Sony's new entry-level C500 earbuds were released just a few weeks ago. Now they're already on sale in white at Amazon for $68 or $32 off their $100 list price for a limited time.
While the C500's design sensibility has more in common with the high-end WF-1000XM4 than their predecessor, the WF-XB700 Extra Bass, the C500 is not a noise-canceling model and is pretty basic as far as earbuds go, with no ear-detection sensors or transparency mode. But the buds are compact, lightweight, fit comfortably and sound good for an entry-level model.
While these earbuds have background noise reduction during voice calls, they only have one microphone in each earbud. Many earbuds now have two or more microphones to help process ambient noise and capture your voice.
Read more: Best noise-canceling headphones for 2021
In some ways these are similar to Jabra's new $80 Elite 3 earbuds, delivering respectable sound quality for less than $100. I don't love the shape of Sony's ear tips and went with a pair of large Sennheiser tips to get a tight seal (these use Sony's older ear tips, while the new WF-1000XM4 have redesigned tips that are better but don't fit my ears perfectly). A tight seal is crucial for optimal sound quality and getting maximum bass performance.
The C500 don't have the richer, more refined (and dynamic) sound of the WF-1000XM4, but they have ample bass and decent clarity, as Sony says they benefit from its Digital Sound Enhancement Engine technology that it says helps "restore high frequency sound to create a more authentic listening experience." The same digital processing technology is found in the 1000XM4 models.
They lean warmer (the treble isn't harsh), which I prefer, and enables you to have longer listening sessions without experiencing listening fatigue. They interface with the Sony Headphones Connect app, so they will be able to get firmware updates.
I liked that they're equipped with physical controls (not touch) and I found it easy to advance tracks with a double tap on the right bud. You can adjust the volume by double tapping on the left earbud (raising volume) or holding the button down (lower volume).
The earbuds are rated IPX4, so they're splash-proof, and offer up to 10 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels on a single charge. That's impressive battery life. There's also an extra charge in the charging case, which uses USB-C.
I wouldn't say the C500 looks or feels cheap, but like the WF-XB700, they don't feel like premium earbuds. When they were released in September, I predicted their street price would be closer to $70 as we head into the holiday buying season. Sure enough they now are. I do expect to see price dips on the three other colors (the green version appears to be exclusive to Best Buy right now) in the coming weeks.