Good sound, battery backup and nothing else- Technology News, Firstpost

Overview

Pros:
– Balanced sound output
– Lightweight and pocketable
– Companion app provides customization of sound
– Good battery life, close to 24 hours
– IPX4 sweat resistance
– Decent call quality

Cons:
– Controls could have been smarter
– Buds do not have magnetic tips to hold them together
– Not so fast charging

Price: Rs 1,699

Rating: 3.5/5

The sub-Rs 2,000 segment of wireless earphone in India is a hot category largely dominated by the likes of Boat, OnePlus and Realme. Sony, who typically plays in a category or two more premium, has now decided to have a slice of this pie courtesy of the WI-C100 wireless neckband. Will the premium brand cut a corner too many or raise the bar in this segment? Time to figure out what the Sony WI-C100 brings to the table.

Image Credit: Tech2 | Ameya Dalvi

Sony WI-C100: Design and Comfort (6.5/10)
The Sony WI-C100 is a rather unusual looking wireless neckband. Well, technically there is no plastic or rubberised neckband here that goes around your neck. You just have a flat cable that connects the two pods that host the battery and controls. The earbuds are connected to the pods using thin round wires. Though the build quality isn’t too reassuring, I would want to give Sony’s quality control department the benefit of doubt given their great track record.

The pods and earbud shells feel distinctly plasticky, but the quality of plastic used doesn’t seem bad. It has a nice even matte finish across, and looks fine, especially the black variant that we got for review. You get more color variants too. The C100 is incredibly lightweight (around 20 grams) and you feel no discomfort around the neck even after hours of use. You can simply wind it up and put it in your pocket when not in use as there is no stiff neckband here.

Sony WI-C100 Review Design

Image Credit: Tech2 | Ameya Dalvi

The aforementioned pods host a battery and physical buttons for media playback and volume control. You have a multifunction button and a volume rocker that can also be used to jump to the previous or next track by long-pressing the respective buttons. While everything else works as expected, jumping to the previous track is an order. You need to keep the volume down button pressed for a couple of seconds to do that, but more often than not, you end up going to the start of the same track. Only if you press it again within milliseconds do you succeed in jumping to the previous track.

A USB-C port for charging this neckband is present on the same pod as the controls and is covered by a protective flap. A tiny multicolored LED indicates the pairing status of these earphones and also gives you a rough idea about its battery level. The earbuds here aren’t angled, and may take a little longer to get used to, but they feel comfortable in the ear. One thing missing though are magnetic tips to hold them together when not in use. I was always concerned about leaving the neckband dangling around my neck for the fear of it slipping and falling.

Sony WI-C100 Review Pocketable

Image Credit: Tech2 | Ameya Dalvi

Sony WI-C100: Features and Specifications (7/10)
The support for Bluetooth codecs is limited to SBC and AAC, which is par for the course in this segment. Each earbud is fitted with a 9 mm dynamic driver. These earphones are compliant with Bluetooth 5.0, which isn’t a deal-breaker, but a lot of brands have moved on to version 5.2 and beyond. There are no fancy features here as Sony has stuck to the basics like sound quality and battery backup.

You do get companion app support in the form of Sony Headphone (formerly known as Headphone Connect). However, you do not get too many tweaks there given that this is an entry-level product. You cannot alter the controls either but you do get different sound presets and an option to create a custom sound profile of your own. This neckband is IPX4 rated sweat resistant and can be worn during jogs and workouts.

Sony WI-C100: Performance (7.5/10)
You need to keep the multi-function button pressed for a few seconds to get the neckband in pairing mode. Yes, it may switch off after 2 seconds but you need to keep it pressed longer for pairing. Then find the neckband in the list of Bluetooth devices or in the companion app and pair. You only need to do that the first time or when pairing with a new device. Wireless range is perfectly fine with the neckband retaining a strong connection up to 10 meters with a clear line of sight. I did not face any latency issues when watching videos.

Despite being arguably the most affordable wireless earphones from Sony, the C100 has a surprisingly balanced and energetic sound signature. Not neutral, mind you, but not typically V-shaped either that you generally get on most budget earphones. Interestingly, a lot of Sony earphones themselves have a V-shaped sound profile. While the output is on the warmer side, you don’t have a more pronounced bass, something the bassheads won’t like. The bass is certainly not deficient either.

Sony WI-C100 Review Earbuds

Thanks to the tightness of the bass, the midrange frequencies have a good presence and there is ample clarity in the vocals. The instrument separation could have been better though. The highs are sharp too with the right amount of sparkle. The soundstage isn’t very broad but acceptable for the segment. The earphones are generally loud at 60-65% loudness when indoors and you need to push it up to around 75% when outdoors. The right sized silicone tips provide a more than decent seal to keep some of the ambient noise at bay.

There is a lot to like about the overall sound quality but it may not suit every taste. Sony has a solution for that in the form of multiple sound presets in the companion app. If you find the bass inadequate, there’s a Bass Boost option too. There’s also a 5-band equaliser to create your own sound profile, rather than two of them, and store them. There’s a DSEE sound enhancement option as well, along with support for 360 degrees audio in the app, but don’t expect miracles given that this is an entry-level audio product from the brand.

Sony WI-C100: Call quality (7/10)
The call quality is pretty decent overall, but the microphone cannot suppress much background noise when outdoors. Having said that, your voice is still transmitted with fair clarity. No such issues when indoors with both people on the call perfectly audible to each other. Occasionally, you may have to pull the left pod with the microphone a little closer for the other person to hear you more clearly.

Sony WI-C100 Review Controls

Image Credit: Tech2 | Ameya Dalvi

Sony WI-C100: Battery life (8/10)
Battery backup is the other key feature of this neckband, and it pretty much delivers on its promise. Sony claims a battery backup of 25 hours. During my testing, at 60 to 70% loudness, the neckband went on for close to 24 hours with roughly 3 hours of daily usage consisting mainly of music playback and watching content on OTT and very little calling. These are very good numbers, and even better given its light weight.

The C100 has a USB-C port for charging and takes close to 3 hours to charge it fully with a standard charger. It does support fast charging but the figures are nowhere close to what its competitors like the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 or Oppo Enco M32 offer. Ten minutes of charging gives you an hour of play time, which is functional at best in comparison to 15+ hours figures that its competitors flaunt after a 10-minute charge. While we have no issues with its battery backup, the charging speed is something Sony can look to improve.

Sony WI-C100 Review USB-C charging

Image Credit: Tech2 | Ameya Dalvi

Sony WI-C100: Price and verdict
The Sony WI-C100 has been launched at an introductory price of Rs 1,699 with a one year warranty. I would strongly advise Sony to keep it that way, and not go anywhere near its supposed MRP of Rs 2,790. Beyond 2K, it may run into competition even from certain TWS buds that it may not be able to handle. At Rs 1,699 it can make a strong case for itself for those looking for a more balanced sound, further customisations through the app and good battery backup.

Of course there’s competition at this price point too, and its main adversary would be the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 that offers good audio quality with a more crowd pleasing sound profile (different, not necessarily better) with more bass. The battery backup is also better with the neckband clocking a shade under 30 hours, and has far superior fast charging with a mere 10 minutes of charge providing you with almost 18 hours of audio playback. Choose one depending on what kind of sound profile you prefer.

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