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Sony’s New Noise-Canceling Buds Sound Great and Can Take a Real Beating

Sony’s newest wireless earbuds with active noise-canceling and an IP55 water-resistance rating.

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Tucker Bowe

Brand: Sony
Product: Sony WF-SP800N Wireless Earbuds
Release Date: May 2020
Price: $200
From: bestbuy.com

The Sony WF-SP800N ($200) are the company’s newest pair of wireless earbuds that fall between the Sony WF-1000XM3 ($230), which are high-end noise-canceling earbuds, and the Sony WF-XB700 ($130), which are the more affordable and less feature-packed alternatives. The Sony WF-SP800N are wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation, and they’re actually very similar to the Sony WF-1000XM3 (the two use the same companion app). But the WF-SP800N are wireless sport earbuds, and so have an ear wing design to stay securely in your ear, as well as the highest water- and sweat-resistance rating (IP55) of all Sony’s wireless earbuds.

It’s a combo that makes them a unique balance between sound quality and durability.

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They’re great for exercising, but it’s definitely a niche fit.

The WF-SP800N wireless earbuds share a similar design as their 2018 predecessor, the now-discontinued Sony WF-SP700N, as they both utilize this unique silicone ear wing fit. I’ve been wearing them pretty much none stop for the past week — I’ve been running with them, wearing them on a stationary bike, and listening to music with them all day while working — and I’ve really had no issue in terms of fit. Like Sony’s other wireless earbuds, the WF-SP800N don’t fit right in your ear canal; instead, they hover a little bit on the outside of your ear. This enables Sony to pack bigger drivers and batteries into each earbud, but it makes them look pretty conspicuous in your ear.

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The biggest problem I had with the Sony WF-SP700N was that they didn’t fit that well in their charging case. Almost too frequently, I would put the earbuds in the charging case and they wouldn’t properly lock-in, resulting in one (or neither) earbud not charging at all even though it was in the charging case. I didn’t have this problem with the new WF-SP800N, thankfully. The charging case has been totally upgraded so, like with Sony’s high-end WF-1000XM3, the earbuds magnetically snap into the charging case, making a satisfying click sound in the process.

The sound isn’t top-tier, but the buds can take a beating.

There’s no doubt that the WF-SP800N are feature-packed wireless earbuds that feel, in a lot of ways, just like Sony WF-1000XM3. They have the same capacitive touch controls on each earbud — the left controls ambient and ANC modes, while the right controls playback. If you fiddle with your earbuds, you might get frustrated with how sensitive they can be, just like with the Sony WF-1000XM3. And they use the same companion, which allows you to adjust things like EQ settings and whether you want the earbuds to automatically play/pause when you place them or remove them from your ear. Basically, you have a ton of freedom to customize your earbuds.

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The caveat is that Sony WF-SP800N aren’t capable of the same levels of sound quality and noise-cancellation as the WF-1000XM3 because they lack the same QN1e processor, which does the bunk of the digital processing that makes those wireless earbuds so good. The result is that Sony WF-SP800N’s noise-canceling abilities don’t live up to the standard set by the Sony WF-1000XM3 or even Apple’s AirPods Pro. And the sound isn’t as rich, but more bass-heavy like the company’s new, more affordable WF-XB700 wireless earbuds. On the upside, they have an IP55 rating, which means they can shrug off dust and water jets from any angle, compared to the AirPod’s Pro IPX4 rating, which indicates no protection from dust, and shielding from mere splashes of water.

The battery life is secretly great.

Each WF-SP800N earbud gets about nine hours of battery life with noise-canceling turned on and 13 hours with it turned off. And the charging case provides a full charge to each earbud. By comparison, each AirPod Pro gets roughly four-and-a-half hours of run time with noise-canceling turned on, while the Sony WF-1000XM3 get about six. Battery life, for me, isn’t something I’ve cared too much about (because I’m a compulsive charge and rarely ever let my laptop, iPhone or headphones get below 50 percent), but if you do, the Sony WF-SP800N have better battery life than basically ever wireless earbud with active noise-canceling out there.

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Sony provided this product for review.

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