Sony WF-C700N earbuds review: Good value with inevitable compromises

Sony’s WF-C700N earbuds give you a lot for their reasonable price of $119.99. It’s always been that way with the company’s underrated entry-level wireless earbuds dating back to 2020’s corkscrew-style WF-XB700s, and Sony has gradually added more features with each revision. The WF-C500 buttons switched to a more conventional design and added support for Sony’s companion smartphone app. And a few weeks ago came the new WF-C700N earbuds, bringing noise cancellation to Sony’s budget level for the first time.

But in recent months I’ve really come to enjoy Sony’s midrange LinkBuds S, which feel impossibly light and almost unnoticeable in your ears. Can the C700N earbuds still stand out among the company’s own lineup?

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What has always impressed me the most about this series is comfort and stability; Sony has consistently nailed the in-ear fit so well that I’ve never had any concerns about these earbuds loosening or falling off. They seal tightly and naturally shut out a lot of ambient noise, even before there was proper ANC. There’s a lot to like, and the C700N buttons seem poised to continue building the company’s momentum at this price point – even if I have a minor gripe with a change Sony made.

And that nitpicking is apparent as soon as you take them out of the box. See, both the XB700 and C500 earbuds had a semi-transparent top cover on their carrying case. This made it effortless to see the charging status of each individual earbud and the case itself, as the LEDs were visible for all three. But now Sony has moved to a completely opaque housing – perhaps a necessary trade-off to use more recycled plastic in the construction – and you’re no longer benefiting from seeing the earbud LEDs. In fact, Sony removed them completely, leaving just one indicator light on the front of the case.

The C700N are Sony’s most affordable noise canceling earphones.

Other than this one flaw, the case doesn’t feel cheap at all; it has a smooth hinge movement, closes with a nice click, and the magnets that hold the earbuds in place are plenty strong. There’s no wireless charging, but that’s an excusable omission at this price point. The pill-shaped case is longer than the LinkBuds S or 1000XM4s, but I still find it easily pocketable.

As for the earbuds themselves, the C700Ns have a design similar to their predecessors, with some elements borrowed from the LinkBuds S; the round, mesh-covered microphone cutouts are in the same spot on both products. And at just 4.6 grams per earbud, these budget earbuds provide an airy feel similar to the LinkBuds S; you can easily wear them for a few hours without ear fatigue or discomfort. They also have enough grip to make them suitable for running and gym workouts, and you don’t have to worry about them getting wet: they have the status quo IPX4 against water and sweat.

Sony’s entry-level earbuds are very light and suitable for extended listening.

The C700N is similar to the LinkBuds S, but these earbuds have physical buttons.

Installation is a breeze; Sony conveniently offers Fast Pair support on Android and Swift Pair for Windows to speed up the process with as few taps as possible. Multipoint connectivity isn’t currently available, but the company says a firmware update this summer will let you pair with two devices at once. Sony has delivered on a similar promise with the 1000XM4s and LinkBuds, so I have no reason to doubt it will, and it’s great to see multipoint trickle down to cheaper earbuds and (finally) become so ubiquitous.

The C700N earbuds don’t support Bluetooth codecs beyond standard AAC and SBC, so you’ll need to switch to the LinkBuds S if you must have Sony’s LDAC for higher bit rate playback. (Only Android users need to weigh up codec support, as the iPhone does best with AAC.) But the Headphones Connect app offers plenty of EQ control; you can choose from Sony’s presets or make your own adjustments if the ready-made sound profile isn’t what you were hoping for. I didn’t feel the need to change anything, but there’s also a slider to add some extra bass, which can be useful for certain genres of music.

The C700Ns are available in black, purple, green and white.

Sound quality is a step behind the LinkBuds S, but if you don’t compare the two in quick succession, I don’t think the C700N earbuds will disappoint. They deliver a full bass in addition to pleasant mids and highs. The overall sound balance is a noticeable upgrade from the C500, but doesn’t match the definition and dynamics of Sony’s more expensive earbuds. Higher frequencies occasionally sound a bit flat compared to the sparkle other pairs can achieve.

It’s the noise reduction and transparency modes where Sony has made some undeniable compromises. The company doesn’t make big claims about how effectively the C700N can attenuate nearby distractions, and for good reason: it’s nowhere near the level of the flagship 1000XM4 earbuds and is even less powerful than the LinkBuds S. Only Sony’s tech specs mention “noise sensor technology” for these earbuds, while the 1000XM4s and LinkBuds S both share the same dedicated chip for noise reduction purposes. It makes a difference.

The C700Ns can eliminate some low hum/junk frequencies, but otherwise you won’t notice a huge difference between turning the noise canceling on and off. That’s partly because the passive noise isolation is already quite effective. Likewise, the transparency mode is serviceable – far from the worst I’ve heard and suitable for short conversations, but not quite as natural as what you’ll get from the LinkBuds S or 1000XM4s. Voice call performance is adequate, but nothing special. You don’t want to take important calls with the C700Ns.

You get many of the same software tricks as the rest of Sony’s lineup – but no LDAC support.

Like the C500s, these have physical, clicky buttons on each earbud for control. I always prefer real buttons to gestures, which can be finicky in certain weather conditions and can become even more frustrating if you’re wearing gloves in the winter. You can reassign the button functions to some degree, but Sony doesn’t offer the same flexibility as some manufacturers. You can use one earbud to adjust volume or assign track controls to the other, but then you lose an easy way to turn on noise cancellation.

The C700Ns last up to 7.5 hours on a charge, placing them right between the LinkBuds S (six hours) and 1000XM4s (eight hours). But the case can only be fully charged once, so you can only count on about 15 hours of total listening time before needing to plug in and charge. Another way Sony tried to save some money was by removing the ear detection sensors so you miss out on auto play/pause.

Looking at the C700N earbuds through their full retail price of $120, those cost-cutting measures add up and I’d steer most people towards Sony’s middle-child LinkBuds S. They sound better, are more capable of suppressing noise, have a slightly more compact housing and support the high-fidelity LDAC codec. But I suspect that many retailers will drop the price of Sony’s entry-level buttons on a regular basis, and if you can find them for $100 or less, there’s still plenty to like. The fit remains unwavering, and you can explore a bunch of Sony software features (such as location-based sound settings, etc.). Multipoint will be a nice icing on the cake when it arrives this summer.

There’s no shortage of competition in this price range from the likes of Jabra, Skullcandy, JBL, and other earbud makers. But Sony fans are generally pretty loyal. If you’re just looking for a relatively cheap, uncomplicated pair of earbuds (and you don’t need strong noise cancellation), the C700Ns clears that bar with no problem.

Photography by Chris Welch/Acutely

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