Sony WF-SP800N review: Nine hour battery, ANC, and water resistance, but poor active fit

sony-wf-sp800n-7.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    7.2 Very good
  • $199.99

Pros

  • Excellent audio performance with strong bass
  • Very long battery life
  • High level of water resistance
  • Easy, reliable touch controls
  • Silicon fin and eartip for good fit

Cons

  • Fall out easily
  • Large size
  • Huge charging case
  • 360 Reality Audio limited to few subscription services

In my continued quest for the perfect pair of wireless earbuds, I purchased the Sony WF-SP800N from Amazon a week ago for $198. These headphones promise nine hour battery life, active noise canceling, and IP55 dust/water resistance.

They deliver in these areas, but falling out after running 100 feet just isn't going to work for me.

Sony is known for its high-quality audio products and I was looking forward to having a pair of wireless earbuds that I could wear running, commuting, and traveling. When the retail package arrived, I was honestly a bit surprised at the large, cheap feeling charging case and then also not prepared for the large size of the earbuds themselves. The blue color I selected looks good though.

Also: Google Pixel Buds review: Android's more affordable AirPods Pro

I figured I could get over the size if the audio quality and fit worked out. The Sony buds are nearly double the weight of my favorite Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds at 10 grams and the large body of the earbuds extends well beyond your ear. This weight overhanging empty spaces creates a lever with the resulting moment causing the buds to fall out easily. If you do exercises where you raise your arms, then the earbuds may also impact your shoulder.

Specifications

  • Dust and water resistance: IP55 rating
  • Sensors: Capacitive touch on each earbud, in-ear detection
  • Battery life: Up to nine hours of ANC play with charging case providing another nine hours of music playback. If you switch off ANC, then you can get up to 13 hours of music playback. Ten minutes of charging provides up to 60 minutes of listening time.
  • Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Earbud weight: 10 grams each

Hardware

The retail package includes the two wireless Sony earbuds, a charging case with integrated battery, small and large silicone ear tips, a larger size silicone arc piece, and a short USB-A to USB-C cable. The medium size silicone ear tips and the smaller arc piece are attached to the Sony WF-SP800N in the box.

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The charging case is hard plastic with a matte finish, colored blue just like the earbuds, and larger than any other wireless earbud case I've ever seen. It has curved sides, top, and bottom so it only rests on a surface when set down on a side. The case feels a bit cheap because there is so much size without the associated weight. A USB-C port is embedded on the bottom for charging up the case.

Opening up the lid reveals a LED light along the front part of the case under the lid. There are magnets in the case to help you properly align and insert the earbuds, which helps make sure a positive charging connection is made.

The outside of the earbuds has a glossy plastic area above the Sony name that serves as the touch control surface. A microphone opening is positioned below the Sony name on the outside of the earbud.

CNET: Sony WF-SP800N review: Wireless sports earbuds deliver a mostly winning combo

On the back of the earbud is an indicator light and also a stamp showing R or L. On the lower inside there are three gold connection points for the charging case. A black window is positioned on the inside near the back and houses the sensor for in-ear detection.

The tip that extends into your ear is angled up and away from the large body of the earbud. A silicone arc piece fits onto the earbud tip shaft with a silicone earbud tip fitting on the end. The arc is designed to help keep the earbud secure in your ear while the tip is used to seal off your ear for better active-noise canceling performance.

Single, double, and triple taps are used on the touch surface to control various aspects of the listening experience. A long press also appears in the software as a control option.

Also: Jabra Elite 75t wireless earbuds review: Solid audio and call quality with long battery life

Smartphone software

In order to optimize your use of the Sony WF-SP800N earbuds, you need to download and install the Sony Headphones Connect application to your Android or iOS smartphone. After installation, simply open up the case with the earbuds inside to pair the earbuds to your phone.

The Sony Headphones Connect application shows the battery level of each earbud and the case at the top with a right menu option to view a tutorial, check the firmware version of the earbuds, and more.

There are three main tabs in the application; Status, Sound, and System. The Status tab shows the music being played and even provide back, play, and forward buttons with a volume slider below the controls. The Adaptive Sound Control option is also available.

Tapping Adaptive Sound Control brings up another screen where you can toggle this function on and off. This function detects your actions and locations so that headphone settings are switched to allow some ambient sound. You can toggle on various controls on this screen, including having the earbuds learn from locations or maps.

Moving along to the Sound tab lets you toggle Ambient Sound Control on or off and also adjust the level of active noise cancellation. You can also toggle to focus on voice.

Below this section is the equalizer area with an option for boosting the bass as well. Various default options are available, but you can also set up a couple of custom levels for your specific preferences.

At the bottom of the screen is the 360 Reality Audio Setup area. I went through the setup that takes photos of your ears and provides a simple hearing test, but you also need to subscribe and install 360 by Deezer, nugs.net, or Tidal in order to enjoy the audio experience offered here. The test audio sample sure sounded good, but I was unable to use it since I do not subscribe to any of these services.

Also: Galaxy Buds review: Samsung's wireless earbuds are the real deal

The System tab is where you customize the right and left earbud controls and a few other settings. Options for customizing both the left and right earbud include:

  • Ambient sound control
  • Playback control
  • Volume control
  • Google Assistant
  • Amazon Alexa
  • None assigned

The single, double, and triple taps, as well as long presses, are set by default for each of these various functions. You have to make some choices here and cannot have the left and right earbuds completely customized to do everything you want. For example, if you want volume, playback, and Google Assistant tap options you have to choose two out of three of these. However, you can always just speak "OK Google" to launch the Assistant.

I found the available options to be perfectly fine and was pleasantly surprised at the reliability of the taps to control the various functions. If you do change from the default, then the headphones will be disconnected and reconnect after the touch sensor function is modified.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

The images online didn't give me a great sense of the size of the earbuds and charging case, but I was ready to keep the earbuds if everything worked out well. I installed the app, connected and customized the earbuds, and then enjoyed blissful audio while working at my desk.

The app is comprehensive and there is a lot to discover and customize, but once you get things set up you don't have to spend much time using it to enjoy the Sony WF-SP800N. It's disappointing that the 360 Reality Audio is limited to high-resolution services, but I guess that's due to the quality of the audio and minimum necessary specs needed for the function.

Audio sounds excellent from the earbuds and one thing we typically see with truly wireless earbuds is weak bass. These earbuds actually might have too much bass, but you can easily set up the equalizer to match your music preferences. I enjoyed the ANC and the ambient sound options on the earbuds.

My acceptance of the Sony earbuds came to a quick stop after getting them all fit perfectly and then starting my typical one hour jog. I went less than 100 feet and both earbuds popped out. I figured I just didn't have them positioned right so screwed them in again and took off. Again they fell out right away and I ended up putting them into my jacket pocket and went running without music.

The earbuds stay in well while sitting at a desk and shaking your head, but when moving up and down during exercise the earbud weight and cantilever design quickly give way to gravity and dynamic movement. Thus, I'll be sending them back to Amazon.

If you are looking for a good pair of Sony earbuds for an ANC listening experience at your desk, in a chair, or when commuting then these may be a good option and I see they are currently priced down at $169.99 on the Sony website.

Specifications

General
Style Sports
Packaged Quantity 1
Color black
Headphones
Headphones Form Factor In-ear
Sound Output Mode stereo
Active Noise Canceling Yes
Remote Control
Audio Controls play/pause, skip track, volume
Controls Volume, play/pause, skip track
Connections
Connector Type Bluetooth
Type Bluetooth
Miscellaneous
Included Accessories charging case
Color Category black
Power
Run Time (Up To) 9 hour(s)
Battery
Rechargeable Battery rechargeable
Header
Brand Sony
Product Line Sony
Packaged Quantity 1
Battery / Power
Run Time (Up To) 9 hour(s)
Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet of Things (IoT) Compatible Yes
Intelligent Assistant Compatible Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri

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Where To Buy

Sony WF-SP800N (Black)

Part Number: WFSP800N/B
Price
$199.99