Hands-on review: Sony WF-C500 earbuds
I have reviewed many earbuds over the past couple of years. Some have been amazing, and some have been very questionable. However, one of my favourite earbuds to date have been the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Headphones. Those ones, however, are not nice to the wallet. This made me really excited to test out the Sony WF-C500.
Over the past couple of months, a few companies released budget earbuds before the holidays. When looking around for Christmas gifts, I was not impressed by any of them. One brand I encountered had an earbud that matched the price of Sony's WF-C500, and the quality, build and sound were just so bad I returned them the same day.
My first impressions of the WF-C500 earbuds were really good. The packaging is very similar to that of the flagship earbuds. The earbuds themselves came with a protective charging case, instructions, warranties, different size ear tips and a USB-C charging cable. While the protective case is made of plastic, I was impressed with the quality. It was light but also felt durable and well made. Despite the low price, the earbuds themselves felt really premium.
Just like the premium buds, Sony's WF-C500 budget earbuds fit really well in the ear. I had no issues wearing them for long periods. I also had no problems with them falling out during exercise. The buttons on the side of each earbud are also very easy to use. Each ear has different controls. This allows you to play, stop, skip, adjust volume, accept and reject phone calls and access voice assistants. Sadly, removing the earbuds from your ears does not automatically pause, but that should not be that big of a deal if you are not coming from a pair that does that. The Sony WF-C500 also connected very easily to any device I tried to connect them to. They are compatible with the Sony mobile app, but the app is not necessary for them to work. Pressing and holding puts the earbuds in Bluetooth mode, and then they can connect to any Bluetooth enabled device.
While all of that is great, the making of any decent earbud comes down to how good they actually sound. Yes, we all want to save money, but no one wants a patchy sound. Luckily, the WF-C500 buds actually sound really good. Out of the box they are very well balanced. They have a bass that is strong enough to be satisfying but not too strong that it overtakes all other notes. The highs and medium notes on all the songs I tested all came through beautifully. I even tested them while gaming, and the latency was not bad at all. You can't really hear it while playing through an RPG. If you connect them to the app, there is an option to also optimize the sound with an EQ if needed.
This may leave you thinking, what is the catch? If they feel great, are built well and sound great, then why are they cheap? What did Sony have to sacrifice? Well, sadly, these buds are missing a few features that any premium earbud user might be too emotionally attached to. For example, while the earbuds provide ten hours of continuous playback, the charging case only holds around one extra charge to make for two full charges in total. That is not necessarily an issue if users just make a note to charge these daily as they charge their phones. Another missing feature is the ability of wireless charging, which for me was not a big deal.
The other major thing that was left out of the Sony WF-C500s is the Active Noise Cancelation. As an active user of earbuds and headsets that have ANC, this feature was very missed. However, if you are someone who is used to not having that, or you are gifting these to someone who is just not getting into wireless earbuds, that should not be an issue.
At the end of the day, I was really impressed with these. They are reliable and they sound great. I will be keeping them fully charged on me and will use them in situations where having noise cancelling is not really a necessity.