Sony WF-SP900 review: One step forward, two steps back

Sony WF-SP900
  • Sony WF-SP900
  • Sony WF-SP900
  • Sony WF-SP900
  • Expert Rating

    2.00 / 5

Pros

  • Can swim while wearing them
  • Better battery life

Cons

  • Don't sound good
  • Very pricey

Bottom Line

Unless you’re religiously drawn to the idea of true wireless swim-buds - the Sony WF-SP900 true wireless earbuds are a disappointment worth avoiding at all costs, nevermind $500.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

Sony’s previous efforts in the true wireless earbuds space have been pricey but generally quite good. Even in a category that’s still young and open to challengers, they’ve offered up some of the most technically-impressive and polished options out there.

And, at first blush, the new Sony WF-SP900 true wireless earbuds look set to continue that trend. Where the previous SP700s had some of the best noise-cancelling you can find in the true wireless earbud category, the SP900s promised to bring Sony’s true wireless proposition into line with the competition when it comes to features.

Previous Sony earbuds distinguished themselves through noise-cancelling. The new ones add on-board storage, swim-friendly water resistance and better battery life to the equation. Unfortunately, after a few weeks of messing with these earbuds, it’s clear these exciting additions have come at a significant cost to the everyday experience.

The Sony SP900 earbuds don’t just sound worse than the SP700. They sound so terrible I honestly thought I had been send a faulty pair to review.

Specs - Sony WF-SP900 Bluetooth Sports Earbuds

Earphone type: in-ear, true wireless

Weight:  7.3g x 2

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, NFC

Built-in Microphone: Yes

Noise cancelling: Passive

On-Board Storage: 4GB

Durability:  IP68

Pack Ins:  Charging case, USB Type-C cable, hybrid silicone rubber earbuds, swimming Earbuds

Battery Life: 3 hours per charge, 9 more on charger case. 12 total. 6 hours of playback per if using on-board storage.

Colors: White, Yellow, Black

Price:  $499

Design - Looks, Feel and Features

In terms of aesthetics and form-factor, the SP900’s feel like a natural extension of what the previous SP700s were trying to accomplish. They’re true wireless earbuds that’ll do the trick for any sort of workout - even swimming. Across the board, they’re very similar to their predecessors in look and feel.

They’re a little bulkier, to be sure, but they’re also a lot more ergonomic. The earlier SP700s weren’t uncomfortable to wear, but they were sometimes a little finicky to actually put in your ears and even more unintuitive to stow away inside their charger case. The SP900s addresses both of these shortcomings in strong form. Overall, they’re still more of a hassle relative to fare like Samsung Gear IconX or Jabra’s Elite Series but a definitely improvement nevertheless.

Skipping back to the headline feature: Yes, Sony went made a set of wireless earbuds that work underwater. Traditionally Bluetooth signals can’t actually pass through water. However, if you’re using the on-board storage in the SP900s to listen to your music, you can start a song and then continue swimming uninterrupted. It’s something that no other set of headphones can really offer you - and that’s neat. Really neat.

Really.

Performance - How Do The Sony WF-SP900 Compare To The Competition?

But whether it’s $500-worth of neat is going to depend on just how desperate you are to listen to music while you swim. Because if you’re not planning on swimming with these in, then the sound quality offered by the SP900s has to be called out for what it is: bad.

Listening to music and podcasts through these, even on the loudest volume, was borderline inaudible and a noticeable step down from that found in the cheaper SP700s. I can’t even really speak to whether the sound signature was bassy or heavy on the mids. Most of the time, it was just way too quiet for me to even get much of an impression of it.

I found that I could barely hear my audio in most outdoor environments. Gyms were a little better but still well below what I’d expect from a set of headphones with this price-tag, let alone a set with the Sony brand behind it. Turning on the ambient sound mode, and I was shocked to discover that the listening experience somehow became even worse.

Sure, the SP900s come loaded with all the usual Sony audio bells and whistles. But if you can barely hear your music, it doesn’t really matter how many equaliser settings the Sony Connect App supports. As with other Sony wireless headphones, you can configure the connectivity of the WF-SP900s to prioritize either sound quality or connection quality - not that either setting offered much in the way of improvement.

The Bottom Line

At a glance, the Sony WF-SP900 look to do exactly what the WF-SP700s did: build on the strengths of past Sony true wireless earbuds. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, something has gone awry. Sony accomplished their goal of offering true wireless earbuds that you can swim with but little else. They’ve won the battle but lost the war.

Unless you’re religiously drawn to the idea of true wireless swim-buds - the Sony WF-SP900 true wireless earbuds are a disappointment worth avoiding at all costs, nevermind $500.

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Read more on these topics: sony, WF-SP900, SP900
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