Sony has been in the earphone business as long as time can tell, with its current range including some fantastic over-ear noise-cancelling headphones, and in-ear headphones to suit any budget.
For the sporty types, there's the XB80BS Extra Bass, which are designed to stay in your ears, outlast your sweatiest workouts and sound good while they do it. What's more, they don't cost the earth.
Sony MDR-XB80BS Extra Bass review: Design
- Plastic ear-hooks
- Cable adjuster for snug fit
- IPX5 splash resistance
- Weigh 27g
Like many sports earphones, the XB80BS feature an ear-hook design, meaning they hook over the tops of your ears. In this instance, the main body of the earphone hooks is made up of two materials: there's the slightly flexible, semi-transparent part that feeds over the tops of your ear; while a solid patterned plastic forms the chassis that holds in all the electronic components. The two ear-hooks are attached to each other via a skinny cable.
The advantage of the flexible portion is that you can move your head around during exercise, without ever feeling like the earphones will fall out. With a more rigid design, the eartips would easily dislodge with every movement, which is definitely not what you want on a record-breaking run or an intense HIIT session.
The XB80BS are also designed to be washable. With a splash-resistance rating you can rinse them off after any particularly sweaty workouts to ensure they're clean. They're not designed to be submerged in water, however, but can survive being splashed. That means you can take them rowing, but not swimming.
The earphones are also durable enough that you can just throw them in a bag when you're done and not have to worry that they might break. Although you probably should just use the included pouch with its snap-shut lips instead.
Despite the obvious advantages of the durable and splash-resistant design, there is one negative: the chunky plastic over-ear design means they're not especially comfortable to wear. And with the hook not being moldable to the shape of your ear, you can always feel that you're wearing them, which is a little off-putting at times.
To help with this issue, you can adjust the tightness of the cable around the back of your head, using the built-in adjuster. Making it more snug restricts movement a little more, holding it closer to your ears. This makes them ideal for activities with lots of movement, and essentially keeps them glued to your head.
When used during exercise, we found these Sony earphones stayed very still. Indeed, they're of the most securely-fitted pair of sports earphones we've tested to date. Well, once the cable is adjusted to fit snugly anyway.
As far as buttons go, the XB80BS earphones only have three, all of which are built into a slim rubber panel on the right ear hook. The power button is placed at the bottom, while the volume buttons are paired together further up.
As with most other similar headsets, each of the buttons have secondary functions. The power button is also the Bluetooth pairing button and call-answer/play/pause button. Volume up doubles as a skip track forwards button, while the volume down skips to the previous track, or start of the current track. While that's useful, these buttons are very small and it can be hard to find them quickly without looking.
Sony MDR-XB80BS Extra Bass review: Performance
- 7-hours usage per charge
- 2-hour charge time
Along with having a secure, durable fit, the Extra Bass earphones have a solid wireless connection that hasn't dropped once in our testing. Regardless of the exercise, with an iPhone strapped to our waist, or in our pocket, there wasn't the slightest glitch in the Bluetooth performance. During our training runs, the music beaming from our phone to the XB80BS was constant and uninterrupted the whole time.
Similar to its Bluetooth performance the battery is steady as well. Although its maximum of seven hours playback isn't as high as some earphones - like the Powerbeats 3 for example - it's enough to ensure you don't really have to worry about the earphones dying on a 30-minute run.
Sadly, there's no way to get a better view on the earphones' remaining battery; all you get is the small indicator icon in the status bar. After over three hours of use, this indicator showed that only a small portion of the battery was used - but it's hard to gauge precisely.
Sony MDR-XB80BS Extra Bass review: Sound
- LDAC for Hi-Res audio
- 12mm dome drivers
- Extra Bass enhanced low frequencies
The Extra Bass branding on these Sony earphones says it all: you get lots of bass, which isn't a bad thing when you're pumping iron at your local gun-sculpting shop, or trying to keep a steady pace on your run.
Despite the obvious bass-boosting tendencies, these relatively affordable earphones don't get overly muddy or wooly. They retain a fairly well balanced sound across the treble and mid-ranges too, even if they don't ring especially clear.
But then, whether or not a pair of £110 earphones have audiophile-grade frequency response isn't likely to be of major concern when you're trying not to die on a treadmill. The important takeaway is that they're loud, bassy, and great for immersing you in music when you're panting during a hard workout.
They do a good job of passively cancelling external noise, too, which further helps immerse you in the music - but does mean you have to be especially careful when running on or near roads. You likely won't be able to rely on your ears to detect when there are cars approaching.
If you're looking for a pair of in-ears that don't cost the earth, can survive your hardest sessions, and pump up the bass in your ears at the same time, the XB80BS is a great option.
The only real drawback is that they're not super comfortable, but they're snug and will stay in your ears no matter what. And if you're on short sessions, that's perhaps no bad thing for peace of mind.
The alternatives to consider...
Jaybird's affordable X3 are surprisingly versatile, lightweight, easy to wear and carry around. What's more, because they use flexible ear fins instead of hooks, they can be worn over or under your ears and feature a cable length adjuster to give them a more or less snug fit.
Read the full review: Jaybird X3 review: Affordable sports earphones without the compromise
Powerbeats 3 Wireless
Beats best sports earphones are certainly worth considering when looking at workout earbuds, but they won't come as cheaply as the Sony or Jaybird offerings. On the plus side, they have a lightweight design, great bassy sound and a battery that lasts a long time.
Read the full review: Powerbeats 3 Wireless review: Beats and bass