Sony introduces an updated model of the popular wearable waterproof all-in-one Walkman headset. The new NW-WS413 sports MP3 player is the successor to the NWZ-W273/NWZ-W274 and comes with several upgrades.
The design appears similar to earlier Walkman headsets like the Sony Smart B-Trainer I reviewed previously. The earloop is thicker, which means it is more durable. Like earlier models, it is worn by wrapping around the back of your head without touching your neck. This offers an uninhibited head movement. I find the headset gives me a firm fit and the eartips slip into my ear canals easily, unlike the Mpow Antelope I just reviewed.
The WS410 series is also waterproof and dustproof, and comes with swimming eartips to prevent water from getting into the speaker drivers. While it claims to be also salt water proof, you should always clean it thoroughly after use to prevent salt crystal build-up and damage it.
To top the ruggedness, you can use the WS410 series under extreme weather conditions, from – 5 to 45 degrees Celsius.
The WS413 is a Walkman with 4GB storage, so you control the playback and other modes all from the headset. There is no Bluetooth function nor does it support pairing to your smartphone for voice calls. For that, you need to get the NWZ-WS610 series.
To upload music, the easiest way is to dock the headset to the cradle and plug to the USB port in your computer. The WS413 will appear as a storage device and you can then copy your songs to the MUSIC folder. If you prefer to use software, you can install the Sony software that you can find in the storage folder. If you are using iTunes, you might want to use “Content Transfer” software (also included) to copy your music library to the WS413.
Button Controls and Features
On the right ear, you have the power, play-pause, and next-previous buttons. To switch folder, you press the next-previous button 3 times.
On the left ear, there is the playback mode, ambient sound mode, and volume buttons. The playback mode toggles how the songs are sequenced: either by random (shuffle), or repeat folder, or normal. It is not possible to repeat a single song.
I like that the random playlist is separate from the normal sequential playlist. It means that when I switch to random mode, the songs are different. Then when I switch back to normal, it would play back the last song I stopped before switching to random play. This is a nice feature to toggle between random playlist and normal playlist.
While it makes sense to spread the controls over 2 ears, it can be a hassle to change tracks on one side and adjusting volume on the other. The other severe disadvantage is that it is challenging to find the song that you like if you have hundreds of songs uploaded to the headset.
Ambient Sound Mode: Killer Feature
The Ambient Sound Mode lets you hear sounds around you via built-in mics. I feel this is the key selling feature of the WS410 series. Unlike other headphones, turning on the ambient mode does not affect the quality nor reduce the volume of the music. The ambient noise blends nicely with the music, as if the headset is really open-back. I get a greater sense of awareness around me while I jog. And for those who feels uncomfortable when wearing in-ear headphones that eliminates noise, the WS413 would alleviate that discomfort.
There are 3 options which you switch to by holding the button longer. Mode A sounds closest to what I would normally hear without headphones. Mode B increases sensitivity on the mid-range. Mode C boosts the lower range resulting in a louder noise floor.
The WS413 is tuned for use during workouts and not meant for audiophiles. As such, it is balanced for adequate clarity and details across the audio spectrum. There is no preset equalizer modes for you to choose, so you have to live with the tuning. The WS413 will satisfy users who prefer a balanced audio that does not sound too bright nor too bassy. The advantage of a flat tuning is that you can turn up the volume louder. Listening to retro music in the 80s where the mid-treble is usually boosted turns out just nice.
The earbuds are effective in eliminating ambient noise. Sony has done a great job to angle the earbuds exactly to the human anatomy.
The WS413 stays in my ears comfortably during runs. However, the foot thumping sound is rather loud compared to Mpow Antelope. I attribute that to the tight earbuds seal with the ear canals. If you abhor this, then this headset might not be for you. But if you love the features so much, one other way to reduce the thumping sound is to change the eartips to a smaller size so that it does not create a tight seal.
The WS413 can be used continuously for up to 12 hours when playing normal MP3 files. Battery life drops to 8 hours if Ambient Sound Mode is turned on. I like the quick charge feature, where I just need to charge for 3 minutes to get another 1 hour of use. Otherwise, a full charge takes 1.5 hours. Charging is via a proprietary cradle so don’t lose it.
Verdict: Ambient Sound FTW
The Sony NW-WS413 would be just another sports headset with music player if not for the Ambient Sound Mode to make it a little extra special. I get to enjoy loud and detailed music without sacrificing the ambient awareness. It retails S$149 with colour options: Lime Green, Ivory (this review unit), Blue and Black.
Sony NW-WS413 Quick Specs
- Battery life – Linear PCM(1411kbps)
- Ambient Sound Mode ON: 7 hours(approx.)
- Ambient Sound Mode OFF: 10 hours(approx.)
- Battery life – MP3(128kbps)
- Ambient Sound Mode ON: 8 hours (approx.)
- Ambient Sound Mode OFF: 12 hours(approx.)
- Quick charge:
- 3 minutes get 60 minutes use
- Full charge:
- 1.5 hours
- Audio format:
- Linear PCM
- Earbuds (1 set of 4 sizes)
- Swimming Earbuds (1 set of 4 sizes)
- USB Cradle (1)
- USB Cable (1)
Product website: http://www.sony.com.sg/electronics/walkman/nw-ws410-series
Online Help Guide: http://helpguide.sony.net/dmp/nwws410/v1/h_ww/index.html