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[REVIEW] Sony MW1 - Smart Wireless Headset pro

post #1 of 175
Thread Starter 
When it comes to Bluetooth, the preconception of its sound quality is generally on the negative side, even from those who have never used a BT headset before – This is no doubt the result of reading too many a horror story over the internet. The idea of a BT headset for music seems more like a mix of compromise and convenience rather than serious audiophiles gear. We have seen claims of superior SQ from BT headset manufacturers for years, but most have failed to impress and some can be actually downright awful.

Back in the days, I used to own a Sony Walkman cellphone and one of Sony better BT headsets of the time (DRC-BT15, pictured at the later section of this review). The SQ of the BT headset isn’t anywhere great. At most, it might be comparable to a rather low entry level wired IEM these days. To be frank, I was more interested in the ‘smart’ part of the MW1 as an android user rather than the SQ part as an audiophile when I was asked to review it. As long as it sounds good enough, I would have been satisfied – but MW1 turns out to be a rather pleasant surprise.

SWHP-01.jpg

Spec
Audio Features
• Headphone Type : Bluetooth stereo headset for calls and audio
• FM Radio : FM radio tuner with RDS display
• Multipoint : Connects up to two phones
• Others : Standalone MP3 player - MP3 and WAV playback
Earpiece
• Driver Unit: 6mm LiveSound MH1
• Frequency Response : 10-20000hz
• Sensitivity : Max 115dB @ 1kHz,
• THD @ 1khz: <0.3%
Display:
• OLED, two rows
• Show: time, local FM radio incl. RDS, Media Title & Caller ID Caller name, Call list & SMS – only for Android phones
Inputs and Outputs
• Connector Type : 3.5mm connector for headphones, USB 2.0
Weights and Measurements
• Dimensions (Approx.) : 6mm x 25mm x 8mm (12mm including the clip)
• Weight (Approx.) : Main unit: 18g, Earphones: 10g
Bluetooth Technology: Bluetooth 3.0
Remote Control: Full Media control: Call/Play/Pause/Back/Forward
Power
• Battery Life (Approx) : Talk time: 11 hours, Standby time: 22 days, Streaming audio: 9 hours, Offline music (MP3): 11 hours, FM listening: 11 hours
• Charging Connector : Charging and updates via standard micro USB cable
TF Slot: Support up to 32GB (2GB TF card included)

SWHP-02.jpg
Play / forward / backward / back key on this side

SWHP-04.jpg
Volume keys on this side

SWHP-05.jpg
TF slot and microUSB port. The big clip is on the back.

Accessories and Build Quality
Since the MW1 I received is not in full retail package, we will skip the usually discussion over packaging. I didn’t receive all the accessories as my unit is a pre-retail, fully functional sample, but I do have the BT unit itself, the shorten MH1 ‘LiveSound’ IEM with its eartips and a 2GB TF card. What are missing, which you will get from full retail package, are the microUSB charger, a short microUSB-to-USB cable, a TF card reader, a shirt clip as well as the manual.

The BT unit has a glossy finish so it is a bit of a finger print magnet. Hidden inside the silver cap are the microUSB port and the TF card slot. A 2GB TF card is included and it has all the software inside, so don’t go rushing to format it without first backing up the content. The small OLED screen is underneath the glossy front panel with white letters over black back ground. It is perfectly visible even under the sun. The BT unit has a large clip on the back, much like a Sansa Clip in design. The call/hangoff button is right next to the OLED screen. The Forward, Previous, Play/Select, and Return keys are on one of the side, while the volume control is on the other side. Opposite side to the silver cap are the 3.5mm jack, the power button and the mic.

The MH1 earphone included in the package is a shorten version of the original MH1 I review previously. Same sound, but without the mic and remote as these functions have been integrated into the BT unit already.

Overall the build quality is excellent. The placement of the buttons might need some getting used to for the first few days of use but single hand navigation is pretty easy once you figure out all the functions out.

SWHP-10.jpgSWHP-11.jpg
Inside the Smart Connect app, which allow you to add extra functions by installing these app

Navigation and Functions
MW1 will function as a normal (*not ‘smart’) BT headset on any Bluetooth supporting device that can handle the basic headset (HSP), hand-free (HFP) and remote control (AVRCP) profile as well as A2DP profile for music streaming. It supports multi-points connection as well, meaning you can connect it to two devices at the same time. I have tried different combination of connection including two cellphones as well as a cellphone and a PC. Of course, it will only work with one device at any given time – so if you are listening music on PC and receive a call, once you pick up the call, the music streaming will stop till you switch it back (well, that’s only logical).

I don’t want to spend too much time on how to navigate the BT headset since that’s what the manual is for. Besides, anyone who knows how to use an mp3 player should be able to figure out all of its functions very quickly. I do however want to discuss some of the less obvious features and functions. Skip the following points and go straight to the end of this section if you are not interest in operational detail.

First, if you are using an Android smarphone, you will need to download both the ‘Smart Connect’ and ‘Smart Wireless Headset Pro’ apps from the Google Play before pairing the MW1 to your smartphone. Once the setup and pairing is completed, the MW1 will show the time on the OLED screen – that means MW1 is in the ‘smart’ mode where it will supports extra functions by installing more apps. You can find these apps listed inside the Smart Connect apps, under the ‘Device’ tab. These apps will give the MW1 the ability to look up call log, read SMS, display music title and such.

Second, once you have the MW1 setup correctly, do update the firmware. There are two ways to do this: either via the Smart Connect apps, or install a program called Sony Update Service (*SUS, you can find it here) on your PC and do a manual update. I’ll suggest the later since its update speed is faster. Launch SUS first, and then set MW1 into update mode by holding the ‘back’ button when connecting it to the PC via microUSB cable.

Third, MW1 has independent music player built in. You can play back mp3 and wave files stored on the TF card. It also has an FM radio as well. Listening to music stored on the TF card will save you a bit of battery life on the smartphone so it isn’t a bad idea at all. However I do hope that it could have more codec support, such as AAC and FLAC.

Fourth, be sure to keep the ‘font.bin’ file on the root of the TF card. It will add font support to non-English music title decoding when streaming music from the smartphone. However, music stored on the TF card doesn’t have the same benefit and non-English words might still show up as random character. You can find the updated font.bin file here (click on the first grey bar)

Fifth, you can use Sony’s Media Go to manage and sync music. I use WMP11 and it is just fine. For (much) faster music transfer, try using the TF card reader instead of MW1. Going back to the fourth point – if you use Media Go, it will keep an updated copy of font.bin for you.

Sixth, connect the MW1 to PC when: (1) Holding the ‘back’ button will enter update mode. (2) Already powered up will give you selection for either mass storage or charging mode. (3) When powered down will enter charging mode.

Seventh, you can use other IEM with the BT unit as well, but it doesn’t have the output for anything difficult-to-drive. Best keep the load between 10 and 32 ohm.

All and all, MW1 is both a very powerful BT headset and a slightly primitive mp3 player. It might take you some effort to totally figure out all the functions but it is worth the time to get everything right. If you are the lazy type, it will still work perfectly fine, but without the extra bits of course

SWHP-12.jpg
The clock is the indication of smart mode

SWHP-13.jpg
Menu for FM radio, music, extra functions and setting

SWHP-15.jpg
Inside the music functions, you get to choose music from the TF card or two other paired device. In this case, a Nano 7G

Sound Quality
If you haven’t read my MH1 review, at this point, you really should. If you have, then you’ll know just how good I think the included IEM is. But as a whole, the sound quality of a BT headset depends not just on the included earphone, but also on two other factors as well: (1) The transmission, mainly whether the compression / codec of the BT technology will affect the SQ or not, and (2) The hardware on the BT unit, from the DAC to the amp section.

For the first part, I listened to the same mp3 file on two configurations – streaming from my Galaxy Tab 7+ 3G (playing via Neutron Music Player) as well as playing straight from the BT unit (as a standalone mp3 player). There was time I thought I have detected some SQ degradation when streaming music, but then I became much less certain when revisiting the same music passage. After a few back and forth comparison, I concluded that I can’t really tell the difference. If there is any lost of quality due to BT compression, it is too subtle for me to notice. While it seems too common to assume BT compression must degrade SQ - at least in the case of MW1, I can’t say I have detected any.

For the second part, I did some basic RMAA measurements. Using MH1 as load, the result is actually pretty good. The frequency response is absolutely flat from 15Hz to 20kHz. In comparison, my Nokia BH-111 BT headset, which is decent sounding, has a big -6dB roll-off at above and below 10Khz and 100Hz. While everything seems good, the only result that doesn’t look particularly great is the stereo crosstalk – it matches the performance ofGT7+ headphone-out, but comes out 10dB higher than Clip+ or Fuze under similar load.

From what I have been told, MW1 actually pack a Wolfson DAC inside and the output circuit has been optimized for the MH1 to perform at its best – and I can really agree. As far as actual SQ of the BT unit itself, I’ll say it is pretty much on par with Sansa Fuze (or Clip+) and the new iPod Nano 7G when used with MH1. In direct comparison, both Fuze and Nano 7G have a slightly bigger soundstage, but otherwise all three are extremely similar sounding. If I have to make up a number to explain the difference in soundstage, I’ll say MW1’s soundstage is, maybe 10~20% smaller than the other two – and I don’t consider this a deal breaker at all.

So MW1 might not be an actual ‘audiophile level’ BT headset if you were to compare it to top-end audiophile digital audio player, but it is by far the best sounding BT headset I ever heard with performance matching the ever popular Clip+. While it might not appeal to those who already carry around a Clip+ (or Fuze) as part of their day-to-day listening gears, its true usefulness lies on turning any Android smartphone into a competent source, or just creating a wireless setup that actually sounds good. In my case, I have my MW1 connected to both GT7+ and Nano 7G for a true minimum cable rig.

SWHP-06.jpg
Size comparison: (from left) Cube C30, MW1, Clip+

SWHP-09.jpg
Sony DRC-BT15 (top), Nokia BH-111 (left) and MW1 (right)

Verdict
As a phoblet user, I find MW1 to be a really great accessory to have. In a way, it is almost like a Clip+ with BT function build in. However, with official price tag at US$150, this isn’t exactly an cheap gadget either. The good news is, MW1 can now be found on eBay for around $105. It is still almost double the price of my Nokia BH-111 - but very much worth the money for those who are looking for a quality BT headset.
post #2 of 175

I wonder given Bluetooth 3.0's bandwidth if it's possible to simply stream a mp3 file (or perhaps even FLAC) directly to the MW1 and have it do the decoding without using any sort of bluetooth sound compression.

post #3 of 175
Thread Starter 
Yes, it is possible to do direct mp3 streaming via the A2DP profiles (it is listed in its spec), however my research into the topic seems to suggest most manufacturers are sticking to SBC (which is also capable of 320kbps). Unfortunately I don't really have any detail as to which codec is used in MW1.
post #4 of 175

Great review and very interesting impressions, thanks! Like you, I've been interested in wireless audio for quite a long time and have also used the DRC-BT15 at some point.

 

I'm currently using a Samsung Galaxy S3 + HS3000 bluetooth headset, which supports aptX streaming and sounds so much better than all my previous BT configurations, that I'll go out on a limb and predict that the future of portable audio is wireless.

 

However, even good old SBC encoding is apparently capable to deliver very high sound quality at its highest bitrates and keep sound artifacts beyond the threshold of human perception.

 

Anyway, you've sparked my interest enough that I'm going to get my hands on a Sony MW1 and post A/B impressions with the HS3000 in this thread... smile_phones.gif

post #5 of 175
Thread Starter 
Yep, love to see how it compared. If HS300 comes out op top, I might get a pair as well. I think the part that most BT maker are not doing right in the past is mostly hardware related, as it is not easy to sell a very expensive headset when people automatically bias against them so manufacturer just made do with sub-par design. But the smartphone era changes all that since smartphone is the mp3 player these days and expensive headset becomes much more justifiable.
Edited by ClieOS - 10/30/12 at 11:27pm
post #6 of 175

Thanks ClieOS for your helpful review. Please kindly comment on my questions:

 

1) Is MW1 aptX compatible?

 

2) What is the output impedance of MW1?

 

3) If I understand it correctly, MW1 can stream flac via Bluetooth (as long as your BT device can play flac)?

 

4) What is the length of the included earphone (MH1's) cable?

post #7 of 175
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zzffnn View Post

Thanks ClieOS for your helpful review. Please kindly comment on my questions:

1) Is MW1 aptX compatible?

2) What is the output impedance of MW1?

3) If I understand it correctly, MW1 can stream flac via Bluetooth (as long as your BT device can play flac)?

4) What is the length of the included earphone (MH1's) cable?

1) No.

2) I was told it is well under 1ohm, but I didn't measure it myself.

3) No. You are not streaming FLAC actually. You are streaming the what ever codec that is defined by the A2DP profile. As I said before, I don't know exactly which codec is used in MW1 for BT streaming.

4) It is J-cord, 57cm from plug to the left and 83cm from plug to the right.
post #8 of 175

Thanks Clieos for your wonderful review. It seems Bluetooth is gaining popularity among audiophiles. When MW1 sounds similar to Clip+ which is my favourite then I don't have any other resaon not to consider it.

post #9 of 175
Thread Starter 
Yep. If the next generation support more codec and aptx, with other functions and overall SQ intact or improved, this would be the most perfect BT headset to date, IMO. BT is here to stay, I guess.
post #10 of 175

@ClieOS,

 

              I want to get this one, but I want to know how much of a drain it is on an android phone? Bluetooth considering...

post #11 of 175
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by naddm View Post

@ClieOS,

              I want to get this one, but I want to know how much of a drain it is on an android phone? Bluetooth considering...

I didn't detect any significant battery drain with MW1, at least not nearly as much as having WiFi turning on all the time. Then again, I don't usually use MW1 in very lengthy time period (at most, I think 3~4 hours at most when I have to go out and a headset is needed), since I still do most of my listening in house with my main portable rig. I personally don't think MW1 drain the phone faster than any other typical BT headset.
post #12 of 175

@ClieOS

 

I bought their famous bluetooth adapter MW600 with their supplied earplug (HPM755) a month ago. It is actually a newer version of MW600 with new packaging and a redesigned earplug. I was actually amazed at the sound quality it produced(earplugs were outstanding too) considering it's wireless which is why i bought it in the first place - for convineince.

 

Now one month fast forward i got this little beauty stolen and I'm in search of another(or will the buy same) BT headset with pinch of sonic marvel. After stumbling upon your review I'm considering purchasing this but im not totally convinced on the price($100) over the MW600($50) which is the essentially the same minus the Mp3 player and built in SD card slot. I suppose the extra price is for the built-in player?


Edited by everon - 11/2/12 at 7:21am
post #13 of 175
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by everon View Post

@ClieOS

I bought their famous bluetooth adapter MW600 with their supplied earplug (HPM755) a month ago. It is actually a newer version of MW600 with new packaging and a redesigned earplug. I was actually amazed at the sound quality it produced(earplugs were outstanding too) considering it's wireless which is why i bought it in the first place - for convineince.

Now one month fast forward i got this little beauty stolen and I'm in search of another(or will the buy same) BT headset with pinch of sonic marvel. After stumbling upon your review I'm considering purchasing this but im not totally convinced on the price($100) over the MW600($50) which is the essentially the same minus the Mp3 player and built in SD card slot. I suppose the extra price is for the built-in player?

Given that I have not heard MW600 in person, so what I am going to say is merely a guess at best. However, if we assume HPM755 is indeed as good as MH1, and the hardware inside MW600 is indeed as good as MW1, then yes, what you are paying is essentially the build in mp3 player, a few Android enable features and a larger screen - then again, that really depends on some significant assumptions. My best answer to you is, well, I don't know.
post #14 of 175

Well, I spent some time with the Sony MW1 and my Samsung Galaxy S3 and must say that it sounds definitely better than all Sony BT headsets I've heard so far. I too haven't heard the MW600 though, but that one is still BT V2.1, whereas the MW1 supports V3.0, and from what I'm hearing I'd guess that Sony uses higher quality encoding than on their V2.x headsets (I've had three of them, actually). The earpieces alone are almost worth the price of the whole package, I've never come across stock earpieces for a wireless adapter with sound quality anywhere near these.

 

That said, my current headset is a Samsung HS3000 (which supports aptX) and while its stock earpieces are no match for the Sony's, I'd rate the receiver's sound quality (paired with my SGS3) ever so slightly superior to the MW1. However, the difference is rather small and you really need a well recorded song to make it out. For instance, on Diana Krall's interpretation of "The Boy from Ipanema", her voice sounds a tad more detailed and smoother and cymbals slightly more refined from the HS3000 than from the MW1, both compared using the same Sony earpieces. On the other hand, if you compare both headsets using their respective stock earpieces, the MW1 wins, because the HS3000's slightly superior codec quality doesn't make up for the lesser sound quality of their stock earpieces.

 

So, for anyone who plans to stay with stock earpieces, the Sony MW1 would have my clear recommendation over the Samsung HS3000. Of course, for those who plan to complement their BT headset with a top-tier pair of IEMs, I'd retract that and recommend the HS3000 instead, so they can squeeze the last bit of sound quality out of its superior codec. Just make sure that your source supports aptX in that case, or you'll end up with no advantage over a regular BT V3.0 headset like the MW1.

 

Since my current wireless rig consists of the HS3000 + short cabled IE8, I also A/Bed this combo with the MW1 + stock earpieces and ended up preferring the former by quite some margin. Admittedly, the IE8 is notorious for its bloated mid-upper bass and the MW1 earpieces are definitely flatter in comparison. But with help of a high quality EQ (like that of Neutron Music Player) it's easy to put the Senn's lows in their place, and apart from that, both mids and highs sounded noticeably more detailed and refined on the IE8 than on the Sonys. Though, in defense of the latter, it has to be said that this comparison is extremely unfair, since the IE8 alone cost more than twice as much as the Sony headset + earpieces together.

 

Bottom line, even though I won't be keeping the Sony MW1 (since it doesn't provide an upgrade over what I already have), I will heartily recommend it to anyone who's looking for a high quality bluetooth headset and wants to stay with the stock earpieces. The MW1 is a solid performer and it comes with a pair of earpieces that are truly stunning for the price. smile_phones.gif


Edited by james444 - 11/5/12 at 2:30pm
post #15 of 175
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the impression, James. Sounds like the HS3000 is worth picking up, especially since it isn't really that expensive atm. I am definitely going to get one some time early next year.
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