Good sound, but at a painful price
- Accurate bass, moderate mid-range, great isolation
- Supremely uncomfortable
Sony’s MDRAS100W headphones are marketed as 'Sports Active', but we found them too uncomfortable to wear for anything more than short bursts. Sound quality is good and they block out a lot of background noise, but make sure you try them on before committing to a pair.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
Sony has a history of creating out-there, contemporary headphones and this pair is no different. The two in-ear plugs produce lively, involving sound and the headband does a good job of keeping the headphones securely attached. The downside of this unique-looking model is the high clamping force and the extremely invasive nature of the ear plugs, which makes them difficult to wear for long periods of time.
The styling of the headset is certainly contemporary. Black rubber ear-tips and plugs are complemented by gloss silver, while the headband is comprised of matte silver and rubberised plastic. The sports focus of these headphones is signified by the fact that the cable is only attached to one ear-piece rather than both — allowing for increased movement and less cable vibration.
We can't fault the aesthetics — they look stylish — and the sound isn't too bad either. These headphones are a significant departure from other in-ear units we've used (possibly due to the fact they're significantly larger), with measured, accurate bass and moderate amounts of mid-range.
Treble from the unit is sweet, if slightly muffled, with a noticeable higher frequency roll-off that makes the headphones sound very warm and rich. This gave a very distinctive tone to music that we found pleasant and involving.
In-ear headphones are usually biased towards lower frequencies, thanks to the reverberation possible within the ear canal. Mid-range here has been moderated, though, so it doesn't sound bloated and overpowering. This works well — detail is still noticeable during guitar-heavy sections of music (which are always most demanding on mid-range).
Bass is certainly present: it's the most obvious element of the headphones. This makes them great for electronica and other beat-driven music — ideal for the gym. Despite being the most prominent frequency, lower bass notes are still tight and accurate, giving a powerful kick rather than a rumbling boom.
These headphones look good, and they sound good as well. The one thing that hampers them, then, is the fact that they're simply not very comfortable. We took these headphones to the gym, in order to test out Sony's 'Sports Active' mentality. From a functional perspective they worked perfectly, remaining secure and firmly wedged during running. In terms of comfort, they didn't fare as admirably.
In-ear headphones are a difficult beast at the best of times, requiring invasive insertion deep into the ear canal. These headphones add to the difficulty by not offering a great deal of adjustability. The end result of this is that the headphones consistently press against the top of the ear canal, becoming extremely fatiguing after only short periods of time. This might not be a problem if you're only wearing them for short periods, but we found ourselves constantly shifting and adjusting them in order to alleviate the discomfort — and eventually relenting and taking them off.
If you have ear canals that can take the punishment, Sony's MDRAS100W in-ear sports headphones are a great option. They sound good and look futuristically stylish. If you've got less-than-Herculean ears, though, you might find these headphones a little uncomfortable.
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