Where do you go when you’re a manufacturer with a great pair of budget wireless earbuds and an excellent premium pair? Well, if you’re Sony, you try and plug the gap between and cover every base, which is exactly what it’s done with the new WF-C700N.
These affordable in-ears sit right between the entry-level WF-C500, and the premium WF-1000XM4. And if they can justify their position they could very well be the sweet spot for anyone looking to dip their toe (or should that be ear?) into the world of noise-cancelling wireless earbuds.
The Sony WF-C700N cost £100 ($120 / AU$200) which places them above the WF-C500 in the pecking order of Sony’s affordable wireless earbuds. The C500 started out life at £89 ($79 / AU$149) although they’re more readily available around the £60 ($68 / AU$99) mark. The C700N add noise-cancelling and other extra features to the equation which accounts for the price tag.
However, the WF-C700N aren’t quite as advanced as the WF-1000XM4 which originally launched for £250 ($280 / AU$450) back in June 2021. Even though the price has dropped a little, they still demand a premium over the WF-C700N.
At this particular level, there’s no shortage of competition for the Sonys. You’ve got rivals like the 2nd Gen Apple AirPods, the five-star Panasonic RZ-S500W, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series and JBL Live Pro 2 TWS.
Design and comfort
If you’re looking for a discreet pair of wireless earbuds that don't look or feel bulky, the Sonys could be for you. Their dimensions are impressively small. So small in fact, that they make the more expensive WF-1000XM4 look like a couple of boulders by comparison and they also appear smaller than their cheaper siblings, the WF-C500.
This could be partly explained by the fact they use Sony’s own 5mm driver in their design – by comparison, the WF-C500 use a 5.8mm driver while the WF-1000XM4 boast a larger 6mm unit.
We’re big fans of the comfort levels provided by WF-C700N. The Sonys slide in and twist into place in the lower portion of your outer ear. They don’t dig in and instead just nestle in place, with the flexible silicone eartips finishing the job and providing an excellent seal. The net result is that they’re easy to live with whether you’re doing a five-kilometre run or five minute walk to the shops. And, dare we say, they’re more comfortable than the more expensive WF-1000XM4.
Smaller earbuds can sometimes be tricky to get into place, but the ever so subtly textured surface used here allows you to get a grip and manoeuvre the buds into place with minimal fuss.
Codec support SBC, AAC
Battery life 7.5 hours (BT + ANC), 15 hours (including charging case)
Finishes x4 (White, Black, Sage Green, Lavender)
Weight 4.6g (each)
The WF-C700N come with a cylindrical charging case which features a USB-C socket for charging and a pairing button on the back plus an LED that indicates charging levels on the front. Rivals from the likes of Apple and JBL favour a slightly squarer case design, but this one is still easy to slip into a pocket. There’s no wireless charging here, but it’s not hugely surprising at this level.
The buds are held in place magnetically and every time you go to put them back in their case they’re practically snatched out of your hands, such is the strength of the magnetic pull.
Besides your traditional black and white finishes, Sony has added a couple more colourful options for the WF-C700N in the way of lavender and sage green.
SBC and AAC codec support is there out of the box, but aptX HD and LDAC which are required for higher-quality Bluetooth streaming are missing. The latter is usually reserved for Sony’s more expensive wireless headphones although some might be disappointed by the lack of any variety of aptX.
Those circular pads you see on the outside of each earpiece aren’t touch-sensitive surfaces but are in fact physical buttons. Through Sony’s Headphones Connect app you can customise either left or right button to control volume, playback (including summoning your voice assistant of choice) or switch between ANC and Ambient Sound Mode. Unfortunately, you can only control two of these features at any one time through the buttons.
Like many Sony wireless earbuds, the WF-C700N offer Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control feature which allows the earbuds to automatically switch listening modes depending on your location.
There’s no auto-pause or play when you take the buds out or put them in, which is another feature we thought might be present on the C700N. It’s slightly disappointing given some rivals do offer this functionality.
Through Sony’s app you can also prioritise sound quality or a stable connection over Bluetooth and we would recommend switching to this to prioritise sound quality from the off. If you find the headphones struggling for a connection to your smartphone you can always switch over. We’d also suggest turning on Sony DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) which upscales low-res digital audio files to higher quality – the results are quite impressive.
Multipoint Bluetooth is supported. Or, more precisely, it will be once the headphones receive a firmware update which Sony says will arrive this summer. This is slightly disappointing although perhaps not a surprise given the feature only arrived on the WF-1000XM4 back at the end of February. For those that don’t know, Multipoint Bluetooth allows you to have two devices connected to the headphones simultaneously.
IPX4 water resistance means the WF-C700N are protected against water splashing from any angle so they should make for fine gym buddies or equally be at home in the great outdoors.
When it comes to battery life, the earbuds should be good for seven and a half hours of playtime on a single charge with BT and ANC turned on (this rises to ten with ANC off). We think that’s perfectly acceptable at this level.
However, there is a slight quirk in that the charging case only provides enough power for one extra charge before you need to juice it back up. You’ll need to keep an eye on how much is left in the case via the Sony Headphones Connect app, just so you don’t get caught out.
Also in the app is an equaliser that allows a ridiculous amount of customisation for the WF-C700N. There are eight presets and three custom settings to get stuck into but, as you’re about to find out, the Sonys sound pretty good out of the box and we don’t need to rely on or tweak any equaliser settings during testing.
Call quality and noise cancelling
Sony’s quick to point out the headphone’s Wind Noise Reduction Structure as being beneficial to call quality and it certainly seems to help. The Sonys put in a fine showing when it comes to making and taking calls during our testing process.
Our own voice comes through sounding natural, and clear. During testing, we had to compete with the occasional gust of wind but it didn’t seem to affect the clarity of our conversations. In fact, compared to something like the JBL Live Pro 2 TWS, our voices sound more refined and more dynamic coming through the Sonys.
While not as advanced as the system used on its more expensive XM4 in-ears, the Sonys still prove more than competitive in their class as far as noise-cancelling is concerned.
General rumblings are erased from the background with noise-cancelling engaged while the Ambient Sound Mode does what it says on the tin, i.e. it lets in just enough ambient sound so it doesn’t overpower what you’re listening to. It’s a good balance. Of course, the very best noise-cancelling headphones tend to be of the over-ear variety, but not everyone is a fan of the style.
We get right down to business with a blast of Angel by Massive Attack. We want to hear how the WF-C700N get along with those tricky-to-do low frequencies and the earbuds don’t disappoint. It’s not just the weight, depth and solidity of the notes that impresses, it’s also the layers of detail the Sony uncovers and their ability to paint the notes with believable texture.
There’s a fantastic sense of power and drive on display that grabs your attention and hooks you into the song. But it’s not all about the bass. The WF-C700 still favour a balanced presentation overall. There’s still percussion and a vocal to fit into the mix and the Sonys are more than generous with the amount of exposure they give across the frequency range.
Switch to Beethoven's Symphony No.5 in C Minor by Herbert von Karajan and the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Sonys nail the piece’s dramatic opening. The highs and lows, the string section’s descent into quiet troughs from where they rise into a stirring crescendo are all handled deftly. It requires solid timing and great organisation and the Sonys pass the test with flying colours. Impressive at this level.
We alter pace with a few seconds of the Cat Burns track Go and the Sonys seem to enjoy conveying the intimacy. The mix of anger and sadness which runs through the track is communicated in a mature and refined manner. The WF-C700N capture the emotion and delicacy in the vocal as well as the detail and dynamic shifts as fingers slide across guitar strings.
You have to hand it to Sony. It’s managed to build a nice little portfolio of wireless earbuds that hit a number of key price points. Each step up delivers a bump in performance that justifies each model’s price and position in the category.
The WF-C700N offer a jump in quality compared to the WF-C500 and a taste of the performance of the WF-1000XM4 in a cheaper package. This puts them in a very strong position and makes them an easy recommendation at the money.
- Sound 5
- Features 4
- Comfort 5
And our JBL Live Pro 2 TWS review
And our Panasonic RZ-S500W review
Our pick of the best noise-cancelling earbuds: budget to premium