Ever since the MDR-1000X, Sony has stood alongside Bose and Sennheiser at the forefront of noise-cancelling headphones. Now, the Japanese manufacturer wants to raise the bar even further with the WH-1000XM2.
Externally, the new model is similar to its predecessor MDR-1000X in almost every way. In fact, Sony has done everything right here: the black and gold WH-1000XM2 is well-made, robust, provides a comfortable fit, is collapsible and, thanks to rotating ear cups in the included carrying bag, saves space. At 279 grams (without cable), it is also a lightweight, easy-to-use over-ear headset.
Technically unchanged is the external damping in both directions, as well as the 40 mm drivers with neodymium magnets and aluminium-coated membranes. The WH-1000XM2 also relies on Bluetooth 4.1 and current codecs, such as AAC, aptX HD, and is also suitable for hi-res material thanks to LDAC.
The battery has also gained power, which is fully loaded after just four hours and, depending on the use (noise cancelling, cable or Bluetooth mode,) offers up to 30 hours of play. Thanks to the fast-charging function, however, you can achieve a playing time of just under 70 minutes with only ten minutes of charging. A supplied cable also allows both passive and active noise cancelling operation.
Comfort and Usage
The WH-1000XM2 sits comfortably and securely on the ears thanks to artificial leather upholstery on the stirrup and the ear cups. In my opinion, it’s even better than its predecessor. The ease of use of the headphones is still excellent. Still on the left auricle is the On/Off switch, which also performs the pairing, and a second switch, which switches noise cancelling and the ambient sound function (explained later) and starts an automatic sound optimisation. The associated voice announcements are a bit annoying because they lead to a pause in the playback. The comfortable touch functions work by touching the right auricle. By double-clicking the music and call control, by vertical and horizontal wiping movements, you can controls the volume and skip tracks. If you place the palm of your hand over the outer ear, you temporarily switch on the interaction with the environment for noise cancelling functionality and more. The voice function of the smartphone can be activated in the same way. Bravo!
In contrast to the preceding model, the different functions for noise cancelling and sound manipulation can now be controlled via a free iOS and Google app. This results in a variety of refined control options that one could manage with the MDR-1000X only via keyboard shortcuts on the headset. For example, the intensity of the ambient noise is now freely adjustable and a configurable equalizer has been added to the equipment.
The most outstanding technical feature of the WH-1000XM2 is the active noise reduction, which detects ambient noise via microphones on the ear cups and reduces them as effectively as possible in the signal. Sony takes advantage of this because noise cancelling is for me the best thing the market currently has to offer. In fact, ambient noise can be efficiently filtered out, so ideally with these headphones, you can quietly enjoy music or just silence without distraction.
In addition, the headset can also automatically respond to the surrounding environment. By measuring air pressure, the electronics can differentiate between walking, jogging, local public transport and stationary travel (train, aeroplane etc.) and adjust the profile accordingly. The “Ambient Sound Control” parameter can now be used to determine to what extent ambient noise reaches the ear, which is sensible and important in road traffic. Instead of the two-stage circuit in the predecessor, now one adjusts the intensity for the above-mentioned profiles by sliders on the Smartphone. When Ambient Sound is activated, a minimal amount of ambient noise is transmitted, revealing subtle noise in very quiet environments. In summary, Sony deserves the utmost respect for the current version of Noise Cancelling. The WH-1000XM2 reacts sensitively only to wind noise, much like its competitors.
Sonically, the WH-1000XM2 from Sony delivers a harmonious performance. It is a high-quality headphone that shows little weaknesses. The WH-1000XM2 sounds very balanced and covers the entire spectrum from low bass to transparent heights in an impressive way. Its other positive qualities include an authentic dynamic image and a generally rich detail, making this headphone perfect for just about any genre.
The bass range is punchy but not overemphasised contoured playback makes it easy to see both dynamic gradations and tonalities. The system also reproduces real deep bass with a powerful level. The midrange scores with balance and realism. Warmth, fullness in voices or acoustic solo instruments, as well as biting (for example of electric guitars and hard-hitting piano) are shown aptly and immediately, depending on the style and instrument. Finally, the high-frequency range also offers beautiful transparency and resolution, without any intrinsically annoying harshness. Due to the compatibility with hi-res material, the frequency response for such material is up to 40 kHz.
There is also little to complain about regarding the image of the stereo panorama. The WH-1000XM2 provides a stable, well-resolved bass and allows all movements to be detected. Finally, the headset is also able to map the necessary room information. Only those who are exceptionally demanding will reject the idea of this close mobile solution.
Interestingly, the WH-1000XM2 can be used to tune compressed audio files, which also convert regular PCM sources to 96 kHz and 32 bits. In practice, the effect was rather reversed. With deactivated DSEE-HX, I got the best results. Finally, the integrated hands-free system also delivers good voice quality.
The fact that noise cancelling creates a decidedly quiet listening environment enhances the listening experience, allowing the WH-1000XM2 to demonstrate its full potential in mobile use. Despite the first-rate sound performance, I would not put the WH-1000XM2 on a par with explicitly audiophile-designed models for home use. In direct comparison, the airiness and the spatial imaging is less pronounced and the sound “sticks closer to the ear” than, for example, open headphones like the Sennheiser HD 660S.
The switchable selection of different room simulations in the app, in my opinion, is more of a gimmick. Here, additional information is added, giving the images more space. In most cases, however, this gets in the way of already existing spatial information of the sound source, which leads to a loss of definition and directness. The same applies to the alternative placement of the playback in a virtual surround field. I don’t understand why they thought I wanted to hear a sound source laterally offset or behind my head. Finally, audiophile listeners will also tend to abuse the equalizer. Nevertheless, if you like to listen linearly, switch it off, but if you like to enjoy fat bass during sports, just choose the corresponding profile!
With the WH-1000XM2, Sony introduces a headphone to the market which, like no other device, seeks to eliminate the pitfalls in mobile mode for the best possible sound enjoyment. With its excellent sound, it lays the essential foundation, which is accentuated by an elegant operation and impressive functions that work together to form a highly functional overall product. In the area of noise suppression, by means of variable profiles and its ability to interact with the environment, it actually achieves an unprecedented level of effectiveness. The cost of MDR-1000X is moderate, so the recommendation to buy is clear for the new model.
Measurement ResultsMore measurement results
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)4 bis 40.000 Hz
- Impedance47,1 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)105,68 dB
- Pressure averaged from big and small head527,5 g
- Weight with cable303 g
- Weight without cable279 g
- Cable length150 cm
What's in the box
- Flight adapter
- Cable (1.5m, mini jack)
- USB charging cable
- Travel case
- Also available in gold
- BT version: 4.1
- BT profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC
- Charging time: 4 hours
- Playing time: max. 30 hours (NC ON), max. 38 hours (NC OFF)
- Playing time: (Standby): max. 40 hours (NC ON), max. 200 hours (NC OFF)