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HomeGADGETSPOCKET GADGETSSony WF-C700N hands on: Are these budget buds an XM4 alternative?

Sony WF-C700N hands on: Are these budget buds an XM4 alternative?

If you’re looking to buy a pair of true wireless headphones, you’ll see an overwhelming number of recommendations for the Sony WF-1000XM4. In the five years since they launched, they have become a go-to for anyone looking for some of the best noise-cancelling in-ears you can buy.

However, not everyone wants to spend their $200/?200 asking price, and if you have been looking for something cheaper, Sony has just launched a pair of headphones that may be of interest. They are the WF-C700N and replace 2021’s WF-C500N, aiming to deliver a lot of what we love in the flagship buds for half the price.

It’s an ambitious ask but do they manage it? We had a quick listen to get some first impressions.

Sony/Pocket-lint
Sony WF-C700N
First impressions

For their price, the WF-C700N offer up an appealing balance of attractive design, good features and a well-judged sound. We’re looking forward to trying them out further in our full review.

Lightweight and compact Available in black, white, lavender and sage green

The WF-C700N aren’t dissimilar in design to the pricier siblings they look up to, with a similar shape that sits entirely within the ear. Sony apparently designed them with comfort and stability in mind, having studied extensive ear shape data that has been collated since the world’s first in-ear headphones launched in 1982.

Certainly, they felt comfy during our brief time with them, and nestled nicely into our ear with no concerns that they would budge under pressure. They’re weighted well too, so should be good for longer listening sessions, with a grippy matte texture that feels comfortable against the skin.

They are ultimately, of course, plastic, but they feel sturdy and not in danger of being too fragile under a lot of use. They’re a pretty understated design, but look great, in a choice of black, white, lavender or sage green.

Features

IPX4 waterproofing 15 hours battery life (7.5 hours per wear), with noise cancelling on Adaptive noise cancellation

Considering their price point, the Sony WF-C700N don’t go big on features outside of its main noise-cancelling feature set, but they do still have some tricks up their sleeve.

For example, you’ll get IPX4 waterproofing making them fine for use at the gym, and there’s support for Bluetooth Multipoint connection too, so they can be paired with two devices at the same time.

Battery life is a little so-so compared with flagship headphones, at just 15 hours in total, but 7.5 hours of playback on a single charge with another full charge in the case is nothing to sniff at. If you don’t need noise cancelling on, you will be able to squeeze a little more out of them, at 20 hours total, with 10 hours of playback at a time.

Speaking of noise cancelling, Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control is on board here, and can be controlled within the Sony Headphones Connect app. This sees your headphones understanding your environment – whether you’re travelling, at home or in the gym, for example – and adjusting their level of noise cancelling to suit. We’ve always found this works well in other Sony headphones, but you can switch this off if you prefer a more stable noise-cancelling effect.

There’s a straightforward transparency mode too, called Ambient Sound Mode, plus a Focus on Voice feature, that will enable you to clearly hear anyone speaking to you, so you don’t need to remove your headphones to have a chat.

We weren’t really able to put this noise cancellation through its paces in the fairly quiet environment we got to test them out in, but it did feel relatively lightweight compared to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II that we’re used to, and indeed the Sony WF-1000XM4. However, as we know, they are both considerably more expensive – we’d expect these will do a good job of blocking out the big rumbles to some extent but may struggle more with voices and higher pitched noises.

Finally, Sony offers support for 360 Reality Audio with these buds, as long as you have the compatible content.

Performance

We listened to a couple of songs with the WF-C700N and were pleasantly surprised by the lively sound we were greeted with. There was plenty of volume to play with, and they remained stable and controlled even when we gave them a nudge towards their upper limits.

They might not be the most expansive when it comes to soundstage, but the sound didn’t feel hemmed in or restricted either. It’s a fair balance at this price and one Sony has struck well.

That’s the case elsewhere here. Overall these in-ears edge towards neutrality, with a focus on clarity above all. The midrange is ever so slightly forward, so vocals shine, and there’s a nice amount of bite in the treble that gives them energy and excitement.

The low end isn’t perhaps as rich or deep as you might expect in a pair of cheaper headphones, but it’s far from lightweight. We’d always take this more conservative balance over one that overeggs it, and thickens up the whole presentation, but if you’d rather a little bit more, there’s an EQ in the Headphones Connect app allows you to tweak some levels to your preference.

Verdict

Overall the WF-C700N strike us as incredibly well-judged headphones for the price ($119.99/?99.99/EUR119). There’s a good amount of detail and insight, a decent handle on timing and level-headed approach to sound quality that we’re not used to hearing in headphones at this level.

Add to that some pretty good features and an attractive design, and we’re very much looking forward to trying these out further in our full review.

 

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