Bluetooth 5.2 (LDAC)
Battery life 8hrs (BT+ANC), 24hrs total
Noise cancelling? Yes
Finishes x2 (black, silver)
Waterproof rating IPX4
Weight 7.3g (each)
Verdict: Superb design, class-leading battery life and a peerless sense of dynamic musicality make the WF-1000XM4 the standard to beat at this price. Certified award-winners for a reason.
- Clear, detailed bass performance
- Wonderful sense of musicality
- Excellent battery life
- Lacking ear tip choices
- No aptX HD
Bluetooth 5.2 (SBC, AAC)
Battery life 7.5hrs (BT+ANC), 15hrs total
Noise cancelling? Yes
Finishes x4 (white, black, sage, lavender)
Waterproof rating IPX4
Weight 4.6g (each)
Verdict: Sony's five-star WF-C700N might be considered budget, but once you've heard their refined, musical presentation, you'll be scratching your head figuring out how that's the case.
- Comfortable fit
- Refined presentation for the money
- Detailed, dynamic and musical sound
- Nice to use
- No Multipoint Bluetooth yet
- Total battery life only ok
- No auto start/stop
- No aptX or LDAC support
Sony's recent run of form has been remarkable, producing five-star products across headphones, TVs and even a home cinema amplifier. There's no question that the Japanese brand is on a bit of a roll.
Sony's WF-1000XM4 and WF-C700N are no exception, two models of wireless earbuds that have earned five-star ratings when we tried them out at our dedicated testing facilities. Both are superb examples of their type, but we're here to pick out the best candidate from this heated sibling rivalry.
While the WF-1000XM4 are the more expensive model, the WF-C700N are still quality performers which have excelled at their own respective level, meaning that this is by no means a given win for the XM4. We've been impressed with both candidates, but how do they fare when placed side by side in a direct comparison?
As the kilt-clad epic fantasy Highlander tells us: "There can be only one."
Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony WF-C700N: price
You might not believe it when you hear them, but Sony's classy and comfortable WF-C700N buds currently retail for around £100 / $120 / AU$200, hardly a bank-breaking outlay for five-star audio quality. Even though we always try to be cost-relative when assessing the quality of any piece of audio equipment, it's hard to believe the C700N cost so little yet deliver so much.
The award-winning WF-1000XM4, conversely, will set you back a little more. We tested Sony's superb wireless buds at £250 / $280 / AU$450, and while prices have dropped since we had them in our offices for review, they're still the more expensive option looking purely at the numbers. A recent search on Amazon, for instance, lists the XM4 at around £190, a 23 per cent saving on the original asking price.
Both models, though, represent five-star value for money, with the XM4's recent drop in price only making them an increasingly attractive proposition, so you're unlikely to get either model home and feel as though you've been ripped off. If we're going on which pair is purely cheaper then this is a first-round win for the C700N, but in terms of getting a good price for a great product, a little shopping around could well lead you to believe that the XM4 take the cake.
Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony WF-C700N: features
While sound quality remains king, most consumers are looking to get far more out of a pair of earbuds than the now-standard requirements of decent sound quality and not having them fall out of your ears every three minutes. These days, the length of the features list for a particular pair of buds can define whether they're grabbed off the shelf or consigned to the bargain bin.
In this competitive arena, the WF-1000XM4 stand out above almost all others. Yes, there's no aptX HD support and the ear tips choice is pretty measly, but excellent on-ear controls, a wide choice of sound modes, Sony's useful Speak-to-Chat mode, not to mention Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, all round out the XM4's healthy stable of party tricks. Also, while aptX is absent, support for Sony's very dependable LDAC codec provides a strong alternative for higher-quality Bluetooth streaming.
As for the C700N, it's a game effort for what is still an affordable pair of earbuds. There's no aptX or LDAC support here and no auto start/stop either, but you'll still be furnished with Multipoint Bluetooth (in a future firmware update), an IPX4 water resistance rating, access to the Sony app and push-button controls. Both pairs boast strong call quality, and both will work with the Sony Headphones Connect app, even if the XM4 has a bigger repertoire of tricks on which to draw.
The C700N doesn't have quite enough to scrape the win, but this is a decent retinue of traits to have at this level, make no mistake.
Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony WF-C700N: design and build
As we saw when we put the WF-C700N against the WF-C500 in another all-Sony face-off, this is another story of pleasing efficiency rather than pointless design contrivances, with both models focusing on practical usability instead of lavish extravagance.
Still, let's not damn with faint praise. Both sets of buds are similar in terms of look, feel and size, with the more costly WF-1000XM4 outweighing their rival at 7.3g per earbud in comparison to the more lightweight C700N's 4.6g.
Both pairs eschew a stem design in favour of the inoffensive 'bean’ shape and both are equipped with a well-made, practical plastic charging as standard. They're both also comfortable to wear, so don't be fooled into thinking that the cheaper C700N are harder on the ears than their more expensive counterparts.
If anything, as we stated in our Sony WF-C700N review, the cheaper earbuds may in fact be more comfortable than the WF-1000XM4, their small and lighter weight making it easier to go through longer listening sessions without irritation or excess pressure.
Colour choices are different, too. The C700Ns are available in black, white, sage green and lavender in contrast to the fairly standard offerings of black or silver for the WF-1000XM4. As is always the case with colour and design, personal taste will play a big part, but we do like the clean, metallic look of the more premium-feeling XM4. That said, a greater choice of hues could tip this one back in the C700Ns' favour.
**Winner: Sony WF-C700N**
Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony WF-C700N: sound quality
To rather ruin the surprise right out of the gate, neither of Sony's five-star buds are going to let you down on this front. It would be wrong to say there's no difference between the two, but when you factor in sound-per-pound performance, it's a really tough fight.
Let's start with the cheaper WF-C700N. As is so often the case with Sony products, the balance here is just right, not too much or too little of anything, all knitted together with a satisfying sense of cohesive, balanced presentation. For a semi-cheap pair of buds, there's weight, depth and strength to each note, topped off with detail, dynamics and convincing emotion.
Over to the WF-1000XM4, and it's here where you'll start to understand why they're What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winners. The more costly pair are unquestionably class-leading, their attention to detail, clarity and reactive musicality making them a delightful listen no matter the genre. We threw almost everything at the XM4, from Massive Attack through to Nina Simone and Radiohead, and hardly ever did we feel let down or underwhelmed in the slightest. To be frank, the XM4 sound more solid, more detailed and more dynamic while mustering a greater drive to their delivery, taking the best bits of the C700N's presentation and building on them in every area.
Sony's award-winners are backed up by some of the best tech in the business. The pair's 6mm driver may be smaller than previous models, but its new material and larger magnet certainly deliver on Sony's claims of improved sound quality and better noise-cancelling, especially down at lower frequencies. Whereas the C700N are notable for utilising Sony's upscaling Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE), the WF-1000XM4 take this a step further with DSEE Extreme audio processor enhanced by Edge-AI, something we've also heard with the WH-1000XM4 and XM5 over-ear cans.
Both earbuds deliver a masterclass of sonic performance, so this one will depend on how much you're willing to spend. If you're happy to hand over a few more notes, the WF-1000XM4 have to be the winners here.
**Winner: Sony WF-1000XM4**
Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony WF-C700N: noise cancellation
As we move on to ANC, it's a story of great facing off against greater. The C700N and XM4 each boast their own interpretation of the coveted noise-cancelling tech, even if the latter takes things to a slightly higher level.
The WF-1000XM4 offer fantastic noise-cancelling, especially when you consider that this is still a pair of wireless earbuds, so much so that we can't think of many similar rivals that have better ANC at this level (except, perhaps, the Bose QuietComfort II and Apple AirPods Pro 2). ANC is fully customisable via the Sony app, with a handy automatic wind noise reduction mode that reduces swirling noise caused by the whoosh of ambient air.
Over to the C700N and it's a similarly impressive story. Again, the more expensive XM4 have a more advanced system, but the C700N are still superb performers in their price category when it comes to really solid noise-cancelling capabilities. General background rumblings are taken out of the sonic presentation altogether, with Ambient Sound Mode allowing just enough noise in without intruding on your musical experience.
Nevertheless, for its more advanced and impressive implementation of ANC, the XM4 claim a hard-won victory here.
**Winner: Sony WF-1000XM4**
Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony WF-C700N: verdict
Regardless of the result, picking either of these super Sony buds should leave you with a great product, with both models offering great musicality, comfort and build quality in addition to multiple features across the board.
The question really, then, is how much are you willing to fork out to take things to the next level? If you're content with spending £100 / $120 / AU$200 on some utterly professional operators, the WF-C700N are unquestionably class-leading for the price. If you're looking to spend just a little more for a few more bells, whistles and benefits, the award-winning WF-1000XM4 will delight you with their unerring quality and craftsmanship.
In terms of pure sound quality, though, the WF-1000XM4 are the superior operators, taking everything their rivals do and upping it across the musical board. If audio fidelity is your main priority, we have to give the win to the XM4.
Whatever choice you make, though, we're sure you'll be truly satisfied with the buds you end up taking home.
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Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review
Read our full Sony WF-C700N review