Sony attacks the mid-range with its true wireless WF-XB700 earphones. Will the promise of long battery life and "powerful and punchy" bass be enough to stand out in an already saturated market?
The WF-XB700 are positioned as the first price of true wireless headphones from Sony. With these earphones, the Japanese firm hopes to seduce a young clientele, lover of urban music, by including them in its Extra Bass range, which promises an emphasis on bass in order to make them "powerful and punchy". The autonomy of this product would also have been optimized to reach the generous threshold of 9 hours per charge.
Apart from that, the technical data sheet of these true wireless headphones is classic to say the least: IPX4 certification, Bluetooth 5.0 connection, mechanical buttons, USB-C port on the charging box ... Nothing much differentiating at first glance from the myriad of products already existing on the market.
- Very good stereophonic width
- Record autonomy (11 h per charge)
- Simplicity of use, complete controls
- Good passive isolation
- Perfectible sound precision
- Extreme bass a little too forward
- No multipoint Bluetooth connection
Manufacturing & accessories
Although they don't have much in common with their WF-1000XM3 cousins, the WF-XB700 once again show Sony's preference for large earphones. The chassis of each earphone consists of an integrated stabilizer combined with a plate that protrudes significantly from the user's head, making the whole thing very unobtrusive. The charging unit, also of good size, does not easily find its place in all pockets. That said, the whole thing is easy to handle with one hand, especially when it comes to removing and replacing the earphones in the case. The integrated magnetic system is very practical in this case.
Without being of a high level of quality, the whole shows a certain robustness. We also appreciate the use of a slightly grainy matte coating (also present on the WH-XB900N headphones of the same manufacturer) which prevents the appearance of unsightly fingerprints, while offering a good grip of the headphones. The whole is promised as splash resistant, which ensures a use in all peace under the rain or during occasional physical activities.
The WF-XB700 comes with a USB-C to USB-A charging cable of about twenty centimeters as well as four pairs of silicone tips of different sizes.
Comfort & fit
Despite their large size, XB700s are relatively comfortable. Once the right earmold size is selected, they fit naturally in the ear canal. A small rotation, a quarter of a turn, is necessary so that the integrated stabilizer can be lodged at the level of the concha of the auricle. This ensures that the ITEs stay in place perfectly, even with the most abrupt head movements.
Due to their design, the XB700s seal the entrance to the ear canal perfectly, providing very good passive isolation. The insertion of the earphones is also accompanied by a relatively present feeling of pressure, which can cause an unpleasant bubble effect for people sensitive to this phenomenon. This cut of the surrounding sounds cannot moreover be compensated since no mode "transparent" is integrated on these ear-phones.
No frills when it comes to the operation of the WF-XB700, which is as simple as possible. Each earphone has a physical button assigned to the most common actions such as managing music playback, calls or listening volume. Pairing out of the box is done automatically, but it is still possible to force it by pressing both buttons simultaneously for 7 seconds. The user is guided by a few voice prompts (only in English) that are heard each time the device is turned on, allowing the user to know the status of the pairing of the headphones as well as the remaining battery level. Note that, like many of its direct competitors, the WF-XB700 are not compatible with the multipoint pairing function, and can therefore only communicate with one device at a time. No application of parameter setting is proposed.
True wireless obliges, the manufacturer obviously does not forget to promise us a perfectly fluid and stable Bluetooth connection, in particular thanks to a technology of communication close to Qualcomm True Stereo Plus. Each earphone would be connected directly to the source, unlike the classic "master/slave" system. In practice, however, we found that the left earphone retained the role of "master", thus preventing the use of the other earphone when the first is stored in the box - frustrating. Fortunately, the left earpiece can be used independently, with an automatic switch to mono in this case. We also encountered some stability issues during our test in the form of micro-cuts. Without making the user experience unbearable, the phenomenon can sometimes be annoying due to its totally random appearance.
As far as battery life is concerned, we obtained excellent results, well above Sony's initial promise of 9 hours, by reaching 11 hours of listening at moderate volume. The WF-XB700 are as good as Samsung's Buds+, the reigning champions of autonomy in our true wireless headphone tests.
The case provided is not the most generous, however. Despite its size, it only offers a little more than one extra charge. That's not much, since most models on the market allow at least two full charges of the headphones.
The XB700s offer good voice pickup in quiet environments. Although a little muffled, the voice remains clear and intelligible and you will have no trouble making yourself understood by your interlocutor. In noisy environments, the noise reduction algorithm works well. Even if the intelligibility of our voice deteriorates, it remains perceptible and understandable. Be careful though, some loud noises may cut off words forcing the user to repeat himself.
We measured a Bluetooth broadcast delay of 230ms. It's not the worst, but it's still annoying, especially during certain games or when you press the headphones' mechanical buttons. Despite this, the headphones are able to compensate for this delay automatically on the majority of mobile video applications, so you won't feel this lag when watching content on these platforms.
Sony's Extra Bass line has never sounded better than with these WF-XB700s.
Frequency response measurement - The supercharged bass sound can be flattering, but it can also accelerate hearing fatigue in some sensitive individuals.Frequency response metric - Boosted bass can be flattering, but it can also accelerate hearing fatigue in some sensitive individuals.
Sony's true wireless headphones are very generous in the bass range. This strong accentuation significantly reinforces the seating and the sensation of depth, of immersion coming from this zone. The effect sought by the manufacturer would nevertheless have deserved more subtlety and control: the attacks are well marked, but the loudspeakers struggle to return to a stationary state, thus causing a sort of resonance and masking effects from the extreme lows to the low mids.
The lack of precision induced by this behavior complicates the identification of certain sources located mainly in the low frequencies (bass drum and more generally the large percussions, double bass, bass, cello...). This sensation of confusion, of mass, is less felt on music with frank and spaced kicks for which the accentuation of the extreme lows has a more flattering rendering.
Harmonic distortion measurement (normalized to 94 dB SPL, at 1 kHz). The XF-XB700's distortion is very low. You really have to push the headphones to maximum volume to get signal deterioration and aggressive highs.
Fortunately, the WF-XB700 are more balanced in the rest of the spectrum. Voices stand out naturally and are always intelligible. The timbres are generally well respected. Although the highs are not really precise and detailed, we appreciate the very good extension to the highest frequencies and the very good stereophonic separation which allow us to obtain a wide and relatively airy scene, despite the sometimes difficult identification of certain elements in the depth.