Sony WI-SP500 Review

In India, Sony has one of the widest range of audio equipment available. The company's range covers almost all kinds of buyers, ranging from the high-end WI-1000X for audiophiles to the significantly cheaper WI-SP500 for the fitness-focused among us.

That said, at Rs. 5,490, the WI-SP500 may not be for the vast majority, but it still covers a pretty significant portion of the market. It is meant for those who want a balance between comfort and good audio, and are willing to pay for it, within certain limits.

Price and availability

The SP500 is available through online channels, like Amazon and Sony's authorised offline stores. If you're looking to buy these, I would recommend checking them out in stores and trying them out for yourself. Also, the price is slightly cheaper (at Rs. 4,999) on Amazon.

Design

Since the SP500 is meant to accompany you on runs, workouts, cycling etc. it's quite distinctly light. You won't feel it around your neck for the most part. In fact, having travelled quite a bit with these as my go-to audio gadget, I can attest to their suitability for such purposes as well.

The design can look a little weird out of the box. There are black and grey tubes sticking out of the earbuds, which hold the mic and other hardware. The two buds are connected using a wire that wraps around your neck.

But owing to this design, you need to ensure that the weight distribution around your neck is even. That is, the headphones should be wrapped 50:50 around each side. If not, you may feel a slight pull on whichever side is longer.

Other than that, the design fits with the sports aesthetic and the tubes are dotted with a crosshatch design, that looks rugged and doesn't attract attention.

The right earbud holds the in-line controls. Rather, its tube does.

You will find the power button on the bottom of the tube, while the volume controls run along the side. You can long press the power button to take calls, operate voice assistants or toggle Bluetooth. The volume controls work as expected.

Comfort

Wireless earbuds often don't fit me right, and that was true for the WI-SP500 too. Sony does provide an extra set of earbuds though, which got me going. I still had to jostle with the headphones to get them to fit right when I put it on first, every time. However, once I got it right, it would stay put.

This is one of the reasons why I recommend you try the headphones out yourself before buying them. The SP500 isn't designed to fit deep into your ear, so the wrong fit will make for an uncomfortable experience.

Audio Quality

To the brass tacks then. The WI-SP500 isn't designed to be an audiophile class device. It does well with the mids and vocals, and though it provides a pretty balanced audio experience, it struggles with some lower bass frequencies, like those under 60Hz, or the sub-bass range.

For instance, listening to Pitbull's Back In Time is enjoyable for the most part. However, the bass beats right at the start sound like they're coming from underwater. It is as if the bass drums are being placed from inside a water tank. That's also because of the song being mixed that way, but the bass is tighter and more impactful on many other headphones.

Simply put, this is not a headphone for the bass head. But this is certainly something others could consider. Audio is clear and somewhat warm.

It maintains the speed and energy of EDM tracks, while rock, R&B and metal don't sound shoddy either. Can you find better? Sure. But you will usually compromise on comfort, connectivity or something. The SP500 brings a good balance between audio quality and workout friendliness. It's not perfect, but it's not meant for those looking for the perfect headphones either.

Taking calls

The SP500 will also take calls for you, but with its open type drivers and design, that's a distinct weak spot for these headphones. They're designed to let some of the background noise through when you're listening to music, and since phone calls don't produce as many audio frequencies as a song, it's too noisy for the person on the other end, especially in outdoor conditions.

While I could hear callers perfectly, everyone complained that my voice was too low to comprehend, or that there was too much noise, even when I was sitting in a comparatively silent office space.

Noise isolation

Since they're not designed to isolate noise, the SP500 doesn't do that well. However, they do just enough to make the music immersive and for you to forget your surroundings. If you listen to music at high volumes, you may even experience nearly complete noise isolation when sitting indoors.

For instance, while travelling I could never hear the airport announcements when listening to music. However, the rumble of the aeroplane wasn't completely cut out when flying.

On the other hand, I couldn't hear my colleagues around me when I was at work, but I would be distracted if there was a ruckus.

Battery Life

The WI-SP500 are rated for eight hour battery life on each charge, and they achieve that quite easily. Using it for about an hour and a half every day, they lasted me five days on each charge. The headphones turn off automatically when not in use, thereby conserving battery even if you forget to turn them off.

Verdict

If Rs. 5,490 is within your budget, the Sony WI-SP500 is certainly a pair of headphones you should consider. It's comfortable, light and delivers good, balanced audio. It's not meant for bassheads, but those who want balanced audio will enjoy the experience.

It doesn't fall off when you're jogging and is even well suited for long flights and travel.

Prasid Banerjee
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