Amia DalveyAugust 18 2022 15:32:21 IST
Balanced audio output
– Lightweight and pocketable
– Companion app provides audio customization
Good battery life, close to 24 hours
IPX4 sweat resistance
Decent call quality
The controls could have been smarter
The buds do not have magnetic tips to hold them together
Not fast charging
price: 1699 rupees
Rating: 3.5 / 5
The Rs 2,000 wireless speaker category in India is a hot category largely dominated by the likes of Boat, OnePlus and Realme. Sony, which usually plays in one or two more categories, decided to get a slice of this pie with the WI-C100 Wireless Neckband. Will a premium brand cut a corner too much or raise the bar in this segment? It’s time to see what the Sony WI-C100 brings to the table.
Sony WI-C100: Design and Comfort (6.5/10)
The Sony WI-C100 is an unusual looking wireless tape. Well, technically, there is no plastic or rubber neck strap to wrap around your neck. You only have a flat cable that connects between the two cases that host the battery and the controls. The earpads are attached to the horns using thin circular wires. While the build quality isn’t very reassuring, I’d like to give Sony’s QC department the benefit of the doubt given their impressive track record.
The horns and ear-shells look clearly knit, but the quality of the plastic used does not look bad. It has a nice matte finish, and looks good, especially the black variant we got for our review. You can have more color variants as well. The C100 is incredibly lightweight (about 20 grams) and you don’t feel any discomfort around the neck even after hours of use. You can simply roll it up and put it in your pocket when not in use since there is no stiff neck tie here.
The aforementioned pods host a battery and physical buttons for media playback and volume control. You have a multifunction button and a rocker which can also be used to skip to the previous or next track by long pressing the respective buttons. While everything else works as expected, jumping back to the previous path is an ordeal. You need to hold the Volume Down button for a few seconds to do this, but more often than not, you end up starting the same track. Only if you press it again within milliseconds do you succeed in jumping back to the previous track.
The USB-C port for charging this neckband is located on the same compartment as the controls and covered by a protective cover. The small multicolor LED indicates the pairing status of these headphones and also gives you a rough idea of the battery level. The earbuds here aren’t angled, and may take longer to get used to, but they feel comfortable in the ear. One thing is missing though there are magnetic tips to hold them together when not in use. I was always worried about letting the tie hang around my neck for fear of it slipping and falling off.
Sony WI-C100: Features and Specifications (7/10)
Support for Bluetooth codecs is limited to SBC and AAC, which fits with the course in this part. Each earbud is equipped with a 9mm dynamic driver. Compatible with Bluetooth 5.0, these headphones aren’t a deal breaker, but a lot of brands have moved to version 5.2 and beyond. No great features here as Sony stuck to the basics like sound quality and battery backup.
You can get companion app support in the form of Sony Headphone (formerly Headphone Connect). However, you don’t get a lot of mods since this is an entry level product. You can’t change the controls either but you do get different audio settings and an option to create your own custom audio profile. This neck strap is IPX4 rated sweat resistant and can be worn while jogging and training.
Sony WI-C100: Performance (7.5/10)
You need to hold the multi-function button for a few seconds to get the neckband into pairing mode. Yes, it may turn off after 2 seconds but you need to keep holding it longer to pair. Then find the neckband in the list of Bluetooth devices or in the companion app and pairing. You only need to do it the first time or when pairing with a new device. The wireless range is quite good with the neckband maintaining a strong connection up to 10 meters with a clear line of sight. I haven’t had any latency issues when watching videos.
Despite being Sony’s most affordable wireless speaker, the C100 has a surprisingly vibrant and balanced sound signature. Not a neutral, keep in mind, but not typically a V-shaped either that you generally get on most budget earbuds. Interestingly, a lot of the Sony earbuds themselves have a V-shaped acoustic profile. While the output is on the warmer side, you don’t have much clearer bass, something that bass sounds don’t like. The bass is certainly not lacking either.
Thanks to the tightness of the bass, the mid frequencies are well present and there is great clarity in the vocals. The tool separation could have been better though. The highs are sharp, too, with just the right amount of sparkle. The acoustic theater is not very spacious, but it is acceptable for the sector. The earbuds are generally loud at 60-65% when you’re indoors and need to be raised to about 75% when you’re outdoors. Properly sized silicone tips provide more than a decent seal to keep some ambient noise out.
There is a lot to like about the overall sound quality but it may not suit all tastes. Sony has a solution for that in the form of multiple audio presets in the companion app. If you find bass isn’t a good fit, there’s a Bass Boost option, too. There is also a 5-band equalizer to create your own audio profile, rather than two of them, and store them. There’s also a DSEE audio enhancement option, along with 360-degree audio support in the app, but don’t expect miracles since this is an entry-level audio product from the brand.
Sony WI-C100: Call quality (7/10)
Call quality is generally good, but the microphone can’t block out much background noise when you’re outdoors. Having said that, your voice is still transmitted with fair clarity. There are no such problems when both of the people on the call inside are fully audible to each other. Sometimes you may have to pull the left chamber of the microphone a little closer so the other person can hear you more clearly.
Sony WI-C100: Battery life (8/10)
Battery backup is the other major feature of this neck strap, and it pretty much lives up to its promise. Sony claims a 25-hour battery backup. During testing, at 60-70% volume, the neckband lasted for close to 24 hours with approximately 3 hours of daily use consisting mainly of playing music, watching content on OTT, and very few calls. These are very good numbers, and even better due to its light weight.
The C100 has a USB-C port for charging and takes approximately 3 hours to fully charge using a standard charger. It supports fast charging but the numbers are not close to what its competitors like OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 or Oppo Enco M32 offer. Ten minutes of charging gives you an hour of playtime, which is practical at best compared to the 15-plus hour figures its competitors boast after a 10-minute charge. While there are no issues with backing up the battery, the charging speed is something Sony can strive to improve.
Sony WI-C100: Price and Verdict
Sony WI-C100 launched at an introductory price of Rs 1,699 with a one-year warranty. I would highly advise Sony to keep it that way, and not go anywhere near the supposed MRP of Rs 2,790. After 2K, you may face competition from even some TWS buds that you may not be able to handle. At Rs 1,699, it could be a strong case for itself for those looking for a more balanced sound, more customizations through the app and a good battery backup.
Of course there’s competition at this price point as well, and its main opponent will be the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 which offers good sound quality with a more crowd-pleasing audio profile (different, not necessarily better) with more bass. Battery backup is also better with a neckband that works in under 30 hours and has a very fast charge with just a 10 minute charge giving you nearly 18 hours of audio playback. Choose one based on the type of audio profile you prefer.
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