Wireless Sports Audio Part 2 - Sony NW-WS413

May 03, 2016

The Sony NW-WS413 hit the shops in February 2016. These SGD 149 buds are targeted at sports users that just need an MP3 player (with 4GB) and buds to go. With that, you don't need a music device to pair (read: no Bluetooth). We hit the beach in Phuket, Thailand and checked out the unit.

As Part 2 of the Wireless Sports Audio series of articles, we give you the lowdown on the WS413.
Credit - Sony
Pros (+): Salt- and water-proof; Excellent ambient noise toggle; Affordable price point.
Cons (-): Standalone unit meaning no connectivity to other music devices.

Design
Let's kick off the unboxing with a shot of the box front.

There are 4 available colors - Lime Green, Ivory, Black and Blue of which we were provided the 4th.

Flip open the top lid to unsheath the plastic blister. There are 2 graphics that show how to take the loot out of the packaging. 

Upon popping open the blister, flipping off the transparent plastic sheet will give you access to the buds. On the other side lie the rest of the neatly bundled items.

In typical Sony style, the packaging content comprises a very comprehensive set of accessories:
- Sony NW-WS413 (4GB)
- 4 x Earbuds (S / M / L / LL )
- 4 x Swimming earbuds (S / M / L / LL )
- Adjustment band
- USB cradle
- Charging cable (micro-USB)
- Water Usage Guide
- Quick Start Guide and Instruction Manual

Onto the buds proper - the WS413 has a practical design - one with rounded rubberized sides that feels and looks built to withstand the elements with ease. I didn't go to the extent of deliberately grinding the Sonys into the sand to test this though :)

These buds tip the scales at 32g, heftier than the other sports earphones in our lineup like the Beats Powerbeats2 Wireless (24g) or the Jaybird X2 Wireless (13g).

The adjustment band may be useful to tighten around your neck to potentially reduce the drag when swimming, though I never had to use it given as the default fit around my head worked for me.

Features
There are a few IPX ratings tagged to this unit. Let's break 'em down - 
IPX5 - protection against water jets.
IPX8 - protection against continual water submersion for up to 2m depth for 30 min.
IP6X - protection against dust.
In addition, the buds have water resistance to fresh, tap, sweat, pool and salt water. 


The right side include 3 sets of buttons lining the edge - Power, Play / Pause / Track change. Switch it on by holding the power button for 3s. Ah, and there's an LED usage indicator.

On the left side are the controls for Mode / Ambient Sound / Volume. Mode serves to switch between normal, repeat and shuffle of playback. 

One of the highlights of this unit is the Ambient Sound button. The default is Ambient Sound Off where we check the performance later. Pressing again gives you Ambient Sound On where the outside sound is actually intertwined with the music. You can hold this button for 3s to toggle between 3 different levels of ambient sound intensity. This is fantastic as you have 4 levels of customization (including 'Off) for your preference.

Performance
By sheer coincidence, I was heading to Phuket, Thailand with lots of sun, sand and sea. Now what better time to test the buds?

The waterproof feature was the first thing on my mind and this was swiftly put to the test. I spent a day at the beach / sea with the buds and dang, I did not bring the camera, but yes, they functioned just fine. I got back to my suite and dunked the Sonys into the jacuzzi and whipped out the camera. Et voila:

Out of the 4 eartip sizes, M suited best so this was a constant. Sony provides 8 sets - 4 swimming buds (the lightly tinted ones) and 4 conventional buds (the black opaque ones).  

The swimming buds sport a thin layer of silicon that runs right across where the music is channeled. This results in somewhat muffled sound which requires you to increase the sound considerably during usage. The good thing is it does keep water out. The regular buds actually do quite alright for me even in the water, as long as you fit them on before the swim. If you drop these in water, you'll have to literally blow the water out from within else you can't hear much.
  
Noise isolation - 
On the default Ambient Sound Off, the noise isolation is indeed impressive. Try this in a bus and you'll be all the more amazed at the ease of keeping the bus revs down. Among all the buds I've tested, I'd definitely rate this way above the average. Once you try the NW-WS413 on this mode, you'll understand why activating the Ambient Sound is so important when you jog or swim.

Sound quality -
Dutch DJ, Armin van Buuren is fantastic to listen to when working out. The sound isn't exaggerated which I emphasize is a great thing. On a sample of Pulsar, you get absorbed into the pleasant balance of treble and intense bass. 

Charging the unit necessitates usage of the grey USB cradle and the charging cable. The USB cradle was a bit of an annoyance as you have to bring it around in the event that the battery flats out. 
Note the 5 contact points where the Sony slides into the cradle

A really quick charge of 3 min gives an impressive 1 hour of usage whereas a full 90 min charge gives 8 to 12 hours for MP3 playback (128kbps) on Ambient Sound Mode ON and OFF respectively.


Overall
Frankly put, I grew to like these buds. I was not sold on it when I first got it, but it grew. Granted, there ain't no Bluetooth to link to the music on your iPhone, but hey, this is one helluva rugged pair of earphones. Sony's build quality and attention to detail are evident with the WS413. If you do jog / swim and you don't need the extra weight of your phone to lug you down, this is an excellent unit to get. 


Where To Buy
If you like the product, do support me by buying either the Blue / Black / Lime Green versions from Amazon at USD 120 via our affiliate link.

Audio Sources
Pulsar - Armin van Buuren (320kbps MP3) 

Credit to Sony for an evaluation unit.

Wireless Sports Audio Series 
Part 1 - Beats Powerbeats2 Wireless 
Part 2 - Sony NW-WS413 
Part 3 - UA Headphones Wireless - By JBL 
Part 4 - Bose SoundSport Wireless
Part 5 - Jaybird Freedom Wireless F5
Part 6 - The Verdict (TBA)

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