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Sony WF-C500 earbuds review: basic ain’t bad

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. Apart from the reined-in appears to be like, 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 finished away with that this time for a sound that’s far more balanced out of the field. Battery life has additionally improved barely to a formidable 10 hours of steady playback, and the C500s supply easy-to-use controls with giant buttons on every earbud.

However to hit that penny-shy-of-$100 value, Sony neglected some main options like noise cancellation, a transparency mode, wi-fi charging, and even smaller conveniences like automated pausing whenever you pull out one or each earbuds. You possibly can usually discover these helpful tips in equally priced buds, which might depart the C500s feeling like Sony omitted slightly an excessive amount of.

Verge Rating

7.5 out of 10

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Good Stuff

  • Good, steady match
  • Spectacular sound for this value stage
  • 10 hours of steady playback

Bad Stuff

  • Case solely holds one further recharge
  • No ANC or wi-fi charging
  • No auto-pause when eradicating an earbud

That mentioned, they nonetheless sound excellent for the worth; Sony not often skimps on audio high quality. And whereas I used to be anxious 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 basic as they arrive.

Earlier than I get to the earbuds themselves, a number of phrases on the charging case: Sony has downsized it considerably right into a extra pocketable capsule 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 straightforward to see the three amber LEDs inside — one for every bud and the case — and make sure that all the pieces is charging correctly.

The WF-C500 earbuds subsequent to Sony’s flagship WF-1000XM4.

Opening it with one hand will be difficult for the reason that lid makes use of resistance fairly than magnets to remain closed, nevertheless it’s not not possible if you happen to 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 not less than two further prices’ price of battery in them, so Sony’s behind the curve there. You may also rely 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. Additionally they noticeably protruded from my ears. The rationale behind the unconventional form was that it allowed them to twist deeply into the ear canal for a really steady match and optimum bass response. I favored the match, however not everybody discovered them equally as snug. With the C500s, Sony is making the latter a precedence.

The WF-C500 buds (proper) are considerably smaller than the WF-XB700 (left) that preceded them.

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 an alternative of a touch-sensitive outer floor for controls, the C500s have a big, bodily button on every bud. It is 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 personalized). The left earbud controls quantity: a faucet will increase it and holding down will step by step decrease it. Monitor controls are on the best earbud: faucet as soon as for pause / play, press twice to skip tracks, and thrice to return. Holding the best bud will summon your cellphone’s voice assistant. When you get the features down, they’re straightforward 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 function whenever you take away one or each earbuds.

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The case lid allows you to simply see when the earbuds are charging.

Three sizes of silicone suggestions are included within the field. The big measurement labored about in addition to I might ask for, offering an excellent, reassuring seal and respectable noise isolation. Although they don’t screw into my ears in the identical means because the XB700s, the C500s by no means budged or got here free 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 wonderful, 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 deliver vocals by on Taylor Swift’s Crimson rerecording with readability and presence. In contrast to Sony’s earlier entry-level earbuds, you may customise the EQ on these if you happen to do need to crank up the decrease frequencies or give the treble slightly extra room to breathe.

The C500s lack the noise cancellation, LDAC assist, and richer audio expertise of the a lot pricier 1000XM4s.

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 now have a transparency mode for listening to your environment (or your individual 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 popular sound. You received’t get the ANC that comes with the Nothings or barely pricier buds like Anker’s Liberty Air 2 Execs, neither is Sony’s higher-quality LDAC codec supported on the C500s. However the firm does not 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 energy for Sony’s entry-level buds, and the expertise will be tough in noisy environments. When you’re chatting with somebody from a quiet room, they’ll do the job. However my colleagues on The Verge evaluations workforce cringed and laughed — unable to make out a phrase I mentioned — after I tried utilizing them on our weekly Zoom assembly at my crowded native espresso store. AirPods or Galaxy Buds 2, these are usually not. I don’t anticipate groundbreaking readability for $100, however Sony ought to be aiming larger right here.

Even with poor name high quality, as an entire bundle, the WF-C500s cowl the opposite fundamentals with none obtrusive tradeoffs or flaws. Yow will discover earbuds that pack in additional options for the cash, however these Sony’s are reliable, straightforward 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 terrific in-ear match. If all you care about is getting a basic set of earbuds that work persistently and sound good within the course of, it can save you a heaping of money and go together with Sony’s basic buds. Typically much less is extra — until you need noise cancellation or different options that demand a better value. It’s truthful to have some pause and think about what you’re giving up, however if you happen to 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.

Pictures by Chris Welch / The Verge

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