Sony Walkman NW-WS413: Key specs
Waterproof standard: IPX68
Battery life: 12 hours
Storage: 4GB or 8GB
Audio formats: MP3, AAC, WMA and linear PCM
Two minute review:
The Sony Walkman NW-WS413 is one of the best waterproof headphones options when it comes to serious swimming. We all know that swimming is one of the best exercises you can do – it builds muscle, burns fat, increases our lung capacity and is joint-friendly – but long sessions in a pool are boring.
If you’re the kind of person who needs entertainment while exercising, or if you like to catch up on your favorite podcast while swimming, the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 is for you.
A one-piece Walkman-one-a-wire that doesn’t have Bluetooth – which doesn’t work well underwater – for drag-and-drop MP3s to its 4GB storage, it’s a unique and cost-effective product that has only been challenged by a few bone conduction rivals.
Sony Walkman NW-WS413 waterproof headphones: price and release date
- US$98 (UK£79 / AU$209)
- now available
As the odd design can attest, the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 has been around for about 10 years. For a long time it was the only option for swimmers after some aquatic auditory action.
It’s always been two earphones on either end of a solid cabled neckband, but this latest tweaked version uses plastic with a more textured finish. It makes it a little easier to reach the playback controls, which due to the design should only be done with touch.
Sony Walkman NW-WS413 Waterproof Headphones: Design
- All-in-one design
- Multiple playback buttons
- Stores 4 GB audio files
Design score: 4/5
The Sony Walkman NW-WS413 fits very well, but they are not exactly elegant. They are a bit of a tangle in a gym bag, although they are much more robust than they appear at first glance. You can handle them pretty rough, though we’re left wondering if they need a small bag, or maybe a battery case, which is pretty standard for earphones by now.
The whole portable unit weighs 32g, which is about the same as waterproof bone conductive earphones. With the somewhat heavy earpieces in the ears, the neckband stays nicely in place on the back of the head. You can swap out the earbuds for a choice of three in the box, but once that’s done they form a barrier to the outside world – and to water – and the neckband keeps everything in place.
There is a fairly extensive choice of buttons on the earphones. It’s a little daunting at first, though all the buttons are well placed and it doesn’t take long to know where they are just by touching them. It’s probably too many buttons for such a small product, but it’s more preferable than having to learn long lists of double, triple, and quadruple presses to perform simple actions, which you get with some competing products.
Sony Walkman NW-WS413 Waterproof Headphones: Performance
- Fairly loud volume
- Balanced sound image
- MP3, AAC, WMA and linear PCM files
Performance Score: 4/5
The Sony Walkman NW-WS413 are the best sounding waterproof headphones money can buy. Like their rivals, bone conduction headphones, the sound improves as soon as you enter the water. However, they have three distinct advantages over waterproof bone conduction earphones; they are louder, the sound quality is much more detailed and you don’t have to put in extra earplugs (like with waterproof bone conduction headphones).
While bone conductive earphones deliver a bassy but slightly muffled sound that is often just too soft in the pool, the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 is louder and the headset’s soundstage is much more detailed. We are talking about significantly improved highs and more expensive mids, despite the fact that there is a super-thin membrane in the (swim-specific) earbuds to prevent water ingress. All of this makes a huge difference to music, although not so much to podcasts and audiobooks.
That said, the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 isn’t the best sounding set of earphones you’ll ever use. Swimming pools are unforgiving places when it comes to ears, and when swimming, they cope well with the rippling and splashing water in your ears. Well, but not perfectly. If you want to listen to an audiobook and don’t miss a word or phrase, a swimming pool is not the place to listen to it.
There’s an “ambient sound” mode, which lets in more of the outside noise – though not much – and drastically affects battery life. With it turned off, you get about 12 hours from the Sony Walkman NW-WS413, which is impressive. With such a battery life, you’ll probably forget to charge them all the way, but the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 has a trick; a fast charge option means just three minutes on that annoying charging cable will give you 60 minutes of use. It takes 90 minutes to fully charge.
Of course, there is one problem with the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 and that is a lack of versatility. Sure, you can make the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 your gym-plus-pool earphones and easily wear them on a treadmill or while doing weights, but they don’t have a Bluetooth option. Without the ability to pair with a smartphone, the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 remains a one-trick gadget. That’s no different from its biggest rival, the Shokz OpenSwim bone conduction earphones, but not so the newcomer Naenka Runner Diver bone conduction earphones, which offer both a Bluetooth mode on land and an MP3 mode for water.
Sony Walkman NW-WS413 waterproof headphones: features
- 4 GB storage (8 GB also available)
- 12 hours of battery life
- IP65/IP68 waterproof
Feature Score: 3/5
Does the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 have Bluetooth? No it doesn’t. It’s essentially a Walkman with 4 GB of storage (for 8 GB for the slightly more expensive NW-WS414). Yes, that’s annoying. After all, who still has a huge collection of MP3s? In practice, podcasts are the most likely source of audio downloads.
The Sony Walkman NW-WS413 meets the IP65/IP68 waterproof and dustproof standard and is designed for use in swimming pools, but also works for 30 minutes in seawater. You can therefore use the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 for almost any outdoor activity, from a quiet swim in a lake to a triathlon. Except you probably can’t use them for competitions because of the way they work. Like any pair of the best earphones for running, the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 uses earplugs that block your ear canal from outside noise. That is not considered safe by some race organizers, hence the boom in bone conduction earphones.
Something we don’t like at all about the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 is the charging dock. Fleshy proprietary chargers unique to earphones are becoming alarmingly common, despite being tedious to use and a pain to travel with. While we all downright abhor them, we can see why a waterproof gadget like the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 needs one; the charger connects to five gold connectors, which makes more sense than a USB-C slot for waterproofing.
That holder is also the only way to get content to the 4 GB of the Sony Walkman NW-WS413, so you better not lose it. Connected to a PC or Mac via USB 2.0, the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 appears as a disc and it’s a breeze to drag and drop MP3, AAC, WMA and linear PCM files.
Sony Walkman NW-WS413 waterproof headphones: value for money
- Choice from the middle segment
- Largest brand in waterproof headphones
Value for money score: 4/5
The Sony Walkman NW-WS413 aren’t exactly cheap, but they are a good value compared to other good quality waterproof headsets available for swimming.
For example the Shokz OpenSwim bone conduction headphones sell for $149.95/£139.95/$219.95AU while the Zygo Solo goes for $299 / £218 (around AU$400). The other competitors of the Sony Walkman NW-WS413 are small brands that sell more basic products for very low prices.