The Sony WF-C700N offer pretty much everything you could ask for from a pair of wireless earbuds costing under £100
- Effective noise cancellation
- Impactful equaliser controls
- Detailed, non-fatiguing sound
- No LDAC support
- Battery life could be better
- Limited control customisation
The addition of ANC is a significant one and, combined with Sony addressing most of the issues and grumbles I had about the WF-C500, makes the C700N a force to be reckoned with in the sub-£100 price bracket.
Sony WF-C700N review: What do you get for the money?
For a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds from a big-name brand, the WF-C700N are very competitively priced at £99. Fitted with 5mm dynamic drivers, the headphones utilise a Bluetooth 5.2 connection and support multipoint pairing along with the SBC and AAC codecs.
Weighing in at 4.6g each, they use on-ear depressable controls instead of touch controls and are IPX4-rated for water resistance. There’s support for Fast Pair on Android and Swift Pair via Windows, which posed no problems during testing, while the pairing processes while using other devices were similarly brisk.
Included with your purchase are two additional pairs of silicone eartips and a USB-C to USB-A cable to keep the 31g case charged. That case will take around three hours to charge completely and total battery life is stated at a lacklustre 15 hours. The buds themselves will last roughly seven and a half hours with ANC on, with the case providing one additional charge. Turn ANC off and you’ll get closer to 10 hours of use from the buds.
Various features and settings can be accessed and tweaked using Sony’s Headphones Connect companion app. There are ten equaliser presets available, all of which can be customised via a five-band graphic equaliser with Clear Bass slider, plus two additional slots to save your own.
There are also settings for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio spatial sound format, various active noise cancellation modes, a toggle for the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) which upscales lower-resolution audio formats, a dropdown to prioritise either sound quality or connection stability and the ability to alter on-earbud controls. You can track your hours of listening too, which is handy for those that are conscious of cumulative noise exposure and want to protect their ears.
If you’re not bothered about ANC, the WF-C700N’s stablemates the Sony WF-C500 can be picked up for just £59, while other alternatives around the £100 mark include the Redmi Buds 4 Pro (RRP: £85) and Huawei FreeBuds 5i (RRP: £90). Both support the high-resolution LDAC codec but make compromises where equaliser controls are concerned.
Sony WF-C700N review: What do we like about them?
Like most of Sony’s headphones range, the WF-C700N benefit from impressive hardware and equally robust software.
The Sony headphones app provides access to a number of helpful features, including Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control, which is also found on the class-leading WF-1000XM4. This can be used to manually control ANC or have the buds adjust noise cancellation and sound settings automatically depending on where you are and what you’re doing.
If you grant the buds permission to access your phone’s GPS, they can learn about locations you visit frequently and apply settings you’ve selected whenever you arrive there. I stuck with noise cancellation in most scenarios, though did register the office as an area where ambient sound would automatically be set to 10 to ensure I was able to hear what was going on around me. It’s a very clever system and works wonderfully well.
When engaged, the noise-cancelling and ambient passthrough modes proved effective, particularly given the price of the WF-C700N. When listening to Ariana Grande’s “Into You” at 40% volume with active noise cancellation engaged, I couldn’t hear conversations of co-workers at the office within two metres of me. Turning to a podcast at the same volume, I was able to make out speech but it was unintelligible.
Louder environments like the London Underground are tougher to attenuate and it was on the Tube that I noticed the biggest difference between the WF-C700N and WF-1000XM4’s noise-cancelling performance. The former attenuated sound less effectively, meaning I had to push my volume up higher to ensure I was able to clearly hear what I was listening to. That said, I was impressed with the ANC overall, particularly given that the WF-C700N cost under £100.
The earbuds offer solid passive noise cancellation and a snug and comfortable fit, too. The design is similar to that of the WF-C500 but the buds are slightly smaller, and I experienced none of the discomfort I did when using the depressable on-ear controls on Sony’s entry-level option.
Key to the WF-C700N’s charm, however, is their audio reproduction. I thoroughly enjoyed their bouncy, well-balanced sound and the buds never became fatiguing to listen to. Vocal-led tracks with varied instrumentation like The Smile’s “Skrting on the Surface” were well-articulated and replicated in a natural fashion across their frequency range.
Focusing in on the low frequencies on Burial’s “Raver” track as I did with the Redmi Buds 4 Pro, it was clear that the Sony WF-C700N offer a heartier default bass response and more low-frequency oomph. I felt bass was a little lacking on the cheaper Sony WF-C500, so the additional low-end punch here is very welcome.
Tuning my ears to the trebles on “Dust Shuffle” by Brian Eno, I found plenty of detail in the oscillating industrial beat patterning, though things sounded a little sharper and more precise on the Redmi Buds 4 Pro. Boosting higher frequencies in the graphic equaliser successfully increased their prominence but you’ll want to avoid increasing them too much as this left the buds sounding slightly unbalanced.
Support for Sony’s proprietary 360 Reality Audio sound format is another welcome inclusion and enables you to enjoy a wider soundstage on compatible tracks. Before you can make use of it, you have to undergo a quick in-app analysis of your ears and enable it with one of four streaming platforms: 360 Reality Audio Live, Artist Connection, nugs.net or TIDAL. I tested it out using the latter and found it delivered a more immersive listen with compelling and convincing spatial elements but there isn’t a huge amount of supported content.
Thankfully, whichever settings or modes you have engaged, you’ll be free of the white noise that affected my experience with the WF-C500 – there were no such distractions during my time with the WF-C700N.
Sony WF-C700N review: What could be improved?
Control customisation is available on the Sony WF-C700N but the options at your fingertips are a bit restrictive. You’re forced to select preset control groups for the left and right earbuds from three categories – Ambient Sound Control, Playback Control and Volume Control – or simply turn off the controls entirely.
These cover all the key commands but limiting the controls to preset clusters instead of allowing users to set individual gestures for specific controls is a little frustrating. I got the most joy out of the default setup – which sees the left bud control noise cancelling and the right execute playback controls – as I was able to use my laptop or phone for volume controls. I’d have preferred to have been able to access commands from all three sections at once, however.
I’d have also liked to have been able to adjust noise cancellation more granularly via the touch controls; when using the Ambient Sound Control bucket of commands your only options are turning ANC on or off. The way around this is to set up a variety of profiles and settings for different locations and scenarios but not everyone is going to want to pre-plan and micromanage their true wireless experience to that degree.
My other grumble relates to the WF-C700N’s battery life. Seven-and-a-half hours of in-ear stamina is ample, but total playtime of around fifteen hours is below average and means you’ll need to top up the charging case more frequently than you might like. That didn’t detract too much from my overall experience but may prove a deal breaker for those wanting buds capable of lasting a couple of weeks without needing a top up.
Sony WF-C700N review: Should you buy them?
The Sony WF-C700N are a definite step up from their stablemates the Sony WF-C500 and more than justify the extra £40 spend.
The addition of Bluetooth multipoint support, the ability to adjust touch controls and, most crucially, the inclusion of active noise cancellation, mean the gaps in the WF-C500’s repertoire are filled and then some. Impactful equaliser options mean they’re a more customisable proposition than similarly priced rivals like the Redmi Buds Pro 4 and the Huawei Freebuds too, even if touch control customisation options could be more extensive.
The only big omission is that of high-resolution audio support: were the WF-C700N to support LDAC, they’d have likely scooped our Best Buy award. They still sound excellent, however, and that sound quality, coupled with an impressive set of features, positions them as one of the best true wireless options available under £100.