When it comes to earbuds, Active Noise Cancellation or ANC is the buzzword and a benchmark for performance. So it’s only ‘matter of fact’ that we appreciate the Sony WF-SP800N for including this feature. In our opinion, it is a notch close to the WF-1000XM3’s and is an exciting part of the sound assessment we did. The sound is great and the Extra Bass pumps up the jam. As far as the design is concerned, the IP55 dust/waterproofing gets a nod from the fitness freaks and the battery life is exceptional. What we like the most is that it offers a comfortable and secure fit, albeit a little heavy and sticks out a bit from your ears.
While we like the overall offering of the earbuds, we have to point out at this juncture that the charging case is slightly bulky and it lacks Qi charging. We are not sure why this omission is there, but it’s not a deal-breaker for sure. Because, when you see the timelines, Sony gave us their first ‘true wireless active noise-canceling earbuds’ last year and the new WF-SP800N are positioned a notch below the WF-1000XM3.
ANC that wows Fitness freaks
The set of wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation by Sony – WF-1000XM3 – are priced at $229.99. However, the WF-SP800N at $199.99, is positioned right below them. Although the Sony WF-XB700 earbuds are well priced at $129.99, they don’t come with ANC. Going back to the WF-1000XM3 and the SP800N earbuds, the former comes with the flagship QN1e noise-canceling processor and also sports dual microphones on each bud.
The WF-SP800N, in contrast, is equipped with a simpler ANC processor, with one microphone per bud. The newer earbuds are equipped with Extra Bass and the more expensive WF-1000XM3 have Sony’s DSEE HX audio processing. Apart from ANC, another reason why fitness folks will like these earbuds is for their IP55 rating for dust and water resistance.
Snug Fitting and the battery details
Even as per its design, the “arc supporter” ear loop help keep the earbuds in place. This can come handy when doing varied yoga postures like the Surya Namaskars and aerobics or functional training, which require twists and body bending.
The devil is in the detail, which is why it’s nice to note that Sony has included two different sizes of the loop and three different sizes of silicone ear tips. For those who struggle to keep their earbuds in place, these loops definitely help. When we tried them on, they were a perfect fit and didn’t even move out of place when we did a few turns of skipping on the rope.
One of the cons of general wireless earbuds is that they can get uncomfortable when you wear them for an extended period of time. The earbuds that grip the ear canal so that they don’t slip out can get overbearing. With Sony’s loop system, you skip this painful “screwing in” of the ear-tip. Weighing about 9.5 grams each, the ‘buds are heavier than most competing brands.
The battery case uses USB-C to power-up and adds 9 hours of ANC use to the earbuds’ own 9 hours of battery life. To give you some perspective, Apple’s AirPods Pro with a fully charged case will last you for 24 hours of listening in total, the Sony earbuds stay alive for twice as long as the Apple earbuds.
If we had to pick a bone in its construction, then the size of the Sony case is what we would like to pick. Designed as a chunky, puck-ish design is not so alluring. In fact, the plastic on the WF-1000XM3’s charging case looks a lot more sophisticated than the WF-SP800N. The lid and its hinge don’t match up to the classiness that the earbuds exude. The glaring omission is the wireless charging in the case.
ANC and sound
Like we mentioned earlier, ANC is the buzzword in the world of earbuds and Sony is not immune to it. In fact, they do a very good job with the tech. For most folks, ANC is subjective… you may want to be transported into your zone with your earbuds on, or you would like some (or a lot) of ambient noise accompanying you. And as you know there are different levels to blocking out the ambient noise.
Sony goes a step further by offering adjustable ANC levels, which can be manually controlled or automatically by the SP800N’s. We did a simple test of using the earbuds during vacuuming and playing some background music. While they worked beautifully on their own, but we also tested them side by side with the WF-1000XM3, and the SP800N was slightly lower in the charts.
The difference in performance stems from the use of Sony’s Extra Bass in the SP800N. The music you play will largely influence how much you like this feature. Essentially, it’s the use of Extra Bass that bridges the gap between the expensive, advanced ANC, and this piece we have at hand.
Using the EQ settings in Sony’s Headphones Connect app, you can change the several presets and customize them to your liking. The reason why the WF-1000XM3 sound better is because of the QN1e processor takes on the load, and this includes upsampling lesser-quality music. The good news with the SP800N is that the background noise fades away during calls.
Control and App
The SP800N comes with a touch panel on each earbud and by default, “tapping the left briefly switches to Ambient mode, while tapping-and-holding temporarily bypasses the ANC when you just need to quickly respond.” When you tap the right earbud, it toggles play/pause and it takes two taps to skip forward, and three taps to skips back. When you tap-and-hold, it triggers your phone’s voice assistant of choice – Siri or Google Assistant.
There is no way to control volume from the earbuds themselves, however, you can customize the controls in the Headphones app and even assign individual volume levels to each bud. The sensors in the earbuds automatically pause music playback as soon as you take an earbud out and will resume the song when you place it in your ear again.
Final Word on Sony WF-SP800N
Sony has got the price point right for the WF-SP800N, given that it includes ANC and great sound, waterproofing, and more battery life. Overall it packs in a punch and is very much up for the challenge.