However, one of the stand out products for me is the Sony Xperia Ear Duo which is an entirely wire-free pair of headphones that buck the trend of noise cancellation in favour of actually letting the noise in.
The earphones have an open design which will allow environmental sounds around you to be heard. This may sound like the complete opposite of what you want in a pair of earphones, but there is are appealing for multiple scenarios.
The design is a bit unusual as the part that goes into your ear is quite small with a clear hole inside it to let the sound through, it is then connected to quite a large unit which goes under and sits behind your ear. The end result is something that looks like it should be in Star Trek, though I would say it is no worse than bulky earphones that stick out of your ears such as the Bose SoundSport.
During the product demo, I attended I found the earphones very comfortable to wear, as the earpiece is quite small it doesn’t feel quite as intrusive or burdensome as larger models. Due to my limited time with them, I can’t say for sure how well they stay in your ears, but I vigorously shook my head for a while, and there was no noticeable movement, and I am confident they would remain in place well for a run, or other activities.
The is a little more to these than just letting the sound to get through via the open design. The earphones use AI to identify important environmental sounds such as someone talking to you. It will then reduce the noise appropriately allowing you to hear the person.
During our test it really does work well, we listened to music while the Sony reps carried on speaking and it was very easy to hear them.
You can also use head movements to control various aspects of the device, such as moving your head left or right to skip tracks or nodding your head to accept a call.
Again we tested this, and it works as advertised, although it does feel a bit strange. You kind of feel like someone with a nervous tick each time you twitch your head left or right.
The quality of the audio was excellent during the limited time of testing, it was well rounded and warm, there was a decent level of bass, but the test tracks were not long enough or loud enough to really test it. The test tracks were set quite low, so it is hard to judge just how well they will perform during regular use, maybe they can’t go very loud. Granted you shouldn’t listen to your music very loud, but in reality, when in the gym or running, it is tempting to push the volume to help with your intensity.
They are not just marketed for music use though, and one of the appealing aspects of them is for discrete notifications, whether that’s navigation or message notifications from your phone.
Another great feature of the these is that they can also be used as a walkie-talkie with up to five other users. We didn’t get chance to review this feature, but I think that combined with the ability to hear what you can hear around you would make these an excellent cycling accessory.
Availability and pricing was uncertain, but I am sure the rep said around £200 but don’t hold me to that.
These may end up being a bit of a niche product, but I think they are one of the most innovative products at MWC this year and I can’t wait to review them in more detail and see just how well the audio performs.
Sony Xperia Ear Duo
- Initial Impressions