Sony is not new in wireless headset game and it really delivers what users want but this new Sony WF-C500 true wireless earbuds deliver, making them an attractive option for budget shoppers who can’t quite justify the flagship WF-1000XM4s. The sound quality is surprisingly good for just $99.99, and the durable case makes you feel like they might actually last longer than a few months. Plus, the device offers a common option to connect to an app, which allows you to really dig into how you want your headphones set up.
Even at the budget price, though, the WF-C500 is missing some key features that could be a dealbreaker for some users: no transparency mode, active noise-canceling, auto pause, or wireless charging. Still, at this price point, Sony delivers a more than solid experience, even without the bells and whistles.
- Great sound quality for the price
- Sturdy case with clear charging indicators
- Comfortable, stylish fit in ear
- Customizable with Headphone Connect app from Sony
- Difficult-to-press buttons
- No active noise canceling
- No transparency mode
- Occasional connectivity issues
Hardware, desing and inside the box
At first glance, the Sony WF-C500 look like many of the non-AirPod wireless headphones out there, most closely resembling the Jabra Elite 75t and Sony’s own WF-1000XM4s. They’re a bit smaller than both, so they don’t protrude from your ear as much, and there’s something about the fit that just feels a bit more natural. They certainly aren’t flashy by any stretch of the imagination, but overall, these headphones feel good and get the job done.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the buttons on the Sony WF-C500. The touchpad buttons on each earpiece are much harder to press than a physical button, particularly given the fact that you need to press it three times in quick succession for some commands. The command system is basic, utilizing between one and three taps for commands like next song and lower volume. You can also hold down the right button to summon either Google Assistant or Alexa, which worked well, although there was a bit of a delay on the mic for commands.
I must admit that I really love the case. While some have said that the translucent plastic top makes it look cheap, it feels sturdy, which is important in a product that is going to be rattling around in your pocket or bag all day. Plus, the plastic top allows you to view the charging indicators without opening the case, which is a nice little time saver.
The case is closed with resistance rather than magnets, so it can be a little difficult to pry open, but the small lip in the lid should give you something to grab onto. Fortunately, the case does employ magnets to keep the earpieces in place, so you won’t have to fumble with them to make sure they’re actually charging. The earpieces are also waterproof with an IPX4 rating, so splashes and sweat should be no concern for users.
As for what’s in the box, the Sony WF-C500 comes with the case, a short USB-C cable, and three different silicone tips. There’s also a remarkably thick instruction manual, which this reviewer didn’t even open because setup through the app was so incredibly seamless.
Battery time, sound quality and more features
I was immediately impressed with the sound quality of the Sony WF-C500, to the point of looking up the price again to be sure these were the budget headphones I was promised. Even without adjusting the EQ in the Headphones Connect app, the sound quality was simply great for any product under $100. The audio quality was balanced as a default, not leaning heavily on the bass like many other headphones, while not sacrificing anything.
Speaking of the Headphones Connect app, it’s pretty full-featured. For one, it made set up an absolute breeze, getting the Sony WF-C500 connected to my phone in less than a minute. It also has an equalizer with several presets and custom sliders. The app tracks your usage through the Activity tab, and provides badges for milestones like daily listens in different locations. Admittedly, it’s kind of odd to gamify your listening experience, but hey, no one is forcing you to use it.
While the Head Connect app has plenty of features, the actual WF-C500 are missing a few that non-budget shoppers might miss. No active noise-canceling definitely made listening in noisy environments more difficult, and I can only imagine the unpleasantness of using them on an airplane. No transparency mode is a heartbreaker for this reviewer, as I love shopping with headphones in and hating asking people to repeat themselves as I fumble to put my headphones away. The lack of wireless charging is unfortunate but not unexpected at this price.
That’s kind of the name of the game with the Sony WF-C500: budget. They’re only $99, and expecting all those high-end features in a low-end device is going to lead to disappointment.
I did experience some connectivity issues with the Sony WF-C500, which very occasionally cut out when using my phone for messaging or checking social media. It wasn’t a huge distraction from the music, but it is worth noting that Bluetooth is still Bluetooth no matter how much you pay.
Finally, we come to battery life, an all-important metric for any buyer of consumer electronics. Fortunately, the Sony WF-C500 does pretty well here, offering 10 hours of listening time – five more than the Jabra Elite 75t and two hours more than the WF-1000XM4 – and one full charge in the case, bringing the total time to 20 hours. During my usage, the robust battery life was definitely noticeable, with no need to recharge the case once over the course of the week.
Depends. There are a lot of reasons to like the Sony WF-C500: the low price, the good sound quality, the comprehensive mobile app, and the sturdy case. All of that combines for a very solid listening and user experience that is honestly a steal at only $99. If you’ve got a budget and don’t need all the high-end features, you have found your new headphones.
If, however, you like a bit of flair to your listening experience or just need headphones to drown out a noisy environment, you might want to look elsewhere. The Sony WF-C500 lacks the potentially necessary features like noise-canceling and transparency mode that some users simply can’t do without.
Buy them if…
- You need a long-lasting battery
- You just need a no frill pair of headphones with good sound
Don’t buy them if…
- You need headphones for noisy environments
- You’ve got more than $100 to spend, and you’ll make use of premium features
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It has been a long time since I joined Research Snipers. Though I have been working as a part-time tech-news writer, it feels good to be part of the team. Besides that, I am building a finance-based blog, working as a freelance content writer/blogger, and a video editor.