Hands on: Sony WF-SP700N noise-cancelling true wireless headphones review

Exercise without getting caught up in cables

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

It seems Sony isn't happy unless it's cramming more and more functionality into smaller and smaller packages, and the WF-SP700N is its most feature-packed sports bud yet, with its splashproofing and active nose-cancellation packed into a true wireless form factor.

For

  • Active noise cancellation
  • IPX4 splashproofing
  • Adjustable ANC

Against

  • A bit bulky
  • No volume controls
  • No Google Assistant at launch

Sony has never been a company to oversell a product with an eye-catching name, and last year's WF-1000X were a prime example of this. Those headphones were the first in the world to pack noise-cancellation into a tiny true wireless form-factor to incredibly impressive effect. 

The $179.99 (around £130 / AU$230) WF-SP700N continues this trend of pairing exciting products with unexciting names by adding IPX4 splashproofing to the mix to create a pair of true wireless earbuds that Sony claims makes them perfect for sports use. 

Design and Performance

While the WF-1000X aimed to be sleek and stylish in appearance, the new WF-SP700N have a bolder, more colorful style, and we like it. 

One of our complaints about the previous pair of headphones was that they were a little bulky and awkward looking. The SP700N don't solve this problem, but by embracing a bolder color scheme they embrace their bulk rather than trying to hide it. 

It feels like more of a statement, and we can totally get behind that. 

The fitness focus also expresses itself with the use of a small silicon 'fin' that hooks into your ear to keep the headphones more securely placed in there. 

We gave our head a good shake while wearing them and, yep, they stayed put. 

Unfortunately, we weren't able to test Sony's splashproofing claims, but these make up the final sports-focused aspect of their design. 

The headphones does, however, lack fitness tracking elements, which would have made them yet more useful for taking on runs or to the gym. 

On the software side, Sony's companion app has seen a couple of upgrades for this new pair of headphones. There are now three levels of noise-cancellation to choose from: a total cancellation mode that blocks out everything, an ambient mode that lets in voices, and another ambient mode designed to let in a mix of sounds that will keep you safe (such as traffic noise).

This is all well and good but, to be honest, we were most impressed by an option hidden at the bottom of the app to 'prioritise stable connection'. Pressing this drops the sound quality a little, but means that your music shouldn't drop out when you're in areas of high interference. 

Considering our biggest issue with the WF-1000X was exactly this, we're very happy to see it addressed. 

The earbuds last three hours on a single charge, and the case can recharge them twice more.

The earbuds last three hours on a single charge, and the case can recharge them twice more.

That said, a Sony representative confirmed that the new headphones also include a larger antenna, so the wireless connection should be stronger in the first place. 

When we gave the headphones a listen they had a much bassier sound signature than the WF-1000X. Detail was still good, but bass kicked in a way that felt designed to get your blood pumping on a run. 

We'll have to spend more time with the earphones before we deliver a full verdict on the sound quality though. 

While the functionality won't be available at launch, the WF-SP700N will later be upgraded to add native support for Google Assistant. Handily, you'll be able to use the voice assistant to control playback using your voice, partially making up for the lack of controls on the device itself. 

Early verdict

While it would have been nice to see fitness tracking included with the headphones, they've still got almost everything you could need for a pair of sport-focused 'buds. 

The noise-cancellation is just as impressive as its ever been, sound quality is decent, and the fit is much better this time around. 

But we'll have to reserve judgement about the headphones until we get to use them out in the wild. After all, their predecessor's biggest issue was an unstable connection, and only an extended period of use will determine whether this has been solved this time around. 

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What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.