Sony WI-1000XM2

Neckband headphones with noise-cancelling and LDAC

Sony is well established as a top supplier in the field of portable headphones, especially when it comes to noise cancelling. Of course, this also includes the continuing development of their models. For example, the in-ear Bluetooth neckband headphones WI-1000X receive an update and become the WI-1000XM2.

The design of this Bluetooth 5.0 device, which is available in silver or black and is pleasantly lightweight, is remarkable: A combination of a dynamic 9 mm driver and a balanced armature tweeter ensures good sound. A dedicated chip (QN1) is responsible for noise cancelling and communicates with two outside microphones. At the same time, pressure optimisation and the potential for automatic adaptation to the environment ensure comfort when travelling.

The battery performance offers about ten hours of runtime with active noise cancelling. In addition, a quick charge function (10 minutes for 80 minutes) and cable operation, passive or active, is available.

The workmanship is good and the design is elegant and modern. The WI-1000XM2 comes with a small case and seven pairs of ear moulds. The support of the built-in LDAC codec is noteworthy as it comes with a corresponding playback device with a significantly extended bandwidth for music transmission, promising better sound quality via Bluetooth and even HiRes capability. A system for sound enhancement of compressed files DSEE HX is also built-in, but unfortunately, aptX codecs are no longer supported, in spite of the price increase. Further features include a configurable equaliser and support for 3D music recordings from relevant providers.

In practice

The flexible neckband system is long-established and has many enthusiasts. Compared to True-Wireless solutions, it allows longer battery operation and allows you to comfortably dangle the earplugs during breaks, they even adhere magnetically to each other.

The WI-1000XM2 are a little lighter than their predecessor. Thanks to the numerous ear moulds, you can quickly find the best fit for your ear. However, the basic shape of the earplugs depends on your ears. In my case, the ear moulds fitted well but did not fit securely enough in my ears for use during exercise and they pressed slightly during longer listening sessions.

The controls are all positioned on the left side and well separated from each other so that you can blindly feel for them with very little practice. The on/off switch is recessed in the casing, which is where you will also find the USB-C charging port and the 3.5 mm mini-jack socket for cable operation. Setting up a Bluetooth connection is quick and easy. The wireless link proved to be stable in practice over several rooms. Sony provides NFC for establishing new connections.

An additional section provides further controls. The lower button controls/switches the Ambient Sound Control, i.e. allowing you to change between Ambient Sound and Noise Cancelling. Alternatively, you can call up a configurable voice wizard with this button (Google, Alexa). This is followed by a trio of buttons for controlling music: volume, start/stop and track skipping are done by double and triple-click. You should be able to call your phone’s voice assistant here, but I didn’t succeed. However, I would award plus points for the phone function and its high voice quality.

The free iOS/Google app “Headphones Connect” allows you to configure the controls. Among the things you can configure here are the voice announcements and automatic switching off of the headphones in case of inactivity, but you can also set the noise cancelling and the ample sound control. The equaliser offers five bands, a separately adjustable bass range and storable settings. Another remarkable feature is the support of 360 Reality Audio. In order to obtain a true spatial sound impression with appropriately encoded audio files, your ear shape is analysed photographically. The supported providers for corresponding files are currently 360 by Deezer, nugs.net and Tidal.

Intermediate: The WI-1000XM2 is very well equipped, but the documentation is poor.

Noise Cancelling

Noise cancelling is pleasingly effective and it is especially able to fade out or reduce low-frequency and permanent noises, so that a proper relaxation zone is created, for example during a train journey – as long as that the earplugs fit you well. If necessary, it is even possible to measure the air pressure, which is an advantage when travelling by air, for example.

The Adaptive Sound Control option allows these headphones to determine the level of noise reduction based on the motion profile and automatically switch between four different intensity modes. This feature is already familiar from the previous model. However, a new feature is the ability to change the profile based on stored geodata.

It depends on which profile you’re using, but it can also be changed manually at any time via the app. The ambient sound mode can be used to feed ambient noise to the speakers, if necessary with focus on speech intelligibility. This is the opposite way around and removes isolation from your surroundings – useful for hearing important announcements at train stations or during conversations. In practice, ambient sound is switched on and off via the corresponding button. I would hope that the next generation of devices would have a touch function for temporary activation of this feature, similar to that used on the WF-1000XM3 or WH-1000XM3.

Sound

The WI-1000X had convincing sound, but was a little bit too forward in the bass.

In our test with an iPhone 8 (AAC), the sound of the WI-1000XM2 now “feels” a bit higher quality. In fact, I’m really excited about the listening experience, as long as you approach these headphones with realistic expectation as being designed for mobile use. The combination of the dynamic and BA drivers delivers a rich and powerful yet coherent sound experience that will draw you in. It is not completely neutral, but still has many details and above all provides listening pleasure.

These headphones delivered contoured basses that were tonally clean and identifiable but also reach into the low bass range. I didn’t detect any disturbing overemphasis.

In the mids, the WI-1000XM2 shows itself to be tidy but at the same time having the necessary richness to withstand pop and rock. Acoustic instruments and voices are clearly reproduced and provided with the necessary details, while distorted guitars are wonderfully powerful. Nor is there anything to complain about in terms of dynamics, given the price range, especially if you use the noise cancelling to create a virtual quiet room when travelling – even dynamic jazz and classical orchestra recordings can be enjoyed.

The BA driver provides a remarkable resolution in the high frequency range, meaning the WI-1000XM2 sounds pleasantly open and detailed. At the same time the sound is responsive and without harshness. Of course, these characteristics also have a positive effect on the precise and wide reproduction of the stereo panorama, while the room depth, as expected, lags behind high-quality over-ear products or high end speakers.

These headphones deliver a convincing all-round sound package for mobile use, which can also meet higher demands thanks to LDAC, for instance when used in combination with Sony’s own media player NW-A105.

In this context, it should also be mentioned that this model provides a direct connection for cable operation. Uncompressed playback and even HiRes files can thus be played back comfortably, as these headphones also passively deliver adequate performance and demonstrates that the driver design plays at a high level even without electronic equalisation. Likewise, you can continue listening comfortably in this mode even when the battery is empty. Conversely, noise cancelling can also be used in cable mode, for example when watching a film via the on-board system when travelling by plane.

Meanwhile, Sony has said goodbye to optional effects and the so-called Sound Position Control, which I don’t consider a loss. What remains is the DSEE HX sound enhancement, which is supposed to pimp data compressed audio files. But as with the previous model, I don’t hear any improvement. There the flexible equaliser acts more effectively and allows you to reshape the frequency response according to your own preferences.

Ulf Kaiser
3 months ago by Ulf Kaiser
  • Rating: 4
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

The WI-1000XM2 is a convincing all-round music companion. The functionality has been optimised in some areas compared to its predecessor, but in other areas it has also been slimmed down (aptX HD), yet it is still extremely comprehensive. The device we tested for use with a mobile device also played on a high level in terms of sound and convinced us with its effective and flexible noise cancelling. However, this comes with an increased sales price of 329 Euros (previous model: 279 Euros). In short: an excellent but not entirely inexpensive travel companion.

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingIn-ear
  • Typeclosed
  • Transducer principledynamic + Balanced Armature
  • Frequency response (headphones)3 - 40.000 Hz
  • Impedance17 ohms, 50 ohms
  • Weight with cable58 g
  • Cable length100 cm

What's in the box

  • 7 pairs of ear tips in different sizes
  • Audio cable
  • USB cable
  • Airplane adapter
  • Transport case

Special features

  • available in black and silver
  • BT codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC
  • BT version: 5.0

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