Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review

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The WF-XB700 are the latest in Sony’s Extra Bass lineup. Not to be confused with the WH-XB700, which are full-sized circumaural headphones, the WF-XB700 that we are looking at today are a pair of truly wireless earbuds.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
The WF-XB700 are a more affordable alternative to Sony’s popular but expensive WF-1000XM3 earphones. These do not include the active noise-canceling and some of the more advanced features of the WF-1000XM3 but have a more standard feature set with the addition of Extra Bass sound. At $130, the WF-XB700 are a full $100 cheaper than the WF-1000XM3 and more in line with the Samsung Galaxy Buds and the standard Apple AirPods.

While not the cheapest truly wireless earphones on the market, the Sony WF-XB700 could potentially be a good choice for someone looking for a quality product from a more reputable brand rather than picking something up from Amazon’s bargain bin. Let’s see how well they fare, especially against established rivals.

Design

The WF-XB700 come in a now-common pill-shaped case. The case is a bit larger than what most truly wireless earphones have but the reason for that does become apparent later on when you take the earphones out.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
The case is finished in matte plastic and feels quite nice. The lid is translucent, which allows you to see the status LEDs for the case, and the individual earphones inside without opening it. Having said that, the LEDs for the case and earphones point in a different direction so you can’t always see them all at a glance from the same angle.

The back of the case has a USB-C connector for charging.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
Opening up the lid, you notice that the case design is tilted forward, making the earphones angled towards you. The effect is similar to opening a case for a piece of jewelry but is likely done so you can see all the LEDs more clearly from outside when the lid is closed. But as we discussed before, that doesn’t quite work.

Before I get to the earphones themselves, I want to mention that the lid has quite a satisfying opening and closing mechanism. It’s clear Sony engineers paid some attention to the case design, and it is indeed quite a bit nicer than those you get with cheap truly wireless earphones.

Now, on to the earphones. When you pull one of these out you realize why the case is so much taller than most other truly wireless earphone cases. The earphones seem massive at first and larger than what I had anticipated based on pictures. It’s an almost alien-looking enclosure, with a perfectly normal exterior and then all sorts of shapes and appendages bulging out of it. There are three layers to the design, the outer case, then a second layer that sits inside your outer ear, and then finally the part that goes in your ear.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
All of this gives the WF-XB700 earphones quite a unique appearance and at first, I wasn’t sure how this even goes in my ears. My initial assessment that the Sony logo on the outside would be horizontal once I wear them was wrong and the logo sits almost vertical once they are in your ears. Once you figure that out, putting them on is as easy as any other earphones.

The manual for these earphones seems to recommend that you twist them while inserting in your ears but I wouldn’t quite recommend that. The earphones go in fine even without twisting and it’s very easy to put excessive pressure on your ears while twisting them in so it seems a bit unsafe as well.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
Both the earphones have one button each for controlling all the functions. The list of functions seems excessive at first but as you use them you get used to it. The button on the left controls volume; you press to increase and press and hold to decrease. The button on the right controls the playback; press once to play/pause, twice to skip forward, thrice to skip back. If you press and hold it activates the voice assistant on your phone. Both the left and right buttons can be pressed to pick up/end calls.

I’ll say this about the buttons; Sony had the common sense to implement the buttons on the side of the earphones rather on top of them. This means you can press them without pressing the entire earphone deeper into your ears. The number of manufacturers who fail to grasp this basic design concept is baffling.

The size of the earphones is a bit large and they also stick out a fair bit out of your ears. This means you can’t comfortably wear them in bed. It’s also not particularly comfortable to wear them with a face mask, especially if you have smaller ears like mine that get pulled in by the elastic straps.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
Another issue with the design of the WF-XB700 is that it seems to be held in place just by the ear tips inside your ears. While it never felt like they would fall out, due to the additional mass hanging out, the earphones tend to bounce in your ears when you walk or run. This is due to the shock that goes up through your heels when they hit the ground, which causes the body of the earphones to bounce as it’s only held in place at one point. This creates a small but noticeable vibration in your ears every time you walk on a hard surface that may or may not bother you.

The neat thing about the design of the WF-XB700 is that it is IPX4 rated for water resistance. This means you can wear them during workouts or in the rain without worrying about water or sweat damage. They are not, however, rated for use underwater. Also, the rating is just for the earphones and not the case.

Comfort

The WF-XB700 are a reasonably comfortable pair of earphones. The silicone ear tips are soft and the default size fits my ears perfectly. If that’s not the case for you, there are two additional sizes in the box.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
However, for the reasons mentioned in the previous section, I wasn’t always happy with these earphones. The vibrations while walking were quite noticeable and not something I could ignore. It also seems that a part of the plastic molding sits against my ear in a particular way that for short durations isn’t noticeable at all but if I wear them for upwards of 30 minutes I do feel a strain around the entrance of the ear canal. This may be due to the earphones essentially using this region to anchor their entire weight instead of using things like fins that some other earphones use.

So for short, sedentary sessions, I was perfectly happy with the comfort of these earphones but I wouldn’t use these for extended sessions or running. However, comfort for in-ears can be quite subjective based on ear sizes so your mileage will vary.

Software and features

The WF-XB700 are not compatible with Sony’s Headphone Connect app. This means you can’t customize the sound, update the firmware or access any additional functions. You are pretty much limited to what you get out of the box and whatever your connected phone has to offer.

The WF-XB700 support Bluetooth 5.0, however, there is no multi-device pairing support. In terms of codecs, you are limited to SBC and AAC but as I often say in these reviews, what codecs you have has less of an impact on audio quality than how the codec is implemented and how the audio is coded, decoded and then processed.

The WF-XB700 lack NFC so any pairing has to be done manually. Out of the box, they are already in pairing mode so you are good to go. If you need to repair them, just press and hold buttons on both the earphones for seven seconds to put them into pairing mode.

The odd thing with the WF-XB700 is that announcements regarding connectivity and pairing often happen in just the left earphone even when both are in use. Both earphones will announce their individual battery status but for everything else that concerns them both, the announcement only happens in one ear. Not sure what the logic behind that is.

Performance

The Sony WF-XB700 are good-sounding pair of earphones. The sound has obviously been designed to accentuate the bass but the rest of the audio spectrum is surprisingly well-balanced. This is a departure from what we normally see on Sony Extra Bass Headphones that feature a lop-sided sound signature that makes it hard to notice anything else in the sound other than the bass.

Starting with the low-end, the WF-XB700 have perhaps one of the most restrained bass boosts I’ve heard in Sony’s history. Not shy of going all-out, Sony’s Extra Bass products often feature a bombastic bottom-end that overwhelms your eardrums. The WF-XB700 takes a more tasteful approach here, with a measured twist of the volume dial across the entire bass range. We are talking not much more than about 5dB boost across the range.

What this does is give a nice little kick to the low-end without blowing it out of proportions. Drums and other percussion instruments have a deeper thump to them without losing their essence. Electronic bass drops are just that bit more enjoyable without blowing your ears. There is a bit of rumble and boominess as a result of boosting frequencies that weren’t meant to be boosted but it isn’t too distracting here and depending on the content (movies, games) may even be enjoyable.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
Perhaps the best thing about this measured bass response is that it doesn’t spill into the mid-range, which is surprisingly clean and natural. There is no annoying low-mid boost that just makes male voices sound artificial and annoying. On tracks that don’t have a ton of bass, you can still hear all the instruments and vocals clearly enough and it’s not the case where if the bass doesn’t show up, the party is canceled.

The high-end is not perfect but it’s also not terrible. There does seem to be a bit of a dip in the lower-treble range but it seems to pick up later. This causes a small drop in detail and presence in string instruments and female vocals but the higher-end detail comes through with things like cymbal crashes. So there is a bit of an imbalance there and some S and T sounds could come through stronger than intended but overall the high-end isn’t too shabby as you get genuine presence and extension in a region that I’m just not used to in modern Sony audio.

When seen as a whole, the audio signature can best be described as fun. While bass boost audio products are designed to be fun, they often sacrifice so much at the altar of bass that there’s usually nothing else left to hear in the sound. The WF-XB700 lets you have your cake and eat it too; you can enjoy a tastefully applied bass boost while also being able to make out the vocals and instruments in the sound.

Now granted it’s not the most detailed or soulful sound and even the relatively restrained bass boost might not be for everyone. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds and the new Buds+ have audio accuracy down pat, with a perfectly clean, neutral, and detailed sound the likes of which you rarely get from Bluetooth earphones. But the WF-XB700 are clearly not going for accuracy so that’s not a fair comparison. And in any case, they sound leagues better than the standard Apple AirPods.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
Coming back to the WF-XB700, the earphones have great imaging performance that is now expected of any half-decent pair of earphones or headphones. The soundstage isn’t phenomenal; you aren’t getting a speaker-like experience here, but at the same time it’s reasonably spacious without sounding too boxed-in.

There are a couple of niggles with the sound. One, the audio on these earphones can never be true 0%. Even at the lowest volume level you can hear the sound still faintly playing in the background. This is not an issue as such but just something worth noting.

The other one is a bit more bothersome. There is a fair bit of background noise that can be audible under the right circumstances. If you are listening to these in a quiet room then you can make out the noise in the background when nothing else is playing. It’s especially easy to notice when the DAC/amp inside the earphones kick in and out. When the earphones aren’t playing anything, the audio system shuts down till it receives a signal. Sometimes apps on phones can send a signal even when there is no sound, for things like GIFs, for example. This will cause the hardware to kick into action and if you happen to be wearing them in a relatively quiet room it’s extremely easy to hear the hiss playing on the speakers and then go quiet again when the signal drops.

Background hiss is a common issue on Bluetooth products, especially cheaper ones as the components aren’t high enough quality to bother ironing out these issues. It’s not that bothersome and not noticeable at all when playing music but if you are an audiophile or coming over from wired headphones then you probably wouldn’t be too happy about this.

Audio latency on the WF-XB700 is acceptable. It wasn’t too distracting while watching videos and didn’t hinder my gameplay experience, either.

The microphone performance is decent. Voices do sound a bit robotic and you can hear the noise-canceling algorithm working between pauses but overall the sound is acceptable for calls.

Battery

The WF-XB700 have a claimed continuous battery life of 9 hours. The case provides one additional charge for another 9 hours of use, so a combined 18 hours of battery life.

During my usual battery drain test, the WF-XB700 went on for about 9 and a half hours of continuous playback. That’s much longer than most truly wireless earphones in its class, including the Galaxy Buds and Apple AirPods, and close to the more expensive Galaxy Buds+. The combined 18 hours might not seem that impressive compared to other models but the WF-XB700 offers more of it continuously rather than splitting it up over multiple charges.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
Speaking of charging, this is something that takes a while on the WF-XB700. Charging the earphones takes 2.5 hours and charging the case itself takes 3 hours. The earphones also get fairly warm when they are charging within the case and putting them on like that isn’t particularly pleasant.

Sony has a fast charge solution of sorts, which provides an hour of battery life after just 10 minutes in the case. This does work as advertised and the earphones lasted a fair bit longer than an hour in my test. This should be fine for most situations but be prepared for a long wait for a full charge.

Verdict

As mentioned in the beginning, the Sony WF-XB700 are priced at around $130, which is a perfectly reasonable amount of money for a non-entry-level model from a reputed company. And for the price, I think the WF-XB700 is really good value.

The key takeaway for me here is the audio quality, which is quite good and not something you can take for granted with truly wireless earphones. After using a fair number of these I have come to the sad realization that only a few of them have some semblance of good audio quality while most are just abysmal. Most of the cost just goes into making sure they work at all as it’s not easy to execute this form factor, so there’s usually very little attention being paid to how they sound. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t personally daily drive a truly wireless earphone set.
Sony WF-XB700 truly wireless earphones review
But the WF-XB700 does buck the trend somewhat and is among the better sounding sets on the market. The emphasis is very much on having extra bass as it says on the tin but the rest of the audio signature is also surprisingly well-balanced. A set like this would normally be reserved for use during workouts, especially with things like its IPX4 water-resistance rating but I found they are quite usable for critical listening as well and I don’t necessarily long to switch them out for something better if I just want to sit down and listen to some music. It also helps that the battery life is quite good, as has generally been the case with a lot of Sony Bluetooth products.

So overall, for $130, the WF-XB700 are an attractive option. I would still recommend the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ if you want a more neutral sound but for those who like a bit of bass boost without compromising too much on the rest of the sound, the WF-XB700 are a solid purchase and get my recommendation.

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