Sony MDR-1000X review: These premium Bluetooth headphones edge out ahead of Bose
Sony’s over-ear headphone range stretches from the £16 MDR-ZX310 right up to the ludicrously expensive Sony MDR-Z1R – yours for just £1,700. Sony’s MDR-1000X headphones, which feature Bluetooth and active noise cancellation (ANC), aren’t quite that expensive, but at £300 they’re still pricey. Can these beat the similarly priced Bose QuietComfort 35?
Sony MDR-1000X review: What you need to know
Sonically, they’re excellent – better, in fact, than the Bose headphones. Their ANC technology is very good too, far surpassing most rivals. If you’re willing to pay £300 for the best Bluetooth ANC headphones, look no further than the Sony MDR-1000X.
Sony MDR-1000X review: Price and competition
The Sony MDR-1000X cost around £300 and are available in beige and black.
Their main competitor is the Bose QC 35 that cost around £330. The £380 Sennheiser Momentum 2 Around-Ear headphones are also worth considering, while the £146 FIIL Diva provides an ultraportable alternative.
Sony MDR-1000X review: Build quality, design and accessories
Inside the MDR-1000X box, along with the headphones themselves, you’ll find a hard carrying case, a micro-USB to USB charging cable, an auxiliary 3.5mm cable and an aeroplane adapter.
Build quality and design are impressive. The headphone cups swivel, pivot and rotate, making them easy to carry around, and the adjustable metal headband will fit a wide range of sizes. The headphones are relatively lightweight too, at 275g without a cable; they connect through Bluetooth 4.2, and have an impressive range of over 15m, even through walls.
The padding around the earcups makes these headphones perfectly comfortable to wear for long listening sessions. However, the headband has a relatively weak clamping force; they sat loosely on my head, which means these headphones aren’t ideal for workouts. By contrast, the Bose sit tightly on my head and don’t fall off even if I go on a jog.
The left headphone cup houses all the buttons – there’s an on/off button, plus controls for ANC and Ambient Sound, which reside by the 3.5mm input jack. There’s also an NFC tag used for fast pairing.
The right-side cup, meanwhile, provides touch controls. Swiping left and right changes song, up and down increases and decreases the volume and tapping once pauses your music. You can also place your palm over the cup to temporarily silence your music and ramp up the ambient sound around you, so that you can quickly reconnect with the outside world. It’s a great, effective feature for when you want to briefly talk to someone, or cross the road in safety.
The right-side cup also hosts a micro-USB socket for charging. The battery lasts for around 20 hours, and it takes around four hours to charge from zero.
Sony MDR-1000X review: ANC performance
Active noise cancellation is a key selling point of these headphones. The technology works by analysing the ambient sound around you and overlaying an inverse waveform onto the sound you hear – effectively neutralising external noise.
In addition to regular noise-cancelling, you also get two “Ambient Sound” modes. Normal lets some external sounds filter into your music, so you’re not completely isolated from what’s going on around you. Voice mode works similarly but emphasises the frequencies used in speech, so announcements and conversations come through clearly, while other distracting noises are reduced.
It all works fantastically: the blissful silence you hear when you put on the MDR-1000Xs is incredible. I found that the MDR-1000X wasn’t quite as effective as the Bose QC 35 at blocking out higher frequencies, but it’s still some of the best sound isolation and ANC technology found on the market.
Sony MDR-1000X review: Sound quality
Sony’s signature sound is adored by many, delivering accurate mid-range reproduction, crisp highs and a lean bass response. The Sony MDR-1000X headphones don’t disappoint in any department: in fact, I’d say they’re the best-sounding Bluetooth headphones out there, easily outclassing the Bose QC 35.
That starts with the bass: these headphones have an excellent low-end rumble. In songs such as Young Thug and Travis Scott’s “Pick Up the Phone”, you can really feel the sub-bass frequencies, while the mid-bass response remains clean and controlled. By comparison, the Bose QC 35 seems to cut off the sub-bass frequencies and provides a somewhat uncontrolled mid-bass response.
Treble meanwhile is nice and prominent, but not harsh, with a good extension at the top-end that provides sparkle. This helps vocals come to the foreground, rather than being pushed back as they can sometimes sound with the QC 35s. If you listen to a lot of vocal songs or podcasts, you’ll definitely appreciate the Sony MDR-1000X.
Finally, the soundstage has a good sense of depth and width, although it could do with better instrument separation: for example, in Tuxedo’s “The Right Time”, we felt the individual percussion instruments could have been better brought out.
Sony MDR-1000X review: Verdict
The Sony MDR-1000X sets a new high bar for Bluetooth ANC headphones. They might not quite match the Bose QC 35 when it comes to high-end noise cancellation, nor for staying on your head – but when it comes to sound quality they’re unbeatable.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that these as the best overall Bluetooth ANC headphones that money can buy. If you want to get the best from your music, and you’ve got the money to spend, get the Sony MDR-1000X.