Sony WF-SP800N review: Feature-packed earbuds at an affordable price
Hip-hop, rock and metal also sound really good, and you get stellar detail in softer genres like bluegrass and jazz. Across the board, there’s punchy bass that the WF-1000XM3 doesn’t have. Don’t get me wrong, the 1000XM3 sounds great, it’s just that the tuning is more balanced there. Since the WF-SP800N is more sports-focused, the Extra Bass tuning will help you keep the energy up during a workout. Honestly, I prefer the sound here to the 1000XM3. While those pricier earbuds are better suited for a variety of uses, I like the tone of the WF-SP800N slightly better.
The WF-SP800N is also compatible with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. The dimensional sound format hasn’t exactly taken off since its official launch last fall, but (some of) Sony’s headphones are probably the best place to use it. It does require a high-res streaming plan from the services that offer access, like Deezer or Tidal. Plus, the music selection is limited, so you likely won’t have access to all of your favorites. You’ll also have to snap some pictures of your ears during the initial setup. I think Sony’s WH-1000XM3 does a better job transmitting 360 Reality Audio than earbuds, but you can definitely tell the difference on the WF-SP800N. Like I noted during my Echo Studio review, there are more presence and depth to the sound, which does enhance that dimensional quality of the music.
Sony says you’ll be able to get nine hours of battery life out of a charge with the WF-SP800N. That’s three hours more than with the WF-1000XM3. During my tests, I had no problem hitting that figure. In fact, the WF-SP800N still had some gas in the tank at the nine-hour mark. If you disable ANC, the company says you can stretch the play time to 13 hours before you’ll need a charge. The only annoyance is that the app was displaying 50 percent battery when I knew that couldn’t be true. Sure enough, a few minutes after one of my status checks that displayed the same figure, I got a low-battery warning.
One downside to the battery life is the case only holds one additional charge. Sony also did this on the WF-XB700, but the case for the WF-1000XM3 holds three. It’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, but it is something to be aware of. The case also doesn’t support wireless charging. That’s not super surprising, but compatibility with Qi-certified accessories is becoming the norm for true wireless earbud cases. It does offer a quick-charge feature, though, that will give you an hour of listening time in 10 minutes.
As far as Sony is concerned, the WF-SP800N is its midrange choice. It sits between the $130 WF-XB700 and the $230 WF-1000XM3 in the company’s current lineup. While the WF-SP800N may not have the same powerful internals as its pricier sibling, it has a lot of the same features, including Adaptive Sound Control. And compared to the WF-XB700, the audio quality on the WF-SP800N is a lot better. There’s a massive leap in performance all around. The only way I would recommend the WF-XB700 over these is if you needed to stay around $150. If that’s the case, the Galaxy Buds+ ($150) are probably the better choice, especially with their iOS compatibility. Another option in the $200 range is the Jabra Elite 75t ($180). They don’t have near the audio chops as the WF-SP800N and there’s no ANC, but they cover almost all the rest of the bases. Plus, they’re tiny and comfy to wear for hours at a time.
Sony may have positioned the WF-SP800N as the midrange option in its lineup, but these earbuds punch above their weight. The powerful noise cancellation that adjusts automatically isn’t a standard feature that a lot of companies offer. And the audio quality is very good overall, which isn’t guaranteed when you get under the $200 mark. If you’re willing to deal with a somewhat awkward fit, the WF-SP800N is much more than a set of sports earbuds. It’s also one of the best sets of true wireless earbuds you can buy right now.
Update 5/18/20 5:02PM ET: This review has been updated to clarify the WF-SP800N are not compatible with LDAC technology.
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