Price (RRP): $499.95
For the most part sports earphones are useless for swimmers. Sure, they’re typically sweatproof. But can they cope with full immersion? And that’s just the start of the problems. Which brings me to the Sony WF-SP900 wireless sports earphones. They solve those problems.
First, they deal with that issue of coping with water. The Sony WF-SP900 wireless sports earphones are IPX5/8 rated. The 5 and 8 are two different ratings of waterproofness. Wikipedia says that IPX5 means that they can cope with “Water projected by a nozzle (6.3 mm)
from any direction” for up to 3 minutes. IPX8 means they can cope with immersion to a depth of more than one metre of water, up to a maximum specified by the maker, for a duration also specified by the maker. Sony specifies up to two metres for up to half an hour.
So, you can swim without damaging them. What was the other main problem with earbuds and swimming? Bluetooth. Bluetooth signals just don’t go through water at all well. There’s no chance of leaving your phone at one end of the pool and listening to its contents. The Sony WF-SP900 earphones deal with this by having their own 4GB of memory built in, along with a player. You can load them up with tunes and don’t need the phone at all.
The Sony WF-SP900 earphones come with eight sets of tips. There are four different sizes, with each size in a version designed for use in water, and a version for dry land. The former differ from the latter only by colour-coding and the thin silicon membrane over their openings. This stops water from getting into the tiny balance armature drivers within the buds. But it also interferes with the sound coming out.
They also come with three sizes of fins or wings which help clip the earphones securely into the whorls of one’s ears. I found that the largest size tips provided an excellent fit for me, sealing in the bass. The fins really did secure them well. I wouldn’t risk diving into the water with them in place, but there was no sense of insecurity with them in my ears while swimming.
Unlike Sony’s other two “truly wireless” earphones, these ones don’t purport to provide noise cancelling. No loss, given that the noise cancellation in the Sony Sports WF-SP700N buds did nothing, as far as I could tell.
The earbuds weigh 7.3 grams each. They are rated at up to 3 hours Bluetooth playback of music from your phone, or six hours from their internal memory. They come with a case which can charge them three more times. This also acts as a docking station when it’s connected to a computer, so you can load them up with content. The socket for charging and computer connections is USB Type-C rather than Micro-B USB. Thankfully.
You can pair in the regular way or using NFC. The AAC and SBC codecs are supported for Bluetooth. SBC is the default. To use AAC you will need to change a setting in the Sony Headphone app on your phone (assuming your phone supports AAC).
The internal music player supports a surprising number of formats. There’s MP3, WMA and AAC. Almost everyone will use those pretty much exclusively. Then there’s also FLAC, albeit limited to 16 bits and up to 48kHz sampling. And CD-standard WAV. I did not bother putting any of those last two on. They consume a lot more space. With only 4GB, MP3 and similar seemed like the best thing.
Loading up to Sony WF-SP900 earphones
You load up music onto the earphones simply by putting them in their case and plugging it into your computer. They look to your computer just like removable USB storage. Then you drag and drop music from your computer to the Music folder on that storage. Sony is happy for you to do it that way, or for you to use the Sony Music Center for PC software. I wasn’t going to bother too much with that until I noticed that the Sony software provided the ability to use playlists. Since you have little control on what tracks are playing back, the possibility of using a playlist was attractive. At least, I figured, I’d be able to put tracks in the order I prefer.
The first thing that Music Center for PC did was notice that the buds needed a firmware update. This proved to be a 45MB download. A minute or two later, the buds were updated to the latest. The software also revealed (this is also easily seen in Windows Explorer) that there was a 3.3GB of space available for my music. There were already four songs in 256kbps MP3 format in the memory. They amounted to a fifteen-minute playing time.
Anyway, I created a playlist in the Music Center with tracks in a particular order, then copied it in using the Music Center software. Unfortunately, it seems that the playlist is only used to tell the software which tracks to transfer. The playlist file was itself transferred to the Sony WF-SP900 memory, but it didn’t seem to control playback.
Instead, the built-in player ran through the tracks in alphabetical order, folder by folder, also in alphabetical order.
I’d criticise this, except it would be unfair. The earbuds necessarily have few controls and they are already heavily used with multiple taps and presses for different functions. There simply must be limitations on control. You can skip tracks forwards and backwards (double and triple tap the right-hand control button). Or pause and resume (single tap on that control). You can adjust volume up and down (double tap on right and left buds, respectively). And that’s it.