Priced at Dh349, Sony’s latest WF-C500 earbuds have some stiff competition. But instead of offering features such as noise cancellation, transparency mode and wireless charging, the focus here is Sony’s traditional sound signature. But is that enough for drawing in potential customers?
Design and build
The WF-C500 earbuds present quite a compact package. They are housed in a pill-shaped case that fits easily into a pocket or bag without taking up too much space. We also like that the top of the case is translucent, allowing you to easily see the three amber LED indicators, two for the earbuds and one for the case itself. And in its entirety, the build is pretty solid despite it being largely a matte plastic finish.
However, one gripe we have is with the opening and closing of the lid. Rather than using a magnet which is traditionally more durable and satisfying, the WF-C500s have a mechanical system. This means opening the lid with one hand is difficult and it also makes the earbuds’ case feel less premium.
The pill-shaped design is quite compact
Aside from that, there is only one thing left to point out, which is the Type-C USB charging port. It sits at the back of the case enabling a full charge in about an hour and some change. But through our usage, it was only able to fully charge the earbuds once and not twice, like some other competing earbuds are capable of.
Speaking of the earbuds, they are fairly solid too. Sony has opted for the same build here as on the case and quite frankly, it does the job. The earbuds are compact and also feature IPX4 resistance for sweat protection. But as opposed to touch controls, they have a large button that supports gestures.
Before we touch on gestures, let us address our experience with the earbuds in the last couple of weeks. The pairing process has been extremely straightforward, possible via Bluetooth, Google’s Fast Pair feature or through Sony’s Headphones Connect application available on both Android and iOS.
The application actually gives you a lot of customization options that competing earbuds at this price bracket rarely do. For instance, you can configure equalizer settings to best suit your preferences and also choose whether you want to prioritize sound quality or a stable connection with your device. A feature called 360 Reality Audio Setup is also available which analyses your ears to give you the most personalized sound experience.
The earbuds fit well in the ear and are easy to control
However, there is no way to configure earbud gestures. By default, a single tap on the left earbud raises volume whereas holding the button lowers volume. Conversely, a single tap on the right earbud pauses or plays a track, a double tap skips a track and a triple tap lets you go back.
Holding the button summons your smartphone’s voice assistant. Given the way this has been implemented, it will not take time before these gestures are natural. And thankfully, you do not have to press too hard for this to work meaning you will not be jamming the earbuds in your ears.
Comfort and sound quality
Of the many earbuds I have used, the WF-C500 earbuds present a pleasantly surprising experience. While a small, medium and large ear-tip is provided with these, the default one enabled a great fit in my ear. You can have to rotate them in your ear to fit but once they have been lodged in, they do not fall off. When working out, the buildup of sweat does make them slightly loose and prone to falling out but a quick wipe fixes that.
Using the Headphones Connect application is convenient and easy
As someone who is not much of an audiophile, sound quality is a difficult trait to judge. But the earbuds did sound much fuller than the competition. Bass reproduction was on point and vocal clarity was sustained throughout the higher volumes as well. The natural seal of the earbuds also provided good separation from external noise without the congestion and discomfort you typically feel when using budget-friendly noise cancellation earbuds. So, that regard, we almost like what Sony has done by omitting noise cancellation completely.
We are happy with the sound quality of the headphones
Sound quality though, is only part of the story. And we are happy to report that for watching videos too, the earbuds sustain good performance. You find no latency with audio which is great. But unfortunately, not having a feature to auto-pause a video or track when either earbud is removed is a sore miss. To wrap up, audio quality in video calls is also pretty good. However, in noisier environments, your audio becomes hard to pick up for the other side which is an aspect that should have been better implemented by Sony.
Like we pointed out earlier, the earbuds’ case give you one full recharge and not much more than that. Typically, starting at 100 per-cent battery, the WF-C500 last about 10-11 hours. Our usage was based on short bursts as well as one extended session and we think with either, users should not have too much trouble. Recharging the earbuds to full takes around an hour but a quick 10-minute charge can also give you an hour of playback on the go.
Given its omissions on paper, the Sony WF-C500 may not stand out at first. But because it is able to focus on sound quality and a do a good job, the pair of earbuds may be worth considering. If you are already reliant on wireless charging and noise cancellation with the current pair of earbuds you may have, moving to these may not be wise. But if you happen to be buying your first pair of wireless earbuds or are looking for better sound quality, you will appreciate these from Sony.