The latest line of Sony headphones is quite unique. Recently they’ve started integrating their newest headphone lines with special features like Alexa, and 360 reality audio integration. With its “Headphones” app, Sony has made your listening experience far more customizable than most other consumer headphone brands. With the new SP800N, Sony aims to bring its character into the realm of wireless workout earbuds. There’s a lot of variety in wireless earbuds nowadays, as everyone and their mother are looking to dethrone AirPods. While it’s not hard to win that battle on the quality front, Sony makes their products stand out a bit more in the marketplace. But how does the SP800N stack up by itself?
What You Get
This standard box contains a few pieces. You’ll first find the earbuds themselves, as well as their charging case just below it. Like a lot of other high-end wireless earbuds, the earbuds magnetically stick to the charging inserts. The case is small and fits easily in your pocket for on the go listening. There’s a box sitting on top of where you’ll find your earbuds, and it contains your USB-C to USB-A charging cable, along with a user guide, 4 extra tips, and 2 extra arcs.
Look and Feel
The SP800N at first glance seems to bear a bigger shape than some other brands, but it works with the idea that these are supposed to be durable buds that’ll get you through a workout. Honestly, they kind of resemble the tips of your fingers, so think about the SP800N as having a fingertip in your ear. In reality, the SP800N feels just fine in your ear. I never felt like they were going to fall out of my ear, or had to adjust them to stick better. They sit comfortably within your ear, and you can tell that they’re made to just stand completely still. It’s a tight grip that you just don’t feel. This is due to the cushioned arc that secures your ear to the earbud. I do want to mention the charging case. It has a solid build quality, and it can fit in your pocket. I think I prefer the more pill-like design of other charging cases, like the Sennheiser True Motion Plus though, as the case doesn’t have to sit on top of my wallet or phone.
Sony succeeds in designing for the necessities of a workout earbud. The SP800N received an IP55 rating for being resistant to water, sweat, and dirt. These earbuds also support Bluetooth 5.0 which is a huge plus, especially for workout headphones. You’ll get a high bandwidth range of about 30ft. However, Sony has opted to support AAC instead of LDAC which usually boasts a higher resolution signal. I have yet to mention that the SP800N is noise canceling. Compared to all the features Sony presents, I feel like the noise canceling was a bit of an afterthought, as I didn’t find it very strong. This also makes a bit of sense though, as Sony’s “Ambient Sound Mode” is designed to make you more aware of what’s around you, and invited the sound to join it. Lastly, the SP800N sports a dome type driver, a wise choice as those mid and high frequencies are gonna need to play along with the EXTRA BASS Sony likes to market their headphones with now.
Like most of the latest wireless earbuds hitting the market, the SP800N opts for touch-sensitive interactions. I find the functionality of this on some models to be hit or miss. I believe Sony mostly gets it right with the SP800N with maybe a few caveats. For simply hitting play/pause, the SP800N works just fine. However, I could not stand cycling through ambient mode, and noise cancelation. It’s not that it’s unresponsive, the SP800N is plenty solid in that regard, it’s just so tedious. I found using the app to be a better alternative, rather than using the buds themselves. One of the best functions of the SP800N though is the fact that you can hold down the left earbud to lower volume, and active the internal mics so you can listen to what someone is saying. It sort of drowns the signal for a but while someone is speaking, which I think is an awesome feature.
Consistent playback on the SP800N will last you about 9 hours per earbud at full battery, and with noise-canceling disabled could last you 13 hours. This is pretty significant for a pair of earbuds, as compared to other wireless buds on the market, the SP800N is pretty top of the line in comparison. You can also get some extra juice out of the charging case, as fast charging could buy you a solid 60 minutes of extra life.
Without the addition of 360 Reality Audio, the soundstage of the SP800N is nothing to write home about. It does an okay job with spatial imaging, even better than most wireless earbuds, but the sound is still pretty boxed in and never gets to feel very expansive. However, 360 Reality Audio completely fixes this. If you’re unfamiliar 360 Reality Audio is meant to simulate surround sound but within a stereo field. Sound mixers can use Sony’s technology to use imaging more specifically, instead of placing a sound in your usual left or right channel, 360 reality audio allows you to place a sound around your head. Only some select albums are available to stream in 360 reality audio and only work with services like Tidal or Deezer. I listened to Space Oddity by David Bowie as an example, and it just sounds incredible. When Bowie starts counting down, you can hear his voice from all around you with precise placement. It’s an absolute must for Sony headphones, but it may not make a difference for an earbud centered around working out.
This is most likely what you’re going to want to buy these earbuds for. This is a thick and amplified low end. Bass tones are deep, have loads of boost. This timbre is built for your workout playlist, as its lively, chest-pounding quality is sure to be motivating. Hip-hop beats are punchy, and powerful rock tracks have an ample amount of low-mid driven as distorted guitars roar. If the lows are too much, you can use the EQ available in Sony’s headphones app to adjust to your liking.
With the amount of low-end boost, there is, you’d think maybe the mids suffer a bit, but not exactly. They sound surprisingly clear, with some emphasis on the low mids of course. High mids have a slight cut after a certain range, but vocal ranges still come out pretty clean. I appreciate the SP600N not completely sacrificing some key fundamentals in this range to favor the bass more. There’s enough mid-range detail here to stop the SP800N from becoming V-shaped.
The high end here is a lot more subdued. There isn’t a ton of definition or life, but still, have enough resonance to be enjoyable. You do get a bit of detail when listening to more ambient tracks, especially when not in noise-canceling mode. A high female vocal can still feel smooth but never gets to that airy timbre that I much prefer. These highs suffer a bit but are still well balanced with the rest of the SP800N’s frequency response.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Lively low end, 360 Reality Audio, Fit for a workout
Cons: Finicky touch interface, AAC instead of LDAC
There’s an enjoyable quality here in terms of sound signature, especially when recognizing what these earbuds are made for. 360 Reality Audio is a must when purchasing any pair of Sony headphones, and I recommend trying it out if you haven’t. With generous durability and plentiful battery life, the SP800N is definitely worth their $198 price point. Some aspects of the touch interaction just bother me, but there are some great features here that improve with the use of Sony’s headphones app. I’d say this is a bang for your buck especially for workout buds, considering all the features it comes with, even if there can be some finicky things about its interface.
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