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Gadget of the Week

Gadget of the Week: Sony cancels noise, affordably

The WF-C700N Noise Cancelling earbuds combine features and performance, without the usual price tag, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

What is it?

The Sony WF-C700N Noise Cancelling stereo wireless earbuds provide a balanced combination of features and performance without cracking the wallet, as many of the name brands seem intent on doing with their equivalents.

The unboxing experience is superior to that of most earbuds, with cleverly designed packaging opening up to a series of pleasant visual surprises. Clear symbols act as instructions, from the unwrapping through to activation in one’s ears.

The buds offers an array of features uncommonly found at its price point, starting with active noise cancellation (ANC), and adding a transparency mode to let in external sound when needed, IPX4 water resistance for protection against sweat and light rain, and touch controls for more convenient operation.

The companion Sony Headphones Connect app allows users to customise equaliser settings and access presets for audio personalisation.

With all that, does it deliver on its main purpose, namely sound? Mostly, yes. They provide what audiophiles call a slightly warm sound signature, with a satisfying level of bass and clear and detailed mid and high frequencies.   Most importantly, it offers an excellent “soundstage”, the ability to provide a 3-D, surround sound quality that can be described as both immersive and an out-of-your-head experience. It achieves this by separating the instruments and vocals in  a way that allows you to imagine where they are on stage.

This effect can push the higher frequencies into the background, but the audio output is generally well-balanced and enjoyable.

Active noise cancellation is the standout feature, reducing ambient noise to enhance the listening experience. While it may not match the performance of pricier models, it adequately blocks out low-frequency sounds like traffic rumble or air conditioner hum. It is not quite as effective with engine noise on an airplane, but goes some way along that route. It is also less effective with higher-pitched noises.

Comfort is the WF-C700N’s second standout feature. The earbuds are lightweight and offer a secure fit, especially as Sony provides a range of ear tip sizes for users to find the ideal fit for their ears, so that they remain comfortably in place during use.

The only obvious weakness of these gadgets is their battery life. While 24 hours uninterrupted listening time on a single charge is on offer, making for satisfactory performance, this drops to as low as 8 hours when ANC is activated. However, the charging case offers an additional three full charges, providing a total of 24 hours of listening time on ANC. It is a pity that wireless charging is not supported, as its limitations make it an obvious candidate for dropping onto a charging pad whenever convenient.

All in all, the Sony WF-C700N the earbuds strike a balance between features and performance, ensuring a comfortable and immersive audio experience at an affordable price. It does not compete with higher-end models in terms of ANC quality and battery life, but is a solid option.

What does it cost?

Retail price starts at R2,289 at Takealot, but varies from different outlets.

Why does it matter?

The Sony WF-C700N offers a good balance of features and performance at a relatively affordable price, making it a good option for people who are looking for a pair of ANC earbuds without wrecking their relationships with their wallets.

What are the biggest negatives?

  • Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) is adequate but not as good as more expensive models.
  • Battery life lags its peers, especially with ANC activated.
  • It does not offer wireless charging.

What are the biggest positives?

  • Great unboxing experience.
  • Excellent “sound stage”, with immersive sound quality.
  • Exceptionally comfortable fit, enhanced by multiple ear tips in the box.
  • Convenient controls via touch and in the feature-rich companion app, with multiple presets.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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