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Sony’s new WF-C500 true wi-fi earbuds have an interesting value of $99.99 and include a sleeker, extra conventional design than the WF-XB700 buds that they’re changing. Other than the reined-in appears, they enhance upon that mannequin by including assist for Sony’s Headphones Join app, which lets you customise the EQ to your liking. The WF-XB700s had the corporate’s “Further Bass” branding, however Sony has achieved away with that this time for a sound that’s rather more balanced out of the field. Battery life has additionally improved barely to a formidable 10 hours of steady playback, and the C500s provide easy-to-use controls with giant buttons on every earbud.
However to hit that penny-shy-of-$100 value, Sony overlooked some main options like noise cancellation, a transparency mode, wi-fi charging, and even smaller conveniences like computerized pausing whenever you pull out one or each earbuds. You may typically discover these helpful tips in equally priced buds, which might depart the C500s feeling like Sony omitted somewhat too a lot.
That stated, they nonetheless sound excellent for the value; Sony not often skimps on audio high quality. And whereas I used to be apprehensive that switching to a smaller, extra discreet bodily design would sacrifice the anchored-in-my-ears feeling that the XB700s gave me, fortunately that’s an space the place these earbuds proceed to be a standout. The query you’ll have to ask your self is whether or not these pluses are sufficient to make up for what’s lacking. The place Sony’s 1000XM4 earbuds are a lavish luxurious, this set is about as primary as they arrive.
Earlier than I get to the earbuds themselves, a couple of phrases on the charging case: Sony has downsized it considerably right into a extra pocketable tablet form. The underside remains to be flat, so the case sits properly on a desk or desk even when the lid is open. I additionally actually like that Sony carried over the semi-translucent lid from the XB700s, which makes it simple to see the three amber LEDs inside — one for every bud and the case — and make sure that every little thing is charging correctly.
Opening it with one hand could be difficult for the reason that lid makes use of resistance slightly than magnets to remain closed, however it’s not inconceivable in case you push up from the skinny indent operating alongside the lip. The case nonetheless makes use of textured matte plastic throughout, and whereas some view this as low-cost, I like that it eliminates any potential for scratches or scuffs. There’s a USB-C port round again, and the case has sufficient juice for one full recharge of the C500s, bringing them from 10 hours of playback to a complete of 20. Most earbud charging circumstances have no less than two extra costs’ value of battery in them, so Sony’s behind the curve there. You may also depend out wi-fi charging, which Sony appears to order for its upper-end earbuds.
The XB700s had a really distinct design that, even on the time, was on the bigger aspect for true wi-fi earbuds. In addition they noticeably protruded from my ears. The explanation behind the unconventional form was that it allowed them to twist deeply into the ear canal for a really secure match and optimum bass response. I preferred the match, however not everybody discovered them equally as snug. With the C500s, Sony is making the latter a precedence.
They’re nonetheless matte throughout however are actually extra compact — smaller than the flagship noise-canceling WF-1000XM4 earbuds — and don’t demand as a lot house in your ears when inserted. The general look is shut sufficient to Sony’s premium fashions to make them each appear a part of the identical household, although you lose the flashy copper accents.
As a substitute of a touch-sensitive outer floor for controls, the C500s have a big, bodily button on every bud. This can be a huge usability enchancment over the tiny nub that was situated on the backside of every XB700 earbud. The controls stay unchanged (and may’t be custom-made). The left earbud controls quantity: a faucet will increase it and holding down will progressively decrease it. Monitor controls are on the proper earbud: faucet as soon as for pause / play, press twice to skip tracks, and thrice to return. Holding the proper bud will summon your cellphone’s voice assistant. When you get the features down, they’re simple to recollect, and the buttons are clicky sufficient that you simply don’t should forcefully press them (and jam the buds uncomfortably deep into your ears) simply to activate the controls. Sadly, Sony omitted the frequent auto-pause characteristic whenever you take away one or each earbuds.
Three sizes of silicone ideas are included within the field. The big dimension labored about in addition to I may ask for, offering a very good, reassuring seal and respectable noise isolation. Regardless that they don’t screw into my ears in the identical means because the XB700s, the C500s by no means budged or got here unfastened whether or not I used to be consuming, speaking, or operating with them in.
As is typical for Sony buds, the sound doesn’t disappoint. Whereas the C500s lack the expansive, wealthy soundstage (and highly effective noise cancellation) of the corporate’s flagship 1000XM4s, they arrive with a superb, pretty balanced tuning out of the field. The 5.8mm drivers have properly managed bass — introduced down a rung or two from the Further Bass XB700s — detailed highs, and well-defined mids that carry vocals by on Taylor Swift’s Purple rerecording with readability and presence. In contrast to Sony’s earlier entry-level earbuds, you’ll be able to customise the EQ on these in case you do wish to crank up the decrease frequencies or give the treble somewhat extra room to breathe.
To my ears, the C500s sound higher and fuller than Jabra’s barely cheaper Elite 3 earbuds, however the Jabras outdo Sony at noise isolation and still have a transparency mode for listening to your environment (or your personal voice when on calls). Different equally priced competitors just like the Nothing Ear 1s have a extra energetic V-shaped EQ out of the field, however I like how versatile the Sonys are with customizing your most well-liked sound. You received’t get the ANC that comes with the Nothings or barely pricier buds like Anker’s Liberty Air 2 Professionals, neither is Sony’s higher-quality LDAC codec supported on the C500s. However the firm does no less than toss in a small serving to of extras like 360 Actuality Audio assist and the liberty to make use of both earbud alone.
However voice name high quality isn’t a power for Sony’s entry-level buds, and the expertise could be tough in noisy environments. If you happen to’re chatting with somebody from a quiet room, they’ll do the job. However my colleagues on The Verge opinions workforce cringed and laughed — unable to make out a phrase I stated — once I tried utilizing them on our weekly Zoom assembly at my crowded native espresso store. AirPods or Galaxy Buds 2, these aren’t. I don’t anticipate groundbreaking readability for $100, however Sony must be aiming increased right here.
Even with poor name high quality, as a whole package deal, the WF-C500s cowl the opposite fundamentals with none obtrusive tradeoffs or flaws. You could find earbuds that pack in additional options for the cash, however these Sony’s are reliable, simple to make use of, final for lengthy listening classes, and have a sound that punches past their value. They’re additionally extra compact and classy than the oddball WF-XB700s that preceded them whereas sustaining a fantastic in-ear match. If all you care about is getting a primary set of earbuds that work constantly and sound good within the course of, it can save you a heaping of money and go along with Sony’s primary buds. Typically much less is extra — except you need noise cancellation or different options that demand a better value. It’s honest to have some pause and contemplate what you’re giving up, however in case you can snag the C500s on sale (at press time they’re as little as $68), they’re removed from the worst impulse purchase you’ll ever make.
Images by Chris Welch / The Verge