Review




@ericpschoon





| 5 min read



Rating:
5/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $149.99

Sony SRS-NB10 speakers on brick divider
Eric Schoon

Last year Sony released the SRS-WS1 neckband speaker, and while they weren’t received horribly, the consensus was that it was a strange, overpriced product. Well, Sony’s back at it with the SRS-NB10 now, which is supposed to be a more useful and affordable follow-up. And well… it is cheaper.

Here’s What We Like

  • Wireless
  • Fairly comfortable
  • Unique alternative to headphones/speakers

And What We Don’t

  • Not practical for most people
  • Don’t sound great

Let’s play fair though, the point of this product is to offer an alternative sound device from standard speakers and headphones, primarily for remote workers. It has upward-facing speakers and a sleek design that’s just waiting to hug your neck, and the price has been cut down significantly from the SRS-WS1, which costs $199.99 to $149.99. Even then, this isn’t the limit of the line, as Sony also recently released the SRS-NS7, which is a more premium version of the product with better speakers and surround sound for $299.99.

But focusing on the NB10, it remains a strange product. Unless you were one of the few adopters of the WS1, you’ve likely used nothing like this before.  Because while it’s easy to write these off as a weird pair of headphones, they’re much more than that.

The Neckband Speaker

Sony SRS-NB10 resting on neck
Eric Schoon

The other neckband speakers Sony has released have been rather bulky, but the NB10 differentiates itself by how sleek it is. The body is thin and lightweight, made out of a soft matte plastic that can easily rest on skin or clothing. Comfort is advertised as one of the NB10’s significant advantages over standard headphones—Sony itself claims that you’ll “forget you’re wearing anything at all.” And while yes, your ears will never get uncomfortable after prolonged use sessions, unlike most headphones, your neck will.

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The weight isn’t enough to cause any strain, but resting these on my bare neck while wearing a t-shirt wasn’t super comfortable. Anytime you move your neck, you feel the hardware brushing against your skin. It’s not bad, and I was able to wear the neckband for long stretches without issue, but I’m by no means convinced that these are far superior to a pair of over-ear headphones for the same price. For $150, you can get some pretty good headphones designed for comfort.

That’s not to say the neckband design is without its merits; however, as someone who needs to wear glasses when using a computer, I can safely say I’ve run into some over-ear headphones that don’t play nice with that. And if you need to wear anything in or on your ear while working, the neckband is a welcome substitute. But even then, the advantages are pretty minor and don’t justify the high price on its own.

Close-up of Sony SRS-NB10 power, microphone, and Bluetooth controls
Eric Schoon

When it comes to the rest of the hardware, it’s about what you would expect to see out of wireless headphones of a similar caliber. You have buttons for adjusting volume, muting the built-in microphone, and managing your Bluetooth connections (you can be connected to up to two devices). There’s also a USB-C port for charging, and the NB10 lasts for up to 20 hours, according to Sony, which matches my experience well. You can get through more than an entire workday with them, but if you’re using them all-day-everyday, you’ll need to charge them at least a couple of times a week.

This leaves us with the microphone built into the left side of the NB10 and the upward-facing speakers that will rest your shoulders. But those probably deserve a section on their own.

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A Bubble of Sound

Using the NB10 is interesting, to say the least. The upward-facing speakers do a surprisingly good job of pumping out audio to you without it leaking that much outside of your radius. Put simply; things remain audible for you while anyone not standing directly next to you will hear it more muffled. So not as isolating as headphones, but they don’t broadcast as much as a standard pair of speakers. Of course, the downside is the worse audio quality which is where things come crashing down a bit.

Close-up of Sony SRS-NB10 speakers
Eric Schoon

It’s not that the NB10 sounds terrible, but they’re thoroughly unimpressive for the money. They just sound weak and have very little bass, which limits what you’ll want to use them for. You get all the downsides of speakers here—what you’re listening to can be heard by everyone, and there’s no blocking for background noise—just with worse quality than speakers of an equivalent price.

Advertisements show people relaxing on the couch and enjoying a movie, but I’d hardly call the NB10 good for that. With such little bass, a movie is going to feel wimpy coming out of these, and the same goes for any video game I tried out as well.

Sony says it optimized the NB10 for remote work, but what does that even mean for audio? Most people just need headphones for voice calls, which isn’t the most challenging use case for any audio peripheral, much less one costing $150.The microphone isn’t impressive either it’s… fine, nothing more, nothing less. Perfectly functional for voice calls, but you’d never want to use it for anything more serious.

It’s blatantly underwhelming and makes the NB10 an unfortunate mix of compromises when it comes to audio. There’s nothing here that makes these better than headphones or traditional speakers for anything.

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Not a Pain in the Neck, but not Good Either

Sony SRS-NB10 on top of brick wall next to sidewalk
Eric Schoon

The NB10 is a unique product, and it’s not without merit. It is cool to have an alternative to traditional headphones and speakers, and it does bring some interesting advantages over both of those. However, they’re pretty niche—wearing something around your neck is reasonably comfortable and could be more comfortable than headphones while still getting to keep your audio… more to yourself than typical speakers.

But then I remember they cost $150, and I’m a lot less receptive. I don’t think the audio quality or meager benefits you’re getting here are worth the price of a decent pair of headphones or speakers. You’d get better audio out of either of those, and the NB10’s middle-ground approach is full of compromises than advantages. Yes, the audio is localized but still able to be heard by anyone in the room. Yes, you don’t have to wear anything in or on your ears, but they’re not light enough to feel non-existent on your neck (and that’s without mentioning the total loss of other benefits headphones bring like noise isolation).

Should you buy the NB10? Probably not. While the idea is interesting, it brings nothing but novelty for now. While a part of me enjoyed using these as an alternative to the earbuds and headphones I usually use with my PC, nothing about these makes me want to switch long-term or recommend them to most people. There’s nothing terrible about the NB10, and I won’t be surprised if it winds up with a small group of people who love it. Besides that, just like its predecessor, it’s a strange, overpriced product that most people won’t have any use for.

If Sony refines these over multiple generations, it could be a legitimate competitor for traditional headphones and speakers, but they’re not there yet.

Rating: 5/10

Price: $149.99

Here’s What We Like

  • Wireless
  • Fairly comfortable
  • Unique alternative to headphones/speakers

And What We Don’t

  • Not practical for most people
  • Don’t sound great