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Sony WF-SP800N Truly Wireless Headphones Review: Brilliant Sound, Less Than Brilliant Fit

These headphones sound excellent and offer active noise cancelling, but the fit isn’t great for runners

From the moment I pulled the Sony WF-SP800N headphones out of the case, I feared that I would have problems with them. The protruding design of the buds reminded me of the Bose SoundSport Free headphones, and those had not worked well when exercising because of the way they caught the wind and bounced around.

Unfortunately, my fears were well founded, and the WF-SP800Ns (absurd name) are not great for running. On the other hand, there is an awful lot to like about them, and if you tend to go to the gym for your workouts they’re right up there with the best headphones going.

The headphones have plenty going for them. They offer active noise cancellation (ANC), top-notch sound quality and compatibility with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format (in basic terms, next-level surround sound), as well as an IP55 rating that ensures they’ll shrug off water and sweat. The battery life is impressive at nine hours with ANC and 13 without, although the carry case – which will recharge them only once before it needs recharging itself – is less so.

Sony WF-SP800N

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Along with ANC, the headphones have an ambient mode to let in more external noise, and the Adaptive Sound Control feature means they will automatically adjust the settings to suit your environment and what you’re doing – detecting if you’re walking for example. You can set this up to fit your preferences too, so your preferred sound profile comes on in the gym, or when you’re at home.

Essential to the success of sports headphones is the fit, and Sony has included the appropriate options to help achieve that with three sizes of wing tip along with three in-ear buds. With the largest wing in place I found that the headphones fit securely during indoor cycling and strength workouts, as long as the latter didn’t involve too much jumping.

However, when running I found the design undermines the fit. The way the headphones stick out catches the wind, which results in an unpleasant whooshing noise, and they bounce with each step so that they gradually come loose. I had to adjust them constantly while running, and the sound of my footfall was also annoyingly apparent when in ANC mode.

Sony WF-SP800N

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After a kilometre or so of the two runs I wore them on, I gave up entirely and just put them in my pocket. The fit of the in-ear tip and wing might be more secure for some people but the protruding design will be a problem for all, which makes them the wrong pick for every runner.

If you never run outside, you’re getting a terrific-sounding set of headphones for your workouts. The WF-SP800Ns are the best-sounding set of sports buds I’ve tested bar the B&O Beoplay E8 Sport, which cost £300. The bass is incredibly powerful and you can beef it up even further using the EQ settings in the partner app.

The ANC didn’t cut out as much external noise as I found the Apple AirPods Pro did, but it does help you block out the world during your workouts and will be handy in the gym or when commuting. When outside, the extra awareness of the ambient mode is welcome too and you can switch between them by tapping the left headphone.

However, the controls can be hit and miss. The right bud is used to play/pause and skip tracks, or to control the volume. More often than not my first attempt to use the controls would go unheeded, and I’d have to keep tapping to get them to work, which sometimes led to overtapping.

I was also frustrated by the 360 Reality Audio, a new format which aims to make music more immersive. It requires an ear analysis to set up, which I found a bit fiddly – I had to do it manually with photos of my ears because the automatic detection wasn’t working. Only after that was all done did I find out that the tech works with only the premium services of certain streaming apps that I don’t have access to – Tidal and Deezer – so it had been a waste of time. It’s also available on only a limited selection of songs – those recorded using the new technology.

If you can make the fit work for you, the Sony WF-SP800N headphones are certainly up there with the best-sounding sports headphones I’ve tried. I’m just not convinced by the protruding design, which doesn’t provide as secure a fit as I’d need for sports, especially when running.

Sony WF-SP800N

(Image credit: Unknown)

Sony WF-SP800N Noise Cancelling Truly Wireless Headphones – Stable Bluetooth Connection – Up to 26 Hrs Battery – Ip55 Water/Dust Resistant – Secure Fit with Arc Support – with Built-in Mic - Blue (opens in new tab)

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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.