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Best Sony earbuds 2022: Sony in-ear headphones for every budget

Best Sony earbuds Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-fi?'s round-up of the best Sony earbuds you can buy in 2022.

Ready to ditch the free earbuds that came with your smartphone? Sony makes some of the best earbuds around, so they should be on your shortlist. And with so many seasonal deals up for grabs, now's a great time for an upgrade.

How to choose the best Sony earbuds for you

Whether you want wired earbuds that sound superb, Sony has you covered with a stellar range of in-ear headphones. 

If you opt for wireless headphones, you'll be pleased to hear that all the Sony models below offer decent battery life, and some feature active noise-cancelling to quieten your surroundings. There's even a pair of wired buds crafted from the same material used to make trombones.

Want plenty of bells and whistles? Check out the company's best-in-class WF-1000XM4 true wireless earbuds. Want to be able to hear the world around you at all times? Sony's latest wireless earbuds, the ring-shaped Sony LinkBuds, offer a ground-breaking 'open air' design. 

You'll want to pay close attention to battery life and comfort too. Of course, no amount of tech will make up for poor sound quality. Happily, all the models below have impressed our experts with their sonic skills.    

Ok, now the fun but: choosing the best Sony earbuds for you...

Best Sony earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM4

(Image credit: Sony)
The best wireless earbuds you can buy right now.

Specifications

OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 8 hours (24 hours with charging case)
Waterproof rating: IPX4
Weight: 7.3g per bud

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, detailed bass performance
+
Wonderful sense of musicality
+
Class-leading battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Missing Sony’s Multipoint feature
-
Lacking ear tip choices
-
No aptX HD

These What Hi-Fi Award 2021 winners build on the huge success of their excellent WF-1000XM3 buds with added comfort, smarter tech and even better sound.

They produce one of the most dynamic, detailed and balanced performances we've heard from a pair of Bluetooth buds. Bass notes sound tight and textured, while vocals ooze refinement and sophistication. Their musical delivery keeps you coming back for more, and also makes you thankful for the eight hours of battery life, which is class-leading in this field.

They're comfortable to wear too. The compact earpieces include touch-sensitive controls and a new ear tip design which helps with noise isolation. Combine this with Sony's excellent noise cancelling and you've got a pair of headphones that effectively block out the hustle and bustle.

IPX4 water resistance comes as part of the WF-1000XM4 package, as does Sony's clever Headphones Connect app for iOS and Android and clever features such as Quick Attention and Speak-To-Chat. 

Put simply, the WF-1000XM4 aren't merely the best Sony earbuds – they're the best earbuds you can buy right now, full stop. 

Read the full Sony WF-1000XM4 review

Best Sony earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM3

(Image credit: Sony)
These outstanding in-ears are Sony's best earbuds to date.

Specifications

OS support: iOS/Android
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 8 hours (24 hours with case)
Waterproof rating: None
Weight: 8.5g per bud

Reasons to buy

+
Great timing and musicality
+
Impressive battery life
+
Comfy fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Don't support aptX HD

Despite being succeeded by the newer WF-1000XM4 (above), these true wireless earbuds are still easily up there with the best Sony in-ear headphones we've ever tested. And because they're no longer Sony's latest and greatest earbuds, you'll find plenty of WF-1000XM3 deals around.

The WF-1000XM3s feature innovative active noise cancelling technology and come with a portable carry case that doubles as a charger, meaning you get up to 32 hours of wireless playback.

The fit is comfortable and secure, so they won't fall out when you run up an escalator. Packed with features - including subtle touch controls for music playback and volume – they're dynamic, detailed and musical. A home run from Sony.

Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3

Best Sony earbuds: Sony WF-C500

(Image credit: Sony)
Budget true wireless earbuds that don't cut too many corners.

Specifications

OS support: iOS/Android
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 10 hours (20 hours with charging case)
Waterproof rating: IPX4
Weight: 5.4g per bud

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and comfortable design
+
Spirited, well-balanced sound
+
Fine control app

Reasons to avoid

-
Ordinary battery life
-
Slightly small-scale sound
-
Numerous serious rivals

In the WF-C500 Sony has managed to bring a lot of what makes its expensive true wireless in-ears – such as the WF-1000XM4 – a success without cutting too many corners. 

You get an IPX4 rating for moisture- and splash-resistance, plus ‘fast pair’ connectivity with Android devices and ‘swift pair’ with Windows 10 PCs. It's possible to use Google Assistant or Siri to control these buds, although neither platform is built in. 

Sound is nicely balanced and even-handed; mid-range is loaded with detail and vocals are presented in a cohesive manner. Can The WF-C500 be bettered? Sure – some alternatives are punching are more convincing. But for the money, it's a decent sonic performance.

Downsides? Battery life is 10 hours from the buds themselves, plus another 10 hours from the case. That's really nothing nothing special when compared to rivals. Still, if you're after a great sub-£100 pair of earbuds, the Sony's WF-C500 should be on your shortlist.

Read the full Sony WF-C500 review

Best Sony earbuds: Sony WF-SP800N

(Image credit: Sony)
A dynamic-sounding pair of noise-cancelling Sony earbuds.

Specifications

OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 9 hours (18 hours with charging case)
Waterproof rating: IP55
Weight: 9.8g per bud

Reasons to buy

+
Vibrant, buoyant sound
+
Good noise-cancelling
+
Comfortable fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly coarse sound
-
Average battery life

The WF-SP800N noise-cancelling earbuds are great all-rounders designed to please. They'll please those who need accompaniment to their workout/commute, as well as those who don't want splash out on top-tier noise-cancelling buds.

And despite the reasonable price tag, they're well-specced and offer plenty of useful features. Battery life is nine hours (the case also gives you an extra nine hours) and they even support 360 Reality Audio, Sony’s spatial audio format.

Control is available via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, and the mic array ensures your instructions are heard reliably. The touch controls can also control volume.

Their winning combination of dynamic sound, decent noise-cancelling, good build quality and smart features are hard to beat at this price point.

Read the full review: Sony WF-SP800N

Best Sony earbuds: Sony MDR-EX650AP

(Image credit: Sony)
Snug-fitting, great-sounding and the best budget Sony earbuds we've heard.

Specifications

OS support: iOS/Android
Bluetooth: No
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: N/A
Waterproof rating: None
Weight: 9g

Reasons to buy

+
Comfy, secure fit
+
Solid, weighty, punchy delivery
+
Expansive soundstage

Reasons to avoid

-
Basic remote

If you want bang for your buck, you won't feel short-changed by the EX650s wired earbuds. Despite the humble price point, they're balanced, dynamic and immersive – with a hefty punch of bass. Sony has even utilised trombone material for the internal sound paths and external enclosures, helping to create an expansive soundstage.

Comfort isn't an issue, since the EX650APs come with four sizes of buds in the box. If you like the brassy design, you'll find that these Sony earbuds will outshine many a similarly-priced rival.

Read the full review: Sony MDR-EX650AP

Best Sony earbuds: Sony LinkBuds

(Image credit: Sony)
A new breed of wireless earbuds from Sony.

Specifications

OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 5.5 hours (17.5 with charging case)
Waterproof rating: IPX4
Weight: 4.1g per bud

Reasons to buy

+
Balanced, natural sound
+
Open and spacious presentation
+
Lightweight and comfy

Reasons to avoid

-
Sound lacks drive and dynamics
-
Ordinary battery life
-
No wireless charging

Sony’s LinkBuds deserve praise for their clever design.  They use a ring-shaped 12mm driver with a hole in middle, which lets you hear the outside world while your music plays in the background. The idea is that you can opt to wear the LinkBuds all day – whilst working, gaming and socialising.

We like the LinkBuds a lot. They're comfortable, extremely light and call upon Sony’s DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) technology to help restore high-frequency sounds lost in compressed digital audio files. Even the touch controls are inventive: you can choose to tap the surface of the main bud or tap the area in front of the bud, thanks to a special sensor. 

On the downside, the LinkBuds aren't perfect from a sound quality perspective. Detail levels are good for the money, but how much of that you’ll hear can be affected by ambient noise levels. They're not hugely dynamic, either.

That aside, the LinkBuds are worth considering if you aren't sold on conventional in-ears.

Read our full Sony LinkBuds review

Best Sony earbuds: Sony WF-XB700

(Image credit: Sony)
Reliable and rugged outdoor earbuds with chunky bass.

Specifications

OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 9 hours (18 hours with charging case)
Waterproof rating: IPX4 rating
Weight: 8g per bud

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, punchy sound
+
Decent battery life
+
Comfortable, lightweight build

Reasons to avoid

-
Rivals offer more detail
-
Reasonably large earbud design

On the hunt for a pair of affordable, sporty wireless buds? The Sony WF-XB700 should be on your list. Battery life is 18 hours – nine hours from the buds, nine hours from the case – so they'll outlast any workout, plus they're IPX4 rated, meaning they're water and sweat resistant.

Comfort is good. In fact, we found we could locate them in our ears and forget they were there. A button on each buds allows for basic controls such as play/pause and skip track.

The WF-XB700 are part of Sony's Extra Bass range of audio products meaning they're tuned to emphasise low-frequency response, rather than deliver a neutral sonic balance. The result is a punchy low-end, but it doesn't overshadow mid and high frequencies, which display pleasing levels of agility.

Some of Sony's pricier in-ears boast greater detail and subtlety, in addition to active noise-cancelling tech, but if you're after sporty buds, these could be the best Sony earbuds for you.

Read the full review: Sony WF-XB700

How we test headphones

We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.

Of course, testing headphones don't often require such facilities (though we do often try audiophile headphones in our reference hi-fi system). What is important in our headphones reviewing process is that each pair is compared to the best in its price and style class – whether that's one standout pair or a few we favour the highest among the 100+ pairs we listen to each year for reviews and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can always compare new products to ones we know and love.

We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at their very best, so we'll try plenty of different types of music and give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in), while the wired headphones that might warrant being used with a DAC are tested with a suitable one. It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a pair has active noise cancellation – increasingly the case these days – we'll ensure part of our testing involves using them in different environments. 

All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.

MORE:

Browse the best wireless earbuds for every budget

Splash out on today's best cheap headphone deals

And here's our pick of the best noise-cancelling headphones

Tom is a journalist, copywriter and content designer based in the UK. He has written articles for T3, ShortList, The Sun, The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, Elle Deco, The Sunday Times, Men's Health, Mr Porter, Oracle and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include mobile technology, electric vehicles and video streaming.