If you're looking for some of the best earbuds around, Sony should be one of the first brands you investigate. It makes some of the best earbuds around, with excellent sound quality and a great array of features both a mainstay of its output.
Though if you can wait just a little longer, Sony's WF-1000XM5 are rumoured to launch very soon...
How to choose the best Sony earbuds for you
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Whether you want wired or wireless 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 unique 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 bit: choosing the best Sony earbuds for you...
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With the WF-1000XM5, Sony has managed to build on the huge success of the multi-award-winning WF-1000XM4 and produce another sensational pair of true wireless earbuds.
Approximately 20 per cent lighter and 25 per cent smaller than the WF-1000XM4 that they replace, the buds have been noticeably trimmed down, with smoother lines and more subtle curves. That means the case is more compact, too.
Inside there’s a new 8.4mm Dynamic Driver X, which doesn’t sound quite as rich or full in the bass, but clarity and detail is class-leading, with top-notch musicality and timing. Sony has sacrificed a little bit of the fun that was so appealing in their predecessors, but they’re an improvement in almost every other respect.
The 8-hour battery life (with another 16 in the case) compares favourably to the likes of Bose’s QuietComfort II Earbuds and the Apple AirPods Pro 2, and while noise cancelling has been improved, Bose's buds still just have the edge.
Throw in improved touch controls and a packed feature list that includes Multipoint Bluetooth, Adaptive Sound Control and Speak-to-Chat, and the WF-1000XM5 are difficult to fault.
Read our full Sony WF-1000XM5 review
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These What Hi-Fi Award 2022 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.
Now that the WF-1000XM5 are here, the XM4 should be heavily discounted. See the best deals here.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM4 review
The What Hi-Fi? Award-winning WF-C500 pack in a lot of what makes Sony's expensive true wireless in-ears – such as the WF-1000XM5 – 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 sound 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
Sony's mid-range wireless earbuds sit between the brand's budget WF-C500 and high-end WF-1000XM4. Both of those models are Award winners, so the C700N have a lot to live up to. But we're happy to report they don't let the family down.
They're impressively small (thanks in part to their smaller driver), and their light weight helps make them even more comfortable than Sony's WF-1000XM4. They feel more expensive than they are, thanks to little additions like magnets on the charging case that snap the buds into place. And they come in a range of finishes, including lavender and sage green, both of which are a bit more adventurous than the more staid colourways of the XM4.
They lack aptX HD and LDAC – the latter is reserved for Sony's higher-end buds – but still pack noise-cancelling tech, which is a step up from Sony's budget model. Adaptive Sound Control automatically switches listening modes depending on your location, and Sony's DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) upscales low-res digital audio files to higher quality.
The sound quality is excellent across the frequency range, from rumbling bass to the soaring highs (and plenty in between).
Downsides? The lack of LDAC support is disappointing, while Multipoint – which lets you switch seamlessly between devices – still hasn't arrived. But the superb sound and great feature set make these easy to recommend as some of the best Sony earbuds going.
Read the full Sony WF-C700N review
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 Sony WF-SP800N review
If you want bang for your buck, you won't feel short-changed by the EX650 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 EX650AP 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.
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 the full Sony LinkBuds review
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 Sony WF-XB700 review
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.
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