Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 review: Hear your content and your surroundings

Audio / Audio Hardware Reviews / Mobile / Reviews / Tech

I’d recommend these for those really seeking situational awareness. These are not for those who want their music to be the main focus.

TA-ratings-88When I use headphones it’s almost always to drown the world out. It’s my time to relax, get some work done, or enjoy audio or video entertainment and zone out. But, there are certain situations in which one would want to hear their music and keep the world coming in. The Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 headphones offer such an experience.

These wire-free open-ear stereo headphones are made so you can remain situationally aware while still enjoying your entertainment. Read on for the full review of the Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 headphones.

Specifications

The Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 has the following features and specifications:

  • Compatibility: Android 5.0 or later; iOS 10 or later
  • Battery: 56 mAh per unit; 740 mAh charging case
  • Durability: IPX2 water protection on Core unit
  • Controls: Touchpad; Head gestures
  • Voice Commands: Google Assistant; Siri
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, Compass, Barometer
  • Microphone: Two microphones on each Core unit
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2 LE, USB Type-C
  • Battery Life
    • Talk Time: Up to 2.5 hours
    • Listening Time: Up to 4 hours
    • Standby Time: Up to 22 hours (including case)
  • Fast Charging: 7 minutes for 1-hour listening
  • Dimensions: Core units 0.7 x 2.3 x 0.4 in; Charging case 3.5 x 3.5 x 1 in
  • Weight: Core unit 0.4oz each; Charging Case 2.7oz

What’s In The Box

  • Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20
  • Various ear tips
  • USB Type-C cable
  • Instructions and Documentation

Design

To say that the Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 headphones have a unique design is an understatement. Thier physical size is much larger than your average in-ear headphone but they are surprisingly lightweight. I will say, even though they are large, once you have them on, they are comfortable. You don’t feel like you’re wearing headphones at all although seeing them on yourself might be frightening as they stick out like a sore thumb.

These are large and in charge!

Sony refers to the headphones as “Core units.” Each Core unit has a touchpad and a couple of microphones and pogo pins on the back for charging. The build quality on these is outstanding. They feel robust and premium, I’ve no doubt that these will stand up to some regular daily use abuse. The charging case is also nicely made and looks like a rounded hockey puck. Some may even say it looks like a makeup compact, feel free to choose your descriptor.

Overall, the design and look of the Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 headphones is a bit bulky and unruly for me. While the build quality is top notch and the fell is premium in every way, I didn’t enjoy the look of them. That said, even though they are large, you barely even notice they’re on once you have them on. Looks are going to be subjective, many people might really enjoy the XEA20 design aesthetic.

Green LED’s indicate charged.

Ease of Use

Sony has made the Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 setup and controls very easy to use, except for one thing: actually putting them on your ears. Let’s go over the easy bits first. Sony includes a nice little visual setup manual which directs you to download the Xperia Ear Duo app for Android or iOS. Before we move any further, you should probably charge your headphones and case before you even start setup.

Once you have the app downloaded, you turn the XEA20 headphones on and the app will recognize them and start the pairing and setup process. We’ll go over the app more in the next section. Once you have everything working and connected you’re ready to start listening.

The XEA20s come with touchpads on both units and they are very easy to figure out. A series of swipes and taps will answer calls, turn the volume up and down and skip tracks. They are super simple to use and because the units are large, there is no fumbling around with the gestures. You can also set up head gestures in the app which allows you to control the headphones with a nod of your head.

The battery case is also large. But it will fit into a pocket.

Now, the one area I felt where the ease of use lacked was actually putting these things on. Sony provides a diagram in the manual and the app also shows you how to put them on. It seems simple and maybe it should be simple, but I found I still fumble around trying to get them to fit over my ear. This may not be everyone’s experience but I really did not enjoy the process of putting these on my ears.

Overall, the Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 headphones are easy to set up and operate. For me, the experience of putting them on was a bit frustrating.

App/Software

The Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 comes with an included app. As mentioned above, the app is the main method of connecting and setting up the headphones but it also serves as the control center for what information is delivered to your headphones.

The app header shows your connection status and battery percentage and is followed up with the users (how to) manual. Having the users manual is handy here and even shows you how to actually fit these on your ears. That’s worth looking at and studying, good luck.

How to use also gives you access to the touchpad settings as well as the head gestures settings. The next section is the Assistant section. Sony couldn’t resist adding their own assistant here. Here you can choose from some presets in which the Sony Assistant will give you information when you put the headphones on. It will give you the current time, on this day, missed calls, unread texts, and calendar. You can choose to not use this feature if you like.

Anytime Talk lets you set up group chats with other Xperia Ear or Ear Duo devices. This is something I did not test but seems like a great idea. Device settings allows you to set a variety of settings including adaptive volume control and more.

Overall, the app and software is pretty simple and easy to use. There are some nice features in there and I actually liked the Sony Assistant for what it’s worth.

Works with Android and iOS.

Sound

This was a hard one. Considering these are made for outside sounds to get in, these are not going to deliver sound that is encompassing and enveloping. That’s not a ding against them as these are literally made for people who want the outside world to be available to them.

That being said, I think the sound is really good for what these are built for. Everything sounds balanced but also, since these are open, the sound doesn’t take you away.

Overall, the sound is great and should satisfy anyone so long as you’re aware that in using these, you will always hear the outside world.

Reception/Call Quality

Bluetooth reception is standard but good. Your mileage will vary and reception is dependent on conditions as well. That said, with a good line of sight to the source device I could easily get 50-60 feet away before losing connection.

Call quality is actually really great on these and I was surprised. I’ve no complaints with call quality at all. Overall, both Bluetooth reception and call quality are spot on.

Battery life is as advertised.

Battery Life

Battery life is highly dependent on individual use. That being said, Sony says the Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 should give you up to 4 hours of listening time and up to 2.5 hours talk time. Of course, the battery case does boost this and you can get longer life. You’ll just need to throw them in the case for a quick charge. I was able to get just under 4 hours on the main units.

Overall, battery life is as advertised.

Price/Value

The Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 are priced at $279.99USD, that is not chump change. As for value, I think the XEA20 headphones will appeal to those who need to have a high degree of situational awareness. Runners, bicyclists, those who work out a lot, office workers, anyone who wants to hear music yet needs the outside world to remain. For those of us who are not in need of this feature, these are not going to satisfy.

Wrap Up

Overall, the Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 headphones are well built, have good sound (for what they are intended), have decent battery life but are priced pretty high. I’d recommend these for those really seeking that situational awareness. These are not for those who want their music to be the main focus.

*We received a sample of the Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20 for the purposes of this review.

Sony Xperia Ear Duo XEA20

$279.99USD
8.8

Design

8.0/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

App/Software

9.0/10

Sound

9.0/10

Reception/Call Quality

9.5/10

Battery Life

9.0/10

Price/Value

8.5/10

Nailed it

  • Nicely done app with lots of features
  • Decent sound
  • Great for hearing everything around you and your music
  • Good BT reception
  • Nice carrying case with USB-C
  • Decent battery life

Needs work

  • Design is bulky
  • It takes some work to get them on
  • They are very pricey
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