The Sony NW-WS623 Wireless Earbuds is an MP3 Player and Waterproof earbuds all in one, useful for workouts when it’s not always convenient (or impossible) to port a music player around. There’s quite a pool to swim through, so let’s jump in!
Build Quality and Design
Built for adventure, a thick rubber cable connects the two plastic earbuds behind the head. Each side has a stem that loops behind the ears while at the same time, providing stability, like spectacle frames. Putting on the WS623, the earbuds felt quite rugged and reassuring.
For hermetic waterproofing, Sony has decided to do away with a USB port on the earbuds, and adopt a separate charging dock instead that can handle data transfers over USB. Most are okay with this arrangement (myself included) but there are detractors who prefer a charging port on the actual earbuds instead. Unlike competing models, this charging dock in particular does not carry any extra juice, so its sole purpose is really to make the buds’ more waterproof.
The WS623 is IP68 dust-proof and waterproof up to depth of 2 meters for 30 mins, deeper than most other water-proof earbuds. For added reassurance at the beaches of Sentosa, they are also good against seawater and sand. Two sets of ear tips are thrown in, a set for regular sports, and another with a protective membrane for swimming. You can store 4GBs worth of tunes in the WS623, or around 1000 MP3 files. Great for water-sports because Bluetooth doesn’t work underwater.
The earbuds have a set of buttons each. Power button and music controls on the right, volume, Ambient Sound and source toggle buttons on the left, for switching between Bluetooth music and Stored music. With so many buttons, the controls can take some time getting used to, but once you’ve learnt where they are, it’s pretty easy.
Performance and Features
The WS623 isolates noise pretty well, which may not be a good thing all the time. This useful feature lets you hear outside of those earbuds should you ever need to, with one press of a button! (On the other hand, this feature also sucks up more juice so use it sparingly!)
I like that the WS623 is loud and I only need to crank it up to 45% most of the time. (With the waterproof earbuds, 60% would do the job) These earbuds have a rich sound signature that you’ll only get in more costly ones. Bass is sufficiently deep and thick, and highs sound very visceral. Mids are loud and full of detail, achieving a harmony that plays nice with most genres of music.
There isn’t much of an open soundstage since these are in-ear buds, but they do provide pretty good stereo separation. Also, remember to pick a pair of ear tips that seals properly in your ear to get the best bass.
Unfortunately, you’ll only get the best performance from these buds’ when you’re playing from the internal storage. On Bluetooth, the WS623 has poorer track separation and its upper mid-range tends to distort, tainted by white noise.
They are quite comfy for sports and could stay in place quite securely. I like the fact that Sony supplied four different sizes of buds, in case the pre-fit ones are too big (or small). But in-ear buds generally made my ears quite sore after a while, and the WS623s are no exception here. I could wear these for up to 3 hours before I have to take intermittent breaks.
With the Ambient Mode switched off, I was able to get a reading of 4 hours 40 mins, over Bluetooth at 45% volume. This is slightly above the stated 4 hours average on Sony’s website. However, some competing models could boast up to 8 hours of juice (and more) by storing extra charges in their docking cradles. I only wonder why Sony didn’t do the same?
The WS623 had reliable Bluetooth connection within the stated 10 meter range. When watching videos the audio was more or less synced up but its syncing was a tiny bit off, which didn’t bother me at all.
It’s not perfect, but S$199 is a great price for a pair of waterproof earbuds. The Sony WS623 has got a secure fit, decent sound quality, great waterproofing and internal storage for your tunes. For aquatic and other sports, these benefits make it a very compelling choice.
So here’s the final tally:
Build Quality and Design (Noise Cancelling Headphone)
- Pros: Rugged and durable design. Stability frames keep the buds securely in place. IPX8 Water Resistant design makes this hardy against pool or sea water. Two sets of ear tips included for best possible fit for specific wet or dry use. 4GBs internal storage lets you store your music on-board, so that you can swim with music.
- Cons: Button scheme has steeper learning curve.
Score: 5/7 (23.7%)
Performance and Features
- Pros: Ambient Mode is useful and easily accessible. Earbuds are loud, even at 45% volume. Rich sound with deep bass, detailed mids and visceral highs gets your heart pumping with every stride. Decent stereo separation. Comfortable and secure fit for sports. 4 hour battery life is as stated in Sony’s website. Reliable Bluetooth connection up to a 10 metre range.
- Cons: Audio over Bluetooth is not as pristine as listening to stored music. Audio is slightly out of sync when watching videos. Earbuds get sore after a few hours of continuous listening. Charging dock does not store extra charges.
Score: 7/11 (21.2%)
Score: 4/5 (26.64%)