Laptop Mag Verdict
The Sony WF-SP800N earbuds are some of the most durable, longest-lasting truly wireless buds available, but the call quality needs work.
Estimated 9 hours of battery life
Seriously durable design
Strong active noise cancellation
Great audio quality
Poor call quality
Bass can be too aggressive
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Sony is no stranger to wireless buds, active noise cancelling and bass. The company has combined all three in the Sony WF-SP800N, a $179 pair of truly wireless earbuds that have their eyes on the prize. Not only are the buds extremely durable, but they also boast an estimated nine hours of battery life, making them the longest-lasting buds on the market. Plus, you’ve got Sony's great audio with its Extra Bass feature and good active noise cancelling. They’re a great choice for the gym or the street, but subpar call quality is a serious Achilles' heel for an otherwise stellar pair of buds.
Sony WF-SP800N Earbuds price and availability
Sony’s not playing around. The company wisely put the SP800N’s price well below its competitors, at $199. As a consumer, it’s easier to justify spending $200 rather than the $249 Apple is asking for the AirPods Pro. And it’s only $20 more than Google’s Pixel Buds 2.
Sony WF-SP800N Earbuds design
The thing with wireless headphones is that it's a game of compromise. With such a small space to work with, audio companies have to figure out what to prioritize. Do we choose audio quality or noise cancellation? Touch panel controls or app controls? In the case of the SP800N, Sony said to hell with it, we want it all.
The result is a truly wireless earbud that’s chunkier than what we’re used to seeing nowadays. But that doesn’t mean the earbuds don’t have flair. The top of the black plastic casing is semi-translucent, just enough for you to see the glowing indicators along the sides of the earbuds. The top of the earcap, which acts as a touchpad of sorts for command gestures, is made of black glossy plastic. That takes the guesswork out of where your fingers need to go to quickly adjust the volume or pause a track. The look is completed with a semi-translucent gray ear wing.
With an IP55 rating, the SP800N might be one of the most durable truly wireless earbuds on the market. Not only are the buds water and sweat-resistant, but they’re also dust resistant.
The SP800N is available in black or gray in case you’re looking for a bit of variety.
Sony WF-SP800N Earbuds comfort
The SP800Ns might be one of the thickest pairs of earbuds I’ve worn. Inserting them is like most buds: with a simple twist back into the ear. The wing rested securely against my concha. That part is comfortable, the rest? Not so much –– at least, not at first. While a large portion of the earbuds protruded from my tiny ears, the rest placed uncomfortable pressure against my ear canal.
Typically, when I wear earbuds, I use a medium ear tip and the earbuds fade into the background. Not these, though. Try as I might, I could always feel the SP800N thanks to that unyielding pressure. Still, when I hopped on my Bowflex MaxTrainer, they stayed put and helped me stay in the zone.
I managed to wear the earbuds for two hours in one sitting, but it was a bit uncomfortable throughout. But then I remembered Sony bundled three sets of additional eartips. I went for the smallest one and earbuds were immediately more comfortable. Then I wore them with no problem for two more hours. I highly recommend sizing the eartips because that’s two uncomfortable hours I can’t get back.
Sony WF-SP800N Earbuds controls
Tippity, tappity. Much to my surprise and chagrin, the SP800N integrated touch panel operates on a tap system. The SP800N control scheme looks like this: on the right earbud, a single tap plays/pauses the music, two taps skip the track forward and three taps skip to the previous track. Need to summon your digital assistant? A long press will launch Siri or the Google Assistant depending on the device the buds are paired with.
The left earbud comes with its own set of controls: a single tap enables/disables Ambient Mode while a long press launches Quick Attention mode in case you need to engage in conversation with a colleague or friend without taking out the buds.
When you actually need to take the buds out, sensors in the buds will automatically pause whatever you’re listening to. It’ll restart as soon as you place the bud back in your ear. If you want to use the touch panels to adjust the volume, you’ll have to change the settings in the companion app.
Sony Headphones Connect app
Like a number of Sony headphones, the SP800N uses the free Sony Headphones Connect app (available for Android and iOS). The app adds even more functionality to the earbuds, including adjusting Adaptive Sound Control and Ambient Sound Control. And you also have the ability to turn the active noise cancelling on and off. There’s also an equalizer so you can customize the sound profile.
Sony WF-SP800N Earbuds features
The SP800N comes with a number of helpful features designed for music and exercise aficionados. You’ll need the app to access them of course, but once you do, the earbuds’ functionality really opens up.
You have Adaptive Sound Control which adjusts the ambient sound settings automatically, according to the environment. The Smart Listening by Adaptive Sound Control is the secret sauce as it detects your activity and location and adjusts on the fly. So if you’re running to catch a plane at the airport, the earbuds will adapt without you having to touch anything.
With Ambient Sound Control, you can decide how much of the outside world you want to let into the soundstage. It comes in handy when you’re out running or just commuting to work. There are 20 levels to choose from, so you can let the world all the way in or immerse yourself in your jams.
Sony WF-SP800N Earbuds noise cancellation
It seems the SP800N takes after the excellent WF-1000xM3 earbuds when it comes to active noise cancellation. Watching my LG TV, the buds completely shut out most of the ambient noise when the television’s volume was at 15 of 100. It was the same result as the AirPods Pro. And while the buds can’t completely shut out noise when the television was on higher volumes, it definitely keeps a decent amount of noise out.
Sony WF-SP800N Earbuds audio quality
BASS. Lots and lots of bass. Now I know why the SP800N buds are so thick, it’s to accommodate all those beautiful lows. Like when I listened to “1-900-Hustler” by Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and Freeway. The lows were the stars of the show. However, they didn’t overwhelm the rest of the song as the horns were big and brassy and the vocals were rich, yet gritty. And the strings during the break were surprisingly clean.
The same track on the AirPods Pro didn’t have the same oomph on the low-end, but the drums were still sharp and the strings were much fuller.
However, not every song needs a heaping helping of bass. Case in point: Jill Scott’s “Imagination/Crown Royal Suite.” The lows were more intrusive. They didn’t exactly overwhelm the track as I could still hear finer details like the cards shuffling, the harp and keyboard. And Scott’s vocal was seductive as always, but still, the bass was a bit too much here.
When I heard the same track on the AirPods Pro, I could hear even more of those fine details, including the rain stick and the wind chimes. And with more refined bass, the artist’s vocal was clearer.
I also tried listening to a song with no bass whatsoever and on Sade’s “By Your Side - Remastered,” the SP800N seemed to add lows to the guitar, making for a congested performance. It insinuated itself into the entirety of the track, making the organ and horns sound muddy. The same track on the AirPods Pro was cleaner and clearer.
It should also be noted that the SP800N is louder than the AirPods Pro. The SP800N’s 40% volume level is equivalent to 60% on the AirPods Pro.
Sony WF-SP800N Earbuds battery life and Bluetooth
So far, I’ve managed to wear the SP800N for four hours straight. I’ve made calls, listened to the latest episode of the Noise Cancelling podcast and jammed to one of my favorite Spotify playlists. When I was done, I checked the battery and it was at 70% battery. That seems to match up with Sony’s claim that the SP800N can last 9 hours on a charge with ANC enabled, 13 hours when the feature’s disabled. Making it the longest-lasting truly wireless buds available.
Initially, I had problems keeping the SP800N connected to my Pixel 4 XL. But after I reset them, the buds started behaving like the Bluetooth 5.0 devices they are. I could move around my house, go downstairs and head into my backyard without dropping the connection.
Sony WF-SP800N Earbuds call quality
One place where the SP800N can use some work is phone calls. I called three people and while I could hear them loud and clear, they reported severely muted audio. It was so bad that one caller said: “you sound terrible.”
The Sony WF-SP800N gets a lot of things right: they’ve got amazing battery life, loud, rich audio, great active noise cancelling and an estimated 9 hours of battery life. Plus, they’re relatively affordable compared to competing buds and they’re some of the most durable on the market. While they are larger than other buds, they’re pretty comfortable with the right eartips.
But for all that win, there are some pause-worthy flaws. The buds' call quality really needs some work. And the bass, while great on some songs, is overwhelming on others. You’re really going to have to get comfortable playing with the equalizer on the app. If you’re not a fan of all that bass and prefer a more restrained performance, the $249 AirPods Pro is the way to go. But if you’re looking for some kick-ass buds for the gym or beyond, the Sony WF-SP800N might be right up your alley.
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.