Sony waterproof walkman: for granny-style swimmers or for pros?

Sony waterproof walkman: for granny-style swimmers or for pros?

Livia Gamper
Zurich, on 18.06.2019
Pictures: Thomas Kunz
Translation: Eva Francis
Sony's headphones stay in if you swim like a granny – that's what one of your users wrote in a rating. How does Sony’s waterproof walkman perform if we hand it to a professional swimmer from the Swiss national squad?

When we meet Svenja Stoffel at the indoor swimming pool in Uster, she’s already wearing the headphones. She’s a professional swimmer and a member of the Swiss National Swimming Team. Our photographer Thomas Kunz is also there. Svenja dives into the pool energetically and elegantly. Although Svenja covers three and a half metres in the air before sliding into the water, the headphones remain in the right place. This is our first hint that these headphones are not only suitable for seniors.

Sony's sports headphones are featured in our latest poster campaign. Advis_lba’s comment about them was: «I can't judge how well they perform when you're crawling, as I'm more of a granny-style swimmer.»

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Granny-style swimming to me sounds like someone wearing a bathing cap and swimming slowly with their head over water, looking a bit like a duck. Svenja’s the complete opposite of this: she cuts through the water as fast as an arrow. Who’d be better suited to test the sports headphones than Svenja, whose goal is to participate in the Olympic Games 2020 in Tokyo?

Better fit than swim goggles

As Svenja tells us, the earbuds also stay in when she's crawling or doing dolphin stroke. «They fit even better than my swimming goggles,» she says and laughs. The headphones get in Svenja’s way and she finds them comfortable. This surprises me. After all, these headphones are huge, especially compared to regular in-ear headphones. The Sony NW-WS414 is an in-ear headphone that works like a walkman: it doesn’t have Bluetooth, but a local memory. And this memory needs space. But Svenja even manages to hide them away under her swim cap.

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When she’s wearing the headphones, Svenja can't hear us.

There’s one thing Svenja doesn’t like: the cable that connects the two buds is too long. Sony supplies an adjustment band that lets you shorten the cable on the back of your head, but it’s a bit tricky to put on. Especially when the headphones are wet and your fingers puffy from the water.

Putting on the headphones turns out to be more complicated for Svenja than expected. She tells me that she had to consult the manual to find out where which part belongs. The cables go over the ears, which makes things slightly more complicated than with regular headphones. Once they're fitted, as Svenja explains, they're easy to use. The control buttons stick out and are easy to find.

Softer underwater music

The walkman comes with special attachments, which are necessary to make the headphones waterproof.

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That’s not how (most) grannies swim.

When she’s wearing the headphones with these attachments, Svenja can’t hear a thing. Whenever we want to talk to her, Svenja has to take the headphones out of her ears: «That’s not exactly handy for training. I need to hear the instructions my coach gives me», she notes. So the headphones are tight-fitting.

Nevertheless, the music isn’t as loud underwater as it is out of water. As Svenja says, the music was only loud enough if she listened at maximum volume. «The music is covered up by the sound of the water. I can hear my hand splashing into the water», Svenja adds. Svenja is impressed with the sound quality as such.

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They’re easy to use, but the cable is too long.

Great but not suitable for training

Svenja likes the Sony sports headphones, but she wouldn't use them for training. «I absolutely have to hear what my coach is saying to me.» And as Svenja rarely swims alone, she wouldn't want to keep the headphones either. But she says they're great for anyone who swims long distances alone and wants to listen to music.

The Sony NW-WS414 definitely passed our crawling and diving test. None of us was expecting the large earbuds to stay fit when diving into the water head first. Especially when it's a pro dive like Svenja's.

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Livia Gamper
Livia Gamper
Junior Editor, Zurich
Testing devices and gadgets is my thing. Some experiments lead to interesting insights, others to demolished phones. I’m hooked on series and can’t imagine life without Netflix. In summer, you’ll find me soaking up the sun by the lake or at a music festival.

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