I listen to a lot of music, averaging over 50 hours of music a week and that’s on top of the 8+ hours of podcasts I listen to. So I was really interested in seeing Sony’s WH-XB700 headphones when they were on offer to our team for review. Not just because I like music, but they’re a really affordable option so I wanted to see just how much bang for your buck Sony is offering.
Let’s get the basics out of the way: These are Bluetooth 4.2 Wireless headphones supporting A2DP and the range is really impressive. They are not noise cancelling and, for some, that may be a deal breaker. They are however very comfortable, offering a number of cool features and far more affordable than a lot of options on the market at the moment.
There’s the usual expected 3.5mm line to allow you to connect your headphones to the appropriate jack on any given device. This is particularly useful if you’re travelling or your batteries run out on the wireless.
I’m very impressed with the fact that for a relatively cheap set of headphones, Sony have included both Alexa and Google Assistant functionality. I’m not personally worried about the iDevices of the world on this front. I did briefly connect these to my friends iPhone, they work perfectly well – just no Siri functionality.
Sony have delivered an excellent assistant-based experience. Once you have the Assistant running, hearing your notifications is a single button press away. Responding is as easy as holding the assistant button and using voice controls as you would on any other Assistant driven device.
The functionality here is very simple in delivery and powerful in functionality.
I’ve been listening to these for a couple of weeks and there’s a lot to like about them, the sound is just one of the facets that have kept me happily using them.
What are they good at?
I don’t recall ever being disappointed with sound from Sony devices and the WH-XB700 have maintained that record. Right out of the box the sound was full, crisp and reasonably well balanced.
The comfort levels are high, really high. I’m so happy with the padding and comfort levels, particularly for on-ear headphones. I wear glasses and have found many pairs of on-ear remarkably uncomfortable over time where the pressure has pushed my ears onto the arms of my glasses. I didn’t get that and the with the padding through the bar being as soft as it is, the whole set is really lightweight and comfortable for long listening periods.
The battery contributes greatly to this longer listening capability too. On paper it takes about 4 hours to charge to full capacity and will last through about 30 hours of continuous music playback on a single charge. My experience over the last few weeks shows this is bang on the money.
I’m lucky enough that my employer allows us to listen to music through the day and I’m yet to need to recharge these outside my normal routine. Aside from the one time I forgot to charge them over the weekend and I got confirmed that about 15 minutes of charging will get you about 4 hours of playback before you get continual “battery low, recharge battery” warnings continually. So a top up charge before you leave for your commute home should well and truly see you through if you need it.
What are they less good at?
There’s a couple of minor design and customer experience areas I’d like to see improved.
While very comfortable and soft, the material covering the earpieces is pleather, which I’m not a huge fan of. Not because it’s a bad material or any other specific failing of the material. More than anything I’m just not convinced of the longevity of the material. I’ve had some gaming headsets in the past where the pleather has broken down over time which (given the cost of them) ended up being a really disappointing outcome.
On the subject of longevity; I think it would be a really nice addition for a case to protect them in your travels. Partly because I feel that when buyers part with $250 of their own cash, they deserve a really good experience and even though these are cheaper than Bose QC35 II, Jabra Elite 85H and even the JBL 710GA they deserve to be looked after and protected.
I’d also like to see some sort of guarantee against water ingress into the headphones. Whether that is a “weather proof” or more definite IP rating, it would be peace of mind for buyers who are parting with a not-insignificant amount of their hard earned cash.
Design and Features
Like I’ve already said, there’s a lot to like about the Sony WH-XB700 headphones and honestly very little to criticise. You’ll get the headphones, a 1.2 meter long 3.5mm cable and a USB C cable necessary to charge the headphones. Unfortunately as mentioned, no case.
The design team have made some really clever decisions here in the frame. The earpieces swivel from front to back easily and smoothly, but they also hinge in the frame up and down slightly. This results in the earpieces sitting flat and comfortably on your ears regardless of how strangely shaped your head may be.
Couple this clever design with the more than ample padding on the frame and earpieces and you’ve got a really comfortable set of headphones. This included a number of trips to the gym where the comfort levels were consistent and the headphones felt really solid and stable on my head; even when I was moving around a lot.
The button layout is pretty standard. On the right earpiece you’ll find a play/pause button between the volume up and down buttons. On the left earpiece is located the power and assistant trigger button.
The implementation of Google Assistant is simple and solid. When connected to an Android device, you’re immediately promoted to enable Assistant and allow it access to your notifications. Once you’ve enabled this you’ll relieve a notification to your headphones when they’re on which tells you what app has triggered it
Presenting to the notification is as some as tapping the Assistant button, replying (where possible) is done by holding the Assistant button down during or at the completion of a notification read out.
There’s two areas of sound quality I want to look at here and they’re both important in the context of mobile connected headphones. That is audio quality for needing playback and call audio quality.
Anyone who has had Sony sound gear in the past will be familiar with their sound, it’s somewhat distinctive and perhaps a touch (depending on your sound preference) somewhat bass heavy. While I’m very eclectic with my listening habits, I do tend to gravitate towards rock and metal which within reason benefits from solid bass. So the initial impression of the sound was that its full and pretty well balanced for my listening preferences.
The Sony WH-XB700 provides big sound without the big bucks outlay
It was mentioned earlier that they’re not noise cancelling, but honestly that really didn’t hinder my thoughts too much. Yes I have noise cancelling headphones and yes I use the function pretty readily, but the comfort level of these and the generous ear padding goes beyond muffling the sound around you – it blocks out a lot of ambient sound.
Out of the box the sound was great as soon as I paired them to my phone. It didn’t require me to tune them at all for me to be really happy with the sound. They had surprisingly good clarity of sound in the mid-range which gave a fantastic “full” feel to the sound. The bass was full and punchy – everything you expect from Sony XB (Xtra Bass) devices and the high range was really crisp.
The sound capabilities here made theses headphones particularly capable for my personal listening habits which is pretty diverse but leans towards rock and metal. Equally capable of these and a more placid orchestral score. I’m really struggling to find any worthy criticism of these for the sound. Particularly compared to other options on the market, I just can’t reasonably find anything to complain about.
Should you buy a pair of these?
Unless you’re travelling regularly or have some other driving need for noise cancelling – HELL YES.
Sony have delivered everything (and more) that users could reasonably expect from a decent, but not top level set of headphones. The really simple breakdown is that they’re comfy, the sound is solid and the battery life is brilliant.
The WH-XB700 has a feature set that will make the vast majority of buyers happy including the implementation of Google Assistant. When you consider the RRP is AUD$249.95 they are far from entry level, but also offer buyers far better sound and functions than an $80 setup.
If you’re not a regular traveller – I’m absolutely confident that the sound quality and comfort, coupled with the price will make these excellent value and performance prospect for any buyer.