Upgrading From The Sony WH-1000 XM2 To XM3, What’s The Difference?

Now that the Sony WH-1000 XM3 is available for purchase, there’s one thing that existing XM2 owners might be wondering – is it even worth upgrading to the new XM3, considering that the existing headphones have only been out in the market for less than a year?

While one could always head to the store for a brief hands-on, existing XM2 owners might not have enough time to better ascertain if the upgrade is worth it. Fortunately, as an existing XM2 owner, I’ve had the opportunity to look at the brand new XM3 and while there are differences, it requires a closer look to see if it might be worth your while to upgrade. Otherwise, why bother with the XM3, when the price for the XM2 is sure to drop?

The trimmings and comfort

Compared to the XM2, the new XM3’s have much more prominent branding. The rose gold trim is a nice touch and really stands out. The external microphones have received the same trim as well. Does it look incredible classy right now? I’d say yes to a certain extent but if you’re looking for a more subtle look, the XM2 is there it’s at.

So much more padding all around now but it’s mostly on the headband. The earcups are still well padded and it feels great even if you’re lying on the side. Considering that the XM2 is already extremely well padded, the XM3 builds upon its predecessor and you’ll be getting the same level of comfort. The material used on the XM3 feels a tad more supple compared to my existing XM2 but it could be mostly a case of a fresh padding.


XM2 (Left) / XM3 (Right)

Sony has figured this out nicely and has been able to pack in all the additional wires into the default XM3 case. If you’re a frequent flier, the expanded storage will fit in your airplane audio adapter, audio extension cable, and even squeeze enough space for short USB-C cable. Compared to the old XM2 case, there’s a spot for the airplane audio adapter but no specific space for everything else. You could always tuck your cables within but run the risk of scratching your headphones.

Battery life

XM2 owners will not miss out much here once again when it comes to stamina. There’s more than enough juice packed into both old and new models to last you for even the longest flights in the world. The biggest difference here with the XM3 is fast charging via USB-C, the claim is five hours of playback after a quick 10-minute charge. On a full charge, one could go as long as 30 hours before the headphones give up.

Audio quality

Here’s the feature that most XM2 owners will actually ponder. Audio quality and noise cancelling wise, I found no distinct difference between the two models. Considering that Sony has been pretty on the ball when it comes to software upgrades, it would appear that existing XM2 owners will be able to enjoy the same perks as the XM3 at least for one generation. However, when I offered the XM2 and XM3 in the form of a blind test to some, the decision was almost unanimous. Folks who tried the XM3 instantly remarked how much quieter and better sounding the newest model was. Almost all wanted to get a pair right away only to be shocked with the sticker price.

The biggest change would be being able to use the XM3 out of the box with just the noise canceling on. Currently, the XM2 will auto shut off once it notices there’s a lack of audio. Thus, the XM3 becomes like an extremely expensive pair of earplugs but at least you won’t need to pipe in white noise if you’re looking to use these pair of headphones for an extended plane ride with the XM2.

All things considered, if you’re looking to pick up the Sony WH-1000 XM3, you’d be pleased that the price for the headphones are retailing at the same price point the XM2 last year at S$549.

However, if you’re on a budget, it would appear that the Sony WH-1000 XM2 can be found for S$100 cheaper at some stores online. So, at this juncture, the best thing to do is go with the pair that fits your price point. Regardless of the purchase, you’ll be getting plenty of audio bliss either way.