Completely wire-free earphones are not a new idea but the Sony Xperia Ear Duo, launched alongside Sony’s two new Xperia XZ2 phones at MWC 2018, does attempt something new.
Instead of cancelling outside noise, or isolating it, the Ear Duo do the opposite: they aim to provide a transparent listening experience so you can hear what’s going on around you as well as the audio from your phone.
It’s an interesting concept and one Sony sees being useful in a variety of situations. In an airport, for instance, or doctor’s surgery when you may want to listen out for announcements without interrupting your listening.
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Sony Xperia Ear Duo review: Design, key features and
That’s not the only interesting feature of the Ear Duo’s design, though. The second is the design of the earphones and the way they’re worn.
Instead of inserting into the ear or hooking over the top of your ears, these earphones rest within your ear and wrap around the bottom of your lobes. The main body of the earpiece acts as a counterweight, resting against your head, keeping everything in place.
They’re reasonably comfortable when you’ve got them in and, yes, they do indeed let outside noise in effectively. I was able to carry out a conversation and hear the guy demonstrating the earphones clearly while he was showing me how they worked.
The other interesting thing about the Sony Xperia Ear Duo is that, as well as having a touch surface on the left earpiece, it supports what can only be described as “head gestures”. That’s right. You can waggle your head around to navigate music and audio and answer phone calls.
Specifically, a sharp twitch to the left skips you back a track, a wrench to the right skips you forward one track, while nodding vigorously answers a call when one comes in. It’s a recipe for a crick in the neck if you ask me, but it does at least give you another way of controlling things when your hands are occupied and you don’t want to get your phone out of your pocket.
They also come with a charging case, as is typical of true wireless earbuds, which will charge the Duo’s completely three times and battery life stretches to four hours per charge, which is pretty good. Another nice touch is that they work with both Google Assistant and Siri for voice commands, giving you a third way to control things and get your information.
Sony Xperia Ear Duo review: Sound quality and early verdict
There are two problems with the Sony Xperia Ear Duo. First, sound quality, inevitably, suffers in noisy environments. My short listening session on the show floor at MWC was enough to tell me that the earphones sound okay with a reasonable amount of body and bass but there just wasn’t enough volume to overcome the hubbub at the Sony stand for comfortable listening.
The other issue is the price. When the Xperia Ear Duo go on sale, they’ll cost $279 in the US while UK pricing will be £229, which is an awful lot to pay for a pair of wireless earphones, even ones as innovative as these.
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