Sony Xperia Ear Duo
A genuinely innovative pair of earbuds that speaks all your messages to you and allows sound in. But, does anyone really need these?
Have you always longed for a pair of in-ear buds built to allow through the sound of the world around you, that also constantly regales you with emails, texts and your next diary appointments? No, us neither. But that’s what Sony’s undeniably intriguing and innovative Xperia Ear Duo does.
You have 9,000 messages
Now usually, headphones allow in ambient sound thanks to either a microphone or bad design. Here, there is an actual hole in each bud. The resulting effect is like spreading a fairly thin layer of music over the surrounding world.
The funny thing about this is that if you put your fingers over the holes – or perhaps a brace of small corks – they sound pretty good. Obviously you’re not meant to do that, but it does reveal that the Ear Duo is a well-made audio device. It’s just one that happens to have had two massive holes drilled through it, so you can hear stuff. Which by definition means music sounds less than awesome. The situational awareness they give could, in theory, be useful for cyclists and runners, but the weird fit (the lozenge-shaped bits sit below your ears) means they aren’t really suited to exercise.
The Ear Duo can also handle a range of tasks via not one but two personal assistants. Sony’s own AI reads out your messages and diary appointments, plus news, weather and so on. Google Assistant or Siri are on hand to answer said messages or add new diary appointments, as well as all their usual skills.
The issue here is that in a busy work day you could feel absolutely bombarded with emails. You can terminate any message by shaking your head, and we were doing a lot of head-shaking while testing this product.
The amusingly dour, northern English voice Sony has chosen is a bit quirky too. It celebrated our birthday by wishing us a “day of joy”, but in a voice that was more like it was telling me my dog had just died. To be fair, for work emails, this tone seems quite apt.
As with other true wireless headphones, battery life per charge is not amazing at around 3-4 hours, but the case gives you three charges, and juices them up pretty quickly.
With Ear Duo, Sony set out to make true wireless music earbuds that allow through ambient sound and read info to you. It has largely succeeded, but who wants such a thing?