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Sony Smart B-Trainer review – hands on

Sony Smart B-Trainer top

The Sony Smart B-Trainer is an all-in-one training partner that has exciting potential for runners

Heart rate sensors being packed into headphones isn’t anything new these days, both the Jabra Sport Pulse and headphones from SMS Audio have already included them. Sony has taken this a step further, however, packing in plenty of other technology features into its Smart B-Trainer headphones. We got to test them out at a Regents Park launch event with Olympic hurdle and sprint legend Colin Jackson.

Not only is there the aforementioned heart rate sensor but, like Sony’s Waterproof Walkman and NWZ-W262 headphones, there’s also a built-in MP3 player as well. This has 16GB of storage that can be loaded up with tracks through Sony’s software. The reason for having to use Sony’s software, rather than just drag and drop, is that the software analyses the tracks for beats per minute (BPM). 

This is then used for automatic music selection based on readouts from the heart rate sensor while you’re out running. This can help you train in the specific heart rate zone you’re aiming for, whether that’s fat burn or endurance. The B-Trainer will play a track with a BPM to help regulate your running tempo. You’re also getting vocal coaching in your ear to speed up or slow down accordingly. Music can be an integral part to your running speed, so much so that Spotify is already adding in a specific running mode into its own music streaming app, so it’s good to see it being used here.

Sony Smart B-Trainer top

Having music stored on the headphones will save you having to carry around your smartphone with you, which is great news. Thankfully, there’s a raft of other sensors in the headphones that won’t leave you missing your smartphone when out on the road. There’s GPS, accelerometers, a compass, gryoscope and barometer, so no shortage of ways to measure your performance.

Not needing to have a smartphone on you to map your running route gives the B-Trainer a convenient edge over the Jabra Sport Pulse. If you don’t fancy loading up the headphones with music, say because you prefer to stream your music, the headphones can still connect to your smartphone through Bluetooth. Unfortunately you’ll lose out on all of the automatic music matching functionality, however. 

You can use the companion app on Android or iOS to set up your runs, which are then stored on the headphones so you can leave your smartphone behind. Once you’ve finished your run you can pair over Bluetooth to sync the information over to get a wide array of information. For example you can see what song was playing at different parts of the run, matched against your speed or cadence or heart rate. This way you can see how your music catalogue effects your performance. Again, this will only work with music that is played from the built-in Walkman.

Sony Smart B-Trainer back

The headphones are unsurprisingly a little bulky and heavy, which is no surprise considering the amount of technology crammed inside. Wearing them for a run I still felt they were secure, however. It will be important to get a secure fit in order to get a consistent heart rate measurement and it took me a few minutes to get things feeling right. The controls on the headphones are slightly fiddly, though. They’re spread across both earpieces, which are connected by a neckband cable. Buttons for volume and track skipping in particular are a bit spongey and hard to press, especially while you’re in motion. There’s also quite a number of buttons, so it’s easy to forget which is which at first.

As you would expect the headphones are sweat resistant but actually go a step further with IPX5 and IPX8 certification. This means they’re safe to swim with for up to 30 minutes at depths of 1.5m. So these can not only partner your runs but also your swimming sessions, too. You’ll need to use the included underwater ear piece to stop water entering the drivers before entering the water.

Alongside the underwater ear piece, the headphones come with silicone tips in a variety of sizes. There aren’t any foam tips, however, which would have been a good inclusion for those who want just a little ambient noise to make road-based running among traffic that much safer.

Sony Smart B-Trainer app

Launching in July, the Smart B-Trainer will retail for £230, which is slightly more than the Jabra Sport Pulse but does include considerably more features. The Smart B-Trainer is available in blue, black, white, pink and yellow. We came away impressed with our morning with the Smart B-Trainer. Colin Jackson (unsurprisingly) enthused on how it can motivate and help your performance and we would agree.

Through sheer convenience it will help making go out for runs far easier and the amount of data and metrics you can generate will be useful to anyone who wants to monitor their performance. They’re pricy, so will probably only appeal to more seasoned and committed runners but we can see them becoming an ongoing running partner. We’ll get a pair in for a full review as soon as we can.