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Sony WI-1000XM2 price & review: Noise cancellation now made comfy and smart

When brands know what customers want, you can always expect some great products in their portfolio. In the case of audio accessories, Sony is one of those few companies that takes its customer feedback seriously and comes up with products that cater to a problem that already exists instead of creating another one. Whether you are an audiophile or not, noise cancellation is quite important to get the best out of your earphones, especially given the noisy Indian surroundings. A good pair of such earphones, though, will cost you a fortune.

Sony WI-1000XM2

Sony knows that and while it cannot do much about the price as it still has to feed its employees, it has come up with another premium neckband earphone that takes noise cancellation quite seriously. It's called the Sony WI-1000XM2 (you can always expect difficult to pronounce names from Sony) and it will set you back by Rs 21,990. Whether you find it expensive or reasonable is up to you but after spending a few weeks with it, I can say it is certainly bliss for the ears.

Wonder why? It's because Sony does everything right with this earphone and even though the neckband style of earphones isn't my favourite, I still love it for the way it plays music.

Design: Same old design with tasteful Sony tweaks:
There's only a little you can do to make a neckband earphone look different but tiny design tweaks can play their part to make it massively better than the others. The Sony WI-1000XM2 looks similar to other earphones but has a chunkier neckband. Compared to the older model, Sony has made the band out of silicon and that means you can fold it while carrying. The silicon band and the soft-touch matte plastics are comfortable around the neck too. Sony has given some of its copper accents here and there to liven up the design and I think they add some class to the earphone. It also helps in making the Sony WI-1000XM2 look like an expensive pair of audio gear. You also get a 3.5mm AUX port if you prefer to go wired.

The earbuds themselves are designed to fit in the ear well while accommodating the noise-cancelling microphones. Sony also offers six pairs of ear tips, with a set of three sizes for both silicon and rubber. Sadly, neither of the material and sizes were suited for my ears and I had to settle for a rubber tip that stayed in my ears for most of the time.

Sony WI-1000XM2

However, the three-button controller feels finicky and it's the only area that feels neglected in terms of build quality and design input. It's extremely tricky to hit the right button for changing audio tracks or adjusting the volume. And, every time you press those buttons, the left earbud comes out. For an earphone that costs Rs 21,990, I expected smarter design choices.

Performance: Sublime Sony audio boosted with smart noise cancellation:
Throughout its entire range of audio accessories, Sony maintains its signature audio profile. The last time I used a Sony headphone was the WH-XB900 and it was one of the best headphones I used in 2019. With the WI-1000XM2, Sony builds on to that with an equally good, if not better, audio performance and garnishes some smart noise cancellation features to make it a better deal.

Sony specialises in doing its magic with the audio profile and on the WI-1000XM2, it has only evolved. The mids are strong and all the details are brought out quite well. The best part is that the WI-1000XM2 manages to avoid being muddy while keeping all the frequencies clear. The high frequencies are clear too and the vocals are done very well. What's surprising is the low end which reproduces the guitar tones and drums just fine with the right amount of bass. You aren't getting the thumpy bass effect here but if you appreciate good music, the WI-1000XM2 will impress you highly.
Of course, a musician will be better equipped to go in-depth about explaining the details of the audio profile but to my noob ears, it sounds amazing. The WI-1000XM2 comes alive with Hollywood numbers. Ed Sheeran's Perfect is rendered with exceptional clarity, with guitar tones coming alive, as well as the vocals, staying crisp. Bollywood music is dealt with smartly too, giving just enough oomph to the drum beats to make every track enjoyable. Whether its Arijit Singh's Bekhayali or Harrdy Sandhu's Naah Goriye, you will enjoy the meaty background score and the beats.
Noise cancellation is in its best form So far, we have established that the WI-1000XM2 is good at audio but where it excels is the noise cancellation. Just like any other premium headphone these days, the WI-1000XM2 comes with good passive noise isolation and a promising active-noise cancellation. However, Sony delivers on its promise so well that it has raised the bar for itself and others in this regard.

The active noise cancellation system is great by all standards and it does an exceptional job is making the world disappear for your ears. At most, you might end up getting faint hints of chatty keyboards or someone shouting behind your back but the rest of the world is simply dampened. However, I have not even touched the smart bit.

The WI-1000XM2 comes with something called the Ambient Sound Control and what it basically does is adjust the noise cancellation levels depending on the ambience. It does that with the help of your smartphone and the Sony app that's available on the PlayStore or the App Store. If you enable it, you will automatically sense the headphone adjusting the levels of ambient noise depending on the surroundings. This frees you from manually changing the modes and deciding what's good for you. Automation is great in noise cancellation and you have to use it to understand its benefits.

Of course, you can always take things in your hand and at times, you will want to do that as the Ambient Sound Control will let the ambient sound come in even when you want the noise cancellation at its best.

Sony has also built-in a Noise Cancelling Optimiser and this is a blessing. What this feature does is that it helps you adjust the atmospheric pressure inside your ear. Hence, if you have always feared noise cancellation for the pressure build-up in the ears, this eradicates that. The WI-1000XM2's noise cancellation was initially painful on the ear after a few minutes but after playing around with the optimiser, I was able to reach a sweet spot where my ears were welcoming the noise cancellation. Of course, this meant it had to let in a tiny bit of ambient noise but I am fine with it as long as the headphone is comfy for hours.

The Headphone app from Sony also lets you adjust the equaliser as well as set the auto power off. You can even configure Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri for the function button on the controller. However, I chose to configure it for changing the noise cancellation modes.

Sony WI-1000XM2

Battery: It keeps going on and on:
Sony promises a battery life of up to 10 hours on the WI-1000XM2 and in my daily usage, I happened to get close to it. I happen to listen to music on an average of 1-2 hours per day and the WI-1000XM2 managed to stay alive for an entire week with that usage. The best part is that the WI-1000XM2 comes with USB-C port for charging (yay!) and it even comes with quick charging. Hence, when the battery goes down, you can charge it for 10 minutes and be good to go for an hour and a half.
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