Sony WF-C500

Sony WF-C500

Verdict

The Sony WF-C500 earbuds are a great pick for shoppers on a tight budget who don’t want to compromise on clarity. These admittedly cheap in-ear headphones do an astonishing job for the price – especially given they were released back in 2021 – with dynamic sound that’s great on dialogue, instrumentals, and higher frequencies, whether you’re listening to music, podcasts, or calls.

Pros

  • Clear, lively audio
  • Ergonomic fit
  • Very reasonable price

Cons

  • No ANC
  • Lacks bass
  • Basic materials


  • True wirelessNo cables, earband, or other hardware to worry about

  • IPX4 ratingProtected against splashes of water and sweat

  • Fast chargingGet an hour of juice from just 10 minutes quick charge

Introduction

The Sony WF-C500 earbuds are excellent true wireless earbuds from a manufacturer that makes some of the best headphones out there, from the in-ear WF-1000XM5 to the over-ear WH-1000XM5.

But for anyone determined to spend under $100 on their new headphones, the WF-C500 is probably the model you want.

What’s curious about the WF-C500 is how affordable they are: at just $70 / £50, you’d be forgiven for thinking these earbuds must underdeliver when it comes to audio quality, features, or design. And while the construction is certainly cheap, and you’re lacking any of the premium features like Active Noise Cancelation (ANC) or touch-sensitive controls found on higher-end models, these basic earbuds do their primary function (music! sound!) exceptionally well.

Design

  • Simple plastic
  • Fun colour options, from Coral to ‘Ice Green’
  • Easy to operate

The Sony WF-C500 earbuds are very simple in their construction, and rather compact, without the need for button-free touch detection or a surface covered in inputs.

There’s just one circular button on each earbud, which responds to a light touch – no need to push into your ear too hard to get a reaction. A single click on the right earbud pauses or restarts playback, while a double click skips to the next song on your playlist; a single click on the left earbud activates your smartphone’s voice assistant.

Sony WF-C500 close upSony WF-C500 close up
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

My review sample came in a pleasing Coral Orange, and the WF-C500 are notable for their eye-catching colours, including an Ice Green model alongside more traditional black and white colourways.

Each bud is very lightweight, at just 5.4g each, meaning they can hang in the ear for a long time without issue – an upside to the lack of surplus hardware. The rounded shape of the earbud fits easily into the ear, with a choice of three ear tip sizes to ensure a good fit; they aren’t specifically sports earbuds or designed to stay in place during fast motion, though we had no issues while walking, running, or lifting weights during our tests.

The charging case (35g) is also a simple affair, with a plastic construction and a transparent case lid that lets you see whether the earbuds are inside at a quick glance. The case charges via USB-C, though the included cable is offensively short (around 10-15cm) which may limit how easily you can charge it in certain locations.

Sony WF-C500 cable and caseSony WF-C500 cable and case
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Features

  • 20 hours of battery, including charging case
  • Fast charging in 10 minutes
  • IPX4 water resistant

These earbuds are water resistant, with an IPX4 rating you’ll also find on Sony’s flagship true wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM5. The WF-C500 can handle light rain or small splashes of water, so you can walk in poor weather or get sweaty in the gym, but a plunge in a pool or wearing them in the bath would be inadvisable.

Battery life caps out at 20 hours, which seemed plenty in my tests – I never quite ran out of juice from the charging case. But the earbuds themselves last for 10 hours before needing to be recharged, which is another potential benefit of simpler hardware: their performance isn’t quite as energy intensive as flagship models. 

Sony WF-C500 charging caseSony WF-C500 charging case
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

A fast charging option offers up to an hour of playback after just 10 minutes of charge – fancier models might do the same in just three minutes, but it’s still a welcome feature here. You’re advised to charge for 2.5-3 hours to get the case’s battery maxed out, too.

Each earbud packs in a single microphone, allowing for hands-free calls, and recording quality is certainly good enough for the purpose – though I found that connection quality dropped a little during calls, compared to regular use. You are making do with the Bluetooth 5.0 standard rather than the latest 5.3 standard, so don’t expect the most advanced version of the wireless tech.

Sound Quality

  • Lively, clear sound
  • Great instrument separation
  • Bass is predictably flat

At just $70 / £50, you’re not getting premium drivers or the sound recreation possible with Sony’s more advanced WF-1000XM5 buds.

That said, the Sony WF-C500 earbuds do a great job within their limitations. Sound is lively, dynamic, and surprisingly clear – without any of the harsh sounds or crackling output that’s often possible on cheaper buds. The audio is held together brilliantly, and the WF-C500 earbuds excel particularly with speech and instrumentals, whether you’re listening to podcasts, movie soundtracks, or modern pop.

The one thing that’s nigh impossible to get with in-ear headphones is decent bass reproduction, and the WF-C500s are no exception. Low frequencies are flattened out, lacking drivers that would allow for substantial vibration, despite a purported 20Hz – 20kHz frequency range.

These earbuds largely get away with it, thanks to how well they recreate higher and mid-range frequencies: while bass may be absent, the present frequencies are produced with aplomb, and you can still hear the ghost of what the bass was intended to be, or when it was meant to be audible.

Sony WF-C500 earphone designSony WF-C500 earphone design
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The clarity of these earbuds also helps when competing with outside noise. There’s little-to-no sound isolation in these compact, feature-light headphones, and certainly nothing approaching ANC, which actively counteracts environmental noise to help you hear your music better. The precise audio output in the WF-C500s can cut through some noise, but it’s no replacement for either cushioned earcups or ANC: if you’re planning on wearing these on a loud train journey, or in a bustling gym that’s blasting its own soundtrack over the speakers, you might struggle to hear much, or end up pushing the volume past safe listening levels.

The Sony Headphones Connect app is worth downloaded, due to its mix of EQ presets, which should help you tailor the sound output to your personal tastes. The initial Bright preset is good for making the sound a little livelier, while a Mellow or Relaxed preset should dampen the sound but make the earbuds more comfortable to wear for longer periods, and there are other options for highlighting speech and dialogue. For in-ear headphones like these, though, the Bass Boost option doesn’t appear to impact much – what’s there to boost?

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Should you buy it?

You want great audio quality at a very low price

The best thing about the WF-C500 is the price, but it offers a great deal of clarity and detail alongside. A brilliant deal for those shopping on a tight budget

You want to listen in noisy environments

If you’re a gym-goer or commuter, then these earphones may not be the right ones for you. Their clarity can cut through some outside noise, but there’s a limit to what they can do without proper sound isolation or active noise cancelling features

Final Thoughts

The Sony WF-C500 earbuds are exceptional budget earbuds, with a clarity of purpose only matched by the clarity of its sound. It makes do with minimal features on the whole, but it has enough going for it to tick the most important boxes – good audio, clear voices, simple operation, solid battery life, USB-C charging, and the ability to connect to a smart assistant. 

If anything, this simplicity is part of the charm. There are better headphones out there, but not for such a reasonable price.

How we test

We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.

Battery drain carried out

Tested across several weeks

Tested with real world use

FAQs

How long is Sony WF-C500’s battery life?

You can get 10 hours from a single charge, with another ten hours available from the cradle.

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