PROS / Both with and without active noise cancelling, these headphones blocked the most external sound in our tests.
CONS / The four-hour charge time is longer than most and could be a hassle when traveling or if you have a limited number of outlets.
VERDICT / The Sony MDR-1000X headphones are overachievers, with top-notch noise cancelling, excellent sound quality and exceptional comfort. They are the best noise-cancelling wireless headphones we reviewed.
The Sony MDR-1000X have all the pillars of good noise-cancelling headphones: they sound great, work well and are extremely comfortable. They are also wireless, which makes them a good choice for traveling and commuting. The MDR-1000X headphones earn our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for overall noise-cancelling and sound-quality excellence.
Noise Cancelling & Bluetooth
The best noise-cancelling headphones do a great job blocking sound, so we tested the Sony MDR-1000X in our AV lab to see how they performed. We set up our team of reviewers with the headphones and played “Buddy Holly” by Weezer at a comfortable 60 dB over and over again. As they listened, we played noises such as the sounds of an office setting, loud restaurant, lawnmower and airplane takeoff through a speaker. When reviewers indicated, they could hear the outside noise over the music, we recorded the decibel level and calculated an average. On average, the Sony MDR-1000X headphones cancelled out all noise up to almost 84 dB, which is louder than an alarm clock. This was better than any other headphones we tested and reviewed.
We also tested how much more sound the headphones cancelled out with Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) on versus when it was off. Using the same test, we found that on average the headphones cancelled almost 13 dB more when ANC was turned on. This means the MDR-1000X’s ANC mode is more effective than all but one other pair of headphones in our review. In addition, it indicates that their basic design, earcup shape, padding, etc. are very effective at naturally isolating and blocking outside noise.
The Sony MDR-1000X headphones were a fan favorite during our sound-quality testing. Our reviewers reported that they sounded balanced, loud and excellent overall, and they earned the highest sound-quality score in our noise-cancelling headphones review by a wide margin. The only complaint was about a slight bass boost, but compared to other headphones, it wasn’t too drastic.
Even the ANC’s sound quality was superb. You can usually hear a sound similar to TV static or the ringing in your ears after a rock show when this mode is on, but when we listened to music through the MDR-1000X, it was so quiet, we didn’t notice it unless we listened very closely.
These noise-cancelling headphones have a frequency range of 4Hz to 40kHz, which is more expansive than actual human hearing. The 40 mm driver is about the same as those in other headphones, and the complex sensitivity and impedance specs vary depend on settings – for example, they are different when you use Bluetooth versus when you don’t. Overall, these headphones were an audio favorite.
Noise-cancellation headphones depend on long battery lives to actively cancel noise. According to Sony, the MDR-1000X last for 22 hours without Bluetooth and ANC and 20 hours with them. We ran a test to see how accurate this battery life is in real-world scenarios.
We connected the headphones via Bluetooth to an iPhone and played a playlist of today’s top hits at the maximum volume. We tracked the battery indicator light with a GoPro, and the headphones died after 18 hours and 58 minutes of continuous music and noise-cancelling. The battery life projected by Sony is pretty accurate, and the headphones also lasted a lot longer than most of the other models in our review, so they’re great for long trips. The Sony MDR-1000Xs have a four-hour charge time, so remember to plug them in well before you need them.
The Sony MDR-1000X wireless noise-cancelling headphones are super comfy and fit a variety of head shapes. Our testers’ ears ranged in size from large to small, and everyone noted how well they fit. At 9.7 ounces, they’re in the middle of the pack when it comes to weight, so they do squeeze a bit, but only after hours and hours of wear.
These headphones also received the highest ease of use score during testing. With just three buttons, Power (Bluetooth), Noise-Cancelling and Ambient Sound, they are crazy easy to use. Each one has its own LED light to indicate whether it is on, off or in pairing mode. Connecting the headphones to your Bluetooth device is also a breeze – you just hold down the power button and touch your NFC-enabled device and the headphones together. It took us all of 10 seconds to do in most cases. A voice prompt gives you information too. It calmly says things such as “power on,” “battery high,” and “noise-cancelling on” when you push each button.
During playback, you can control the volume and pause your song on the outside of the earcup. It works like a touchscreen, so you swipe up to increase the volume and tap to pause. We happened to test the cream-color pair of the Sony MDR-1000X, but they also come in a nice black depending on your style preferences.
Help & Support
A one-year warranty protects these headphones from defects and damage. Sony also offers email and phone support as well as manuals, FAQs and other helpful resources on its website. In addition, it is one of the few companies in our wireless noise-cancelling headphone review with an online chat feature, which allows you to talk to a real person and quickly resolve your problems.
The Sony MDR-1000X are the best noise-cancelling wireless headphones first and foremost because they cancel the most noise. They were also a favorite for sound quality and overall comfort in our tests and had a battery life of around 19 hours. The only real drawback is their four-hour charge time.