Product review: Sony WH1000XM2 Headphones

Sony delivers yet another incredible pair of headphones with the WH1000XM2.

For a brand like Sony, with fingers in so many AV pies, it would be easy to be a “jack-of-all-trades” and master of none. Thankfully however, it still seems like Sony is capable of pulling out all the stops recently, whether it’s their awarding winning TVs or audio equipment such as the STRDN1080 AV receiver. The 2016 MDR1000X headphones (a What Hi-Fi? Award winner that year) were very well put together and thusly gained acclaim from industry and customer reviews. It put out a strong message to rivals that Sony was on to a good thing with their bespoke features such as the Sense Engine and Personal NC Optimiser. These customisation settings meant that they could adjust the noise cancelling to better suit the users by calibrating according to their head and ear shape.

The WH1000XM2 sees Sony make a few aesthetic changes with colours as well as the texture of its earpieces, making them slightly coarser to improve operation of the touch controls carried over from the MDR1000X. Swiping forward and backwards on the right earpiece skips between tracks and up and down controls the volume. A simple double tap in the middle will pause or play what you’re listening to and cupping the earpiece will cut out sound for occasions such as needing to chat to someone without taking the cans off. A new feature is the Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser – a sensor specifically designed to adjust the sound based on changes in atmosphere and this has been incorporated into the calibration process.

The left earpiece holds the controls for powering the AptX Bluetooth on and off, as well as the noise-cancelling and Ambient Mode button. The Ambient Mode allows you to let a little of the surrounding noise in for those that don’t like full on noise cancelling or for such things that might be useful like announcements etc. For those that truly like to customise there is the Sony Headphones Connect app on Android and iOS devices. Using this you can choose from four different surround modes, toggle EQ settings as well as decide how much of the noise cancelling you want. The upsampling processing used to improve lower quality content can be controlled from here too and by switching it off completely you can save on battery life. Not only that but by being synced with your phone’s accelerometer they know when you’re still, walking or in transport and adjusts the noise-cancelling accordingly.

A quick moment of scanning for devices and we’re up and running with Spotify via Bluetooth. The dulcet tones of Broods singer Georgia Nott are sweetly conveyed sitting perfectly among the synths and drum loops. The WH1000XM2 apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree of its predecessor and shows exactly how much of an all-rounder it is. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s the pumping “Free” or the tender “Bedroom Door”, the Sony’s timing and spaciousness is very well organised. It’s also worth noting that the noise-cancelling doesn’t seemingly affect the sound too much as can happen, especially on lower budget headphones.

Switching to a cabled set up with the lovely Cyrus Soundkey USB DAC and a laptop, the WH1000XM2 really start to sing. Although the Bluetooth and touch controls won’t work with the cable attached, you can still make use of the upsampling and noise cancelling to get the richness of sound from Hi-Res content.

The rousing “Bolero” by Ravel is a great example of how the Sonys are capable of being full-bodied and rich whilst also separating out different instrumentation without lagging behind with timing or dynamics. It doesn’t seem to matter what you play, the Sony’s are very well tonally balanced and don’t over-egg any part of the frequency range.

Complete with a folding design which allows it to be stored in a hardened plastic case it seems likes the WH1000XM2 really do tick a lot of boxes. Not only do they sound great but they’re well made, comfortable for long periods of time, have a battery life rated at 30 hours and are suitable for a variety of situations.

If you’re looking for something that’s a cut above the rest but isn’t just a specialist for a particular type of set up, the WH1000XM2 could be the cans for you. Why not visit your local Richer Sounds with your phone, laptop or pack of CDs and see for yourself?

Click here to learn more about the Sony WH1000XM2

Author: Steve, Bristol store