Sony’s best wireless earbuds are their least expensive – here’s why

Is the WF-C500 Sony's best wireless earbuds?
(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Sony sells some of the finest wireless earbuds that money can buy. That’s a fact. No rebuttals needed.

You have the category-leading WF-1000XM4 that comes with excellent active noise cancellation (ANC), powerful sound, and a striking redesign. There’s the mid-range LinkBuds S with its robust ANC and audio performance. The Sony WF-SP800N is a solid offering for fitness lovers desiring Sony bass in a smaller package. Even the three-year-old WF-1000X3 remains a consumer favorite, thanks to its superb sound and noise reduction.

But what if I told you Sony’s best wireless earbuds were their most affordable? It’s a bold statement to make, but it’s also one with plenty of validity.

The WF-C500 is a bargain release with the spec sheet of a flagship model. How Sony managed to stuff so much functionality into these minimalist-looking buds and retail them for $99 is shocking. 

Don’t just take my word for it. Below are a few arguments for why the WF-C500 is the best Sony true wireless investment you can make.

Flagship features at a killer price?

Sony's 360 Reality Audio available on the WF-C500

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony has been incredibly generous with their special features, making them available on models across all price points. A handful remain exclusive to top-tier entries like the WF-1000XM4, but the majority can be found on the WF-C500. 

360 Reality Audio lets you enjoy 360-degree sound on compatible music services (e.g., Deezer, Tidal). Despite performing better on Sony’s upmarket buds, the technology still gives music and movies an immersive feel on these buds. We know of only one other competitor under $100 with 3D sound capabilities: the Creative Outlier Pro ANC.

Playing music on the Sony WF-C500 wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Another proprietary feature included is Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE). It works exceptionally well to upscale sound quality on compressed audio files. Our testing showed DSEE to be most useful for enhancing clarity and midrange on lo-fi recordings.

Sony’s signature bass performance is also guaranteed. A pair of 5.8mm neodymium full-range drivers sit underneath the hood and distribute punchy, well-balanced sound. Frequency range is well represented to hear impactful lows, detailed mids, and crisp highs. What’s most enticing is the EQ, which is accessible in the companion app and lets you personalize sound by manually adjusting frequencies or selecting from a wide range of well-engineered presets.

Gets many of the small things right

The Sony WF-C500 charging case surrounded by gummies

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Anyone in a successful relationship will tell you that the small things matter most. Sony’s aware of this, and though they didn’t account for everything when designing the WF-C500, they made sure to nail the basics.

For instance, battery life. A single charge gets you up to 10 hours of use. That’s nearly twice as much as the original AirPods and AirPods Pro, and more than most rivals in any price bracket. The charging case does underwhelm at 20 hours max, but Sony makes up for this with efficient quick charging (10 minutes = 1 hour of playtime).

Showing off the Sony WF-C500's ergonomic design

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Speaking of which, the WF-C500 has one of the coolest-looking charging cases out there, highlighted by a translucent design that calls back to the retro JVC Gumy earbuds packaging. Not to mention it’s compact and won’t weigh down your pockets at just 1.24 ounces.

These are some of the first wireless earbuds to operate on Bluetooth 5.2 and the technology exceeds expectations. Range extends up to 80 feet, a length that many of the best wireless earbuds struggle to achieve. Pairing to devices is quick, especially on Android devices via one-tap Google Fast Pair.

Lastly, we have the design. While it lacks the flash of all other Sony models, it’s sturdy, comes IPX4-rated for sweat and water resistance, and provides an ergonomic fit.

App support makes them futureproof (for now)

The WF-C500 paired to the Sony Headphones Connect app

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Downloading the Sony Headphones Connect app grants access to all previously mentioned features and more. Small perks like battery level indicators and a music player with volume slider serve practical use. Niche features like Bluetooth Connection Quality let you prioritize stable connectivity or sound quality; the former comes in handy for video calls.

But the app’s biggest feature is easily its updatability. Sony continues to add new features through software updates, something the WF-C500 also supports. That makes it eligible for receiving some of the latest software perks.

Bottom line – buy the WF-C500 if you want premium Sony performance for cheap

Purchase the Sony WF-C500 for $99

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

It’s tough competing with luxury wireless earbuds that boast grade-A features like adaptive ANC, personalized 3D sound, and wireless charging. However, the WF-C500 gives market staples like the AirPods Pro 2 and sibling WF-1000XM4 a run for their money by offering similar functionality at a much lower price point.

The WF-C500 retails for $99, though we’ve seen it go for as low as $68. We’re expecting it to be one of the best Black Friday deals this year, so keep your eyes peeled heading into the shopping holiday.