AirPod Competitors

Review: Sony’s True Wireless Earphones Also Come with Noise-Cancellation


June 6, 2018 Reviews By Photo by Hunter D. Kelley
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The Sony WF-SP700Ns ($178) are the follow-up to the company’s first true wireless earphones, the Sony WF-1000X, that were released in 2017. The WF-1000Xs received mixed reviews: The Verge‘s Chris Welch noting they were prone to drop-outs, poor battery life and they were difficult to set up. The new Sony WF-SP700Ns, on the other hand, are definitely different. They have a more sport-focused design, are sweat-resistant and they have on-ear buttons to control music. They also come with a completely redesigned charging case. These are active noise-canceling earphones, like the WF-1000Xs, which makes them truly unique among other true wireless earphones, like the Apple AirPods or the Jaybird Run.

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The Good: The Sony WF-SP700Ns are good true wireless earphones for runners or people working out. The customizable fit, plus swappable earwings and eartips, make them as secure as any other true wireless earphones that I’ve tested. The sound quality is very good and pretty even — not too bass heavy. For me, the best thing about the WF-SP700Ns was they get louder than any other competitor that I’ve tested, which is great because I need loud music to exercise. I didn’t have any issues with dropped signals. Phone calls come through strong and clear. The app allows you to scroll through a few default EQ settings that do make a noticeable difference in sound quality.

Who They’re For: Anybody who has trouble finding true wireless earphones that fit in their ears. They’re also perfect for runners and anybody working out, because of their secure fit and sweat-resistant design. They’re compatible with iPhone or Android, so it doesn’t particularly matter which smartphone you have.

Watch Out For: The Sony WF-SP700Ns’ active noise-canceling ability leaves something to be desired. Sometimes when you don’t turn the earbuds off before putting them back in their charging case, they’ll stay turned on and deplete their battery life. The charging case is bulky and it requires some finessing to get the individual earbuds to fit inside; they don’t easily clip in like AirPods. When watching videos on your computer, there’s a noticeable audio delay.

Alternatives: If you’re looking for noise-canceling earphones, I’d suggest the Bose QC30 ($300). They’re not truly wireless and have a pretty prominent neckband, but their noise-canceling is unmatched in the earphone realm. On the flipside, in my experience the best true wireless earphones for running are the Jaybird Run ($160+) or the Samsung IconX ($148+).

Review: With any true wireless earphones, the two most important factors are fit and sound quality — and the Sony WF-SP700Ns pass those both with flying colors. I’ve been testing them for the better of three weeks, using them as my primary running headphones, and they’re great for running and commuting to work. They fit my ears like a glove, which I can’t say about a lot of true wireless earphones, and the sound gets really loud, which is important for me because when I run… I need loud music motivation.

Beyond fit and audio quality is where the Sony WF-SP700Ns lose a bit of the luster. One of their main selling points is active noise-canceling — which no other popular true wireless earphones can do — but it’s just not as effective as I’d hoped. The WF-SP700Ns allow you to change between three modes — noise-canceling on and off, as well as an ambient noise mode to better hear the world around you — and there were many times I couldn’t tell which mode I was in because the experiences were all so similar; I would have to press the button the left earbud to make the built-in voice tell me which mode I was in. (You can also go to the Headphones Connect app to find what mode you’re in, but that’s a bit of a chore.)

Not knowing what mode the earphones are in is also a red flag when it comes to battery life; ambient and noise-canceling modes drain the earphones noticeably more quickly than when just listening to music. Also, you have to make sure that you manually turn off the earbuds before manually placing them in their charging case, otherwise what will happen is that the earbuds might not lock in, even though they’re in the charging case. This means the Bluetooth connection will still be draining battery life even though you aren’t using the earphones. I ran into this issue more than once, and the battery died on me on several occasions.

There are a few other little things that I can criticize. The charging case is bulky and feels flimsy, like the top could easily snap off. It also charges via micro-USB, which will feel dated to someone like me, whose devices mostly charge via Lightning or USB-C cables. The lights on the actual earphones are pretty well-hidden, which actually makes it difficult to tell if they’re on or off just by looking at them. And you can only use the left earbuds by itself — if you turn off the left earbud, the right one will automatically turn off.

Verdict: The faults of the Sony WF-SP700Ns add up, but they ultimately don’t take away from what they are: very good true wireless earphones that sound very good and will fit pretty much anybody. Yes, they have a sports focus, but since they lack a coaching feature or exercise-centric app (like many of Jabra’s headphones), the WF-SP700Ns are solid true wireless earphones for anybody. They’re not unreasonably expensive, either, falling in the same ballpark as Jabra’s, Apple’s, Samsung’s and Bose’s models. Just don’t buy these purely because they have active noise-cancellation.

What Others Are Saying:

• “I’ve been using these earbuds for about a week. Sound is good, they fit comfortably and snug, they have a decent Bluetooth connection, the noise canceling is hard to notice mainly because once they are fit into your ear snug there is no need for noise cancellation. The problem I have with these is that you can only use the left one solo. I am deaf in my left ear so I’m forced to put the earbud designed for the left ear into my right ear. The right one doesn’t work alone and they aren’t designed symmetrically.” — Sckroostro, Sony Reviews

Key Specs

Frequency response: 20 Hz–20,000 Hz
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Battery life: 3 hours (max)
Water-resistance: IPX4
App: Headphones Connect

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