A manufacturer of headphones and audio devices in 2020 cannot fail to have true-wireless earphones in the range, to which we have also dedicated a purchase guide. Sony has been targeting this market since 2017 when it announced the first WF-1000X with active noise cancellation, a technology that was practically impossible to find for headphones of this size at the time. These were followed by the WF-SP700N, dedicated to sportsmen, water-repellent and equipped with a design studied to remain firm in their place during physical activity.
In the past 12 months, the Japanese company has updated both of its high-end true-wireless headsets bringing the WF-1000XM3, which we reviewed some time ago, and the even more recent WF-XB700 intended for a younger audience to the market. active. I have been testing the latter for a few days and I think I got a pretty clear idea of how they are going and how cheap their purchase is today.
The design of these true wireless headphones from Sony is very particular. If we take one of the two earphones and imagine ourselves floating it in the air, the first object that comes to my mind is the Interstellar by Star Trek. The single headset is in fact made up of three parts joined together in order of size. There is the rubber that fits into the ear canal, a first protuberance that rests on the innermost part of the pavilion and a third even more external potion that remains instead protruding.
From the ergonomics point of view, they are probably not the most comfortable and stable headphones that I have tried. This is certainly a very subjective judgment, which varies according to the shape of the ear and therefore cannot apply to everyone. What is valid for everyone is certainly the weight and, for a pair of true wireless headphones, 8 grams are not a few, especially if they focus on the outside.
The result is that during physical activity, for example running, there is always the feeling that the WF XB700 are not exactly firm in their position. The two headsets are also IPX4 certified. Basically no problems with water splashes and sweat but, as mentioned, due to their conformation they are not exactly the type of headset with which I would face a training session.
Speaking of construction, however, the headphones give the impression of being well made and, despite the entirely plastic structure, they never appear too "cheap". On the market there are two colors: the blue one you see here, a little more casual and sporty, and a black one, definitely more sober and serious.
There are no touch controls but only two small physical buttons located at the base of both earphones. Despite this single physical button we have a good amount of controls available. Pressing the left button once increases the volume, keeping it pressed down. On the other hand, a single press responds to the play / pause command, while a double click allows you to go to the next song and a triple to go back to the previous one. Finally, a long press on the button of the right earpiece activates the voice assistant chosen in the configuration phase.
And let's talk about the charging case, considerably smaller than that of the WF 1000XM3. Even the finishes are not premium like those of the top-of-the-range model: the shell is simply made of rigid plastic with a rather sober matte paint and matching the color of the earphones inside: blue on blue and black on black.
At the rear we find the Type C connector for charging and the button for activating the pairing mode. I very much appreciated that the bottom of the case is flat; this allows you to place it firmly on the table when we have to store them to load them.
Inside the two earphones are positioned at an angle that makes it easy to extract even with one hand. Therefore, when the case is resting on the table, you do not need to keep it still in order to easily extract the two caps.
And let's talk a little bit about what is perhaps the fundamental aspect of each type of headset, or the sound performance. In the end we can also have the most comfortable and smartest headphones on earth but if they don't sound good, or have a bad quality microphone, we can do very little.
To immediately get rid of any doubts, let's start by talking about defects, which are more than shortcomings. The WF 1000XM3 are probably among the TW headphones with one of the best noise cancellation systems currently available but, unfortunately, Sony did not want to use this technology on board the WF XB700. There is therefore no active noise cancellation system, just as it is not possible to activate an Ambient mode that amplifies the sounds and voices that come from the surrounding environment.
Application support is also missing; or better, the Sony application with which you can manage and customize the equalization of the WF 1000XM3 is not compatible with the WF XB700 and therefore there is no way to connect them to the software and to modify any aspect of the audio reproduction. And there's more: even the self-pause when we remove the headphones from the ears is absent in this pair of earphones, despite being a function also present on lower-end products.
Fortunately, the experience from the point of view of audio quality is already excellent out-of-the-box. Obviously we cannot expect the same spatiality and sound amplitude of the top of the range model but the wording Extra Bass on the packaging says a lot about what is the feature that makes the difference in these WF XB700. The basses are very present and contribute to making the sound very full-bodied without going over the highs and mids. In this way the sound maintains a certain sharpness while being rich and full in every frequency. In short, for the price at which they are offered, the sound quality is certainly more than good, I would say almost excellent.
Overall, microphones are also good. Of course they are not at the level of those of the AirPods or other headphones with the rod that bring them closer to the mouth and manage to better separate the channels, but in any case they defend themselves well and allow you to make calls in peace without risking not being understood.
And we close the chapter by talking about autonomy. Sony promises nine hours of use on a single charge, which would mean three hours more than declared for the WF 1000XM3. This is a fairly true estimate and justified by the absence of the various technologies mentioned above. Now, it doesn't exactly get to 9 hours, let's say that it can be totaled between 8 hours and 8 and a half hours of use, which is still a very good result and certainly higher than the top model.
The case also contains a battery that is able to fully charge the headphones for once. Not a great deal, but in fact it doubles the time of use and with over 15 hours available you can safely think of reloading everything once every two days. Full charging takes just over an hour, but in just 10 minutes you can get an hour of listening.
And here we are at the final considerations. First of all, how much do these Sony WF XB700s cost? The list price is 150 euros, but on Amazon they are already often under 130. Alternatives certainly are not lacking, and include Samsung's Galaxy Buds +, which are currently available at around 110 euros and include extra features such as the Ambient Sound and a slightly higher autonomy. The Sony alternative probably wins in terms of sound quality, but is that enough?
If we then think that the WF 1000XM3, currently available on Amazon for around 200 euros, have recently been on offer for 169 euros several times, here for around 40 euros of difference it might make more sense to stay at Sony and focus on the top model . In short, the choice is yours but in all of this you always keep an eye on the street price of these WF XB700. Given the speed with which they have fallen below 130 euros, it cannot be excluded that by next autumn they may be on the threshold of 100 euros.
Excellent audio qualityPowerful bassComplete physical checksGood autonomy No noise cancellationNo ambient soundThey don't connect to the Sony appErgonomics to be reviewed