Neckband earphones look like they are here to stay, now Sony have decided to produce a truly high-end pair of earphones.
The earphones are horseshoe-shaped which is pretty standard; thinning towards the top of the arch, with thicker portions covered in plastic towards the ends which house the internal components and play home to the external controls.
Sony has chosen to use a mixture of materials when designing these earphones. The back of the collar's exterior is a thin, curved strip of aluminium, which also acts as the supporting structure to ensure it's both strong and pliable.
Inside the collar there's a soft padding covering the arch that sits on the back of the neck, making it comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. They are well balanced and don't move around much at all. You can feel that you're wearing them, a little, but they're at all inconvenient at all and are very easy to ignore.
Controlling audio - either playing, pausing, skipping or adjusting the volume - are the day to day functionalities that are always being used. However, we have found that the buttons aren't intuitively positioned or easy to press.
The vast majority of earphones, have the volume buttons are placed in a trio along with the play/pause button. Usually, the play/pause button is in the middle and the volume button is below it, with the volume up button above. With the WI-1000X, the play button is right at the end of the left side of the neckband. About a finger's width up is the volume up button, with the volume down button right above it, while the power/pairing button further up. This feels like an odd design characteristic and not a welcome one if you have used the normal set up previously.
Sony ship the WI-1000X's with six extra pairs of ear tips in different sizes. Three are the usual silicone, while are more textured, making them a little grippier.
The WI-1000X look and feel like premium pair of high-end in-ears, with very little to find fault with. Perhaps the button arrangement could have been a little better thought out.
Features and noise-cancelling
The WI-1000X has many smart features and a host of audio customisation options.
There's adaptive noise-cancelling with atmospheric pressure optimising (for flights). There's smart listening, which detects your activity and adjusts the ambient sound control accordingly. If you're walking, it lets you hear what's going on around you; if you're travelling, it cuts out all of the background noise.
However, when moving from one environment to another during testing the headphones beep to prior to making ambient noise adjustments, which is a little distracting.
As well as the automatic, adaptive mode, there's a manual control to adjust how much external noise you want to let through. The slider to alter this has a range of positions as well as a "voice focus" option to emphasise talking being audible which is very effective. They can be adjusted to go from not being able to hear talking at all, to being able to pick up voices in another room. In a louder environment like a train station, maxed out settings will mostly kill the noise, but not completely.
Sony has promised that in a future an update there will be an upgrade to offer Google Assistant too, making the Sony WI-1000X even smarter.
For people with compatible devices and audio files, the Sony WI-1000X is compatible with Hi-Res Audio. For people who don't, it has DSEE HC audio upscaling to make non Hi-Res audio sound as close to Hi-Res as possible, by restoring detail lost in compression. It also has LDAC, which transmits data much quicker than using Bluetooth.
Whether you love bass, neutral sound, or prefer to play songs with strong vocals - these earphones do not fail to impress at any level.
Along with a wide range of features, the app has an equaliser which allows you to either select one of a handful of preset audio profiles or manually create your own. We chose the bass-boosting profile, to see what affect it had, bass was indeed boosted to a healthy level, filling out the back of the audio track and adding that immersive feel, without muddying the sound at all. Subtle details remain clear and distinguishable.
There are plenty of tweaks available with the app, you can change the audio to feel like you're listening to it in a large concert hall, or in an arena are just two examples. Doing so changes the balance and adds delay and reverb to varying degrees.
For all round versatility and sound quality they are probably the best neckband earphones around at the moment.
Performance and battery
- Bluetooth 4.1
- SBC, AAC, LDAC, aptX and aptX HD
- Up to 10 hours battery with ANC on
- Micro USB for charging
As you'd expect from a pair of headphones with LDAC, AAC, SBC and Qualcomm's aptX HD support, the wireless connection proved flawless. We tested them using an iPhone 8 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 to see if there were any issues or differences in quality, there simply wasn't.
Sony claims up to 10 hours playback with the noise-cancelling activated or 13 hours with the noise cancelling off. In ideal conditions in a lab perhaps this is achievable. But for everyday use, we've found they last between eight to nine hours of play time.
Battery recharging is via Micro-USB, where as most competitors have moved to Type-C, Sony hasn't deemed a necessity, but it works perfectly well.
Sony WI-1000X Wireless In-Ear Noise Cancelling High Resolution Headphones with Activity Recognition,10 Hours Battery Life - Black £249.00(Check current price)
The WI-1000X are among the best in-ears we've tested for some time, they are really deserving of such praise.
Featured packed Sony software, excellent sound quality, superior build quality, and how versatile the ambient noise-cancelling is, makes the Sony WI-1000X a premium quality set of earphones which is reflected in the price tag, but still well worth it.
The battery life could be a little better and the weight could be a little less. But, once you start using them you really start to appreciate the all-round capabilities of these wonderful earphones.