What Hi-Fi (UK)
Sony’s cheapest true wireless earbuds offer a reliable and entertaining option for sporty types
Sony is behind some of the best-value premium true wireless earbuds around, including the multi-award-winning WF-1000XM3. So, given Sony’s reputation in the headphone world, anyone looking for a pair of more affordable, sport-friendly, true wireless buds may be tempted by the WF-XB700. Though the WF-XB700 are the cheapest model in Sony’s true wireless stable, they aren’t simply a watereddown version of the WF-1000XM3. The WF-XB700 are part of the company’s Extra Bass range of audio products and are tuned to emphasise low-frequency response, rather than deliver a neutral sonic balance. Their design is also aimed at fitness fanatics who value sweatresistance and an ergonomic fit.
The XB700 doesn’t have the WF1000XM3’S noise-cancelling functionality or Sony’s top-of-the-line processing chip – not that you should expect that at this price. Considering what they do offer for their outlay, focusing on what the XB700 doesn’t have seems rather unfair.
Not a match for the Flow
Battery life is a reasonable 18 hours – nine from the buds, nine from the case – with a 10-minute quick charge providing up to one hour of playback. That’s similar to budget sporty true wireless rivals, such as the Bose Soundsport Free – even if it doesn’t match the remarkable 30-hour figure offered by the classleading JBL Reflect Flow.
Bluetooth 5.0 is on board to provide reliable connectivity between your source and the earbuds, and a longer range between the earbuds and source than you probably need (240m).
Their IPX4 water resistance rating provides the buds (but not the case) with protection against ‘water splashing’, so if your ears perspire during workouts or you’re caught in a rain shower, the XB700 have you covered.
To help ensure the buds stay in your ears, the XB700 have oval-shaped contours that sit between the silicone ear tips (of which there are four sizes to choose from) and outer housings. At just under 3cm deep from eartip to housing edge, they are rather on the large side, but they look more of a burden than they actually feel. It helps that the buds are lightweight, at 8g each, too.
It takes a few twists to get them securely into place, but once they’re in you can almost forget about them, safe in the knowledge that it would take some knocking, or a rather rigorous button press, to dislodge them.
The XB700 have an easy-to-locate button on the underside of each earbud to control music playback, rather than a more runner-friendly touch sensor. The left earbud’s button can be pressed to increase volume and held to decrease it, while the right button is pressed once to play/pause tracks and answer/end calls, twice to skip forward and three times to skip backwards a track.
With the XB700 being part of Sony’s Extra Bass family, we have an idea as to what to expect from their sonic balance. Sure enough, they embrace the beat underpinning Ben Pearce’s re-edit of Maribou State’s Midas.
There’s meat behind their low-end, and that southern frequency substance is complemented by decent punch and pleasing tautness and agility. While bass-heavy performances can often overshadow mid and high frequencies, that isn’t the case here. The electronica, piano melody and vocal riding above the bassline come through with presence, clarity and detail – even if the synths in the mix are a little rounded off.
Their tonal balance plays into the hands of the thickset bassline in Billie Eilish’s bad guy, but doesn’t neglect the rest of the mix: Eilish’s layered, sometimes Tremolo-affected vocal and the percussive snaps are all prominent above it in the Sony’s soundstage.
Weighty and energised
There is more insight from the sporty JBL Reflect Flow and the non-sporty Cambridge Audio Melomania 1. While pg.lost’s Suffering sounds weighty and energised, the Sony’s rivals inject more space into the dense instrumentation and fill it with levels of subtlety that are overlooked by the XB700. During a sparser recording, such as Eilish and Khalid’s Lovely, these shortcomings are more evident. Even so, the Sonys have the directness to keep us entertained. The WF-XB700 aren’t among the best propositions in Sony’s headphones range. Those who don’t need these earbuds’ sportier features will be better served by one of its rivals, such as the Cambridge Audios. But they still prove up to the task of entertaining fitness fiends, thanks to their clear, punchy sonics and lightweight, comfortable build. That’s enough for them to make it onto our rather limited shortlist of budget sport true wireless earbuds.