Sony WF-XB700 wireless earbuds review: Extra bass, extra sacrifice
The first thing I noticed about the WF-XB700 was its unique design. Instead of the common oval shape with a tip jutting off the bottom that goes into your ear, Sony opted for a “Tri-hold” design. The earbuds rest on your ears in three different spots, which the company says creates a more ergonomic fit and increases comfort. The more chiseled and contoured shape does indeed rest on your ear in three places, but the earbuds themselves are huge and stick out from your head quite far. This isn’t a new problem for Sony: The flagship WF-1000XM3s also look like small antennas. True wireless earbuds are trending smaller, especially the more affordable models, but Sony isn’t slimming down just yet.
Due to the larger size, the WF-XB700 aren’t as comfortable as Sony would have you believe. That Tri-hold design may live up to its name, but the shape doesn’t really make these more comfy. When it comes to earbuds, smaller and lighter is better, so when bigger buds stick out your ear like these do, it doesn’t feel that great — especially when you try to wear them for long periods of time. Because there’s significant weight on the outside of your ear, these wiggle loose during runs or cardio workouts. Even though the WF-XB700 is IPX4 rated for water splashes, which is enough for sweat resistance, the size and weight distribution of the earbuds make them awkward for physical activity.
Instead of touch controls on the outside of the earbuds or physical ones along the top, Sony chose to put a single, tiny button on the bottom edge on both sides. Despite only having a single button, you still have a full range of controls. On the left, you press once to increase the volume and press-and-hold to turn it down. On the right, press once to play/pause, press twice to skip tracks forward and press three times to skip tracks backward. A press-and-hold on the right earbud will summon the voice assistant of your choice. And lastly that button on the right side is used to answer and end calls. The WF-XB700 doesn’t have ANC or an ambient sound mode, so these controls cover everything that’s available without reaching for your phone. They’re not only simple, but they’re also reliable. I didn’t have any trouble getting those tricky double and triple clicks to register accurately.
The pill-shaped charging case is noticeably smaller than the one that comes with the WF-1000XM3. It also doesn’t have the soft-touch coating or metallic-colored lid that gives the case for those pricier buds a more refined look. It’s simple hard plastic with a USB-C port around back. One nice thing is that the case has a flat bottom, so it stands up on your desk. What’s more, the earbuds are situated at an angle inside, so they’re easy to grab with one hand. You don’t need to hold the case with your other hand to pull out an earbud. A lot of companies overlook this seemingly minor detail, but as someone who has reviewed several dozen true wireless models, a case that sits up on its own when it’s open is a nice touch. To me, it just makes life slightly easier.
One of the best features of the higher-end WF-1000XM3 is the ability to adjust everything from noise cancellation to the EQ inside Sony’s Headphones app. This isn’t unique to Sony earbuds as several companies offer companion apps with similar functionality. Unfortunately, the WF-XB700 don’t work with the app. It’s not just that some features aren’t available either. These earbuds won’t even connect with the software. That means any customization is out the window. The WF-XB700 also doesn’t automatically pause when you take them out of your ear, which is a slightly bigger nuisance than some of the other omissions. It’s not surprising that these $130 earbuds don’t have ANC or fancier touch controls, but it would be nice to be able to apply a sound preset or tweak the EQ as needed. Or at least have them pause your music when you remove one bud to have a quick conversation.