Apple’s AirPods remain the gold standard for exercise audio. They’re low-key, they function beautifully with iPhones, the audio quality is strong, and they’re plenty water-resistant for the majority of workouts (inside or outside). Despite this, not everyone appreciates the AirPods’ ubiquity—maybe the earbud tips don’t settle in your ears properly, maybe you don’t like that there are several different versions ranging from $129 to $250 a pair. Whatever the case, Sony’s new $119 Truly Wireless In-Ear Headphones would like to fill that void. Available for pre-order now and purchase April 17, here’s what you need to know.
What Are Sony Truly Wireless In-Ear Headphones?
Sony has been beefing up its entry-level headphone selection for years now, but the WF-C700N in-ear headphones are the first serious attempt at cracking into the wireless earbud market.
The Sony workout earbuds do support active noise-cancellation (ANC) natively, though, like AirPods, we don’t expect complete noise elimination from them—turn to the brand’s higher-end option if drowning out the rest of the world is your top priority. The tiny headphones are equipped with Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) Extreme as well as 5mm drivers for more powerful bass and solid vocals for calls.
They’re IPX4-rated, meaning they’re “protected against splashing water at any angle.” This is the same waterproofing rating given to AirPods, which in practice means they’re fit for working out in everything but heavy rain (please don’t swim with them in).
Features-wise, they’re extremely similar to the mainline AirPods—solid waterproofing, low-profile design, and accessible price point. We’ll wait to render judgment on audio and voice quality until we get a pair for review, but Sony’s track record is strong. It’s also worth mentioning they advertise a 7.5-hour battery life (with ANC enabled), which is 90 minutes longer than what AirPods can manage.
What’s Good About Sony In-Ear Headphones?
Strong audio quality
You’d expect Sony to have audio quality down pat, and they do. The brand’s AirPods competitor is fitted with what it calls its Digital Sound Enhancement Engine and, when compared ear-to-ear with my AirPods Pros, I simply prefer the Sonys. They get plenty loud if you’re someone to blast metal while you workout, but it’s the middle-high range of volume where they shine. I can pick out background instruments and sounds I typically can’t without hi-fi headphones or listening on a decent vinyl setup. I didn’t notice any change or drop in quality listening on my iPhone, my MacBook, or a PC desktop computer. The app, which I wasn’t all that excited about having to download, is actually helpful if you’re someone who wants to dial in the kind of sound you want.
Extended battery life
Sony’s earbuds advertise up to 15 hours of listening, but that includes the case’s recharge. I listened through three full charges of just the earbuds and got 7, 7.5, and 7 hours of listening time out of them. This is roughly 2 hours more than AirPods. It should be noted that battery life depends heavily on whether you’re simply listening to music or if you’re taking lots of phone calls—it’s evident calls drain battery on all wireless earbuds more quickly than listening.
Adaptive noise cancelling
I was skeptical about this function. It’s meant to adjust the level of noise cancellation provided depending on what’s going on around you, automatically. For instance, you could be listening to music on your computer and have the world shut out, but if your partner shouts your name it’s designed to cut the noise cancellation. To my surprise, this works pretty well. I can barely hear my lawnmower while wearing them cutting the lawn, but when my partner pulled in the driveway and hollered at me the ANC dimmed and I could hear them asking for help with the groceries. For someone who enjoys shutting out the world but is always worried I’m going to miss something, this is invaluable.
Undeniably good value
They’re $120, which is less than any model of Apple’s AirPods, and seeing as I already prefer the audio quality of the Sonys to my AirPods, it stands to reason that the Sonys are, at the very least, worthy rivals. Stack the more comfortable fit of the Sonys, the surprisingly functional adaptive ANC, and a couple extra hours of battery and they make for an easy recommendation.
What’s Not Good About Sony In-Ear Headphones?
More convenient with non-Apple products
It’s unfortunate that the biggest knock on Sony’s WFC700n earbuds is that they’re not Apple, but that’s the world we live in. AirPods are more convenient to use if you have an iPhone—plus other Apple hardware. The pairing process for AirPods is virtually automatic, where it takes a few more steps with non-Apple Bluetooth connections. This isn’t a huge pain with your phone, but my MacBook struggled to identify the Sonys for a strangely long time, where my PC desktop found and connected to them with no issues. These are nitpicks, but even the need for a companion app is a buzzkill. I can’t quickly flick my phone screen and see how much battery I have left like AirPods—I’ve gotta unlock my phone, swipe to the Sony audio app, and generally fiddle with my phone more than I’d like to. This is really only troublesome mid-workout, but that’s one of the main use cases for the earbuds. The Sonys also disconnected several times while taking phone calls, which my AirPods have never done.
I’m still using the Sonys at the gym and for listening to music around the house, but I don’t use them for calls on my phone or those on the computer for work.
The Bottom Line
Sony has a strong track record of providing solid non-Apple audio options in recent years, and usually—as is the case here—at significant discounts. If you have an Android phone, don’t love how AirPods fit, or just want to save a few bucks, Sony’s new Truly Wireless headphones are absolutely worth buying.