Sony WF-C700N vs Sony WF-C500: which five-star wireless earbuds are better?

We're big fans of Sony here at What Hi-Fi?. The highly-respected Japanese giant has been synonymous with affordable, high-quality manufacturing for as long as anyone can remember, with Sony to audio what a brand such as Volkswagen is to cars: high-quality, reliable, ever-dependable and fairly priced. Very rarely do they ever let us down, so much so that four of the six products in the best wireless headphones category of our 2022 What Hi-Fi? Awards are made by Sony.

Nothing could be more indicative of such a dependable stalwart's commitment to affordable quality than two of its budget (but still brilliant) wireless earbud models: the WF-C500 and the WF-C700N. Yes, so good is Sony in this area that we have pitched the company against itself for the title – albeit with two different models, obviously. 

And, boy, does the C700N have a fight on its hands, even with a five-star rating in its corner. Going up against the new boy is the award-winning WF-C500, very much the 'Mike Tyson in his prime' of this particular match-up. In terms of delivering the best quality at the lowest price, we really couldn't think of anything topping our winners of the 'Best wireless earbuds under £100' category last year.

This, for the newer C700N, is the acid test. If they beat the WF-C500, we really can consider them to be among the finest wireless earbuds around at this price point.

Sony WF-C700N vs Sony WF-C500: price

Sony C700N vs C500

(Image credit: Future)

Pop in a pair of WF-C500 and you'll be astonished when someone tells you how little they cost. Conversely, tell someone that they're about to listen to a pair of budget earbuds and they'll be staggered at the quality of the sound Sony's award-winners fire into their ears. Even at their original asking price of £89 ($79/AU$149), the C500 were a steal, and thanks to some significant reductions, they're currently the bargain of the century. 

The C700N, being the newer model, obviously costs significantly more right now, retailing at £100 ($120/AU$200), and that's totally understandable. It isn't fair to judge the C700N for having a higher price and no current discounts, but we can look objectively and see which buds currently seem like the better deal, taking into account the pairs' respective release dates. 

The truth is, both models represent five-star value for money, so you're unlikely to get either of them home and feel as though you've been ripped off. If we're going on which pair is cheaper and, when discounts are factored into the equation, which looks like a better deal, then the bargain-boosted WF-C500 just about take the cake. Let's be honest, though; both offer great value at their particular place in the market.

**Winner: Sony WF-C500**

Sony WF-C700N vs Sony WF-C500: features

Sony C700N vs C500

(Image credit: Future)

If you're expecting a pair of wireless earphones at this price to be packed to the brim with high-quality noise cancelling, aptX adaptive and enough battery life to get you halfway around a European backpacking trip on a single charge, you might end up disappointed. 

What you do get with the WF-C500 are the essentials and then some – namely Bluetooth 5.0 (compatible with SBC and AAC codecs), 10 hours' worth of earbud-only charge, an IPX4 waterproof rating and even voice-assistant control. Considering the price point, that's a Swiss-army-knife level of kit. 

Times have moved on, though, so what are the C700N offering that the WF-C500 aren't? Both offer Sony's Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, which upscales low-res digital files to a higher quality, but the C700N's ANC is a significant point of differentiation between the two. The more expensive model also offer the not-insignificant boon of Adaptive Sound Control, which adjusts ambient audio settings depending on your surroundings.

The C700N are rated IPX4 splash-proof like the WF-C500, but also sport Wind Noise Reduction Structure to render calls less distorted in blustery weather, plus Multipoint Bluetooth that allows you to connect wirelessly to two Bluetooth devices at once and then seamlessly switch between them.

With all those extra strings to their bow, the C700Ns are in danger of making their rivals look a smidge primitive by comparison. Only one winner here, although the C500 are still superbly equipped for the price.  

**Winner: Sony WF-C700N**

Sony WF-C700N vs Sony WF-C500: design 

Sony C700N vs C500

(Image credit: Future)

Again, let's manage our expectations here. These are both Sony earphones, meaning you're getting functional Japanese efficiency as opposed to frivolous gimmicks and contrivances. Both the WF-C700N and C500 are focused on utilitarian functionality over the pursuit of luxurious Rococo aesthetics, but that doesn't mean that either one is as sparsely furnished as a Puritan's wine cellar. 

Coming from the same manufacturer, it's no surprise that both sets of buds are practically the same in how they look and feel, although there are some key differences. The WF-C500 are slightly larger than their newer stablemates, the later model using Sony's 5mm driver compared with the C500's larger 5.8mm counterpart.

Both opt for what we've dubbed the 'bean’ shape as opposed to the 'dangly stem’ alternative, both come with well-made, utterly functional plastic charging cases to match, and both fit pretty snugly into the ear without ever feeling as though they're about to drop into a nearby drain. The C500 are comfortable, but we were seriously impressed with how well the textured surface of the C700N provides grip upon insertion.  

Another point of differentiation (apart from a few practical additions to facilitate some of the C700N's fancier tricks and features) comes courtesy of alternative colours. The C700Ns are available in black, white, lavender and sage green in contrast to the vivid orange and green options presented by the C500. On questions of colour, this is purely a matter of taste, although one of our team has pointed out the new C700N's resemblance to Ghostbuster's Slimer when daubed in a sage green hue. Maybe just ask for them in white, then.

**Winner: Sony WF-C700N**

Sony WF-C700N vs Sony WF-C500: sound quality

Sony C700N vs C500

(Image credit: Future)

This is what separates the men from the boys. They might only be going up against a £50 pair of earbuds, but the WF-C700N have a serious fight on their hands, because the C500 punch well above their weight in the audio department. 

Yes, they take a little time to wear in, but when everything clicks, the balance on display at this level, not to mention the detail, is nothing short of remarkable.  Sony's award-winners give proper shape, control and texture across the audio spectrum, even if the bass is a little thin and the soundstage ultimately a little limited. 'Spirited' is probably the best way to describe the C500's audio delivery, and that's by no means a veiled insult. 

Over to the C700Ns, and it's a similarly remarkable story. Sony's slightly more expensive wireless earbuds are genuinely attention-grabbing at this level, giving not only weight and texture to their output but a real feeling of power and drive, too. There's great balance and nuance here – qualities you don't always find for £100. 

Sony's DSEE, bolstered by the company's very own, custom 5mm drivers, has been designed to deliver "powerful bass and stunningly clear vocals", according to the company itself. On that front, the C700N have lived up to their own hype: bass is hefty and vocals convey emotion and refinement with confidence and ease. A real triumph. 

Both pairs of earbuds are once again punching above their weight in this department, so things really come down to a question of value for money. A split decision might be the fairest option when price is factored into the equation. 

**Winner: Sony WF-C700N**

Sony WF-C700N vs Sony WF-C500: noise cancellation

Noise cancelling in-ears: Sony WF-C700N

(Image credit: Future)

The Sony C700Ns feature active noise-cancelling. The C500 do not. 

As stated above, the C700Ns come equipped not only with Sony's excellent ANC system but also Adaptive Sound Control that adjusts depending on your location and surroundings. They're also utterly at home making voice calls, as Sony's Wind Noise Reduction Structure makes a noticeable difference if you're on the phone in blustery conditions. Voice calls on the C700N sound clear, natural and transparent, adding another feather to the earbuds' sizeable cap of clever features. 

It's not a total disaster here for the C500, though, as while they're incapable of any form of ANC, they do at least offer voice control and hands-free calling, and with a high-quality microphone built in, that's still a really handy feature at such a small price. 

No need to go to the judges for this round. A clear knockout for the C700N.

**Winner: Sony WF C700N **

Sony WF-C700N vs Sony WF-C500: verdict

Sony WF-C700N and WF-C500 wireless earbuds side-by-side

(Image credit: Future)

This is a far tougher call than many of the results above might suggest. Yes, the C700Ns are more stacked with features (including ANC, Wind Noise Reduction and ASC), offer superior sound quality and more updated technical specifications, but you'd expect that from a newer, more expensive model.

Objectively then, the C700Ns are better – in the same way that Marco Pierre White's signature lobster thermidor is 'better' than your nan's cottage pie. But your dear nanny doesn't charge you 75 quid a head and a 15% service charge as standard, does she? Does she...?

The C500 (the dear old nanna in this scenario) offer phenomenal value for money, providing more features and far better audio fidelity at the price than almost any other rival on the market today. They're also so well made they'll probably continue giving you that same great sound decades from now. 

That's the rub, then. If you're happy to spend £100 on a pair of versatile wireless earbuds, we wouldn't stand in your way. If you're a crafty consumer looking for a bargain without too much sacrifice,  the C500 are probably still the best in their class. This is a question, then, of whether that extra £50 (or $60) is worth it for all of the C700Ns' attractive advantages.  


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Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. During his time at the publication, he has written countless news stories alongside features, advice and reviews of products ranging from floorstanding speakers and music streamers to over-ear headphones, wireless earbuds and portable DACs. He has covered launches from hi-fi and consumer tech brands, and major industry events including IFA, High End Munich and, of course, the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or trying to pet strangers' dogs.