Sony, despite being one of the top brands in the personal audio space in India, took a while to finally launch true wireless earphones here. I firmly believe that this form factor is the future of headphones, and global industry trends suggest that buyers are attracted by the convenience of being completely wire-free. While affordable options are aplenty, Sony’s approach to the segment is, as expected, relatively expensive.
Today, we’re reviewing one of the newly launched true wireless products from Sony, the WF-SP800N, marketed as part of its sports range. Priced at Rs. 18,990, these premium true wireless earphones aren’t quite as expensive as the Apple AirPods Pro and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, but they still offer active noise cancellation. Find out if these new true wireless earphones have what it takes to challenge our current top picks in the segment.
The Sony WF-SP800N is big and water-resistant
The first thing I noticed about these earphones and the charging case is just how big everything is. The earphones are considerably larger than most true wireless options, and therefore require ear hooks for a secure fit. This also means that there’s a particular way to put these earphones on; you have to twist a little bit so the ear hooks ‘lock’ in place and you get a secure, noise-isolating fit. We’re quite used to premium options that are more compact, so the Sony WF-SP800N stands out a bit.
That said, it’s a comfortable pair of earphones. The fit is snug, but the plastic used in the construction keeps the earpieces light.
The Sony WF-SP800N earphones are IP55-rated for dust and water resistance; this isn’t quite as impressive as the IP57 rating on the Jabra Elite Active 75t, which is available at a similar price, but it’s enough to protect the earphones from a fair amount of water and dust exposure. You should safely be able to go out in the rain with these earphones, and sweat shouldn’t pose any problems at all.
The charging case of the Sony WF-SP800N is significantly larger than those of any other true wireless earphones else we’ve reviewed recently. It’s also strangely curved at the bottom, so you can’t place it upright anywhere; it’ll have to lie on its side. The bottom has a USB Type-C port for charging, and there is a light just under the lid that indicates when the earbuds are charging.
Similar lights on the earphones shine through the plastic casings and tell you if they’re charging, connected, or in pairing mode. The sales package contains four pairs of ear tips, two pairs of ear hooks, and a cable for charging the case.
The Sony WF-SP800N supports the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs, and has active noise cancellation as well as an ambient sound mode. There are also sensors on each earphone so that they can automatically play or pause music when they’ve been inserted or removed.
Controls are touch-based, and there are touch-sensitive zones on each earphone. By default, tapping the left side cycles between ambient sound and active noise cancellation modes. Pressing and holding reduces the music volume to allow hear-through for as long as you have your finger on the sensor. The right side controls playback (single-tap to play/pause; double-tap for the next track; triple-tap for the previous track) and you can invoke your phone’s voice assistant with a long-press by default.
These actions can be customised using the Sony Headphones Connect app (available for iOS and Android). You can choose to have volume controls or detailed controls for Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, or you can deactivate each earphone’s sensor altogether. However, you can only set one group of functions on each side, so you’ll have to choose what matters to you the most. In my case, I stuck to the default configuration, but it was a bit disappointing to have to choose between volume controls and noise cancellation modes.
The app also lets you see the battery levels of each earphone and the case; it’s worth pointing out here that the case battery level is only updated each time the earphones are removed, and usually wasn’t accurate for me.
You can also use the app to configure the adaptive sound control mode, which detects your surroundings based on your actions and locations you frequent to set the noise cancellation and ambient sound mode to optimal levels. I didn’t often use this though, preferring to control those settings myself. Various other settings and functions in the app include equaliser, power controls, and firmware updates.
Battery life is something that Sony has aced with its over-ear headphones, and it’s good to see that the company has got it right with these true wireless earphones as well. The earphones easily matched the company’s claims, running for around ten hours per charge with mixed usage and with noise-cancellation on most of the time. The charging case gave just a little over one full charge to the earphones. It isn’t a very impressive figure for the case, but the run time of the earphones in a single go makes up for that.
Lots of bass, good noise cancellation on the Sony WF-SP800N
I used the Sony WF-SP800N earphones with an Android smartphone for this review, using the AAC codec. It’s a bit disappointing that these earphones don’t support the aptX or LDAC Bluetooth codecs. However, I was happy with how aggressive and involving the earphones sounded, even if there was a bit missing in terms of detail and cohesiveness.
The headset carries Sony’s ‘Extra Bass’ branding even though it isn’t strictly a part of the ‘Extra Bass’ range. Like all of Sony’s headphones and earphones, the WF-SP800N is true to its advertised sonic signature. This pair is tuned for strong, punchy bass, without necessarily taking anything away from the rest of the frequency range. Listening to Chopta by Malfnktion and Aerate Sound, the earphones quickly stepped up with low-end drive and attack, and we were able to hear separation in the elements, along with a decent sense of direction in the sound.
However, there was a bit missing in terms of how clean the earphones sounded. While I loved the punchy and raw character of the sound, it did seem to take centre-stage and define the direction the track took. Faint details could be heard with a distinct sense of positioning, but it needed some attention from me to be able to properly enjoy. The low-end definitely calls the shots here.
Switching to high-resolution audio tracks, there wasn’t a significant improvement in the sound. State Of The Art by Gotye in FLAC format did sound a bit more cohesive and less raw than when streamed using Spotify or YouTube Music, but the difference wasn’t as noticeable as on the AirPods Pro or Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2. It’s here that support for high-resolution Bluetooth codecs might have made more of a difference, and Sony’s usually technical approach to audio fell a bit short.
Active noise cancellation on the Sony WF-SP800N is decent enough, with the earphones managing to cut out a fair amount of the droning sounds of a typical household. However, it isn’t quite as impressive as what the Apple AirPods Pro is capable of. The relative silence isn’t as stark as I’m used to with the much more effective noise cancellation of the Apple earphones.
The noise cancellation did help a bit when it came to being able to hear music a bit more clearly, but these earphones are loud and full enough to not always need it for a good listening experience. I do think it will make a bigger difference in noisier environments, but it still isn’t quite class-leading.
Voice calls were decent on the Sony WF-SP800N earphones; we didn’t have any complaints with sound quality on calls, although voices did sound a bit boomy at high volumes.
Sony’s first premium true wireless earphones in India impressed me for one major reason – pricing. With punchy sound, functional active noise cancellation, a decent level of water and dust resistance, and good battery life, this pair of earphones offers flagship-grade features and specifications for significantly less than what Apple and Sennheiser charge.
That said, there are some drawbacks here. The bulky earphones and case might put many potential buyers off, and the sound quality isn’t quite as cohesive and well put-together as with the Sony WF-SP800N’s more capable competitors. If you have an inflexible budget of Rs. 20,000, the Sony WF-SP800N is perhaps the best you can pick right now, particularly if you like your music bass-heavy. If you can spend a bit more, the Apple AirPods Pro and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 will be worth considering instead.
Price: Rs. 18,990
- Comfortable, snug fit
- IP55 dust and water resistance
- Good battery life
- Good active noise cancellation
- Punchy, aggressive sound
- Big earphones, bulky charging case
- Sound isn’t very cohesive
- No advanced Bluetooth codecs
Ratings (out of 5)
- Design/ comfort: 4
- Audio quality: 4
- Battery life: 4
- Value for money: 4
- Overall: 4
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