Sony wants to make it as convenient as possible to work out to music without wires. Priced at a reasonable $128, the MDRAS800BT Active Sports Bluetooth Headset offer a secure fit, simple design, good audio quality and strong battery life. Although the sound quality isn't stellar and the ergonomics could be better, the Active Sports Bluetooth Headset is a very good choice overall.
The Sony MDRAS800BT Active Sports Bluetooth Headset looks like a standard set of wireless buds. Their silver, torpedolike earbuds are capped with squishy, semi-translucent domed ear inserts, and are connected by a white cord with a thick piece of plastic in the middle. These buds are sweatproof and splashproof too, so you'll be protected from accidental spills.
Although it looks like an inline remote, this piece of plastic in the middle of the cord doesn't serve any purpose other than to show the product's model number. The earbuds are controlled by a small, rectangular button on the body of the right bud.
If you forgo reading the instructions, it could be complicated to use these earbuds. Pressing the button once will play or pause the song, and pressing it twice will skip to the next track. To go to a previous song, you have to press the button three times.
While that's simple enough, I couldn't figure out how to adjust the volume initially. You have to press the multifunction button twice and hold on the last press to increase the volume. Inversely, pressing three times and holding will decrease it. That's too much work, especially if you’re running, so you’re better off finding the right volume level before you get started.
By contrast, the SMS Audio Wireless In-Ear Sport headphones have a traditional inline remote, with two volume buttons and a multifunction button in the middle of them. It sits on the right cord, making it more accessible than the Sony's right-earbud button, and less of a hassle to use while working out.
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Comfort and Fit
The Sony ear inserts -- four sizes are provided -- block out most outside sound. While softer and more flexible than the SMS Audio Wireless In-Ear Sports inserts, I found that the SMS Audio pair did a better job of blocking out the roar of passing subway trains than the Sony Active Sports Bluetooth.
Unfortunately, I sometimes found that the inserts would press into the sides of my inner ear when I turned my head, making me feel like I had a bubble in my ear. Sound became muffled and I immediately had to readjust the insert to prevent it from basically suction-cupping my ear shut.
Sony provides three sizes of wings for the Active Sports Bluetooth Headset, which hold the buds in place by hugging the outer ear with a barely there piece of curved silicon. Compared to the wings on the SMS Audio earbuds, Sony's fit slightly better and didn't require any adjustment once the buds were in place.
The Sony MDRAS800BT Active Sports Bluetooth Headset will certainly get you pumped for your next run. The thumping bass in the intro of Tove Lo's "Talking Body" resonated well, and the entire track was hauntingly powerful (I had these buds playing the track on repeat).
The upbeat, folky "Geronimo" by Sheppard translated similarly, with a lively, chanting chorus and clear, punchy drums. These earbuds performed well with slower songs as well, playing John Legend's "All of Me" with vocals that sounded like they were being sung directly into my ear.
However, like the SMS Audio Wireless In-Ear Sport headphones, the Active Sports Bluetooth Headset gets a little harsh when both the earbuds and your device are playing music at maximum volume. Most of the time, I kept my smartphone's volume at 60 to 75 percent while the earbuds themselves were raised to max, and this combo blocked out most outside sound without making songs unpleasant.
Overall, these Sony buds are very similar to the SMS Audio buds in terms of quality, but neither can stand up to the superbly balanced and clear sound of the $175 Jabra Sport Pulse wireless buds, which also double as a heart rate monitor.
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Sony promises the MDRAS800BT Active Sports Bluetooth Headset can get 4.5 hours of playtime on a single charge, and up to 180 hours of standby time. While the SMS Audio Wireless In-Ear Sport headphones have 8 hours of rated active battery life, they aren't able to last as long while idle at the bottom of your gym bag. I appreciate a long standby time for convenience, but you can easily turn off both the SMS and Sony earbuds with a long-press of their multifunction buttons.
I used the Active Sports Bluetooth Headset for three days during my daily workouts and commute, after which the battery meter read just under 50 percent. However, sometimes the battery indicator on my iPhone 6 would tell me the earbuds were close to dying when, in reality, they had much more juice left in them.
The Sony MDRAS800BT Active Sports Bluetooth Headset is a quality pair of wireless buds that can power you through all kinds of workouts. Their wireless design ensures you'll never accidentally yank your phone off a machine at the gym, and the buds fit securely, blocking out most extraneous sound.
Overall, I prefer the $129 SMS Audio Wireless In-Ear Sport headphones, which provide similar audio quality, a brighter, sportier design and easier-to-use controls. However, Sony fans will find the $128 Sony MDRAS800BT Active Sports Bluetooth Headset to be a solid choice.
Follow Valentina Palladino at @valentinalucia. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide and on Facebook.
Not entirely true - this also acts as the NFC contact point for easy Bluetooth pairing with NFC enabled devices.