Sony WH-1000XM3 VS Beats Studio 3 (Who will Win?)


Before we get into the review let’s discuss what these aren’t. These aren’t gaming wireless headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM3 and the Beats Studio 3 are active noise canceling wireless over-ear headphones. If you are looking for something to use while destroying lesser players on Counterstrike or Fortnight you need to look elsewhere. The main issue that pulls these out of the gaming category is the lack of a quality microphone.

Sony has 3 microphones and by far it is the better choice for phone calls. Yet it still lacks in that arena. For chatting it up online over Xbox or PlayStation you need a headset with an extended microphone for the best clarity. This isn’t to say that you can’t use these for gaming. Just don’t complain to us when your friends make fun of you.

If you are in need of commuter or general-purpose wireless headphones with the advantage of noise-cancelling technology then you’ve come to the right place. The Sony WH-1000XM3 and the Beats Studio 3 are great options for when you need to fall into an audiobook, podcast, or some deep cuts low-fi jams. Both are great choices, though each has better characteristics. It was a tough choice and a close call. When you need something for the morning rush hour, the office chatter, or the home lounge you need something that delivers great sound profile with quality noise cancellation and little latency.

So which one is better?

When looking for a pair of headphones that can get you through the majority of your day and in just about any situation then you can’t go wrong with the Sony WH-1000XM3. These perform just as good as the Beats Studio 3 in every category and better in many of the important categories.

This isn’t to say that the Beats headphones are not a good choice. For Apple lovers or Beats lovers, this is an awesome update to the older models. You should love these as well. But if you were on a desert island and had to choose between the two, you should pick the Sony pair, every time.

However, don’t take our word for it. You still need to take into account your needs. Straight numbers don’t always take into account the general desires to own one brand over another or take into account having certain priorities over others. Take these numbers and rankings and apply them to your own set of priorities.

You have a purchasing power to decide your listening future. When you are deciding on what to buy don’t forget why you are buying headphones. To see the full list of specs check out all of the areas and more of numbers on RTings.com for the Sony WH-1000XM3 and the Beats Studio 3. The best way to determine what you need is to think about the following questions.

  1. When will you be wearing them and for how long? All day? A few hours?
  2. Can you charge them overnight every night?
  3. Do you use Alexa? Or a different digital assistant?
  4. Do you work out in them or need protection from the elements on a regular basis?
  5. Is your environment noisy? Do you still need to be aware of noises around you, ie traffic or people talking to you randomly?
  6. Are you an audiophile?
  7. Are you concerned about the price?
  8. Does the name brand matter in any way to you?
  9. Have you had either of these brands before and are looking to upgrade?
  10. Or are you just looking for the best long-term bang for your buck?

Specs Table

For a quick comparison of specific technical aspects of the headphones see the chart below. This is a general comparison of the main aspects of the headphones. Again, don’t use just this information to justify a purchase. Use this information as a clear indication of when the pair will fully meet your needs and usages. For a more detailed review of each of the headphones, check out the following reviews on RTings.com and Versus.com for technical aspects not considered here.

Tech SpecBeats Studio 3Sony WH-1000XM3
Passive Noise CancellationYesYes
Active Noise CancellationYesYes
Battery Life23 Hours28 Hours
Quick Charge10 Min For 150 Min Life15 Min For 300 Min Life
IPX RatingNo Rating GivenNo Rating Given
Sound QualityLarge BassEqual Over All Ranges
iOS Latency264 ms120 ms
Digital AssistantSiriAlexa
Comfort / DesignOver-Ear MediumOver-Ear Bulky
Microphones13
PriceCheck price on AmazonCheck price on Amazon

How Do They Rank Against Each Other On The Specifics?

Sound Quality

WINNER: Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony WH-1000XM3

WHY: The Sony headphones provide the best sound consistently over all types of audio pumped into them. Generally, they are slightly bass heavy with less than average treble. However, the greatest advantage that these have over most other headphones is that the downloadable smartphone app allows you to dynamically alter the EQs as you see fit and as you need for the genre of music. 

Sound quality is the reason you are buying headphones. If you just needed something to dull the noise you could use cotton balls or earmuffs. So, when you start to look at the benefits of an over-ear pair of headphones you need to understand how the sounds changes based on the placement of the headphones on your ears and distance from the source. The frequency response consistency measurement details the variation of the sound frequency over bass, treble, and mid level accuracies. 

The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones have a standard deviation of 0.34 dB, which is noticeable less than the 0.83 dB variation in the Beats Studio 3. This difference is something that would cause you to pause and notice. For the asking price you should never pause and wonder what the deal is. Sony is able to achieve such a high accuracy across all frequency ranges because it uses the noise-cancelling tech in the headphones to constantly “double-check” the frequency accuracy, ensuring a quality sound, every time.

Battery Life

WINNER: Sony WH-1000XM3

WHY: The average consumer won’t be actually wearing the headphones and using the noise-cancellation technology 24/7. The average consumer will be able to charge the headphones every night or while at work. However, if you need to maximize your listening time with the noise-cancelling tech always on, the Sony WH-1000XM3 delivers almost 30 hours of listening life. That is significantly better than the 23 hours delivered by the Beats.

Most modern wireless listening tech also has the ability to quick charge. This means that when you first plug in your listening device to charge the first 10 minutes or 20 minutes of charging time will deliver a large playback and listening capacity. Here the Sony WH-1000X3 headphones deliver 5 hours of listening for only 15 minutes of charging. The Beats Studio 3 headphones only deliver 2.5 hours of listening for 10 minutes of charging. Again, we can see that the Sony pair has outperformed the Beats headphones. We can all imagine forgetting to charge our headphones and preferring that they deliver up to 5 hours instead of only 2.5 hours of listening time over a long day of commuting, work, and evening chill sessions.

Noise Cancelling

WINNER: Sony WH-1000XM3

WHY: Any type of over the ear headphones could be considered passive noise cancellation. This just means that there is an obstruction between the noise and the eardrum. However, active noise cancellation uses alternating frequencies by emitting noises to cancel out the exterior noises. Both pairs do this as well. The Sony WH-1000XM3 just does it a lot better. And when we say a lot, we mean, a lot.

If you are on the subway, tube, bus, metro, or on your bike and just need to peace out of the surrounding noise you know how reliant you are on the power of the active noise canceling technology. For a more in-depth guide on how active noise-cancelling works check out the basic idea behind it and you will see the marvels of the modern world.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 was able to achieve consistent noise isolation across all frequencies. This means that car horns, high pitch baby cries, and grows of a bus or train will be isolated and kept out of your ears. Further, you don’t hear the headphones themselves emitting any noise when they are working but there isn’t anything to isolate.

In comparison, the Beats Studio 3 worked perfectly well for car horns and crying babies but couldn’t isolate the lower frequencies common with mass transit like busses, cars, and trains. For the purposes of commuting and travel the Sony WH-1000XM3 outperforms most of the competition including the Beats Studio 3. If you are concerned that the Sony headphones are cancelling out too much noise the smartphone app allows you to lower the amount of noise that is isolated. This gives you better control over white noise and attention you have to the surrounding areas.

Comfort

WINNER: Beats Studio 3

Beats Studio 3

WHY: The Beats Studio 3 headphones offer a bit more in the usability category. They have a slightly tighter grip on the head, which allows them to be used while working out. This can be a benefit when you need to run or lift in silence. If you need to go to your happy place while still being active and want the noise-cancelling software then the Beats may be a better choice.

Remember that these aren’t made for the athletes. However, if you do find yourself in a pinch with an axe murderer chasing you, the Beats will keep your pace up and stay on your head. The Sony headphones have a bit of a lighter grip than the Beats pair and are slightly heavier. The Beats Studio 3 weighs 0.58 lbs and the Sony headphones weigh 0.6 lbs. This is basically negligible difference. The Beats headphones pack a bit smaller than the Sony pair, but you will most likely be very careful regardless of how small the package is. 

Design

WINNER: Beats Studio 3

WHY: The Beats Studio 3 headphones are a product of Beats by Dre, which is owned by Apple. This usually means that style and design are part of the package. These over-ear headphones do look like Beats headphones. However, because they include active noise-cancelling technology they are bulkier than the average headphones. So, don’t think you are going unnoticed. 

Design and looks are an important factor when you are looking to buy something expensive and something that you will be wearing in public often. As an accessory, at least partially, identifies who you are as a worker or commuter. Maybe it identifies only a part of you as an individual, but you still want to look professional and socially relevant to the rest of your peers.

Don’t worry. Both pairs will deliver you the respect you are looking for in a crowded subway car full of smelly homeless people and mixing odors from deodorant, food, and fear. Point being, both of these headphones look and feel great. The only reason Beats Studio 3 wins this category is that they are much more easily recognizable and have a high-value brand name, Beats by Dre.

Price

WINNER: Sony WH-1000XM3

WHY: The Sony WH-1000XM3 is a little bit more expensive than Beats Studio 3.

But at the end of the day, it may not be a big deal if you are looking to stick with a brand or support Apple products. The active noise-cancelling tech is expensive regardless of the option that you take.

However, if you are primarily concerned with the best listening experience and don’t care, as much about the brand, then the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones are your obvious option. They are rated better than the Beats headphones for sound and noise-cancellation quality and are significantly cheaper. It is hard to say no to this difference. There are deals floating around the Internet and possible refurbished options for the budget conscience consumer.

Microphone

WINNER: Sony WH-1000XM3

WHY: The Sony WH-1000XM3 has 2 extra microphones built into the headset to make sure that there is a clear transmission of your voice for all types of conversations in any environment as compared to the Beats Studio 3. 

Granted neither has the best microphones as compared to physically extended microphones such as the ones found on gaming headsets. However, if you do rely on your headphones for conversations, 3 microphones are usually more consistent, reliable, and trusted than just 1 microphone. If you are struggling with choosing which pair of headphones to purchase and there is a chance that you might take a call while wearing these, then this feature should give you your answer.

iOS Sound Latency

WINNER: Sony WH-1000XM3

WHY: If you want to watch videos and listen to the audio in sync then you will want headphones with little to no latency. The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones have lower latency than the Beats Studio 3 on most if not all platforms. This means that you can pair the Sony headphones with just about anything and never notice a delay in the audio from the video.

Most people that are concerned with audio latency are sound engineers in professional or home studios. However, the same principle applies when you stream video while connected to a wireless headset. For more info on latency, you can check out this article for a more in-depth discussion. Both pairs were checked for latency when connected to an iPhone. There should have been an advantage to the Beats as they are an Apple product and have the fast pair tech with the Apple Proprietary W1 Chip. However, Sony still topped the Beats in a head-to-head latency battle by almost double.

Final Sounds

Both of these headphones are great products. The conclusion of this review isn’t that one pair is trash and the other is gold. No consumer product is perfect. Further, some lesser-than products may be better for you based on your preferences and priorities. However, generally speaking, the Sony WH-1000XM3 drastically outperformed the Beats Studio in most categories. So, when you are ready to take the plunge into active noise-cancelling over-ear headphones, you should feel confident if you choose Sony over Beats.

Beats headphones have made leaps and bounds with its style and tech over the versions. However, Sony has a depth of industry technology that it can pull from making it a more reliable brand in the sound industry. In summary here are the top benefits that Sony delivers over the Beats competition:

Sony WH-1000XM3 delivers:

  • 5 more hours of listening time
  • All frequency active noise-cancelling technology
  • More reliable and accurate sound quality
  • A better price point
  • 2 more built-in microphones
  • Almost half the sound latency

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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