BARCELONA, ESP — Listening to music in headphones and still hearing what is going on around is very useful for joggers and office workers, however wireless headphones that can do both (without bone conduction technology) did not exist until recently. Sony has been working on its open-ear wireless headset for a number of years, and even showcased the concept at the MWC 2017, but it took the company quite a while to finalize it as a product. The good news is that the open-ear Xperia Ear Duo headset will be available this May. 

The Sony Xperia Ear Duo looks like two hands-free earpieces. Each one comprises of a unit that goes into the ear and a unit that contains a battery, an antenna and control logic. The key element of each ear piece is a special (and very tiny!) driver that transmits audio to the ear canal. The driver does not go to the ear canal itself and therefore does not block it from peripheral sounds. Also, a special rubber earbud with a hole firmly holds the earpiece where it should be. The right earpiece of the Xperia Ear Duo is the master, and it connects to smartphone (or another source) using Bluetooth. Audio is then transmitted to the left one using NFMI method. Sony says that NFMI ensures strong connection between two earpieces and it works better than if both used Bluetooth. Each earpiece also has four microphones for hands free calling and to eliminate background noises during conversations.

Since the Xperia Ear Duo was designed primarily for smartphones, as they send notifications over the top of music and support Sony’s Assistant/Google’s Assistant services. Furthermore, the master earpiece has a small integrated touchpad that understands swipes and taps to answer incoming calls and turn on the assistants.

The earpieces can work for four hours on one charge — more than enough for a jogging/workout session, or a day in the office (you are not supposed to listen to music all the time, are you?). The Xperia Ear Duo ships in a special box that charges them. The enclosure itself has a built-in battery to charge the headset for three times.

After years in the works, Sony’s Xperia Ear Duo will ship this May. Sony will charge $279 for the product, which is well above prices of regular wireless headsets. Such a high MSRP will inevitably position the open-ear headset as an ultra-premium solution. Sony says that it will continue to work on open-ear wireless headphones, so the successors of the Xperia Ear Duo could be more compact and/or more affordable.

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Source: Sony

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  • edzieba - Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - link

    For a battery that size, 4 hours seems extremely poor. Maybe the 'open' design requires a much higher volume than an IEM.
  • anactoraaron - Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - link

    These look like they will be constantly falling out and onto the ground. High priced and probably not that durable. Who are these aimed it again?
  • jabber - Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - link

  • PeachNCream - Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - link

    At work, I have a cheap pair of Koss headphones that I got for like $7. If I need to hear what's going on around me, I just turn my music volume down pretty low and if someone says something like, "Hey Peaches, can you come here and look at this?" from a few cubes away, I have no problems hearing them. I don't really see the need for open headphones like this that have to be recharged periodically and cost like 40x more money.
  • Sttm - Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - link

    At work I wear my Bose QC35, they cost $300, they have best in class noise cancelling. If someone wants to say something to me, they can send it on Slack.

  • TrevorH - Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - link

    This'll be aimed a buyers of the XZ2 which has followed Apple into the no-headphone-socket territory. Stupid idea Sony, I like to use good headphones (hint, you don't make any good enough), and shall not be buying an XZ2 nor these ugly looking boat anchors.
  • edzieba - Thursday, March 1, 2018 - link

    "hint, you don't make any good enough"
    Broadcast and mastering industry: "Sorry, what was that? I couldn't hear you over my de-facto standard MDR-7506”
  • ZipSpeed - Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - link

    Ugly job, Sony. I love my BeatsX I got on sale for $99. Decent sound quality and battery life. And less chance of losing the damn things.
  • Gc - Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - link

    Is it programmable? Or does it send events that a smartphone program can respond to? I hear it recognizes head gestures, to accept or decline calls. I wonder how well it could recognize someone nodding off at their desk (or at the wheel) to trigger an alert notification and queue some wake-up music. (Or some nap music if you're at home and you need the sleep.)
  • Holliday75 - Wednesday, March 7, 2018 - link

    Area man on car trip to visit parents forgets to turn off sleep alarm. News at 11.

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