The XB700 is another fun pair of wireless earbuds from Sony. Battery life is exceptionally long, and the audio performance offers plenty of entertainment with a punchy, bassy sound at an affordable price
- Excellent battery life
- Fun, punchy sound
- Powerful sub-bass
- Quite large
- No active noise cancellation
- Review Price: £129
- 9-hour battery
- Battery case with one additional charge
- USB-C charging
- IPX4 water resistance
The Sony WF-XB700 are a little like the brilliant Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earphones, with three important differences.
These earphones cost less, they don’t have active noise cancellation and are part of the Extra Bass family. The sound quality of Extra Bass-series headphones varies wildly, but the Sony WF-XB700 are among the best.
They have bonus bass, but are not clogged with the stuff. Battery life is also among the longest available in a true wireless earphone, even beating Sony’s own claim of nine hours per charge.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 are stronger in other ways. They have more features and look better. But those after a classy sounding bassy earphone can’t go far wrong here.
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Sony WF-XB700 design — Larger than you might expect
The Sony WF-XB700 are large true wireless earphones. Pop them in, look in the mirror and you may not love their appearance. I don’t. They stick out a little and their backs are round blobs that may be larger than you expect.
You tend to have to put up with larger earphones if you want a true wireless pair that lasts longer than 4-5 hours. It’s a fair trade for the kind of real-world practicality the WF-XB700 offer.
A larger earpiece also makes weighting important. The caps of these earphones feel prosaic, perhaps even a little cheap for a £130 Sony headphone, but do help keep weight low and make the XL-size design a non-issue.
I find the Sony WF-XB700 comfortable to wear, and they stay in place perfectly well during runs. This isn’t just due to its low weight. The inner part of the earphone has a lip of plastic that nestles behind your tragus (the inner side of your ear). And the tip that roots them in your ear canal is standard soft silicon.
These earphones may not be particularly pretty, but the shape works perfectly for my ears. It’s a sport style in a largely non-sporty earphone.
Their active side is not restricted to an ear-hugging fit. The Sony WF-XB700 have IPX4 water resistance, for protection against water splashes from any direction. They are fine with sweat and rain, but give them a wipe down rather than rinse under a tap, should they get a bit mucky.
There’s a certain unfussy pragmatism to the Sony WF-XB700. You see this in the case too. It’s made of the same light textured plastic as the earpiece caps and looks like a miniature glasses case. It feels a lot cheaper than the case of the last true wireless pair I reviewed, the Klipsch T5 True Wireless. It’s larger too, but is very light.
Sony WF-XB700 features — Exceptional battery life
Battery life is almost bizarrely good. I set these earphones to play a Spotify radio station overnight, and they still had plenty of charge left the next day.
You get low battery audio warnings when the Sony WF-XB700 reach 20% charge, but in total they lasted a quite incredible 11 hours 39 minutes total. This is almost three hours longer than the claimed stamina, playing at the sort of volume I normally use to listen to music indoors. I ran the test again and still saw 11 hours and change.
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These are some of the longest-lasting true wireless earphones I have ever used. You only get one extra charge’s worth of battery in the case, but it is no issue when the earbuds themselves last so long.
They are not, however, particularly aggressive about switching themselves off when used casually, so real-world battery life may seem worse unless you turn them off or disconnect them from your phone when not listening.
Long battery life is the one major win here. The Sony WF-XB700 do not have active noise cancellation; the best way to get rid of the bassy hums of car engines and the general noise of city life.
All isolation is provided by the tips. As such, their noise reduction is more linear. It’s not ideal for noisy public transport, and does not zap sonic stress in the way the ANC XF-1000XM3 can.
The Sony WF-XB700 do not support aptX either, a codec used to get sound from your phone to your earphones at higher quality. This leaves us with the basic Bluetooth audio codec, SBC, and AAC.
AAC is what an iPhone would use anyway. And nowadays Androids support AAC too, so it is unlikely you will be left with bog-standard SBC streaming. However, the latency and quality of AAC streaming on Android varies quite a bit between phones.
These earphones do have NFC, to let you pair to a phone without messing about in Settings menus. I have no complaints about the actual Bluetooth transmission. They don’t drop signal and pair painlessly every time.
Sound quality — Good, impactful bass performance
I approach Sony’s Extra Bass headphones with trepidation. Sometimes they are good, like the WH-XB900N. Sometimes they are less so, like the stodgy Sony MDR-XB650BT.
The Sony WF-XB700 are among the most tasteful Extra Bass headphones I’ve heard. They give you the promised bass boost without turning the sounds into a gelatine-homogenised mass.
These earphones have powerful low bass, which adds a muscular power to music, and makes them great for listening while exercising. It also helps when you wear the Sony WF-XB700 in a noisier environment. Delicate-sounding earphones aren’t the best fit for the London Tube.
The bass isn’t infinitely manicured audiophile stuff. It probably shouldn’t be. That’s not what the Extra Bass series is about.
It has a tendency to give kick drums the character of a ball thrown against the ground. There’s plenty of impact and punch. And while there’s a certain normalisation of this impact between songs that overwrites the specific tonal qualities of bass instruments, it’s no boomy mess and it’s good fun.
This is the best kind of character for a “bass” earphone. Songs that don’t have lots of low frequency content do not sound overly pumped-up. But put on an album that has plenty, like Jon Hopkins’s Immunity, and the WF-XB700 lend it exciting power.
The Sony WF-XB700 also have good stereo imaging and solid separation for a bassy earphone.
There’s a fibrous quality to the upper mids, though, which gives the texture of vocals a slightly raw, rather than refined, character. And it’s not an entirely natural one. However, this is a suitable way to balance the deep bass, and a smarter one than simply piling more energy into the treble.
After a more neutral approach from your earphones? You probably don’t want what the Extra Bass series if offering then.
Should you buy the Sony WF-XB700?
The Sony WF-XB700 are a great pair to buy as a first true wireless earphone, or even a first wireless pair if you still use a wired set.
None of the issues of the true wireless category are present here. They last for ages between charges, should fit in most ears well, are suitable for exercise and sound good too. The Sony WF-XB700 offer a fun bass boost without the excessive bloat or murkiness of lesser bassy pairs. The result? A fun listen.
They aren’t the best-looking earphones around and some parts feel a little cheap, but at least some of this done to keep the weight down for practical reasons.
If long battery life is not your top priority, consider the Sony WF-1000XM3 too. They are a little more expensive, but have active noise cancellation. They’re very handy for city life.
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