Since Sony’s WF-1000XM3 truly wireless earbuds did not make it to India, it made perfect sense for Sony to bring the brand new WI-1000XM2 out here as their premium in-ear ANC offering.
Available at ₹21,990 (MRP ₹24,990), these neckband earphones may not match the convenience of truly wireless buds like the Apple Airpods, but pack in enough features to make you forget about the competition.
DESIGN AND BUILD
Given the premium pricing, Sony’s XM2 earphones look and feel premium. Dipped in a rubberised matte-black finish, there are intricately painted brushed copper accents on the back of the earbuds that will remind you of the WF-1000XM3 truly wireless buds and the WH-1000XM2 headphones (that many mistook for a USB Type-C port).
The neckband is quite flexible and you will need to wind them into a loop (that kind of resembles a safety pin) to fit them into a hard case, which is also well made and will hold the headphones accessories for you. The earphones do feel a bit heavy in your hands, despite the plastic built, but don’t bother much when around your neck.
Unlike most other Bluetooth earphones, this one comes with a 3.5mm jack that is well hidden and out of sight under the power/pairing button. Yes, you will almost never know it’s there until you open up the accessories package and try and figure out why Sony included a 3.5mm cable with a Bluetooth headset.
And the answer will always be under your chin. Also Included in the package is a 2-pin adapter for flights and a USB Type-A to Type-C charging cable. And with these accessories, the XM2s are pretty much ready for any kind of situation that life throws at you, whether it’s in a flight with a dead smartphone so you can plug them into your seat for in-flight entertainment, or even if you need to plug them into an Xbox One Wireless Controller like I did.
CONTROLS AND COMFORT
The controls sit on the cable connecting the left earbud to the neckband. You have a 3-button setup for volume control and music playback. There’s a fourth ‘C’ button that can be customised using the Sony Headphones Connect app. You can set it to toggle between the ambient sound control feature, summon Google Assistant or trigger Amazon’s Alexa. I preferred using it to toggle between the noise cancellation and ambient sound because, well, Mumbai is a noisy place to live in. But if you are the hands-free type, switch on the Adaptive Sound Control feature in the app and let your headset adjust the level of noise cancellation around you.
There’s a selection of 14 ear tips (foam and silicon), so take your pick, take your time and find the sweet spot, because the headset’s noise isolation capabilities will vary accordingly. A perfect seal works best and all the tips are comfortable, will make the earphones stick to your ears and not fall off whether it’s a morning job, a sweaty workout at the gym or hanging on to the Mumbai locals for your dear life.
I tested the headset using a OnePlus 7T sticking to the LDAC Bluetooth codec. Audio quality is top-notch and everything sounds quite natural and balanced. This ain’t audiophile quality stuff, so if that’s your requirement, then check out Sennheiser’s IE 80 S BT earphones that will deliver on that front for a sweet ₹39,990 asking price. The XM2s are not the XB series of earphones, so the focus is clearly not on the bass. There’s a wide enough soundstage and the HD Hybrid Driver system consists of a 9mm dynamic driver and a balanced armature driver, both of which ensure that there is quality throughout the frequency range. This means you can hear every instrument clearly and feel the separation and space between them as well. So naturally, this one’s good not just for Pop, Rock and Dance, but even suits Classical and Jazz music. And it all works well even with the active noise cancellation switched on.
The XM2s don’t disappoint when it comes to noise cancellation. Just don’t expect them to be as good at ANC like it’s elder sibling, the WH-1000XM3 (they cancel noise on a whole different level). So despite having the same QN1 noise cancelling processor, they do fall a bit short of expectations but are on par with Apple’s AirPods Pro. The XM2 will filter out low frequency sounds like an aeroplane’s engine, but not higher frequency ones like talkative passengers criticising a budget airline’s snack options at 35,000 feet. Down on the ground, when travelling against the wind, you are better off turning off the ANC as there’s too much disturbance that can ruin your music listening experience.
Battery life is good enough to last you a work day (8-9 hours), but you will be hunting for a charger at the end of it. Still, the included 3.5mm jack and in-box cable means you can plug it into a music player or a phone with a USB Type-C adaptor and make the best of what you have. But given that most TWS or neckband earphones easily last you a good 19 to 24 hours, this one falls a bit short and will give you battery anxiety after a while.
Since the WI-1000XM2s were announced at ₹24,990 (available at ₹21,990 online and in store), Sony’s rather legendary WH-1000XM3 headphones have seen several price drops and have now settled at a rather attractive ₹23,990 online (₹29,990 MRP). I would still recommend the WH-1000XM3 headphones over the WI-1000XM2 earbuds for the serious music lover, keeping the pricing in mind. But that would be comparing apples to oranges (or a Ferrari to a Bentley for that matter). The bottom line is that they cater to different customers with different needs, and when it comes to portable ANC listening, the Sonys are really hard to beat and the added accessories and features simply sweeten the deal.