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Sony WF-XB700 Review: Powerful Earbuds That Aren't As Expensive As You May Have Imagined

Sony WF-XB700 Review: Powerful Earbuds That Aren't As Expensive As You May Have Imagined

The Sony WF-XB700 are priced at Rs 9,990 and crucially, they sit below the perception ceiling that is the Rs 10,000 sticker price, which should make this even more enticing for potential buyers.

Vishal Mathur
  • Last Updated: June 24, 2020, 1:36 PM IST
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Wireless earbuds. Everyone wants one. The stay at home routine has driven everyone bonkers and listening to music is a welcome outlet. A temporary relief. A way to keep oneself sane.

But you don't really want just any wireless earbuds do you? What you want is good quality great sound and well a lot of comfort as well. And eventually when you can travel, you will need good battery life to go with the comfort and sound. In a nutshell, just any wireless earbuds will not do. Promise has to be followed through with substance as well. That is where the Sony WF-XB700 make their presence felt. This is Sony’s long overdue refresh in the earbuds line-up.

The Sony WF-XB700 are priced at Rs 9,990 and crucially, they sit below the perception ceiling that is the Rs 10,000 sticker price, which should make this even more enticing for potential buyers. If we are to discount a lot of the riff-raff available in the market, the Sony WF-XB700 competes with the likes of the fantastic Samsung Galaxy Buds+ that are priced at Rs 11,990 and the Huawei FreeBuds 3, also around Rs 11,000, and both of which offer sound isolation and noise cancellation. Tough competition then, and users have a variety of option and feature bundles to choose from, depending on how much they are willing to spend.

Have You Also Read?

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Review: Android And iPhone Users Can Love These Brilliant Earbuds, Equally

Huawei FreeBuds 3 Review: Wireless Earbuds Done Right if You Must Have Noise Cancellation

Sony WF-XB700 competes with the likes of the fantastic Samsung Galaxy Buds+ which offer sound isolation too

Design: Not the most modern, but its industrial strength

There is no doubt about the fact that Sony is going for functional over flair as far as the visual appeal of the WF-XB700 is concerned. You get an oval designed charging case for these buds, which seems to be a bit larger than most, including the very sleek Samsung Galaxy Buds+ case. The shell is thinner on the near side and slightly thicker on the far side, which is perhaps the only real visual appeal there is. That, and the fact that you can choose these in the black and blue colour options. This is a plastic charging case yet well built. Yet, you may have to think twice about carrying this in your chinos or jeans pocket, because a bulge may be very visible—think about it!

The Sony WF-XB700 earbuds are also not the smallest. What you will notice soon enough is the rather unique design, which is what Sony calls the Tri-hold design. What this means is that when you wear them, these earbuds find three resting points inside your ear. The expected results of these would be better fit and more comfort. And that is true for the most part, since these do sit rather well in the ear. At least they did for me. You have to wear the Sony WF-XB700 and twist the buds ever so slightly to position them properly. That being said, these are big buds, and they will stick out of your ears quite prominently. Yet, they don’t have the outward weight bias and neither do they try to wriggle free as you shuffle along while wearing them.

The Sony WF-XB700 are IPX4 rated, which means they are resistant to splashes of water and sweat for instance, which makes them versatile enough for outdoor use even if the going gets a bit rough. However, do not get caught in a proper shower for too long.

I am quite intrigued by the lack of touch controls on each of the earbuds, and instead what you are get are single physical buttons on each bud. No more accidental touches to be worried about. The control mapping has been divided between the left and right earbuds. You control the volume and the hands-free voice calls with the left earbud, while the calling on the voice assistant and managing the music playback happens with the right earbud. Go figure.

Sony WF-XB700-2

The Sony WF-XB700 are IPX4 rated, which means they are resistant to splashes of water and sweat

As far as the design goes, the Sony WF-XB700 don’t look the prettiest, most certainly. Which is a bit perplexing, because I’m not exactly sure how they intend convince you to buy these amidst all the sleek and pretty earbuds. Do you really want earbuds sticking out of the ear while you are in public? But if you are willing to look past it, the fit and comfort is quite good. And that is what should matter to most users.

Performance: You win some, you lose some

I really need to get this out of the way—the Sony WF-XB700 does not have a companion app for your phone. No, it does not hook up to the Sony Connect app (free for Android and iPhone), which means there is no way for you to tweak the audio EQ. This also doesn’t have noise cancellation, so there’s nothing to control there—which also makes the size of the buds all the more perplexing.

Also, the Sony WF-XB700 does not automatically pause music or video playback in case you remove these while listening to or watching something. That means you will have to pause the playback yourself, take out the buds from your ears, have a conversation with whoever it is who has decided to give you a few seconds of their previous time, and then wear these again, restart playback and lean back. The ability to detect removal from the ear is something that we would have expected as default from earbuds made by a brand as prestigious as Sony, and it is that legacy which amplifies this miss.

Even though Sony markets the WF-XB700 as Extra Bass wireless earbuds, you needn’t be alarmed. These aren’t as bass inclined as a lot of Sony Extra Bass audio products in the past, which means you do get a semblance of balance with the sound that makes it versatile with a variety of content and genres. The bass is not over-powering and it doesn’t really prove to be a turn-off if you want to listen to something that is vocals-led, for instance, from time to time. I am quite liking this new comparatively restrained direction that Extra Bass line-up is heading in, if it really is a harbinger for the future. That being said, don’t expect the sort of sparkle that you would get from premium earbuds that have a neutral soundstage, if you are into classic rock or the genres for the more discerning taste. These are definitely geared more for the popular music genres, and those would be the popular Bollywood numbers, remixes, dance tracks and anything that is up-tempo.

In each ear, there is a 12mm audio driver, and that is one of the larger audio hardware that you will find in the wireless earbuds’ ecosystem. Even the very capable Jabra Elite 75t make do with smaller 7mm audio drivers. I would have loved the option to tweak the audio settings if it had the Sony Connect app compatibility, to see how the Sony WF-XB700 earbuds respond to more balanced EQ settings. The hardware is very much there, it is just a question of flexing its muscles—I just wish it worked with Sony’s app, because it didn’t for me on iOS or Android.

Battery life is one of the strongest points of the Sony WF-XB700. The buds last very close to 9 hours on a single charge. You can pop them into the charging case which adds another 9 hours. And that’s one additional full charge, which is a bit perplexing when most earbuds have charging cases that can do around 2 full recharge cycles, if not more.

The Last Word: It is time to drop the bass

The Sony WF-XB700 come at a time when there is considerable interest in wireless earbuds. Everyone seems to want one, and we are adding more choice everyday across price points. This does well if you need something that delivers the bass as it should, for the up-tempo music that you prefer to listen to. The robust battery life and the powerful audio hardware are definitely strong foundations. The large size of each earbud may not have too many fans, but if you go beyond the looks, there is genuine substance on delivery, for every penny you have paid.

In each ear, there is a 12mm audio driver, and that is one of the larger audio hardware that you will find in the wireless earbuds’ ecosystem

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