They’re not audiophile earbuds by any means, but I’ve been a fan of Sony’s “extra bass” WF-XB700 earbuds since they were released. A big part of that is their unconventional shape, which twists into my ear canal deeper than most other earbuds for a sturdy fit that also manages to remain comfortable. But today, Sony is introducing the replacements for those earbuds, and while there are notable improvements like app support (with EQ), longer battery life, and easier controls, the overall design of the new $100 WF-C500 earbuds is definitely playing it safer. They also cost less out of the gate than the XF-XB700s did.
Sony says it decided to go for a more compact style this time, but it has maintained the IPX4 water and sweat resistance of the WF-XB700s. Battery life has increased to 10 hours of continuous playback (up from 9) and 20 hours counting case recharges (from 18). Somewhat surprisingly, the new earbuds ditch Sony’s “extra bass” sound tuning. But since the CF500s work with Sony’s mobile app, you should be able to pump up the bass using the adjustable EQ for a similar result. The company is really trying to position these as ideal for people buying their first set of true wireless earbuds.
I’m happy Sony did preserve one thing about the XB700s, though. Well, two, actually. The earbuds still have an excellent, grippy matte finish. And the top half of the charging case is still semi-translucent, so you can easily tell when the individual earbuds and case are all done charging.
The new buds also have Sony’s DSEE (digital sound enhancement engine) for upscaling audio, but that’s always come off as a little gimmicky to me — especially when we’re talking about $99.99 earbuds. What’s more useful is that they support both Fast Pair on Android and Swift Pair for quick setup on Windows. The WF-C500 earbuds are available for preorder today, and there’s a spread of exclusive colors depending on where you buy them. Sony will sell them in black, Amazon has black and white, Best Buy gets them in black and green, and Target is selling black and orange.
Sony is also introducing a new mid-range set of noise-canceling headphones. Priced at $249.99, the WH-XB910N headphones have that extra bass oomph and up to 30 hours of continuous battery life. They also carry over support for multipoint (two simultaneous Bluetooth connections), a feature that came to Sony headphones starting with the flagship WH-1000XM4s. Like those pricier headphones, these have tap and swipe controls. The enormous Sony logo is a little much for me, but that comes down to personal taste.