XM4, I don't regret buying these headphones at all. I use them pretty much everyday and I'm enjoying my music a lot more thanks to these amazing headphones.

    • Good choice of headphones. I've only gotten to listen to them for a couple minutes, but they seemed like a great pair for the price. One of the wonderful things about upgrading your speakers or headphones is that your music collection sounds new again. Like you said, you start to hear things that didn't seem to be in the recording before. And you really do enjoy it even more than you did before. I've heard a lot of people say that they don't care about high quality sound because they can't hear the difference anyway. I think they just aren't willing to try. But if they did - for more than just a minute-long demo - they'd start to understand why people choose to spend extra money on headphones or speakers. And you don't have to become an audiophile but if you love listening to music, you owe it to yourself to at least try something better than the earbuds that came with your phone. You can get great sound quality without spending too much. Higher quality sound also tends to be less fatiguing, which just increases the enjoyment.

      My headphones are probably just about as good as I'll ever get, but eventually I'll upgrade my DAC to see if I can bump up the sound quality a bit more. But overall I'm pretty happy with my system. I'm a bit less happy with my stereo. Eventually I'll upgrade my speakers, which kind of hover slightly on the lower end of midrange.

    • I love it when you do these reviews because I can just click buy and save time. I just bought the XM4s and will let you know what I think. 😁

    • I've heard a lot of people say that they don't care about high quality sound because they can't hear the difference anyway. I think they just aren't willing to try. But if they did - for more than just a minute-long demo - they'd start to understand why people choose to spend extra money on headphones or speakers.

      I think it also helps if you listen to good music where higher sound quality can actually be discernible. Some people have a go to list of songs they listen to when testing new headphones. For me personally I test headphones with Bohemian Rhapsody.

    • Yeah, the most important thing for testing is that you play music you're familiar with. The better you know it, the better the test will be. You want to be familiar with how the bass is deeper or maybe not as deep, but cleaner. Or there's better treble extension. If you're picking out bits you weren't hearing before that's definitely something to think about. Silent Shout by the The Knife is almost invariably the first track to get played when I'm listening to new gear. I like Olafur Arnalds and Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie for testing as well.

      Higher recording quality (and encoding quality for digital music) will always help. But you will probably notice the effects of a step up from the speakers before you start to realize an album wasn't recorded very well. After you get used to better sound and start moving up, then you'll be able to better hear differences in recording quality. Then sometimes you kind of stop listening to certain albums as much because it doesn't sound as good on the better system. But probably not with your first good set of transducers.