First Look – Head to Head : Sony Active Series headphones MDR – AS30G vs. MDR A520J
Sony’s new Active series of headphones are designed to stay on your noggin, but that all depends on how well you wear them. We put our eardrums on the line, so you didn’t have to....
First impressions – looks and style
Packaging: Both the MDR- AS30G and the MDR-AS20J are packaged in an attractive black box with clear plastic windows giving you a handy peek at the contents.
Both models are crafted from black silicon rubber and smoothly contoured for the skin. However, the two products are wildly different in wearable design and this is where each product divided our opinions.
AS20J (Loop style sports headphones)
By far the more unique design of the two products reviewed. Shaped like your actual ears, you might feel a little strange trying to fit these on though. And that’s because you’ve probably never owned a pair quite like these.
At first, we found it fairly tricky trying to fit these unusually shaped ‘lobe probes’ into our ear canal. You’ll need to pay close attention to the way you put them on, or they’ll never fit snugly.
AS30G (Street style sports headphones)
Designed with a flexible bendable frame, the actual headphones are about the size of a twenty cent coin are supposed to fit snugly onto your ears, but unfortunately this just isn’t the case. The unusual shape of the inner earphone piece, which extends from the rounded headphone piece looks and feels quite unnecessary. They didn't sit snugly inside the eardrum like the AS20Js did. But to their advantage, the AS30G is convenient for flattening (comes with a carry case) and designed for maximum portability.
Form factor - Audible Sexiness?
Both earplugs are pleasant on the eyes – there’s an aura of sexiness associated with most things SONY and these are no different in that regard. They’re not bulky, heavy or obtrusive either, which is nice.
The AS20J are by far the most consistently comfortable headphones out of the two. Once they’re on, they fit snugly within the earlobe and are very hard to dislodge; an obvious concern if you’re going to use them for exercise (see our active test).
The AS30G on the other hand aren’t very comfortable at all. These stubbornly designed ear pieces were enough to make us pull them off after just a few minutes of wearing them. We adjusted and re-adjusted and still couldn’t make them feel like the kind of pair you’re likely to slip on at a minutes’ notice. The AS30G series tends to sit just outside the ear canal, and end up poking and annoying the upper ear.
Thankfully, Sony can usually be trusted to get it perfectly right in this area and for both models – the sound is clear, crisp and bass balanced. The AS20J sounded particularly good – with a good deal of richness in the MP3’s we sampled.
The Active test
Both models are being sold and promoted by Sony for ‘Active’ use and have been designed with this form factor in mind. We tested them running and both models passed the test with flying colours, staying firmly on the ears and gave us no pause to worry about them falling off, as we huffed and puffed for our breath up the hill to the office.
To their credit, the AS30G has a clever little design feature called a "stability tip", which ensures a secure fit in the ear to prevent you dropping your headphones in active use.
Pricing and availability
Both models are available now in stores. The MDR - AS20J will set you back around $49 and the MDR- AS30G retail for $69.
Overall Verdict? To wear or not to wear, that is the question.
The cable is a little short on the AS20J – we would have preferred a longer cable attachment, like the one included with the AS30G. But the AS20J are still by far the most comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
The AS30G simply pales in comparison for usability and you’ll need to be a fan of the ‘wrap around the neck’ style headphones to appreciate the wearability of that model. Otherwise, the AS20J, along with a great price - wins our head to head, hands down.