Smooth, detailed sound
Up to 13 hours playback time
Virtually ever feature you need
Single recharge in case
Flimsy ear fins
While they’re technically the next generation of the pod-like SP700N sports buds, the SP800N’s essential design—from style to sound—feels more like a sportier version of Sony’s beloved WF-1000XM3. That’s no coincidence given that the latter are among the best-reviewed true wireless earbuds on the market.
That said, the SP800N lack some of the WF-1000XM3’s marquee features, including the upscaling sound engine and ultra-quiet noise cancellation that put them in an elite class for noise-canceling buds. That means you still need to choose between top performance and water resistance from Sony (at least until the WF-1000XM4 arrive). But if you’re looking for feature-packed workout buds that sound great and last all day, the WF-SP800N deliver.
About the Sony WF-SP800N
Like the majority of new wireless earbuds, the SP800N are “true wireless,” meaning they’re not connected by any wires. Their IP55 dust- and water-resistance rating certifies that they'll withstand jets of water at all angles and moderate dust ingress, so they’ll easily take on the elements.
Playback time of 9 hours per charge with noise cancellation and 13 hours without it is the highest we’ve encountered, while their suite of other features equals or outdoes nearly every pair of earbuds in their class. Along with the charging case, the SP800N come with multiple ear tips and ear fin sizes and a USB-C to USB-A charging cable.
Here’s a look at their specs:
- Price: $199.99
- Battery life: up to 9 hours with noise-canceling, 13 hours without. Up to 18- and 26 hours total with the charging case.
- Rapid charging: up to 60 minutes of playback time on 10 minutes charge
- Colors: Black, Blue
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
- Audio codecs: SBC, AAC
- Water/dust resistance: IPX55
- Ear tips: four sizes of ear tips, two sizes of ear fins
- Weight: 9.8 grams per earbud, 59 grams charging case
What we like
A secure (and relatively comfy) fit
Sony’s latest buds don't offer the spy-gadget size of competitors like Jabra’s Elite Active 75t. These are hefty utility buds built off the framework of Sony’s WF-1000XM3, which excel at many things but don’t lack for girth.
But the SP800N improve on the WF-1000XM3 when it comes to stability thanks to their blend of ear tips and fins. They’re also relatively comfy for the genre—it took a good 4 hours for the fins to wear on my ears—though inserting and removing them can be a delicate affair (more on that below).
Shockingly long playback time
Apple’s AirPods Pro were a triumph in nearly every category we evaluate, but their 5-hour max playback time was a surprising limitation in late 2019. While the SP800N may be bulkier, their max battery life of nearly double the AirPods (or more without noise canceling) really shows what modern true wireless tech can do.
In testing, the headphones lasted quite close to that 9-hour claim with noise-canceling engaged, including a 45-minute phone call. We’ll see more earbuds follow in their footsteps soon (possibly including Apple’s next pair), but for now, this kind of all-day battery is a luxury. Our only issue is with the bulbous case’s single recharge, which seems like a waste of space.
Warm, detailed sound
With Sony at the helm, the SP800N offer a predictable sound signature—in all the best ways. Sound is full-bodied, detailed, and with a few tweaks, brilliantly balanced. While performance doesn’t quite match top-tier picks like the WF-1000XM3 or Sennheiser’s unrivaled Momentum True Wireless 2, you’re getting very good sound here, with potent bass on command.
Speaking of bass, the SP800N lean more toward the hefty punch of Jabra’s thundering Elite Active 75t than Google’s dainty Pixel Buds, but they outdo both, offering a richer low-end than Jabra and better body and presence in the upper registers than either. By default bass occasionally got too heavy for my taste but the EQ in Sony's Headphones Connect app makes for an easy fix: a separate “Extra Bass” dial lets you quickly and effectively reduce bass (or ramp it up if that’s your thing).
The five-band EQ also offers several presets to tinker with, but once I’d pulled back the bass I was content, enjoying the smooth balance and sweet resonance of instruments like percussion, horns, and acoustic guitar. Vocals are intimate and details are unmasked with a subtle but effective touch.
If I had my druthers, I’d ask for a wider stereo image, as instruments occasionally seem a little smooshed in complex arrangements, and I also wish Sony opted for aptX or its own DSEE HX upscaling engine (offered in the WF-1000XM3) for better definition with compressed tracks. Overall, though, listeners of all types should be pleased with what Sony has drawn up here.
As for calls, while quality is always a little spotty for true wireless earbuds, the SP800N sounded relatively clean with little distortion on my end, and callers said my voice sounded crystal clear.
Noise cancellation, and much, much more
Good luck finding a pair of earbuds with more features than the SP800N at this price point (or even well above it). There’s a laundry list of desirable add-ons: robust water resistance, auto-pause with earbud removal, single earbud playback, decent active noise canceling and adjustable transparency mode, so you can control how much exterior sound you hear (or don’t).
But wait, there's more.
One of my personal favorites, borrowed from other top Sony models, is Quick Attention which lets you hold your finger on the left earbud to simultaneously quiet audio playback and activate transparency mode. It’s perfect for a short convo with your significant other or ordering a mid-flight drink.
Sony being Sony, there are a ton of other options to fiddle with via the app, some of which are more intuitive than others.
Adaptive Sound Control is perhaps the most intriguing (and also the most confusing). Using internal sensors and location tracking (if you opt in), Adaptive Sound adjusts noise canceling and ambient audio depending on what you’re doing and where you are. For instance, if the earbuds think you’re on a bus, they engage noise canceling by default. Walking, running, and sitting all have their own settings, too, activating different levels of ambient noise or cancellation. Sony says the headphones will also learn more about your favorite haunts over time.
The bad news is that, if you don’t know how to adjust it, the feature can be annoying, altering settings seemingly at random and activating an alert each time. The name can also be easily confused with Ambient Sound Control, the umbrella setting the app uses for both ambient sound and noise canceling. The good news is you can turn off the alert sound, choose which settings are activated when, or simply turn off Adaptive Sound altogether. While the feature works much better than Google’s volume-based version, I mostly preferred to adjust ambient sound manually.
While you might expect this to be an automatic inclusion with all true wireless earbuds at this price, with few exceptions, most still suffer from a few connection glitches. The SP800N are among the most reliable I’ve tried, registering zero connection hiccups in multiple days of testing.
What we don’t like
As mentioned above, the SP800N are large and in charge, and they stick out a fair bit from your ears. Their size probably helps account for their excellent Bluetooth stability, leaving room for broad antennas, but while they do offer a sleek and modern finish, they nearly double the weight of micro-buds like Jabra’s Elite Active 75t and Google’s Pixel Buds. That said, they're still smaller than Beats' Powerbeats Pro.
While we appreciate most aspects the SP800N borrow from the WF-1000XM3, the bulky charging case isn’t one of them. The SP800N’s case is a bit smaller than that of their cousins, but it also feels slightly cheap, and its rounded bottom means it can’t stand up. Its single recharge and lack of wireless charging also mean you’ll need to plug in somewhat regularly.
Headphones like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2, Jabra’s Elite Active line, and plenty of others have proven you can have it all when it comes to onboard controls—including volume control. Unfortunately, like the WF-1000XM3 and Apple’s AirPods, the SP800N make you choose between volume control and other key features like voice assistance or playback control.
It’s not a dealbreaker by any means, but the earbuds simply don't offer enough functions at a time to keep everything you’d want accessible, meaning you’ll have to keep your phone handy.
After only a couple of days of use, I noticed a small tear in the SP800N’s left earfin. So far it’s held up, but there’s no doubt it will need replacing eventually. That’s not exactly what you want in a robust pair of sports buds. I’ve not heard of other reviewers having this issue, so there’s a fair chance it was just a fluke, but be forewarned that you may want to be cautious when pulling the earbuds in and out.
Should you buy them?
If you’re looking for value, versatility, and tons of playback time, yes
There will likely be plenty of new earbuds in the near future that offer a suite of features comparable to the WF-SP800N, but only the best true wireless earbuds compete with their mix of versatility and performance at present. From their 9-hours of playback time (with noise cancellation no less) to their water resistance, solid connectivity, and excellent sound, this is one sweet package for the money.
In fact, the only real hesitation I have is that small tear in the ear fin, but I’m hoping that was just an anomaly.
If you’re looking for better noise canceling, you may want to step up to the WF-1000XM3 or the pricier AirPods Pro, the latter of which also offer a more intuitive design and moderate water resistance. Jabra’s sporty Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t are also contenders, regularly priced at $40 and $20 less respectively, but you’ll have to give up noise cancellation and some sound quality too.
The WF-SP800N’s long list of pros packs quite a wallop, making them among the most enticing new true wireless earbuds in their class.
Meet the tester
Managing Editor - Electronics@ryanwaniata
Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer to a career in digital media in 2013. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.See all of Ryan Waniata's reviews
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