Thursday, June 25, 2020

Sony WF-SP800N

Sony has entered the True Wireless earbuds segment in India thereby expanding its audio portfolio beyond headphones, earphones, and Bluetooth speakers. It has announced two TWS in India, the WF-XB700 and WF-SP800N. 

The Sony WF-SP800N TWS comes with IP55 rating for dust and water resistance, making them sporty. They are also targeted at fitness enthusiasts who prefer active noise cancellation. For music lovers, they feature a wide soundstage with extra bass that’s punchy. 

You also get excellent battery life with these earbuds and there is also quick charging. To enhance the overall experience, you also get an app which can be used to customize and control the earbuds. These earbuds are targeted at folks who are into sports and fitness.

Can we also take a moment to talk about how terrible Sony’s naming scheme is for its audio lineup?

Sony WF-SP800N price and release date

(Image credit: Future)

The Sony WF-SP800N is the company’s first TWS in India, along with the WF-XB700. It launched in India in June for a price of Rs 18,990, which is significantly higher than its US pricing of $199 (~Rs 15,000).

The WF-SP800N is available on Flipkart, Amazon, and offline stores across the country starting June 26. It is available in Black, Blue, and White colour options. 

With this pair of TWS, Sony has entered the premium segment of TWS in India. With SP800N, Sony will look to capture major share in the TWS market around Rs 20,000 segment in the coming months. 

Design  

(Image credit: Future)

The aesthetics are very unusual for a TWS here with the Sony WF-SP800N, not in a bad way though. I had the white coloured earbuds, but you also get it in black. The white colour easily attracts a lot of dust and scratches and even a minor spot/dirt can be easily noticeable here. On top of that, the case comes in a matte finish. 

The carry case here also acts as a charging station which gives additional juice to the earbuds. It comes in egg-shaped hardshell design which is pocketable easily, but the size is big compared to the other TWS earbuds. For instance, the Sony SP800N case is double the size of the Realme Buds Air case. The case is not flat on the bottom and hence it can’t sit flat on a surface. 

(Image credit: Future)

Moving on to the design of the earbuds, these come in an ovular in-ear design with interchangeable eartips along with ear fins for a better fit. You get four pairs of eartips and two pairs of fins in total. On the outside of both the earbuds, there is a fairly large touch-capacitive control area along with Sony branding and the microphones.

On the inside, you get a wear detection sensor, which will automatically pause the music when you take them off your ears. There are also three magnetic pogo pins on the bottom that are used to charge them up. The snap and click of the earbuds and the case is very satisfying. The earbuds are also IP55 rated for dust and water resistance. I took them out for a quick run when it was drizzling and had no issues with them. Over at the bottom, you get a Type-C port for charging.

The earbuds are quite bulky but fit quite well in the ear, thanks to the provided ear fins and extra ear tips, almost everyone can get a tight fit with the SP800N. But, they do stick out of the ear and are easily noticeable as well. Wearing it for a long time continuously can be a bit of a pain in the ear as they tend to get tight on a few occasions. The max I could wear the earbuds straight for was 2-2:30 hours. I had to take it off for a couple of minutes, take some time and put it back on. So the design is quite subjective here.

The weight of the earbuds are quite negligible, once you wear them, you can forget about them. They are light and comfy in the ears. They also come with active noise cancelling and although they are not under XB series, they do pack in punch bass. More on that in a minute.

Audio Performance

(Image credit: Future)

The key feature of the Sony WF-SP800N is the active noise cancellation. The TWS doesn’t come with Sony’s powerful QN1e processor which is used in WF-1000XM3 but features the same drivers. Understandably, the noise cancellation isn’t as good as those. But, you do get solid noise cancellation. 

In my testing period of two weeks, I could completely get rid of any of the surrounding noise and also the construction noise which was going on near my room. It does a good job with ANC by eliminating the wide range of noise around you. If there are too many people talking in the room, you will still be able to hear them but the voice will be reduced to high frequency. With the help of the app, you will be able to control the ambient noise and ANC, choosing from 20 levels. 

It sports a 6mm drivers and harnesses Bluetooth 5.0. The range is said to be about 10 meter/33 feet. I could walk across the hall and a couple of rooms without any hassle. I started losing the audio once I moved to a different floor, which is usual. Overall the connection stayed quite stable throughout my testing and there were no random disconnections. It misses out on NFC though. 

(Image credit: Future)

Let’s talk about the audio experience. Overall, the sound clarity on them was excellent. You get clear vocals, good mids and highs. I could distinguish between the vocals and instruments. The bass is excellent here, it is punchy and I enjoyed it very much. The music gets loud and clear, there is no distortion or any disturbances. The soundstage on these buds is wide and music is enjoyable with that additional punchy bass.

With the companion app, you can listen to music in three modes: Ambient sound on, off, and with noise cancellation on. The app even lets you set the equalizer according to your needs. It can automatically set adaptive sound control. The app comes with eight presets and you can even manually set the equalizer and bass.

Furthermore, the earbuds come with Google Assistant built-in. If you have an Android device, you can take the full advantage of it. For starters, you can long-press the left earbud and access the Google Assistant. It will respond back with a greeting and current time and will read up if there are any notifications/events on your calendar.

It’s 10:20 AM. Aakash says, “Are you late for work again?”

It will also notify you when you get a message on your phone. It will read out to you when you double-tap and you can even respond to the messages right away without even opening the phone. Before sending the message, the assistant will confirm the message once and only then proceed. The mic quality is also excellent here, the person on the other end was able to listen to me clearly without any issues. I used my earbuds to control my room lights, TV with the Google Assistant and they worked flawlessly. 

The earbuds also support Sony’s 360 reality audio. However, in India, since there are no such streaming services available yet, you won’t be able to use the feature. We reached out to Sony and they said they’re currently working on bringing the 360 audio onboard but, they didn’t give any timeline. 

(Image credit: Future)

Companion App  

(Image credit: Future)

One of the best features of the Sony WF-SP800N is the companion app support. With the help of Sony Headphones, which is only available for selected Sony audio products, the user experience is taken to the next level. Connecting to the app is simple, open the app and connect with the earbuds with just one click. 

On the home screen of the app, you see the better status of both the earbuds and the case as well. You get three tabs: Status, Sound, and System. Let’s break them down. 

The Status screen shows the adaptive sound control with action detection like staying, walking, running, or transport. Based on these actions, the app will set the ambient sound and noise cancellation levels. There are 20 levels of ambient sound control, which is on the higher side. You also get media control on the screen. Additionally, it lets you add location-based ambient controls settings. For instance, you can set Home and Work locations with different equalizer and ambient control settings. Similarly, you can set that for School, Station, Bus stop, Gym, and others. 

(Image credit: Future)

You can also add location-based ambient sound profiles for your work and home settings.

The Sound tab gives you access to control ambient noise with 0 being completely eliminating the outside noise and 20 being hearing all the ambient noise from outside. You can also just focus on voice when you are in-between levels 1-20. Next, you get Equalizer which comes with eight presets, one manual mode and two custom modes. 

You can choose according to your music and media. You can also choose to have a stable connection with the earbuds or prioritize the sound quality based on your needs. I always had priority on the sound quality and did not face any issues with regards to connectivity.  There is also an option to set up the 360 reality audio, which I didn’t try as there are no apps supporting it in India. 

Lastly, the most important part of the TWS - the touch controls. The Sony WF-SP800N comes with touchpads on either side. The left earbud will be set to launch Google Assistant by default and the left earbud will be set to control the media by default. You can customize the touch controls as per your needs. 

You get the following options: Ambient sound control, volume control, and Amazon Alexa. It also supports Siri. However, you can only pick up to two at a time, out of six functions.. The touchpad can recognize a single-tap, double-tap, and long press. You can hold the left earbud for 3 seconds to hear the outside noise and pause the music, the company calls this as Quick attention mode, which will come in handy while travelling.

I never faced any issues while using the touchpad gestures during my testing. They were responsive and I could easily access Google Assistant, reply to messages, control media, pick/reject calls without any hassle. The touchpad area is fairly big and should be accessible to everyone.

Furthermore, you can set the TWS to stop playing when you take out the ears. You also get options to toggle notifications. This model is also capable of getting a software update. Overall, the feature-rich app makes the user experience sweet and convenient for anyone.

Battery life

(Image credit: Future)

Sony claims that the WF-SP800N can last up to 9 hours with noise cancellation on and 13 hours with noise cancellation turned off. The included case should double the battery life in both scenarios. So, with the case, you get an additional 9 hours and 13 hours of battery respectively. 

In our testing, the battery life was almost similar to what the company claimed. With the noise cancellation trend on, I got around 8 hours and with it being turned off, I got around 12 hours and volume was set to 100% all the time. If you listen at 70-80%, you can get an additional 1-2 hours of battery life. 

To charge the earbuds there is a Type-C port at the bottom of the case. A quick 10 minutes gives you 60 minutes of playback, which held true in our testing. A full charge takes around 2.5 hours, which charges both the earbuds and the case to 100%. However, there is no wireless charging here. We’d have liked the case to pack in more juice to back up though, considering its size.

Verdict

(Image credit: Future)

The Sony WF-SP800N addresses two of the most demanding categories at once — truly wireless earphones with noise cancellation It does the job reasonably well on both fronts and yet manages to be relatively affordable.

It brings real active noise cancellation, which is a first for this price segment, along with excellent battery life, IP rating and admirable sound quality. These are easy to recommend. The only cons that stick out are the rather large carrying case and mediocre charging speeds. 

The other alternatives at this price include the first-gen Sennheiser Momentum, Apple AirPods and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus. Mind you, none of them offers ANC.

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