Recently, I have been testing many TWS earbuds from different manufacturers, mainly Chinese ones. And only now Japanese products began to reach me. First there were a couple of debut products from Panasonic (RZ-S300W and RZ-S500W). And now it’s Sony’s turn, and the debut of its WF-XB700. And to be honest, at first I was a little confused, despite, as I thought, huge experience. But I persevered…
When it comes to fully wireless ear buds, most often I can get an almost complete picture of the device on the first day of use. In the future, it remains to test only the moments that require long-term use – such as the battery life and the connection in different situations.
But sometimes it happens that the existence of a product has to be justified. First of all, I’m trying to understand why the manufacturer made the device this way. And Sony WF-XB700 raised a lot of questions from the start. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Read also: All reviews of wireless earbuds
Positioning and price
In the Sony TWS line, the WF-XB700 model belongs to the inexpensive segment, the official cost of the headset is about 120 USD, but now it is available at a reduced cost of $100. However, in the market as a whole, this is the mid-budget segment, which has recently been filled with good offers, including models with active noise cancellation (ANC), three microphones to improve voice transmission and support for audiophile AAC and aptX codecs. For example, Tronsmart Apollo Bold or Huawei FreeBuds 3i. Looking ahead, I note that the WF-XB700 does not have these features. But how will this device attract buyers? We will find out.
Sony WF-XB700: What’s in the box
In this regard, everything is standard… there is a thin cardboard box with prints and all the information, inside there is another thick black cardboard box, in which we find a charging case and headphones in a plastic holder. All elements are located in separate niches.
Under the plastic layer there are 3 silicone tips of different sizes, a short charging cable with Sony embossed on the Type-C plug body and China on USB-A. And a thick package of paper manuals in different languages.
Design, materials, elements’ configuration and build quality
To be honest, when I first examined the Sony WF-XB700, I was a little shocked. It’s like I traveled back in time. There is a complete disregard for all modern miniaturization trends.
The case and headphones look gigantic compared to the sleek ear buds from competitors. It’s like Sony never seen real-life people before. It’s hard to believe that it was the Japanese who developed the WF-XB700, and not some giant Scandinavian dudes. The proportions are seriously gigantic!
The charging case in the form of a rounded box is massive.
The materials can be called high-quality, but only by the standards of the 80-90s of the last century. Remember the disgusting plastic of yore? Yeah, it’s back.
In the case of the Sony WF-XB700 we get no “grand piano gloss”, intricate metallized coatings or at least some flirting with color. Just sturdy black matte plastic. The surface finish is deliberately coarse and rough, it reminded me of Sony DSLRs.
Although there is a version of the headset in blue, and it looks quite neat:
Further, when studying the design of the case, the manufacturer continues to amaze with the neglect of fashion trends. For example, fixing the cover in the closed and open positions is realized not with a magnetic lock, which is traditional for the industry, but with a system of internal springs.
Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the cover is not just black, but is made of translucent tinted plastic, so LED indicators are visible through it. All of diodes are by no means miniature and glow red during charging.
The niches are also large, marked with L (white) and R (red), 3 pins are used to charge the headphones.
On the back of the case is a USB-C connector for charging.
Below the cover is flat, here you can find information about the model, manufacturer (made in Vietnam) and the address of the European importer.
Let’s move on to the buds. They are made to match the case – massive, with a coarse outside, repeating the finish of the case; there is also a Sony logo here.
The shape is complex, the earpiece can be conditionally divided into 2 cases – an internal ergonomic insert which ends with a removable silicone tip, and an external case with contacts, an indicator and a mechanical control button. The two parts of the bud are separated by a section of glossy plastic.
What also surprised me is that there is no mesh, just a tube through which the driver’s speaker is visible. I don’t know how to comment on this. It is what it is.
In general, the design is “well tailored and tightly stitched”. The product seems and feels extremely sturdy.
For example, it seems to me that the case will be able to survive more than one fall from several meters onto a hard surface and nothing will happen to it. It is brutal, but practical. Obviously, for reasons I don’t understand, Sony can afford to completely ignore modern trends when creating TWS earbuds. And you know, if at first this approach is a little overwhelming, then after a short time you begin to even like this philosophy and such a purely practical approach even begins to command respect.
On top of that, the earbuds have IPX4 protection against moisture – not great, but at least something, it means sweat and a light rain won’t be an issue.
Sudden fact. Despite the monstrous appearance, the Sony WF-XB700 is quite comfortable to use. Of course, the case is large, and it is not comfortable to carry it in every pocket. And even in my shoulder bag there is not enough space for it, the headphones fit with difficulty and then you have to slightly pull the fabric to fasten the zipper. In short, you need a larger bag, or even better – a backpack. Or a bigger and wider pocket.
But on the other hand, you take the case in your hands, and without looking it is immediately clear which side to open and just as without looking you can get the headphones and fit them in the auricles. And the headphones fit like a glove!
Again – physical buttons. Yes, not fashionable. But damn it, so reliable! And there is a place to grip to provide support when pressed. Overall, the buds are clearly designed with male fingers in mind.
But due to the peculiarities of the fit in the ears, the center of mass of the earbuds is displaced upward and it seemed to me that with sudden movements (for example, during training), the sealing in the ear canal is regularly broken, as the earphones begin to slide down. But perhaps these are the structural features of my auricles. Although physics and gravity cannot be fooled…
Of course, your appearance with these huge buds in your ears will be somewhat ridiculous compared to “normal” people with compact headsets like AirPods. Therefore, women won’t probably like WF-XB700. But if you are a large bearded individual who refuses to wear hat in winter and don’t really care about appearances… why not? Perhaps the big Sony logos in your ears will just add to your image. Forgive me for the involuntary eruption of sexism, but in my opinion, this model is purely masculine, far from unisex.
Connection and control
Unfortunately, Sony WF-XB700 does not have mobile app support. Therefore, no additional settings, improvements, customization or firmware updates are provided for them. For the sake of fairness, I note that the device already works without any glitches and bugs, nothing needs to be fixed.
So, everything is simple – we connect the headset through the smartphone’s Bluetooth menu and use it. The earbuds automatically turn on when removed from the case, informing in a female voice about the status of the current battery charge and connecting to the main device.
The control is carried out using two mechanical buttons on the lower edges of the outer shell. Single press on any button means pause or play. Double on the right earpiece means the next track, on the left – increasing the volume. Long hold, respectively, launches the voice assistant and decreases the volume. Single press during an incoming call to answer, long press to hang up, double press during a call to end. That’s all.
Unfortunately, there is no proximity sensor (auto-pause). But during a conversation, the ambient sound function is automatically turned on and headphones through external microphones mix ambient sounds into the conversation, and you will also hear your voice better.
Sony WF-XB700 sound
In general, the sound of the headphones is good. Apparently, mainly due to the use of large dynamic drivers with a diameter of 12 mm. In addition, neodymium magnets are used in the speakers. In fact, all the frequencies are in place, the high frequencies are very sonorous and detailed. And the maximum volume is at a decent level.
But I would not say that the sound is outright outstanding. Despite the proud EXTRA BASS inscription on the box, low frequencies are fine by default, not much better than many other earbuds. In general, the sound quality is really good, in addition, it can be easily adjusted according to personal preferences using the equalizer in the smartphone.
But here’s the catch – the headphones only support the standard SBC codec when streaming music. In 2020, the lack of lossless support in the form of AAC looks a bit wild to me. It seems to me that any potential buyer who considers himself an audiophile simply will not consider these headphones for listening to music for this very reason.
Microphones and voice transmission
Once again, not bad, but nothing outstanding. The fact is that the Sony WF-XB700 uses a classic noise-canceling voice transmission system with two microphones in each earbud. You can also use one earbud as a headset.
But at this point, the industry has made significant headway over the past year. Many models use a third internal microphone that listens to you through your ear and dramatically improves voice transmission. And in some models, like the Galaxy Buds Live and Huawei FreeBuds Pro, even bone conduction sensors are installed.
In fact, the microphones themselves in the Sony WF-XB700 are great. And you can count on excellent voice transmission in a quiet environment. But in difficult conditions on the street and in transport, when there is a lot of noise around, the results are seriously inferior to the new models with three microphones. It is worth considering this if the voice communication function is important to you.
Here everything fine. This model offers impressive reliability of the connection and support for streaming music without interruption through several reinforced concrete walls. Although, of course, the SBC codec itself is very resistant to obstacles and interference, it is also obvious that Sony have chosen good antennas. In general, I recommend it if this parameter is especially important for you. Although, the main competitors have also been improving in this regard.
The headset supports simultaneous parallel connection to a signal source via Bluetooth, in addition, the 5th version of Bluetooth is used. So everything is fine, delays are almost not noticeable when watching videos and playing games.
To be honest – not bad, even good, but I expected more. Taking into account the large dimensions of the headphone cases, they could have installed larger batteries here. But we have what we have – 9 hours of music playback, which in general is excellent, but the more compact Galaxy Buds+ boast 11 hours!
The included charging case provides one more full battery charge and means +9 hours of music listening (18 hours in total). Again, given the size of the case, I was a little disappointed. More compact equivalents in the competition provide from 20 to 30 hours of total battery life.
The time to fully charge the earbuds in the case is about 2.5 hours, the full charge of the case takes 3 hours. At the same time, Sony on the official page declares support for fast charging: “After 10 minutes of fast charging, you can listen to your favorite music for another 60 minutes.” Cool, but competitors have the same thing.
Overall, Sony has released decent earbuds… for 2018. But in the current modern realities, it looks a little out of place and even silly. As for the size of the device and the the materials, these moments can be understood, forgiven and even liked by sime. The main drawback of Sony WF-XB700 is the lack of support for modern codecs that transmit music at high bit rates. In addition, there is a huge number of competitive models on the market which for the similar price have better noise control, internal microphones and support for mobile apps.
However, I’m pretty sure Sony’s purely utilitarian approach to TWS can find its fans. First of all, among the loyal fans of the brand. I would like to note the high practicality of the solution, the general comfort of use and convenient control, as well as decent sound, reliable connection without delays and good battery life.
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