Editors' Note: Updated at 4:47 p.m. ET with first-hand impressions after a demo of the WH-1000xM3 headphones.
Sony has unveiled noise cancelling headphones that could finally beat Bose at its own noise-cancelling game.
At IFA 2018 today (Aug. 30), the company took the wraps off its new noise-cancelling WH-1000xM3 headphones, which launch in September for $349. They're the sequel to the WH-1000xM2, which are audio powerhouses with exceptional sound and noise-cancelling performance.
Under the hood is Sony's new QN1 processor, which is faster and more powerful than last year's chips. In fact, the company has claimed that the new chip offers four times the performance of the previous generation.
How do the new headphones sound? I tried on the WH-100xM3 at IFA and John Legend's "Surefire" offered deep, rich bass with nice subtle tones. Vocals were also crystal-clear — noteworthy since Phil says he usually has problems making out lyrics when there's a lot of ambient noise in the background.
A Quick Attention Mode lets you use gesture control to quickly turn noise-cancelling on and off. In our demo, when we pressed and held on the right earphone, we were able to momentarily turn off noise cancellation and hold a conversation with the person standing next to us.
A companion app also lets you adjust the level of noise cancellation for four differing modes — when you're staying in one place, walking, exercising and on transportation like a subway train or airplane. The different modes offer different levels of default noise-cancellation which you can then adjust manually. In our demo in a very noisy convention center, we cranked up noise cancellation in the staying in one place mode high enough to block out most of the ambient noise without also muting the Sony rep standing next to us explaining the feature.
You can expect a whopping 30 hours of battery life, with a quick-charging USB-C port replacing the 1000xM2's microUSB. Sony has also augmented the headphones' padding make them more comfortable to wear.
Don't worry, Samsung owners — there's still a 3.5mm jack for those of you who still want wired headphones. There's also a new Automatic Power Off setting will turn your M3s off automatically when they haven't been playing for a certain amount of time. This will prevent your headphones from running out their battery if you accidentally leave them on, and is also helpful if you're using the noise-cancelling function to take a nap.
Like the M2, these headphones also have Google Assistant built in. That means that if you're busy (or feel like channeling the movie Her), you can ask your headphones for the weather or news, or to order you a pizza. It's similar to the experience you'd get with Google's Pixel Buds.
We've only had a limited amount of time with the WH-100xM3, so we can't issue a definitive verdict. But what we've seen is promising enough to make these a contender for some of the best noise-cancelling headphones out there. They could certainly give similarly priced competitors like Bose's QuietComfort 35 II a run for their money.
Senior Editor Philip Michaels contributed to this story from Berlin.