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Sony WF-SP800N assessment: Elite earphones for each athlete

“Like a top athlete, Sony’s WF-SP800N earphones stand out for everything they do.”

good sound

Best in class battery life

Very good water and dust protection

Good active noise cancellation

Outstanding call quality

Bulky charging case

No wireless charging

If you’ve looked at the best real wireless earbuds last year, you know we know the world of the Sony WF-1000XM3. They excel in so many areas like noise cancellation, sound quality, and call quality that you have to dig quite deep to find bugs.

However, we were much less impressed with Sony’s last attempt to create a set of true wireless earbuds for the sports audience, the WF-SP700N. The bad battery life was our main criticism and the active noise cancellation did not impress us.

Enter the WF-SP800N: the highly anticipated update from Sony for its sport-oriented real wireless earbuds. At $ 200, they’re a little more expensive now, but Sony seems to have learned all the lessons from the WF-1000XM3 to bring the SP800Ns up to date.

Was Sony successful? Let’s take a closer look.

Classic design with a twist

Sony WF-SP800NSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

The WF-SP800N follows the same general design that Sony used for all earphones – it has a slightly elongated body that protrudes from the ear. Gone is the weird lima bean shape of the WF-SP700N, but these are still bulky than most of today’s much smaller earbuds. They are also surprisingly heavy. At 9.5 grams, they are 1 gram heavier than the XM3 and almost twice as heavy as the Jabra Elite 75t, which weighs 5.5 grams.

Not that they feel heavy – in fact, adding a silicone ear fin helps them stay comfortably anchored. However, if you knock on the sidewalk, you are definitely aware of it.

To put the ear fin in the correct position, you have to do a double twist when inserting it: a backward rotation to insert the ear fin into your ear and a forward rotation to lock it in place. This tilts the earphone down – a different angle than the XM3.

Sony WF-SP800NSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

The combination of the large overall size of the SP800N and the integrated ear fins means that the charging case also plays a major role. It’s smaller than the case of the Powerbeats Pro and WF-1000XM3 and much smaller than the chunky case of the SP700N, but compared to the Jabra Elite 75t – a model that I used during my test of the SP800N – it’s much bigger and not what I would call pocket-friendly. In the picture above, the blue case is actually that of the Jabra Elite Active 75t, but it is identical to the case of the Elite 75t.

In contrast to the more expensive AirPods Pro from Apple, there is no wireless charging option, only USB-C.

See the best battery

Sony WF-SP800NSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

When the SP700N’s battery life wasn’t particularly long, the SP800N was clearly designed to be overwhelming: it offers an impressive battery life of nine hours with the ANC function on and an enormous 13 hours with the battery off. That’s three more ANC hours and five more non-ANC hours than the WF-1000XM3. I haven’t been able to confirm these statistics during my short time with the earbuds, but Sony’s claims are usually consistent with the actual results.

The 13-hour performance without ANC smashes all other real wireless earbuds we’ve seen

After nine hours with ANC, they’re just an hour behind the MW07 Plus from Master and Dynamic, but the 13-hour performance without ANC outperforms any other real wireless earbuds we’ve seen, including the Samsung Galaxy Buds + that followed 11 hours ahead.

The charging case contains only a single charge, which is a surprise given its physical size. However, you cannot argue with the total wireless time of 26 hours when you need it. According to Sony, the 10-minute quick charge offers up to 60 minutes of music playback for fast charging.

ANC added

Sony WF-SP800NSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Sony can very much appreciate the popularity of active noise cancellation on real wireless earbuds – more has been done to promote this feature than any other company.

The SP800N doesn’t have Sony’s premier ANC technology, the proprietary QN1e ANC chip in the WF-1000XM3, and Sony can’t say what ANC technology the SP800N uses. But we know that: it works very well.

When I check a function like ANC during a pandemic, I can’t say much about performance on a flight, but when I use a combination of bathroom fans and vacuum cleaners as a replacement, I can safely say that the SP800N shouldn’t have a problem with the white noise of an airplane cabin.

Sony won’t say what technology the SP800N’s noise cancellation is based on, but we do know this: it works very well.

Outside is a different story. When using ANC while walking and jogging, I found that even the slightest breeze made unwanted noise because the external microphones mistakenly tried to compensate for a noise that wasn’t really there.

However, it’s not a big deal. Thanks to the tight sealing of the earplugs, the earphones offer excellent passive sound insulation, so you probably don’t have the need to activate ANC outdoors.

Call to all athletes

Sony WF-SP800NSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Despite the wind-related problems of your ANC, the SP800N offers impressive call quality. I’ve put many real wireless earbuds through the phone call test, and these are the first ones that my callers have described as sounding like I used my phone – kudos because most earbuds force you to compromise on that Clarity you get when you hold your phone to your ear.

The wind was occasionally felt, as were passing cars, but the overall experience was excellent.

I’ve had a case where the earphones lost connection to my phone while on a call, but that seems to be an isolated case. Wireless connectivity is generally excellent with the SP800N.

Excellent sound

Sony WF-SP800NSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

One of the advantages of using Sony wireless headphones and real wireless earphones is the company’s Headphones Connect app, which allows you to customize a variety of settings including the EQ. Unfortunately, the app wasn’t ready to work with the SP800N during my trial period, so I had to make do with Sony’s factory sound settings. And I couldn’t have been happier.

If you want your training to be accompanied by a driving bass forward beat, you will love the SP800N.

The SP800N sounds ready to use. The tones are warm and rich, and the lows, mids and highs are well defined so that the vocals remain clear and distinct. The sound stage is both wide and deep, which smaller earphones simply cannot reproduce. And then there’s the bass. It’s deeply resonant and offers an impressive level of immersion in bass-heavy tracks, but it just stops being shy to be overwhelming. If you want your training to be accompanied by a driving bass forward beat, you will love the SP800N.

If you don’t like the big bass, you can adjust the EQ in the Headphones Connect app, but I couldn’t test this.

The right touch

As with the XM3 from Sony, all controls are controlled via touch-sensitive areas on the earphones. They are very accurate, so accidental tapping is rare, but only the top half of the earphone can be used. This means that you have to get used to finding the specific areas with your finger instead of just tapping anywhere on the outside of the earphone. I personally prefer the physical buttons on the Jabra Elite 75t, but the controls on the SP800N work just fine. By default, you get play / pause, skip tracks, answer / end calls, access to voice assistants and ANC mode. However, these can be changed in the Headphones Connect app. If you want volume control, you can have it, but you need to decide which of the other features you want to swap for it.

Like many true premium wireless earphones, the SP800N has wear sensors that automatically pause your music when you remove an earphone.

Our opinion

For $ 30 less than Sony’s excellent WF-1000XM3, the $ 200 WF-SP800N offers everything you could want from a set of real wireless earbuds, including great sound, decent ANC, great battery life, and full protection from one IP55 water resistance rating. A somewhat bulky charging case that doesn’t allow wireless charging is one of the few downsides, but I suspect this won’t be a deal breaker for many.

Is there a better alternative?

When you’re ready to spend $ 30 more and do without the SP800N’s gigantic battery and IP55 protection, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 offers better ANC and sound quality. However, we are only talking about a small improvement for both.

For $ 20 less, Jabra’s $ 180 Elite 75t may be a better competitor. It can’t keep up with the SP800N’s battery life and has no ANC, but I think they sound very similar, they’re both IP55, and the Jabras are smaller and more comfortable.

How long will they last?

As with most Sony products, the WF-SP800N comes with a one-year warranty. However, this is probably not an indicator of the life of the earphones. They are very well built and with an IP55 degree of protection you can throw very little on them so that they do not survive. Treat them well and keep them in the charging case when not in use. They should be used regularly for many years.

Should you buy them

Absolutely. Currently, the WF-SP800N occupies a unique position in the real wireless world: it is cheaper than most premium earphones and offers fantastic performance in all areas that matter most.

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