Review: Sony WF-XB700 Truly Wireless Headphones
Sony's WF-XB700 Truly Wireless Headphones wrap a workmanlike set of features into an intrepid design, delivering solid sound in a practical package that won't blow the doors off your bank account.
On first impressions, Sony's WF-XB700 Truly Wireless headphones with EXTRA BASS are definitely distinctive. The earbud section is topped by two elliptical layers housing the driver and the battery respectively, bringing a futuristic, Martian seashell sort of vibe to the design. They twist in and fit snugly (in my ears at least), with the middle layer forming a firm seal above the bud itself. There’s no active noise cancelling, but the design does lend itself to a decent amount of passive noise cancelling, to the point where I had to watch myself walking near traffic once or twice.
The act of putting them in might take a little shine off the cool factor, as they poke out quite a way, but despite this they hang on really well – at no point when cycling, running or, critically, brushing teeth, did it feel like they were about to shake loose. They ship with four sizes of hybrid silicon rubber tips and proved comfortable to wear for extended periods, and even though they aren’t the lightest wireless earbuds around at 8 grams (0.28 oz) each, you can easily forget you’re wearing them.
The trade-off you get for the chunky size is excellent battery life. Sony claims up to nine hours of music playback from the fully charged earbuds themselves, plus another nine from the charging case – claims that stacked up in our tests. That gives you a total of 18 hours of use, which makes it pretty darn hard to run out of battery unless you’re heading off grid.
Charging time is around 2.5 hours and the case itself takes around three hours, while a quick 10-minute charge gives you around an hour of playback.
You also get IPX4 water resistance, meaning they can handle sweat and splashing, and an impressively stable connection that isn't prone to dropping out when you wander around the house.
The charging case itself feels solidly built, giving a satisfying snap when you close the lid. It’s also transparent, so you can see the charging indicators on the buds when they’re inside. And at around 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and about half that in diameter, it’s compact enough to slip in a bag or pocket.
The buds switch on and connect automatically when you remove them from the case and tell you the charge status as you pop them in. When you put them away they turn themselves off, magnetically locking into place. Other basic functions are controlled by a single button on the bottom and towards the back of each of the buds. These physical buttons are welcome, as touch controls can be fiddly and unreliable enough even when using over-the-ear headphones, but personally I feel like the button would be easier to access on the top of the unit. Then again I’ve got a head like a high-school wrestling trophy, so those of you with lesser lugholes may not encounter this problem.
The controls are fairly straightforward. The right unit handles pause and play (single push), skip track (double and triple push) and access to voice assist (long push). The left unit caters for volume (single press to increase in increments, long press to decrease). Either button can be used to accept and end calls (handy if you're only wearing one), and pairing to a new device is handled by a seven-second push of both buttons simultaneously. If you’re fumbling about in the dark trying to figure out which ear is which, the left earbud has a tactile dot near the control button. All very usable with a little practice, allowing you to leave your phone in your pocket or bag under most circumstances.
So do the Sony WF-XB700 Truly Wireless headphones with EXTRA BASS™ deliver on the extra bass? With the usual caveat that everyone’s ears are different, the short answer is yes, the bass definitely packs a meaty punch, though it lacks a little of the warmth and immersiveness you get with decent over-the-ear headphones, or when compared to our current pick for sound quality in the true wireless space, the Soundpeats H1’s. On some tracks we detected a little harshness in upper mid-range vocals, but generally the WF-XB700’s provide a well-balanced sound that prioritizes the bass like it says on the tin, but without getting carried away and making a soupy mess.
Unfortunately the WF-XB700’s are not compatible with Sony’s useful Headphones Connect app, so you can’t use presets or tweak the EQ. Nor do they support the company’s high-def LDAC codec, though iPhones only use the supported AAC codec, anyway.
Call quality using the headphones is a pleasant surprise. Perhaps it’s another positive trade-off for the chunky size, but either way the microphones do a decent job of picking up your voice and the clarity of calls is definitely workable, though as you'd expect with any wireless earbuds, ambient noise is best avoided.
For US$64.99 (AU$177 inc GST), the WF-XB700’s nail the fundamentals without blowing up your wallet. They’re well built, they’re easy to use, and they deliver solid sound, great battery life and reliable Bluetooth connectivity. The look might not suit everyone but they score high in the practicality stakes, especially if you're looking for earbuds to use while exercising.
Product page: Sony WF-XB700
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