By : Theo @ Samma3a
The packaging for the SP700N is typical of what you’d expect from the likes of Sony. We get a neatly compact box with a clear display panel which showcases both of the earpieces. Sony has made sure to emphasize the fact that the SP700N features both wireless and noise cancellation functionality. The image of the yoga-posed model also hints at the fact that Sony had designed these to be used for low intensity activities.
We also see a large Extra Bass logo which also gives you an immediate clue as to the sound character of the SP700N.
As is the nature of with this type of product, there isn’t a great deal of extra bits and bobs that can be included. But really, what more could you really need than what Sony has provided here? We get a total of 4 pairs of silicone eartips to accommodate different ear sizes, and there are also 2 pairs of wingtips, also of differing size to allow a snug and comfy fit for more people. Finally there is the charging/storage case which is compact enough to chuck in a bag, and isn’t nearly as awkwardly shaped as that of the WF-1000X.
Nothing about the design of the SP700N screams “innovation” at you as the overall design of the housing pretty much looks like every other true wireless earphones, but they definitely do have Sony’s design refinement along with some added modern aesthetic appeal. There are no obvious signs of skimpy quality control and all the seams line up nicely with one another.
Personally, I tend to be a “less is more” kind of person so I can appreciate the look of the SP700N in terms of it’s understated yet still visually appealing design.
Since this is a true wireless design, a great amount of care and attention to detail has to go in on Sony’s part with regards to designing a product that will stay securely in the ear, whilst still being comfortable. We might not realise this, but that’s a pretty big ask. Essentially what it boils down to Is that all of the weight would need to be countered entirely by the friction created between the ear-canal and the silicone eartip.
On regular in ear monitors that have an over-the-ear cable design, the cable is also used to distribute the weight over a much wider area, but we of course don’t have that with true wireless earphones.So, we also get little silicone wings which are meant to disperse this task over a slightly wider area than just the ear-canal. The idea hear that it rests within the concha of the ear and this helps to keep the earpiece in place. Just for the heck of it I removed the little wing just to see how much it affects the situation, and it’s pretty remarkable how such a relatively simple item can influence the comfort of the earpiece.
There’s also just that extra little added piece of mind that the SP700N isn’t going to just fly off into space if you turn your head slightly too quickly.
Overall, I’d say that Sony did a pretty good job here as I haven’t found the SP700N to create any form of discomfort for me. As I’m used to in ear monitors it did take me a little while to get comfortable with the idea of having an earpiece in my ear without having anything like an over-ear cable to keep it in place, but again, it’s just the idea that I had to get comfortable with, there wasn’t anything wrong with the comfort of the actual earpiece.
Each earpiece also has a rather small multi-functional button. For both earpieces this is a power-button, but can also be used for other functions independently.
For the left earpiece, a single press will cycle through the digital noise cancellation features, whereas a double press will enable the Quick Settings function.
Over on the right-hand side, a single press will allow you to either play or pause the music, or to answer or end a call. A long press, on the other hand, well let you fire up either Google Now or Siri, depending on which device you’ve got the SP700N connected to.
The other thing that I like about the SP700N is the charging case. The one that came with the WF-1000X was just a bit too big for my taste, whereas this one just looks and feel far more compact.
The case allows you to charge the SP700N to full capacity twice, which is super important since the battery-life isn’t particularly great. At a maximum of just 3 hours of continuous use you’ll find yourself needed to charge the SP700N quite frequently.
Lastly, the SP700N comes in 4 colour variants. There’s a nice understated black colour, as well as a more clean-looking silver variant. Then, for those who want something a bit more sport and flashy there is a yellow version. And finally we have this sort of greyish-beige colour that has a few maroon accents and an almost rose-gold finish as well.
Since true wireless earphones are relatively small devices, one of the concerns with reference to sound quality is always whether or not the internal batteries can provide enough juice to the amplification circuitry.
In the case of the SP700N I’d say that there doesn’t seem to be an issue here with power requirements, and Sony did stay true to the Extra Bass label on the box.
It’s a pretty typical tuning for this kind of product where we have both an extended and elevated bass response. To my ears, and strictly with reference for neutral and natural sounding headphones, the tuning of the SP700N is just too bass heavy. It’s always there and it just makes the mid-range sound muddy.
Of course, if you like more bass presence, then you’d probably enjoy this sound character. But if you’re looking for something that will give you even a moderately balanced sound signature, then the SP700N isn’t really going to give you that.
What I did find a bit surprising though is that the high frequencies actually sounded pretty good to me. Usually I’d expect to hear either some kind of excessive roll-off or a rather extreme v-shaped signature whereby the highs can sound quite artificial. But, in this case, I think Sony managed to get it right in the ballpark of what I’d consider to offer a decent amount of detail without coming across as piercing in any way. So it’s a shame that the elevated bass response should take away from that.
However, that leads us to Sony’s iOS and Android app which you can use to make a few changes.
The first thing we can see is that the app allows is to see both the Bluetooth format that is currently being used, as well as the current battery level, which is something quite useful.
Then we can also make changes to the digital noise cancellation feature which includes an ambient mode whereby external sounds are actually passed into the audio stream. So, whereas noise cancellation attempts to cancel outside sounds, ambient mode is designed to do the opposite.
In real world use I’d say that this ambient mode sort of gives you the same effect as you’d get from open-back headphones, but the result is clearly artificial in comparison to the real thing.
There’s also an equalizer function to allow you to change the sound character of the SP700N, but here you are stuck with a bunch of presets as there doesn’t seem to be a way to create your own profile or even to edit the standard ones. But, for what it’s worth, the Vocal profile sounded the most balanced to me. With this EQ setting the bass still dug in deep, but it wasn’t so overblown as to muddy up the mids, at least not as much as the standard sound profile anyways.
Now, one drawback of the app is that, well, you need to use a device that is capable of running the app. So that kinda limits you to a device that runs iOS or a full flavour of Android. For example, while the operating system on Astell&Kern devices are based on Android, they are very slimmed down to the extent that you’re not able to install regular Android apps. The same is true for something like the FiiO M7 and upcoming M9 as well. And so, if you want to use the SP700N with standalone music players, you can, but you’ll be stuck with the standard sound profile.
But, Sony was a bit clever here and has given the SP700N a Quick Settings functions which was mentioned briefly before. This feature allows you to essentially program one of the EQ settings to the SP700N, after which you can use it with non-iOS or Android music players and you can just enable the Quick Settings function in order to get your preferred EQ profile.
It should also be mentioned that the SP700N, unfortunately, does not offer support for the AptX or even Sony’s own LDAC Bluetooth format, and so we can only make use of standard SBC and AAC formats.
Finally there’s the matter of the digital noise cancellation feature. For the most part I’d say that it works reasonably well, but, as was the case with the WF-1000X, when you’re not listening to music you can hear a persistent hiss. So this almost seems like more of a noise replacement rather than noise cancellation.
So, when all is said and done, where does the SP700N stand in terms of value? Well, it’s priced at just $180, which is pretty reasonable in my opinion. But, I do feel that a large chunk of what you’re paying for is for the, I wouldn’t say novelty, but rather the “convenience” of a fully wireless set of earphones.As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think the technology is quite there yet to make these types of earphones an honestly viable option just yet. The noise cancellation is OK-ish, the sound is OK-ish when using a different sound profile, and the battery-life is mediocre at best.
But, the fact is that the SP700N does work, and it delivers what it advertises. True wireless earphone technology has come a hell of a long way, and so if you have a need for a product like this, then there are considerably worse ways to spend $180.