Although the headphone market continues to burgeon with new models, it can be surprisingly tough to find a decent, fitness-friendly pair. A few companies, such as Sennheiser, have stepped up to the plate with sport-branded earphones, which feature design attributes meant to keep them secured on the head during activity. Now, we can add Sony to the list. The company has released an impressive array of Active Headphones, the $50 MDR-AS50G among them. These excellent, uniquely-designed earphones are a perfect choice for the gym.
Sony hit the nail pretty well on the head with the design of the MDR-AS50G, but we're not without a few (very minor) gripes. Namely, the neckband is not adjustable, so it can have a tendency to stick out from the sides of the head. Also, not every user will be able to get the band looped over and behind the ear. That said, the design is such that the earphones will stay secure in the ears even without the band being looped over the ear. Moreover, they're actually comfortable regardless of the ear looping, although they can irritate the inside of the ear after several hours of wear. This is surprisingly rare, and it's no doubt because of the spiraling style of the neck band. Sony designed the twisting tendency of the band mainly to ensure the earphones compact down for storage, but it also serves to hold the earbuds in place by pushing them slightly toward the head. This seemingly simple trait is practically genius--it just works so well.
The Sony MDR-AS50G earphones feature a few other physical attributes worth noting. First, they're mainly black with some silver and a teeny bit of red accenting, so if the Sennheiser Sport line was a little too bright and flashy for you, the MDRs are a good alternative. Also, the cable is modular, which is usually ideal for active applications, as it keeps the main cable short enough (20 inches, in this case) to use with an armband without a lot of slack cord. Also, Sony was smart enough to include a clip on the cable for dealing with the weight added when you connect the included extender cable, which adds an additional 26 inches to the length--plenty for keeping your MP3 player in a bag or pocket. Sony also includes a rather clunky, but still useful, plastic case.
During our performance evaluation of the Sony MDR-AS50G earphones, we took a couple things into consideration, not the least of which was their ability to stay in place during activity. They passed this test with flying colors, failing to budge during a jog, a set of sit-ups, or a bout on the elliptical trainer. One thing to note: these earphones are not appropriate for cyclists, because they're not ideal for wearing just one earbud, which is the safe thing to do when riding. Also, they block out a reasonable amount of noise, so they may not be the best option for street runners. However, for general portable and gym use, the MDR-AS50Gs are great. They even sound good. Overall, we were impressed by the clear and mostly balanced audio response. Although the headphones definitely tend to be more bass-heavy, we didn't find it overwhelming. Mids were reasonably warm and rich, and the high-end detail was not muddled or lost.