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The Sony WF-C500 charging case resting on a white surface with both earbuds inside.

Sony WF-C500 review

Comfortable everyday earbuds for exercising and commuting.

Published onMay 9, 2024

Sony WF-C500
The bottom line
The Sony WF-C500 makes for a comfortable commuting and workout companion. You might miss having ANC in loud environments, but decent isolation helps account for a bit of that while the lightweight design is easily worn all day long.

Sony WF-C500

The Sony WF-C500 makes for a comfortable commuting and workout companion. You might miss having ANC in loud environments, but decent isolation helps account for a bit of that while the lightweight design is easily worn all day long.
Product release date
September 29, 2021
Original: $99 USD
June 2022: $69 USD
80 x 34.9 x 30.9 mm (case)
11g (earbuds)
Model Number
What we like
Small and lightweight
Comfortable ear tips
Sound quality
IPX4 rating
What we don't like
Only supports AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs
No noise canceling
SoundGuys Rating
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Isolation / Attenuation
Durability / Build Quality
Battery Life

Sony produces an array of great headphones and earphones, so the Sony WF-C500 stands on the shoulders of giants. These earbuds boast plenty of battery life, high-tech sounding features, stellar audio, and more, but the in-ear market is crowded with many similar offerings. Does the Sony WF-C500 stand tall enough to distinguish itself from the best true wireless earbuds under $100?

Editor’s note: This review was updated on May 9, 2024, to answer more FAQs and ensure the timeliness of the information within.

Everyday listeners will likely find the sound quality and fit of the Sony WF-C500 good as they go about their daily activities and commutes. Exercise enthusiasts won’t mind the absence of active noise canceling (ANC) and will appreciate the IPX4 rating from Sony’s earbuds.

What’s it like to use the Sony WF-C500?

Two images with the left one showing the left Sony WF-C500 being worn in a person's ear and the right one showing the same for the right earbud.
The Sony WF-C500 rests inside your ears, not on your face, which keeps it out of the way during your activities.

The Sony WF-C500 is small and lightweight, targeting on-the-go listeners for these earbuds. The buds are mostly plastic, but they’re IPX4-rated for sweat and splash resistance, making them handy for workouts and commutes.

Sony provides three sets of ear tips (small, medium, and large), and to get the most comfortable and secure fit, I need to use the largest ear tip size for my left ear and the middle size for my right. The ear tips strike a good balance between being soft enough to mold inside the ear and stiff enough to hold the buds in place. The round side of each bud rests up inside the ear’s cartilage and keeps them in place, which gives you a target to aim for when using touch controls. Because the buds don’t rest on the face in any way, they are more secure when chewing, talking, or removing a mask. Eventually, They still lose a bit of their seal, but it’s a comfortable and reasonably good fit overall.

The Sony Headphones Connect headphone app on a smartphone with a hand reaching out to the terms of use warning.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Remember, you must accept the end-user license agreement to access the Headphones Connect app.

The WF-C500 earbuds come in a small, solid charging case that adds some bulk to a pocket but won’t drag you down. It stays flat and stable on its long side when closed or open, but dropping it will cause the lid to open and may eject one or both buds. Magnets inside the case keep the buds in place so they don’t rattle around. The case is required to recharge the buds, so keep track of it.

Each bud has small “L” and “R” markings, with the latter being red to help you further distinguish one from the other. It’s a better design choice than the black-on-black of the JBL Tune 230NC TWS, but it could still be improved for people with impaired vision. The charging case does not have any markings. Instead, if you do try inserting the buds in a swapped orientation, they just won’t fit.

How do you control the Sony WF-C500?

The Sony WF-C500 casewith the left earbud inside of it and the right one lying next to it on a white surface.
The Sony WF-C500 has fingertip-shaped areas to aim at for touch controls, but “L” and “R” could still be distinguished a bit better.

The Sony WF-C500 has tap controls assigned to each of its earbuds. The right bud controls media playback,, and the left handles volume, while call control takes over on the right whenever a call comes in. You get fingertip-sized round areas to aim for on each housing. Here’s what the controls are by default:

Number of pressesLeft earbudRight earbud
Number of presses
Left earbud
Raise volume or accept/hang up call (if ringing or in a call)
Right earbud
Play/pause or accept/hang up call (if ringing or in a call)
Number of presses
Left earbud

Right earbud
Next track
Number of presses
Left earbud

Right earbud
Previous track
Number of presses
Left earbud
Lower volume or reject a call (if ringing)
Right earbud
Launch voice assistant/cancel voice assistant or reject a call (if ringing)

You can activate your voice assistant by pressing and holding the right bud. This is pretty convenient when your phone is in your pocket and you want to check your notifications or the time, for instance.

Should you download the Sony Headphones Connect app?

The Sony WF-C500 uses the Sony Headphones Connect app (iOS and Android) to adjust settings and install software updates, so it’s a good idea to have it. Plus, it contains customization options such as an ear-scanning function and 360 Reality Audio — more on that later. The ear scanning function involves taking photos of each ear. After that, the app customizes the buds’ sound to suit your ears. I don’t perceive much difference with or without this feature, though. A “badges” system also gives you stickers for reaching certain usage milestones, but it mostly feels like a gimmick.

The Sony WF-C500 app shown in three screenshots of the Status, Sound, and System tabs, plus the battery and codec status of the buds.
The Sony WF-C500 uses the Sony Headphones Connect app, which contains an equalizer and configuration options.

The Sony Headphones Connect app contains an equalizer, handy for customizing your listening experience. It’s accessible from the home screen under “Sound,” where you can also see the buds’ current battery status.

What Bluetooth codecs does the Sony WF-C500 support?

The Sony WF-C500 charging case open next to a phone behind it and the buds are lying on the table in front of it.
The Sony WF-C500 doesn’t support Bluetooth multipoint, so it’s easiest to keep it synced to your phone at all times.

The Sony WF-C500 uses Bluetooth 5.0 and supports the AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs. That gives users in the Apple ecosystem a reliable, high-quality codec (AAC), but Android users aren’t quite as lucky since AAC is unreliable across Android hardware. The app will tell you what codec the earbuds are currently using. To make up for some of the drawbacks of these codecs, the app also offers “Priority on Sound Quality” and “Priority on Stable Connection” modes, but no mode to make up for latency.

The Sony WF-C500 automatically enters pairing mode when you take the buds out of the case. There’s no multipoint support, but if you only want to use one bud, you can do so with the left or right earbud.

How long does the battery last on the Sony WF-C500?

Our standardized headphone battery test uses music played back continuously with a 75dB(SPL) maximum output level measured at the eardrum of our test head. The Sony WF-C500 lasted 9 hours and 46 minutes and falls just 14 minutes short of Sony’s official 10-hour battery life here. After the buds dip below 50% battery, you will hear a warning, and then once more before the battery depletes. If you listen in mono mode, you will hear these same warnings on the single earphone.

The Sony WF-C500 charging case resting on a white surface with both earbuds inside.
The charging case included with the Sony WF-C500 is stable and remains so with the lid open.

You may run into a quirk: since each earbud warns you separately and could deplete at different rates, you might hear multiple warnings throughout a listening session. Small orange LEDs on each bud illuminate when charging in the case, and the case has another orange LED to indicate its remaining battery. You get a short USB-A to USB-C cable in the box but no power adapter.

How well does the Sony WF-C500 block noise?

A chart depicts the Sony WF-C500 isolation performance which is quite good for the price.
The WF-C500 does a good job of blocking out low and high-frequency sounds, especially given that it lacks noise canceling.

The Sony WF-C500 does not have active noise canceling (ANC), and to block out the most amount of noise, you need to get a good fit. The buds do a better job of blocking out highs than lows, meaning rumbling engines and other commute-related noises won’t be quite as effectively blocked. Still, this is better isolation performance than you get from most non-ANC earbuds, with low and midrange frequencies quieted anywhere from one-half to one-quarter as loud as they’d ordinarily sound.

How does the Sony WF-C500 sound?

A chart depicts the Sony WF-C500 (cyan) frequency response relative to the SoundGuys Consumer Curve V2.0 (pink), revealing the Sony earbuds' generally pleasing sound with slightly amplified upper-midrange notes.
The WF-C500 (cyan) generally follows our preference curve (pink) very closely, though the treble rolls off close to 10kHz.

The Sony WF-C500 comes from a brand known for consumer-pleasing sound, like the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the Sony WF-1000XM4. The WF-C500 frequency response closely follows our headphone preference curve, which most people tend to like. Like most in-ears, the mids are slightly under-emphasized relative to the bass and highs. Still, if you’re listening to your tunes while out and about or exercising, then you’ll likely enjoy what you hear.

Pop and country music does well through the Sny WF-C500. “Summertime” by Orville Peck opens with strings and vocals, which are easily distinguishable. This is also a good time to bring up Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE). Sony claims DSEE restores “high-frequency sound and fine fade-out sound … to the track for a more authentic listening experience.” Upon activation, there is a subtle difference, and the cymbals at the beginning of “Summertime” are slightly louder. You’re unlikely to hear this difference in a casual listening environment or one where there’s plenty of background noise that could make it through the earbuds’ seal in your ear canal.

As our frequency response chart shows above, the Sony WF-C500 actually drops well below the target in the highs, so DSEE seems like it’s doing double duty here. Using the app’s equalizer feature to boost the highs also does something similar.

With the Sony WF-C500, you also get access to 360 Reality Audio, which is similar to Dolby Atmos. A sample file inside the app gives you an idea of what this sounds like, akin to surround sound without using multiple speakers. However, I do not use any of the apps that support this option for my music playback, so I’m unable to test much more than the included file.

Overall, the Sony WF-C500 has a sound profile that suits its intended use cases: commuting and working out.

Can you use the Sony WF-C500 for phone calls?

The Sony WF-C500 has an omnidirectional microphone on each bud and call support. When a call comes in, the right earbud automatically lets you answer it by tapping once. In the call, tapping again will hang up. You can’t place a call directly from the earbuds, but you can ask your voice assistant to do so.

Calls are intelligible, and you can leave clear voicemails in ideal conditions. However, if you take a call in an office setting, the mics will transmit keyboard clacks and other background noise.

Sony WF-C500 microphone demo (Ideal):

Sony WF-C500 microphone demo (Office):

Sony WF-C500 microphone demo (Wind):

How does the microphone sound to you?

7980 votes

As of October 2023, about 79% of respondents rated the microphone in the Sony WF-C500 between “okay” and “good.” This is a pretty typical result for earbuds like this.

Should you buy the Sony WF-C500?

The Sony WF-C500 charging case sitting on a table with the earphones resting next to it outside of the case.
The Sony WF-C500 sounds good and doesn’t add too much bulk as you go about your daily activities.

If you like to listen to music while on the go and want earbuds that don’t get in the way, then the lightweight design of the Sony WF-C500 makes it a good companion. This headset sounds pretty good and doesn’t interfere with daily activities. Plus, the ability to pull up your voice assistant and answer calls is handy during busy days. The lack of ANC and limited SBC and AAC codec support are bummers, though.

Sony WF-C500Sony WF-C500
Sony WF-C500
Small and lightweight • Comfortable ear tips • Price
MSRP: $99.00
Comfortable everyday earbuds for exercising and commuting.
The Sony WF-C500 makes for a comfortable commuting and workout companion. Noise isolation helps keep the background noise to a minimum while the lightweight design is easily worn all day long.

However, it should be pointed out that there are many options in the “cheap wireless earbud” game, so you may want to shop around a bit unless you’re reading this article to compare your final options. Be sure to poke around our other earbud reviews to ensure you’re not missing anything you may like better.

What should you get instead of the Sony WF-C500?

If you want noise canceling, multipoint, and more, stepping up to the Jabra Elite Active 75t is a good option, but it comes with a hefty price hike. You can get it for $149.99 at Verizon. At a similar price is the Jabra Elite 3, which does not support AAC but does include aptX, plus an IP57 rating. It’s available for $59 at Amazon.

The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds sit outside of the closed charging case, all objects are covered in sprinkles of water.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The Bose Sport Earbuds are great for runners and general athletes.

Listeners who want something a bit more robust and are willing to pay might be interested in the Bose Sport Earbuds. This pair of non-noise canceling workout earbuds is often on promotion for $149. While you don’t get quite the same app experience with the Sport Earbuds, you get very good sound quality and a uniquely comfortable and secure fit that’s well-suited for all kinds of exercise. You can get it now for $165 at Amazon.

What earbuds should you get if you use an Android phone and iPhone?

If you spend a lot of time alternating between iPhones and Android phones, you might like the Beats Studio Buds for its active noise canceling, OS-agnostic app, and IPX4 rating, available for $99 at Amazon. The Beats Fit Pro is the workout-focused version of the Studio Buds with a more ergonomic design. Still, its ANC can just stop working all of a sudden, so we’re hesitant to recommend it with gusto until Apple resolves this issue. If you still want to pick it up, you can get it for $159 at Amazon.

Frequently asked questions about the Sony WF-C500

You’ll know that the buds have been fully recharged using the charging case after the orange LED indicators turn off.

In our use, we found it takes between 2.5 to three hours to fully charge the earbuds. However, a 10-minute charge will get you about 60 minutes of playtime.

The Sony WF-XB700 differs from the WF-C500 in a few key areas. The latter has 360 Reality Audio support, which gives you a surround sound-like experience. It also has a frequency response curve that hues reasonably close to our house curve (until you get to the highs), and it gets 9 hours and 46 minutes of battery time, according to our tests.

The WF-XB700 doesn’t have 360 Reality Audio support, and it emphasizes bass a bit more. It gets around 6 hours and 22 minutes with our standard battery test. Both sets of buds aim at the workout and commute crowd, but the WF-C500 has added updates and features that many consumers have come to expect, like touch controls.

If you’re an avid fan of how Sony does sound, the 360 Reality Audio support might be enough to tip you over to the WF-C500. It’s also the newer model, so you’re more likely to get firmware updates and support from the manufacturer.

According to Sony, no replacement charging case is available for the WF-C500.

For earbuds, leakage generally happens with a poor fit, so we can’t tell you if it will behave this way for you. If you get a good seal, it shouldn’t leak.

No, the Sony WF-C500 earbuds do not have active noise cancelation (ANC). However, they provide decent noise isolation by physically blocking out some environmental sounds when getting a good fit.

No, the Sony WF-C500 are not fully waterproof but have an IPX4 rating for sweat and splash resistance, making them suitable for workouts and use in light rain.

Yes, each Sony WF-C500 earbud has an omnidirectional microphone that allows you to take calls and use voice assistants. The review notes the mic quality is intelligible for voicemails and calls in ideal conditions.

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