Alongside its redesigned new flagship series, Sony revealed the Xperia Ear Duo, a set of ‘open-ear’ wireless earbuds that allow users to listen to music while not blocking out external noise.
The headset curls around the ear under the lobe and boasts what Sony calls a ‘Spatial Acoustic Conductor.’ This conductor allows the sound generated behind the ear by the unit’s driver to be transmitted directly into the ear.
When trying them out on the show floor of MWC 2018, I found the earbuds delivered on their promise; the sound of Shakira’s latest album came through clear and full, but I could still hear the Sony spokesperson speaking to me perfectly, as well as some of the surrounding din of the show floor. It was like a high-quality sound system was playing near me.
Switching songs requires a sharp turn of the head to the right and left, while volume can be adjusted by rubbing the back of one earbud. You can also shake or nod your head to answer or decline incoming calls.
The headset comes in black and gold, and is compatible with Android and iOS. With Android, it takes advantage of Google Assistant, providing users with the ability to do things like hear a recitation of your daily schedule or send a contact a text. With iOS, Siri steps into the AI role, though the experience is less deeply integrated. In either case, it uses quad microphone beam-forming to lock onto your voice and filter out external noise.
The earbuds are powered by Sony’s smart ‘Spritzer’ chip and a multi-sensor platform, which helps to provide contextual sensing and automatic activity recognition.
The stainless aluminium and rubber Ear Duo come in three different sizes, of which I tried the large — which was too large for me and interfered with my glasses but still clung on well. The small-sized Ear Duo looks to be a good option for those with very small ears. The headset also features IPX2 splash-proofing and promises to last up to four hours of listening on a single charge.
The Xperia Ear Duo comes to the U.S. in late May 2018 for $280 USD, with pre-orders starting now on Amazon.
There’s no Canadian availability yet, but Sony says that’s coming soon.