The Sony Walkman W273 sports headphones are the latest "active" headphones from Sony and are designed for runners, or those keen to ditch the need for a headphone cable trailing somewhere over their body, when they exercise.
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No wires, well only one
Unlike most media players available on the market, the W273 is wire-free, with all of the MP3's internals built right into the headset. Basically the MP3 player has got so small now you don't need a separate box to carry. The only wire you do get is joining the two earpieces together and this cable trails around the back of your head, out of the way. A simple clip allows you to pull it tight against your noggin, although you don't need it.
If you're worried that makes for a heavy headset, don't be. We found the W273s light and comfortable to run with once we got the fitting correct - we impatiently set off without getting it spot-on first time, and they kept falling out. It was us, not them and you do get small, medium and large earbuds in the box to make sure you get a decent fit regardless of your ear size.
Music on the go
The new Walkman offers 4GB of storage in black, white, and blue colour options meaning it should be more than enough for your average run or workout, and we especially like the ability to charge them for 3 minutes - while you do your shoelaces up, say - to give you 60 minutes of runtime.
The small headphones feature all the controls you would expect, including play, pause, skip forward and backwards, and volume. There is a lock switch so you avoid accidental presses, and when you do press a button a voice tells you what you've pressed to make things easier while you're working out.
Charging and transferring songs
The Sony NWZ-W273 headphones come with a docking station that plugs into your PC or Mac. The docking station acts as a charging module as well. The MP3 player simply appears as a standard USB drive on your computer, making music transfer nice and easy, Sony has learnt a lot since the early days of MP3 players when it used to force you to use its own app.
You can add music to the player simply by adding it to the music folder. The W273 supports MP3; WMA (Non-DRM), AAC-LC (Non-DRM), and Linear PCM files. If you've got an iTunes library, as long as the files are DRM-free you'll be fine. Transfer, we noticed, is quick and easy.
Wet and sweaty
Sony brags of the W273 being the first 100 per cent waterproof Walkman, perfect for swimming and other athletics, or even if you are just looking to clean it after you've got all hot and sweaty. You can actually go 2m under water with the headphones although the sound quality isn't great when submerged. What that waterproofing means in reality, is that you can keep running in the rain, or listen to music in the shower without any worry.
A full 1.5 hour charge gives the W273 a full 8 hours of playback. during our testing, we've yet to need a recharge, and we've been running with them a lot.
We're impressed by the capabilities of the W273 sports headphones. The mix between bass and treble is well-balanced, regardless of what you listen to, although you do have to make sure you get a good ear-fit to maximise the sound potential.
We tested it with a number of different tracks from Chemical Brothers through Norah Jones and out the other side to The Prodigy, and the headphones certainly coped well with the base levels on The Prodigy tracks.
As a solo device, there aren't really many negatives to put you off. If, on the other hand, you are someone who uses a running app on your phone while you run, or you're already carrying an MP3 player with you then, for extra cash, it doesn't seem worth the hassle.
We would recommend getting a pair of Bluetooth headphones to let you ditch the wires between your music and your ears. And, phones have the advantage that they let you stream music from Spotify, something you can't do here.
But, if you are looking to keep things simple, and want music when you head out to do some exercise, these perform very nicely indeed.