REVIEWED: Sony NW-WS410 Series

This waterproof & dust-proof Walkman is as perfect for the hotel pool as it is for the hotel gym, but sound quality has some serious quirks

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While travel is all about filling the senses and new experiences, exercise is dull. Dull, dull, dull. However, when you arrive in a hotel jet-lagged and stiff, a swim is just the ticket. Can you stick it out for more than a couple of lengths without heading to the bar? With this waterproof Walkman, you just might.

Great fit

Despite the popularity of swimming as an exercise, there are very few waterproof sound systems around. As such, the NW-WS410 is in a class almost of its own. This isn’t Sony’s first attempt at a waterproof-to-two-metres music system, but this attempt is lighter (just 32g), curved, and fits better. Once you’ve got used to the figure of eight shape and how it hooks around (and into) your ears, it’s really comfy.

Bring the music

Transferring music to the NW-WS410 requires a laptop and a drag-and-drop approach, which is a pain. Unless you’re travelling with one, that could be a deal-breaker, though there’s enough storage to take thousands of songs and hundreds of podcasts or audiobooks. Having to travel with a charging cradle isn’t at all welcome, but at least this one is small – no bigger than a little finger – and powered solely by microUSB-USB, so you can use the same cable that charges a (non-Apple) phone. Battery life is about seven-12 hours.

Under the waves

Operating the NW-WS410 is pretty simple. It takes a while to get used to the controls, but before long it’s a cinch to skip between tracks. Get into the pool and the NW-WS410 work well, though with two stipulations; (1) switch-off ambient sound mode, and (2) let some water into your ears before putting it back on. That way, the weird echo and white noise that amplifies the sound of water can get very irritating. Ditto, walk along a street with ambient sound mode switched-on and everything is amplified; cars seem to have their volume turned right up. That’s fine if you’re running – it’s designed to prevent accidents – but the trade-off is that sound quality is pretty poor.

Storage wars

Available as either the NW-WS413 (4GB storage) or the NW-WS414 (8GB storage), Sony has come up with a refined new version of its latest waterproof Walkman. However, while it may not let any water in, an easily activated ambient sound mode amplifies the outside world – and water. However, used properly the NW-WS413 creates a welcome sanctuary for swimmers.

Price as reviewed: £80-£90

Buy the Sony NW-WS410 Series