Apple's AirPods might be the best known wireless earbuds around, but Sony's WF models are arguably better value. The range includes the new premium WF-1000XM5, the Award-winning WF-1000XM4, the mid-range WF-C700N and the wallet-friendly WF-C500, so there's something for every budget. All products have gotten a five-star review from us and are some of the most recommended earbuds at their price points. And unlike AirPods, they don't only give you half the feature set depending on your choice of mobile operating system.
So what are the differences between the various models? How much does each cost? And which is right for you? Below is a quick look at the main specs, followed by a more in-depth dig into each model and what it can do.
|SBC, AAC, LDAC
|SBC, AAC, LDAC
|8hrs (buds), 16hrs (case)
|8hrs (buds), 16hrs (case)
|7.5hrs (buds), 7.5hrs (case)
|10hrs (buds), 10hrs (case)
|£259 / $299 / AU$TBC
|£250 / $280 / AU$450
|£100 / $120 / AU$200
|£89 / $79 / AU$149
|Weight (per earbud)
The range-topper: Sony WF-1000XM5
- Sony's newest and best-sounding wireless earbuds
- Smaller and lighter than the WF-1000XM4
- New extra small ear tip size helps with fit
- New sonic profile is more analytical and detailed
Sony's latest and greatest wireless earbuds take everything a step on from the multi-Award-winning WF-1000XM4 (below). There's a new design with a smaller and lighter form factor, the on-bud controls give you more power, and the noise-cancelling has been beefed up with an extra microphone on each earbud to neutralise unwanted sounds. But the biggest advancement is in the sound quality.
Instead of tweaking the XM4's excellent sound profile, Sony has reimagined it entirely with the help of the new integrated processor V2 and new, larger Dynamic Driver X (8.4mm size). The result is a more detailed, analytical approach that's bursting with texture and rhythmic precision. It might have lost some of the fun of the XM4, but the sound is closer to proper hi-fi, which makes it another triumph in our book.
Indeed, in our review we said: "The WF-1000XM5 make their predecessors and the likes of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II sound cloudy and fat. They both produce a greater quantity of bass but the Sonys sound much more balanced."
They bring new features to play as well, including more touch controls, head-tracking spatial audio and the ability to accept a phone call just by nodding. Welcome to the future.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM5 review
Also consider: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose's Award-winning wireless earbuds have more effective ANC than the XM5, though not everyone will like the 'vacuum' effect. Their sound quality is excellent, too.
- Sony WF-1000XM5: release date, price, features and specs
- Sony WF-1000XM5 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: which should you buy?
The former champ: Sony WF-1000XM4
- Sony's long-running premium model from 2021
- Fewer ear tip sizes than the WF-1000XM5
- Superb musical sound and noise-cancelling
- End of life means deals, deals, deals!
Sony's WF-1000XM4 were our favourite wireless earbuds until the XM5 sashayed onto the scene. Now they look like a former champ reliving his past glories. But what glories: awesome sound quality, world-silencing ANC, a smarter design than their predecessors and excellent app control.
The XM5 make them look a little bulky and take the shine off their sound somewhat in terms of outright detail and power, but that's us audiophiles being picky – for the vast majority of people, they will tick all the boxes. Our review noted that "The quality of bass and the clarity of low frequencies is stunning," while "there’s clarity across the board and a sense of rhythmic precision that allows the Sony’s to switch pace effortlessly."
They look and feel suitably premium too, and were the first Sony buds to use polyurethane eartips, which feel like a cross between silicone and foam. It helps them slip into your ear easily – just pinch the tip, slide them in and let them expand to fill your ear cavity.
And now that they're at the end of their life, expect plenty of great deals to land.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM4 review
Also consider: Apple AirPods Pro 2
Staunch Apple users will be well served by the Pro 2nd Generation model, which offers seamless use with iOS devices, spatial audio, improved ANC and have much better sound quality than their predecessors.
- Sony WF-1000XM5 vs Apple AirPods Pro 2: which five-star earbuds are better?
The mid-ranger: Sony WF-C700N
- Step-down model that supports lesser audio codecs
- More comfortable than the pricier models
- Great features, including ANC, for a lower price
- Shorter battery life than premium models
The WF-C700N represent a step down from the range-toppers mentioned above: they don't support Sony's higher quality LDAC audio codec and they have a shorter battery life. But that aside, they don't compromise on much, especially given the more affordable price.
They do have active noise cancellation complete with Sony's Ambient Sound Mode, the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) that improves the quality of lesser sound files (also present on the premium models), and Bluetooth Multipoint will land soon, so you can switch seamlessly between devices. They're smaller than the WF-1000XM4 and XM5, and actually more comfortable, which is surprising given their lower price.
The sound? Very impressive, with plenty of depth and solidity at the low end and generous exposure across the frequency range.
A superb Sony offering without the high price tag.
Read the full Sony WF-C700N review
The budget option: Sony WF-C500
- Cheapest in the WF range
- No ANC or LDAC codec support
- Sound quality is good for the money
- Battery life is better than C700N model
See, cheap doesn't have to mean nasty. The Sony WF-C500 launched at just £89 / $79 / AU$149, and can now be picked up for even less than that. At this low price, we're not expecting too much – but Sony surprised us and delivered plenty anyway.
Sure, sound quality isn't quite as expansive as the WF-C700N, but it's very good for the money, with a detailed treble and neutral tonality. They're nothing special to look at, but they're functional and built to last. They also lack noise cancellation and support for Sony's higher-quality LDAC audio codec. But they offer plenty of what makes Sony's WF range so compelling in a very competitively priced package, mainly in terms of entertaining sound. Which makes them well worth a look if you're on a strict budget.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 review
Also consider: Earfun Air
If you want even cheaper... these were the first truly budget buds that we awarded five stars, and now, three years later, they still stand up as some of the best affordable buds around.
- Sony WF-C700N vs Sony WF-C500: which budget Sony earbuds are better?
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