While over-ear headphones prioritize comfort over bulkiness and in-ear headphones offer an extremely lightweight experience, neckband headphones supposedly offer a best-of-both-worlds form factor that Sony isn’t going to leave behind anytime soon. It announced its new WI-1000X M2 earbuds today at IFA, and I got a chance to try them out on the show floor.

The headphones use a hybrid-drive system that combines a main 9mm driver with a balanced armature driver, and there’s a 3.5mm port and USB-C plug for making a wired connection and charging the headphones, respectively. But the thing that should make you sit up and take notice is the inclusion of the same noise-canceling processor as the one that was included in Sony’s WH-1000X M3, which played a part in making them our pick for the best wireless headphones right now.

Specs aside, the WI-1000X M2s sound good, with well-defined bass and a nice clear soundstage. Their noise-cancellation performance also seems good from what I could tell on the noisy IFA show floor, and Sony’s companion app allows you to tweak the exact level of noise-cancellation on offer. They’re definitely a worthy sibling to their over-ear and true wireless siblings in Sony’s headphone lineup.

Their neckband form factor, however, could be a little more divisive. It might be an attempt to offer a compromise between portability and performance, but they still felt a little bulky for my liking. Although the silicone neckband is nice and light (despite holding a battery that offers 10 hours of playback), it still felt strange to have something resting around my neck, and the earbuds are also a little on the large side. That said, if you buy the headphones for yourself, then you’ll get access to Sony’s full array of different ear tip sizes, which will certainly help you find a better fit.

Sitting between the over-ear WH-1000X M3 and the true wireless WF-1000X M3 (yes, Sony’s headphone naming conventions continue to be bewildering), the WI-1000X M2 could be at risk of being crowded out by the rest of Sony’s very capable portable audio lineup. While my first impressions suggest that they can match up to their older siblings in terms of sound quality alone, I think you might have to be invested in the neckband form factor to pick these headphones over Sony’s other options.

The Sony WI-1000X M2 are set to cost £300 (€330 and around $370), and they will be available in January 2020.

Photography by Jon Porter / The Verge

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