Sony has a winner with its MDR-AS50G sport headphones: They’re lightweight, they fit securely, and they sound good indoors and outside. Their in-ear design is definitely geared towards fitness nuts rather than commuters; they don’t block out a whole lot of sound, which could be a plus or a minus depending on where you work out. The low price ($49.99 USD) is a big plus, since we tend to burn through exercise headphones faster than we burn through calories.
Features and Design
The MDR-AS50G’s flexible black headband folds into a compact circle and goes over the tops of your ears and behind your neck. The earbuds are mounted on silver plastic at each end of the headband. The tips that go in your ear canals are Sony’s standard black silicone jobs, easy to take on and off the thick sound tubes but also prone to disappearing.
A single cable runs inside the headband, held into a groove in it by a small plastic sliding ring. You can adjust where the cable comes off of the headband; we moved the slider to the middle of the headband, so the cable ran down our back and into our back pocket.
The cable is modular, running for about 20 inches before terminating in a straight gold-plated 1/8th-inch jack so you can add inline accessories like volume control (sold separately). The included extension cable adds another 26 inches and ends in an L-shaped gold-plated 1/8th-inch jack that fits all music players including the iPhone.
The package includes three sets of silicone tips in different sizes, a clip for attaching the cable to your clothes, and a hard plastic hockey-puck case with a removable cable-winding tray in it. The headband curls up to just the right size to fit in the case, which slips easily into a gym bag or large pocket. Since the case is bulky, we think most users will opt to shove the headphones in a pocket by themselves; just beware of losing those silicone tips!
Image Courtesy of Sony
Isolation and comfort
The tips come in three sizes, but because of the thickness of the tubes, the earbuds didn’t go very far into our ear canals. That makes them pretty comfortable, but they don’t block out nearly as much sound as in-ear models from Shure, Etymotic, or Koss — a plus for those who don’t want to get run over while running on the street, but not much help if you’re just studying in a hoppin’ cafe. They do block out more sound than Sennheiser‘s Sport line, but if you need more noise-blocking, the Creative Zen Aurvana ($79.99) puts you in a much quieter place and stay in our ears well through most workouts.
The headband is one-size-fits-all, so if you have a particularly large melon, you might not have enough room to get the headband over the tops of your ears. Even so, the earbuds stay firmly in place thanks to the headband’s natural curl. The headband also stays in close enough to your head to avoid getting caught on exercise equipment, and during our workout, the earbuds didn’t budge at all.
Although the earbuds are sweat-resistant, the filters at the end of the sound tubes tend to get clogged over time. Tip: If the sound gets a lot quieter on one or both sides, use a pin to poke out the tiny hole in the center of each filter.
The MDR-AS50G sound surprisingly good for sport headphones, with excellent clarity and strong bass. We tested with our iPod nano (3G) and a set of Apple Lossless and 320Kbps MP3 files. Some of the low end got lost because of the less-than-perfect seal (we tried every size tip), but it was still punchy and strong, and the headphones responded very well to the iPod’s bass boost setting.
Acoustic jazz like John Coltrane’s Blue Train sounded a bit shrill, with strongly emphasized cymbals, but the sound warmed up nicely with our iPod’s bass boost. Primus’s Tommy the Cat sounded very lively, with plenty of punch to the bass and kick drum — a big help on our last few laps around the track. Electronica like Kruder & Dorfmeister and Kraftwerk sound perky, and the AS50G’s bass extends down far enough to reproduce most of those ridiculously low notes.
These are not meant for shutting out the rumble of planes, trains, and automobiles, but they block more noise than standard earbuds like the iPod whities and Sennheiser’s Sport line. If you need to block out lots of noise, we recommend Shure’s SE line or the Creative Zen Aurvana ($79.99).
The sound is clearer than what we usually hear from Sony earbuds, and are capable of pumping out some tight, punchy bass with a little EQ magic from your music player. But the AS50G’s stand out with their low price and their ability to stay in your ears no matter how hard you sweat to the oldies.
• Very good sound
• Very Secure fit
• Modular cabling allows for inline accessories
• Minimal noise-blocking