The latest Bluetooth offering from Sony is targeting a very specific market segment best referred to as “premium noise cancellation,” and the company seems pretty confident that with the MDR-1000X headphones ($400), it has a hit on its hands. Sony is claiming “industry-leading noise cancellation” with these luxury cans, which use ostensibly the same drivers as last year’s highly regarded MDR-1A headset made for listening to hi-res audio, as supported by the company’s audiophilic Walkman range, not to mention its line of wireless home speakers and in-car audio systems.
Can it improve upon the finely honed features of Parrot’s Zik 3.0, Bose’s QuietComfort 35, and Sennheiser’s PXC 550 Wireless noise-canceling headphones? Let’s take a look.
It’s worth stating right off the bat that Sony has taken noise cancellation to a new level with these headphones. This seems to have been achieved through a sustained period of self-reflection and extensive acoustics research in light of earlier shortcomings, combined with an exhaustive exercise in technological oneupmanship. In other words, Sony has pulled out all the stops in an attempt to beat Bose at its own game.
On the subject of wireless codecs, this headset supports them all: AAC (iPhone), aptX (Mac/Android), SBC (everything), and LDAC. That last one is a Sony special which apparently transmits up to three times more data than conventional Bluetooth for superior sound, but it only works with Sony devices, such as the company’s Xperia smartphones and Walkman digital audio players.
To be honest though, it didn’t bother me. The MDR-1000X’s sound brilliant over bog-standard Bluetooth anyway, and certainly outperform the QC35’s thanks to a wider, more expansive soundstage. The mid-ange is wonderfully balanced and the highs sparkle, while a good, chunky bass serves as a warm foundation. They sound even better when the cable is used – so long as the headphones are on. Whether this is all down to Sony’s DSEE HX processing (which allegedly recreates higher frequency signals lost in low-quality compressed music files) or simply better tuned drivers, I can’t say. Whatever the reason, the MDR-1000X’s sound fantastic, especially for NC cans.
Read more of Tim Hardwick’s MDR-1000X review on MacRumors.