Sony Headphone Connect- Customization is thy middle name

In September 2016, the corporate giant Apple launched iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The keyword in the launching event was ‘courage’ and this display of ‘courage’ made a dent in the smartphone industry for ever. To put it simply, Apple took away the headphone jack (aka 3.5mm jack) and needless to say android smartphone manufacturers began following suit soon after. Fast forward to 2020, most smartphone manufacturers with the exception of LG has abandoned headphone jack in their devices. Sony is a unique case as it had abandoned headphone jack before 2020 itself but brought it back in their 2020 flagship Xperia 1ii.

The decisive abandonment of headphone jack by Apple in 2017 coincided with the rise of bluetooth earphones and headphones. Various brands ranging from smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung and Xiaomi to premium audiophile brands such as Sennheiser and Beyerdynamics have began launching their bluetooth earphones and headphones. In the year 2016, Bose launched their Quiet Comfort 35 and it marked the emergence of noise cancelling headphones. Noise cancelling headphones had one unique advantage over normal bluetooth headphones and it was the ability to shield you from outside noise while keeping you fully engaged in your music of choice. Noise cancelling capabilities via external microphones and internal engineering of the headphones also meant that the user also was prevented from increasing the volume of the music too high thereby protecting their hearing as well.

In response to the stupendous success of Bose Quiet Comfort 35, Sony launched their MDR1000X in 2016 and followed it up with the launch of the highly successful WH1000XM2 in 2017. Sony WH1000XM2 came with a touch sensitive earcups as well as support for the high quality LDAC bluetooth codec developed by engineers at Sony. However, most importantly, WH1000XM2 launched with the Sony Headphone Connect App that allowed the end user to customize the sound output from Sony headphones and also to control other features such as choose between sound quality or stable connection, decide between various reverberation presets such as Auditorium, Club, Live and Stadium, adaptive sound control, control the level of noise cancellation and most importantly an inbuilt atmospheric pressure regulator that adjusted the pressure level of Sony WH1000XM2 depending on the surrounding atmospheric pressure. The competing app made by Bose for their Quiet Comfort 35ii was bare bones in its functionality.

In the year of its launch, the app supported Sony WH900N (h.ear on 2) along with Sony WH1000XM2. However, the functionality offered by the app varied depending upon the headphones in use. WH900N for example did not support atmospheric pressure regulator and hence the app omitted that functionality for that headphones. Currently, the app supports a number of headphones and earphones by Sony including WH1000XM3, WH1000XM4 (successors to the WH1000XM2), WH H910N as well as truly wireless earbuds such as Sony WF1000XM3 and Sony WF-XB700. Last year Sony also added in the app a feature for 360 reality audio which however was limited only to few music streaming services such as Tidal, and Deezer. This functionality works by scanning an individual user’s ear and then providing a customized music experience based on Sony’s object based spatial audio technology. I have personally tested out this app with my Sony WH1000XM2 and WH1000XM3. The features I used the most were atmospheric pressure regulator, adaptive sound control and reverberation presets. However, it should be especially noted that reverberation presets can be used only when preference to solid connection is selected over preference to sound quality. The problem here is that the option for preference to solid connection degrades the bluetooth audio codec to SBC whereas the option for preference to sound quality keeps it at LDAC or if you so prefer at Aptx or AptxHD (keep in mind that Sony WH1000XM4 does not support AptX or AptXHD).

Sony Headphone Connect is available for both ios and android. Since ios only supports aac codec, the end user make use of the reverberation presets without suffering from any loss in the quality of bluetooth codec. However, the downside is that the ios user will never get to experience the high quality LDAC codec supported by Sony headfphones, android smartphones and the Sony Headphone Connect app for android.

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