Review: Sony WF-SP900 wireless sport earphones

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The Sony WF-SP900 True Wireless earphones are in-ear models dedicated primarily to sporting activities. These Bluetooth in-ear headphones by Sony have a lot to offer, including NFC compatibility, up to 12 hours of battery life (after being charged with the carrying case) and an ambient sound mode. These headphones are certified  IP68 waterproof, feature 4GB of internal storage, and can therefore be used underwater. Sony chose to promote this advantage by using an image of a swimmer on the packaging. Consequently, we decided to test the first pair of completely waterproof wireless earphones in “sport” mode.

The Sony WF-SP900 earphones are one of the rare models that can be used while swimming.

Sony WF-SP900: the brand

In the 2000s, almost all of Sony’s efforts were focused on the video game industry (more precisely on the Playstation). The Japanese brand therefore missed out on many technological shifts that took place in audio-video world. Thankfully, the inventor of the Walkman bounced back and became a frontrunner once more with some of the best Bluetooth headphones, hi-fi headphones, DAPs, UHD 4K televisions and UHD 4K Blu-ray players on the market. Let’s not forget that previously, the Japanese brand was one of the most influential manufacturers of professional and hi-fi headphones, but also televisions with the iconic “Trinitron”, for a long period of time.

Packaging siglé SPORTS des écouteurs bluetooth Sony WF-F900.
Looking at the packaging of the Sony WF-F900 Bluetooth earphones, which is emblazoned with the word “SPORTS”, it is clear that the earphones are primarily meant to be used during sporting activities: running, swimming…

Sony WF-SP900: packaging

The Sony WF-SP900 Bluetooth sport in-ear headphones come in a small cardboard and plastic box that contains eight sets of tips to fit all ear types. To ensure a secure fit, these Sony True Wireless earphones also come with three sets of arc supporters that lock into the concha of the ear, under the antihelix. A USB-C cable, a cord to join the two earbuds together (and to avoid losing a tip when diving) and the charging case complete this set of accessories.

Les écouteurs Bluetooth Sony WF-SP900 sont fournis avec pléthore d'accessoires.
The Sony WF-SP900 Bluetooth earphones come with a plethora of accessories, including the colored sealed tips used for swimming.
Boîtier de transport et de chargement pour écouteurs Sony WF-SP900.
The Sony WF-SP900 earphones’ carrying and charging case indicates if the earphones are charging, but also if the case is charging.

Sony also includes a brief quick start guide with a QR code to access a configuration app for the earphones. This mini guide also highlights the main functions of the left and right earphones.

Sony WF-SP900: getting started

We strongly recommend that you consult the short guide provided in the box, as well as the quick start guide, to familiarize yourself with the controls and optimize the performance of the Sony WF-SP900 earphones.

The Sony WF-SP900’s quick start guide allows you to quickly familiarize yourself with the earphones’ functions.

At a first glance, we only notice two buttons: one on each earphone. Consequently, it is difficult to work out how to use all of the available functions. Once they are charged, simply take the earphones out of their case and place them in your ears. Make sure that you are using the correct tips and arc supporters for your ears to ensure:

  1. A secure fit and optimal comfort
  2. The best passive isolation possible
  3. An optimal response in the lows

Once the earphones are in your ears, you will hear a series of beeps to let you know that the earphones are pairing with each other, then a final signal indicates that pairing was successful. Next, a vocal message indicates the battery level, tells you whether Bluetooth is activated and whether the earphones are in player mode (playing downloaded files) or headphone mode. A slight press of the button on the right earphone starts playback. Tap on the right earphone twice to turn the volume up. A beep lets you know each time a command has been executed.

Les écouteurs intras Wireless Sony WF-SP900 sont étanches et la coque extérieur tactile.
The Sony WF-SP900 wireless in-ear headphones are waterproof and their tactile external case lets you turn the volume up and down.

Pressing the button on the left earbud once lets you control ambient sound: intelligently designed, this function is very useful when working out in the city, allowing you to be aware of approaching cars and cyclists. A voice announces “Ambient Mode on”, the external microphone kicks in, and you are able to listen to your music while still hearing external sounds. Pressing and holding this button connects or disconnects a Bluetooth source to use the earphones’ internal memory which can hold up to 4GB of music, which is approximately 500 5MB tracks in MP3 quality. The button on the right earphone allows you to change tracks, go back, pause playback and answer calls. Lastly, the volume is adjusted by tapping twice on the earbud itself: at the left to turn the volume down, at the right to turn it up. These volume controls aren’t ideal, but you get used to them. A beep lets you know that you have adjusted the volume, another signal indicates that you have reached the maximum volume. We’ll come back to this later…

Chaque écouteur du casque WF-SP900 dispose d'un bouton physique et d'une coque tactile
Each of the WF-900 earphones features a physical button and a tactile surface.

Sony WF-SP900: earphones dedicated to sport and swimming

10 years ago, we reviewed the New Universe Dolphin earphones. At a time when the MP3 player was becoming more popular, a manufacturer (NU) had the foresight to offer a completely waterproof player and, at the same time, to design waterproof headphones.

Le baladeur MP3 Universe Dolphin avec ses écouteurs triphlanges.
The Universe Dolphin MP3 player and its tri-flange earbuds.

The device wasn’t particularly ergonomic and the absence of explicit LED indicators on the controls made them very tedious to use. That said, it worked pretty well and the first moments spent listening to music underwater were magical.

The New Universe Dolphin earphones were one of the first audio players that allowed you to listen to music underwater.

With this MP3 player/earphone combination dedicated to swimming, a wired connection was required and the MP3 player had to be attached to a pair of swimming goggles, while the waterproof tri-flange earphones were worn on around the neck.

10 years separate these two generations of headphones/MP3 players dedicated to sport and swimming in particular.

The Sony WF-SP900 intends to revolutionize the concept of listening to music underwater. Here, the player is integrated into the earphones thanks to a simple interface and 4GB of internal storage, which is more than enough to enjoy several hours of music. The headphones come with four sets of tips for standard listening “on land” and four colored sets dedicated for swimming. The latter are completely watertight and, consequently, sealed. This is where the problem lies. These sealed watertight tips are required for swimming, but their design limits the volume level enormously. So much so that at maximum volume, the sound really lacks intensity.

The Sony WF-SP900 Bluetooth earphones come with eight pairs of tips, including four colored and completely watertight pairs dedicated to swimming.

The maximum volume for all players is regulated and impossible to modify other than by using headphones or earphones with a higher sensitivity rating. This ensures that those who are the most susceptible to hearing damage are protected, namely children. The Sony WF-SP900s are no exception and their maximum volume is quickly reached. This isn’t a problem for standard listening, but it becomes extremely restrictive once you’re in the water. The turbulence produced by the movements of water in the auricle of the ear, which keeps filling up with water, produces unwanted noise.

Embouts WF-SP900 non étanches avec le bonnet de bain par-dessus
We used the non-waterproof tips with a swimming cap over them to push the earphones further into our ears and ensure a secure fit, as well as satisfactory watertightness. Despite this, underwater performance was feeble.

We came to the conclusion that swimming is much too noisy a sport to be able to listen to music properly, even with the latest generation of True Wireless in-ear headphones. Even with the open tips that Sony advises against using underwater, listening was difficult due to ambient noise and the fact that our ears kept filling up with water. If we didn’t have to stick our heads out of the water quite so often in order to breathe it could have worked, but here’s the problem: we’re humans, not whales…

Les écouteurs Sony WF-SP900 se destinent à la pratique de la natation.
The Sony WF-SP900 earphones are meant for swimming, but it seems that they will be more useful for running or other sports.

For all other sports, these Sony earphones are simply fantastic as they provide remarkable freedom of movement thanks to their 4GB of integrated storage. There is no more need for a DAP or a smartphone: you immediately feel much freer and more comfortable!

Les écouteurs WF-SP900 pour le runnning.
This is me in Bali, testing the WF-SP900 earphones in extreme conditions. It’s a hard life…

Sony WF-SP900: listening impressions

The earphones provide irrefutable sonic qualities for listening to music and enjoying a balanced restitution in all circumstances, even when running. The lows aren’t perfect, but as someone who is used to using professional in-ear monitors from Shure, I found that the Sony earphones provided a similar analytical sound.

The Sony Headphones Connect app lets you personalize the restitution of your Sony earphones and headphones in a few clicks.

The Sony Headphones app allows you to choose a personalized listening profile and modify the frequency response curve to adjust the highs, mids and lows according to your preferences. Be careful with the files stored in the internal memory, as differences in sound quality are painfully evident when skipping from one track to another.

Sony WF-SP900: conclusion

Here, Sony has designed sport earphones that are particularly well-suited for running, high-intensity sports, and generally all sports that don’t require that you put your head underwater. Even if it is technically possible to listen to music underwater with these earphones, in practice, listening to music with the dedicated tips while swimming doesn’t provide a satisfactory experience, due to an insufficient volume level. The musical qualities of these earphones are very good and the equalization app lets you fine-tune the restitution. The 4GB of internal storage is a huge advantage that eliminates the need for a smartphone or DAP whilst practicing your favorite sport.

A wasted opportunity to take up swimming again…

Sony WF-SP900: compared to…

Bose SoundSport Free Wireless: the Bose earphones aren’t as comfortable to wear, but they offer a more balanced sound signature. They don’t feature tactile controls. Instead, they use buttons, which is generally more convenient. The Sony earphones are more aesthetically pleasing. The Bose SoundSport Free Wireless take the lead thanks to their restitution.

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless: the musical qualities of these Sennheiser earphones are really quite close to those provided by the Sony WF-SP900s and the Sennheiser app is just that bit better than the Sony’s. Moreover, the Sennheiser case is more attractive. The Sony WF-SP900s provide more functions on the earphones themselves. The Sony earphones come out on top.

WHAT WE LIKED

  • The 4GB of internal storage
  • The flawless comfort and fit
  • The app dedicated to equalization
  • The vocal notifications
  • The design
  • The overall musical qualities
  • The Ambient Sound mode that can be easily activated

WHAT WE WOULD HAVE LIKED

  • To be able to listen to music while swimming
  • A different method to adjust the volume


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