CES 2015: Sony’s Smart B-Trainer Combines Fitness Tech and Portable Headphones

I’ve tried my hand at various fitness apps and gimmicks over the years, and I’ve never felt completely satisfied with any of them. After endlessly cycling I eventually returned to the simple but functional Nike+ app on my iPod Touch. Sure, there are more advanced tracking options available from the likes of Fitbit and Garmin, but Nike and Apple’s solution, for me, has repeatedly proven to be the most convenient. That all might be about to change thanks to Sony’s Smart B-Trainer, revealed at the company’s CES press conference yesterday.

Also See: Sony Press Conference Recap

I had the chance to toy with the device a bit at Sony’s booth, and my overall takeaway was a positive one. The Smart B-Trainer is basically a pair of sporty, wrap-around headphones that also double as a heart-rate monitor, distance tracker, and general fitness information-gatherer while you exercise and complete workouts. Cleverly, the device will actually speak in your ear, offer encouragement, and even issue commands based on the style of workout you’re attempting. In other words, it can absolutely instruct you to get your ass in gear for that final half-mile stretch.

For me the biggest concern with a product like this is sound quality. After all, something like the Koss SportaPro can be had on Amazon for a mere $24, and sounds remarkably good to boot. Not only that, but the SportaPro is cheap and durable — traits that become increasingly more critical the more expensive a product is. Though pricing info isn’t yet available, you won’t need to worry about sound quality with the B-Trainer; from what I heard today, the sound is lush, loud, and plenty detailed.

Of course, there is a bit of trickery going on behind the scenes, most notably the fact that the B-Trainer isn’t an on-ear headphone at all. Instead, in-ear headphone drivers are attached the the wrap-around plastic casing, the heaviness of which helps keep its silicone tips firmly seated inside your ear canal. I was skeptical at first, but once a proper seal was a achieved, Sony’s fitness ‘phones did sound quite nice.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test them with my own music, so I couldn’t compare to something like the stellar Carbo Tenore in-ears from Zero Audio. That said, the Carbo Tenore are unprecedented low-cost heavyweights, and if Sony can merely match their sound quality while delivering the rest of what the B-Trainer promises, I’ll consider their efforts a success. For now, I can only really confirm that the sound coming out of the B-Trainer is “quite good.”

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The Sony representative I spoke with mentioned that the Smart B-Trainer may have “other sensors” when its final version ships, but he wasn’t able to confirm what they will or won’t be. A pedometer perhaps? Miniature cameras? It’s hard to imagine what else you’d need when GPS and heart rate measurements are already included. There’s a lot we still don’t know about the B-Trainer, but it’s definitely a product to keep your eyes on in the coming months.


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