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The Ultimate Wireless Sports Headphones

Discover how Sony's new splash-proof wireless sports headphones were created

Have you noticed more people working out with their sports headphones at your local gym lately? Well, you’re not alone. According to the 2016 IHRSA Global Report: The State of the Health Club Industry, the global health club industry’s revenue totalled $81 billion in 2015, and 151.5 million members visited nearly 187,000 clubs.

Given the growing fitness frenzy, Sony developed a pair of wireless sports headphones that could keep up with people’s strenuous workout routines without missing a beat. Aoi Maeda, the product planner behind Sony’s new MDR-XB80BS sports headphones, has been hitting the gym and speaking directly to workout fanatics to find out exactly what people want from their headphones. Thanks to her team’s in-depth research, the MDR-XB80BS wireless sports headphones are any fitness enthusiast’s dream come true. 

Read on to get Aoi Maeda’s insights on the inspiration behind the MDR-XB80BS wireless sports headphones, learn more about their new sweat-proof feature and find out her personal tips for selecting the right sports headphones for your workouts. 

Aoi Maeda, Sony Product Planner for the Sound Product Planning Department

Q: What does a typical day look like for you as a Sony product planner? 

Maeda: Product concept design and development involves interfacing with designers, engineers and marketers daily to come up with the perfect product. And of course, creating the perfect product would be impossible without input from consumers. That’s why you’ll typically find me out in the field, observing how products get used in the real world and interviewing users so we can make sure their feedback gets incorporated into development. 

Now that I’m involved with the development of audio products geared toward exercise fanatics, I find myself visiting gyms more often to see how people use these products while they work out. Most recently, I’ve been quite enthralled with kickboxing gyms!

Q: What should consumers look for when purchasing wireless sports headphones?

Maeda: The first thing to look for is a comfortable fit. Since everyone has a different sized head, and everyone’s ears are shaped differently, be sure to pick workout headphones that fit comfortably. Next, make sure the sports headphones you pick are appropriate for your workout style. For some people — like those who exercise in groups — design is the most important. For music aficionados, sound quality is top priority. I recommend that consumers take a hard look at their preferences and then choose the sports headphones that best fit their lifestyle. 

Q: What inspired the concept for the MDR-XB80BS wireless sports headphones?

Maeda: Demand for sports headphones that can keep up with people’s active lifestyles has really taken off. For example, booming interest in sports and fitness activities — a global phenomenon — means that the global smart headphones market is expected to reach $7.48 billion by 2022, according to a report by Grand View Research. Smart headphones offer features like water resistance, noise cancellation and high-resolution sound quality. 

What makes headphones for this segment so unique is the severity of the environment they’re used in. For example, sports headphones have to be able to handle sudden or strong movements without falling out of or off the user’s ears. They also have to be able to tolerate exposure to water since a lot of runners wear them in the rain. While developing the MDR-XB80BS, we anticipated all kinds of exercise and sporting situations they would be used in, constantly asking ourselves what kind of sports headphones would be able to meet all these needs.

Q: What were your main goals when developing these sports headphones?

Maeda: Priorities included high-quality sound, a comfortable ear fit and design and ensuring that our sports headphones would stay in place and not get dislodged by sudden or strong movements. 

Sony has “ear people” — craftspeople who are experts at making model ears of all shapes and sizes. We tested the MDR-XB80BS on numerous ear-type models. Since I’m a runner, I even tested out our prototypes during a few of my runs to get a feel for how comfortable, stable and wearable they are. This focus on ear shape and form has contributed quite a bit to the MDR-XB80BS’s stable wearability. We also added a cable adjuster that can be fixed in place at the back of the person’s head to keep the sports headphones securely in place. Ultimately, our mission was to create a pair of workout headphones that balances comfort, wearability and high-quality sound.

To top it all off, we gave these sports headphones wireless connectivity, so that wearers have maximum freedom of movement. The MDR-XB80BS uses Bluetooth® and is not only rechargeable, but even delivers an hour of playback after 10 minutes of charging with its QuickCharge feature.

Q: Do these sports headphones offer any new features?

Maeda: One of my favourite features is their water resistance, which fulfils the IPX5 standard. A lot of people use their sports headphones while working out or running, so we made the MDR-XB80BS impervious to sweat and rain. Several users have told us that they want to be able to wash off their workout headphones after they’ve used them, so we made sure they’d stand up to that too.

Q: How would you describe the MDR-XB80BS’s sound quality?

We gave the sports headphones Sony’s EXTRA BASS technology, which enhances the quality of the bass region to recreate the sound people go to clubs to hear. When we surveyed people around the world to find out why they listened to music while exercising or running, one of the most frequent answers we got was to get into the right rhythm. Given that music with a strong beat is just right for working out, we think EXTRA BASS ought to be effective for helping people exercise. 

Our research also revealed that a lot of people listen to music to help them relax when they’re finished exercising, which is why we opted to equip the sports headphones with LDAC™, Sony’s proprietary technology for delivering high-resolution sound sources wirelessly while retaining high sound quality. This way, users can really relax listening to music of the best possible fidelity after a hard workout!

Q: How do these wireless sports headphones enhance your experience when exercising?

Maeda: The MDR-XB80BS wireless sports headphones are perfect for anyone who exercises, no matter the age, but they’re especially right for people whose exercise regimen involves rougher conditions like spin class, long-distance running and weight training. The most common complaint about headphones is that they tend to fall off or get broken — not a problem with the MDR-XB80BS. In fact, the more rigorous your exercise program, the more the MDR-XB80BS is right for you! 

Q: What else is in store for Sony sports audio equipment? 

Maeda: In addition to the MDR-XB80BS wireless sports headphones, we’ve released a whole series of headphones that are specifically geared for people who exercise or engage in sports, including the MDR-XB50BS, MDR-AS410 and MDR-AS210. We’re so excited for what’s next! 

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