4 reasons to upgrade to Sony's new noise-cancelling headphones

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It's fair to say noise-cancellation fans have been eagerly awaiting the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones. Revealed at IFA 2018 today, the new over-ear headphones deliver Sony's best background noise reduction so far, but that's not the whole story. Read on for what you need to know about what makes Sony's latest so special.

They're priced to take on Bose's QuietComfort 35 II

There's no denying that Bose has had the noise cancelling headphones market close to locked-down in recent years. The Sony WH-1000XM3, though, come out with all guns blazing to take on the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. From our first impressions, it does seem like Sony hasn't just matched the competition, but bested it.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are available to order now – in black and champagne, priced at $349.99. That's competitive with the price tag that Bose's headphones launched at, though things have changed a little since then. For instance, you can find the QuietComfort 35 II with a street price of $299 today.

Finally, USB-C

The gradual progression away from microUSB and toward the far more flexible USB Type-C continues, and with the arrival of the WH-1000XM3 there's another thing in your bag which adopts the latest connector. It means you can use the charger for recent laptops – like the MacBook Pro or the Huawei MateBook X – with your headphones too. It also means Sony's new cans can recharge quicker.

They get a new quick charge feature, which in ten minutes can deliver up to five hours of battery life. Overall, battery life is rated at 30 hours. Impressively, Sony says that's even using Bluetooth and with the noise cancellation turned on.

Noise-cancelling can be used standalone now

There are times when you don't want music, but you do still want to isolate yourself from background noise. That might be in an open-plan office, or on a plane, or just to block out road noise in a poorly-located hotel room. The old Sony WH-1000XM2 headphones weren't set up to deal with that, since without music playback they automatically turned off after five minutes.

Happily Sony has addressed that this time around. The WH-1000XM3 can still turn off automatically when there's no music playing, but that's now user-customizable. You'll be able to define just how long the headphones stay powered-up in noise cancellation mode alone.

The clever touch-sensitive controls are still here

At first glance, Sony's new headphones are fairly short on physical controls. There's a power button on the left earcup, along with a second button that toggles the noise cancellation and ambient sound modes on and off. However, there are a few more hidden options you don't see.

That's because the right earcup has a touch-sensitive pad built in. Tap it, and you can toggle play/pause, or answer an incoming call. Swiping up and down controls the volume, while swiping sideways skips forward and backward through the playlist you're listening to. A long-press triggers your virtual assistant of choice.

There's another feature, however, and it's a big favorite among WH-1000XM2 owners. Cover the right earcup with your hand, and the WH-1000XM3 switches on Quick Attention Mode. Effectively it reduces the volume of what you're listening to and blends in audio from the outside microphones, so that you can have a quick conversation. It's great if you're on a plane and need to respond to cabin crew.

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