Sony’s Xperia Ear Duo earbuds coming in May for $280

Sony will release its Xperia Ear Duo wireless earbuds in May for $279.99. Preorders for the “open ear” headset, which has been shown in concept form over the last two years, start today at Amazon.

The Ear Duo is basically the polar opposite of Sony’s esteemed noise-cancelling headphones; these earbuds aim to deliver a “dual listening” experience that combines your music with environmental sounds happening around you. Audio notifications pertaining to your calendar, news headlines, and other topics are also sent to the headset. Google Assistant and Siri integration is also built in, depending on whether you’ve got the Ear Duo paired to an Android or iOS device.

Here’s how Sony describes the listening experience:

The Spatial Acoustic Conductor, developed by Sony’s in-house technology incubator Future Lab Program, allows the sound generated behind the ear by the unit ́s driver to be transmitted directly into the ear. The specially designed ring supporter surrounds the ear canal so your music can blend seamlessly with sounds from your environment.

At CES in January, our impression of this effect was that it makes things sound like music is playing at a mall / shopping center. Everything sounds more ambient, letting you carry on conversations with coworkers or friends without the music being too distracting.

But if you like tuning out the world with your playlists and podcasts, the Xperia Duo is definitely not the product for you. Sony claims the earbuds are capable of “contextual sensing and automatic activity recognition.” Presumably some of that functionality will require a dedicated app on your smartphone.

The Xperia Ear Duo earbuds support tap controls in addition to head gestures (such as nodding your head to answer an incoming call or shaking your head to decline it.) You can also turn your head left or right to skip tracks or go back. Sony says they last for four hours on a charge, and the carrying case provides up to three additional charges. The earbuds will be available in either black or gold when they ship in “late May.”