Sony is one of the most trusted audio brands there is, you just need to take a look at the five-star rated Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds to know that, they’ve ruled T3’s guide to the best true wireless earbuds for a long time now. But not everyone has $280 / £200 lying around to spend on them.
The Sony WF-C500 wireless earbuds take everything we love about Sony’s top-tier headphones and streamline them to bring the price down. It’s clearly worked out a treat because these are some of the best cheap headphones you can buy right now.
Sony WF-C500 review: price and availability
You can buy the Sony WF-C500 now from Amazon starting from $98 in the US, £64 in the UK and AU$98 in Australia. Take a look at the widgets on this page to see more up-to-date pricing from across the web as well as where else you can buy them.
Sony WF-C500 review: design and fit
The circular bullet-shaped design of the Sony WF-C500 makes them look a lot like their pricey counterparts, keeping things stripped back and simple but still sophisticated. They come in black or white. You can also buy them in Coral Orange or Ice Green if you're feeling more adventurous. They look discreet in your ears, helped by the fact that there’s no dangling stem poking down your earlobes.
To charge them up the earbuds come in a matching pill-shaped case with a see-through plastic lid that has the Sony logo imprinted across the top. Neither the earbuds nor the case feel particularly premium because they are made from plastic but both are sturdy and seem like they are built to last.
In the box, they come with three sizes of silicone ear tips to help you find the right fit. To put them in your ears it’s just a case of sliding them in and twisting them into place.
Weighing about 5.4g each, I found them super comfortable, more so than most other wireless earbuds. They stayed securely in my ears even when I worked out in them.
With an IPX4 rating, the Sony WF-C500 are water-resistant so you’ll be able to wear them in light rain, and they’ll survive gym sweat too, although you’ll have to be careful not to drop them into a body of water because they may not survive that.
On the outside of each bud, there’s a button to control them which does mean you need to press them further into your ears to use them. If you press once on the left, you can increase the volume or hold it down to lower it. Then on the right, one press will pause or play the music, two will skip to the next track, three will skip to the last track and holding it down will launch your smartphone’s voice assistant. It’s a lot to remember but it’s quite easy to get the hang of.
When it comes to battery life, you’ll be able to listen to music for 10 hours straight, and the charging case will then provide an extra 10 hours on top of that - so you’ll get a total of 20 hours of music before plugging the case in, which is fine but I have definitely seen better.
If you do get caught short, a 10-minute charge gives you an extra hour of music, but a full charge of the case will take about 3 hours.
Sony WF-C500 review: performance and features
Powered by 5.8mm drivers, the Sony WF-C500 sound surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pair of wireless earbuds - they are balanced with a wide soundstage, tonnes of detail and plenty of energy.
While the low end isn’t that assertive, it’s still rich enough to cut through, while the treble sounds clear and crisp so you won’t lose out there. In all of that, the mids don’t get lost at all. Granted these won’t pack the same level of punch as a much pricier pair, nor will you be able to hear every inch of the track, but all things considered I was impressed at the quality of the sound across all genres of music.
You won’t get noise-cancelling here though which is a shame, but the sound isolation they provide is actually quite good because of how securely they fit.
Android and Windows users will be able to get up and running very quickly because when you take these out of the case, a notification will pop up on your screen prompting you to connect to them. You won’t even need to open your Bluetooth settings. Each time you take them out they should then connect automatically. The Sony WF-C500 use Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC and AAC codecs.
Then, it’ll ask you to download the Sony Headphones app which lets you adjust the volume level and change your settings. The app will take you through a process whereby it snaps shots of your ears and it uses that information to optimise the 360 Reality Audio feature. It’s worth knowing that it’ll only work on certain music streaming apps like Tidal, 360 by Deezer and Artist Connection.
Through the app, you can choose between a few different preset sound modes like Bright, Excited, Mellow, Treble Boost and Bass Boost. If you’d prefer, you can manually adjust the equaliser settings as well. There’s also a DSEE switch that restores high-frequency sound and fine fade-out sound so you hear the song more like how it was first recorded. That’s loads of control in comparison to similarly priced headphones, most of which don’t give you any at all.
Another feature in the app is Activity Tracking, it shows you stats on your usage of the headphones. You’ll be able to see how many days in a row you’ve listened, how long you’ve listened for and when. It’s a completely unnecessary feature but it’s also pretty interesting to find out.
When it came to making calls, you can answer and reject them without touching your phone at all. Each bud has a built-in microphone. I made a few calls with these and I sounded loud and clear to the person on the other end.
Sony WF-C500 review: verdict
The Sony WF-C500 might be basic wireless earbuds but they still offer excellent sound quality, a comfortable fit and manual equaliser settings in an easy-to-use smartphone app.
Of course, there are areas where they could be improved, like the fact that Sony could boost the case’s battery life and add noise-cancelling to the mix. But those downfalls are ultimately what keeps the price so low and they’re not that significant anyway.
Up against other similarly priced headphones, these stand out as some of the best, if not the best. If you don’t want to spend hundreds on your next pair of true wireless earbuds then the Sony WF-C500 wireless earbuds are definitely worth considering.
Sony WF-C500 review: also consider
If you desperately need loads of battery life, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus deliver a total of 50 hours of music before you need to plug the case in. That's paired with great sound and a good fit - an excellent pair of buds all in all.
Anyone who wants noise-cancelling should take a look at the Panasonic RZ-S500W instead. They're not as small or as discreet as the Sony WF-C500 but they are more feature-heavy.