Lightweight, excellent audio quality, and the software features from Sony's high-end buds stick around. Add in IPX4 waterproofing and you've got a near-invisible set of buds for anything from workouts to blocking out the office chatter.
Sony’s headphone selection is frequently the tech to beat if you’re after an excellent all-round performer but that’s the top of the lineup. Something new is due from that quarter shortly but if you can’t wait, or are on a budget, then the Sony WF-C700N in-ears are clamouring for your attention.
Briefly, these are an affordable (for Sony) pair of in-ears that don’t sacrifice much audio quality in the quest for more money for the Japanese company. There are a few sacrifices made elsewhere, most notably the battery, but overall there’s plenty to like from these R2,500 in-ears.
Light of your life
The Sony WF-C700N in-ears can be summed up in one word: light. The buds themselves are, at less than five grams a piece, lightweight enough that you’ll forget they’re there. The case is similarly feathery. It’ll slip into a pocket or bag with only a slight bulge to remind you that it’s even in there. This could work for or against you, depending on how easily you lose small items.
The earbuds, as the weight suggests, are compact. They’re made from a lightweight plastic that doesn’t have much presence in your ear canals. Indeed, the bud sits almost entirely inside your ear, with the circular button protruding enough to let you get your play/pause or noise cancellation levels on. But the fit isn’t perfect. If your silicon tips are too small, you’ll know about it as natural mouth movement will dislodge the WF-C700N buds from their ideal placement. They should withstand more jarring movements, however. Workouts shouldn’t cause any losses.
The pill-shaped case features a single indicator light and a USB-C port for charging. The lightweight nature of the whole thing is such that you’ll almost never get it to lie down flat while charging if the cable decides it wants to do something else. Just accept it. There are more important things to worry about.
At the high end
When it comes to audio quality, these obviously aren’t going to sound quite as good as Sony’s WF-1000XM4s but they’ll surprise you with their detail, clarity, and range. The CN700s use one of Sony’s own 5mm drivers. That’s how they achieve their size and weight but it’s also responsible for the excellent audio you’re jamming into your ears.
Without any sort of tweaks, you’ll experience a solid range across music genres, from synthwave to metal to classic rock. Even audiobooks come across as sounding rich and full, though your mileage varies according to whoever’s doing the narration. The Witcher‘s Doug Cockle (who narrates a certain set of Judge Dredd novels) will sound better than, say, Police Academy‘s Bobcat Goldthwaite. Again, though, that’s a matter of personal taste.
While the hardware is a step down from the top shelf, the software… isn’t. Sony’s Headphones app, which controls all of its wireless kits, does the same work for the C700Ns. Expect adaptive sound, ear-canal analysis, support for 360 Reality Audio (or Spatial Audio, depending on where you park your mobile phone), a full equaliser, and digital sound enhancement. You really don’t need to use any of it for an impressive audio experience, but you’ve got the choice.
You can’t have affordable tech without making a few sacrifices and that’s also the case here. Sony isn’t staffed by actual wizards, after all. 7.5-hour battery life is what Sony claims for the CN700 buds and that’s… mostly accurate. We found it closer to seven hours but that’s a single marathon session with active noise cancelling enabled. Bud performance is great. It’s the case that’s the issue. There’s enough room inside the lightweight pill to completely top Sony’s in-ears once. You get a total of around fifteen hours of uptime from the buds and case before everything needs to be charged. It’s not awful, but it’s lower than you might expect at this price point.
Noise cancellation also wasn’t foremost on Sony’s mind. It’s present but the buds’ build and the limitations imposed by their size mean that cancellation isn’t as excellent as you might be used to from the high-end lineup. It’s no reason to disregard the CN700 in-ears as a possible purchase but it’s something to keep in mind. If you’re intent on blocking a noisy office, you might opt for over-ears or a pricier set of buds instead.
Sony WF-C700N in-ear buds verdict
You’ll certainly get your money’s worth from Sony’s WF-C700N earbuds but you’ll have to be prepared to make a few sacrifices. The important stuff — audio quality, software features, and other smart functions — stick around. The battery, at least as far as the case is concerned, takes a knock but you can wear them uninterrupted for an entire workday. That’s not a small achievement. And the noise cancelling? That’s as much a victim of the lightweight build as it is of the reduced price point.