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Sony’s taking on Apple AirPods with new $99 wireless earbuds

Sony WF-C500 on a pink background
(Image credit: Sony)

After refreshing its flagship noise-canceling headphones the WH-1000XM4 earlier this year, Sony has turned its attention to its entry-level audio products. So get ready for the WF-C500 wireless earbuds, which looks like a genuine rival to Apple’s AirPods

The Sony WF-C500 will retail for $99, which makes it $60 cheaper than Apple’s alternative, and will offer 360 Reality Audio for an immersive listening experience. If it offers the sound quality we've come to expect from Sony's audio products, it could be a strong contender for our best wireless earbuds page. 

Sony WF-C500 wireless earbuds: $99 @ Best Buy
Best Buy has the Sony WF-C500 wireless earbuds in stock for $99. Offering immersive sound, IPX4 water resistance, and 10 hours of battery on a single charge, it packs an audio punch. Best Buy also has the buds exclusively available in greenView Deal

Sony WF-C500 wireless earbuds: $99 @ Sony
The Sony WF-C500 offers big audio performance in a small package, with DSEE technology to restore sound lost in compression and 360 Reality Audio for immersive sound. The WF-C500 retails for $99. View Deal

The WF-C500 will replace the WF-XB700 as Sony’s cheapest true wireless earbuds. Furthermore, they'll be launching at a retail price point that is $30 cheaper than the WF-XB700 did. It seems that Sony is aggressively pricing the WF-C500 in order to claw back some market space from the dominant AirPods. 

These wireless earbuds definitely make a compelling case compared to Apple’s best-selling earbuds. The WF-C500 takes design inspiration from Sony’s more premium WF-1000XM4 earbuds, with a smaller size and a more secure fit than its predecessors. 

Don’t let the miniature size fool you, though: these buds will still pack an audible punch. The WF-C500 is equipped with Sony’s Digital Sound Enhancement technology, which restores the detail lost when music is played over Bluetooth. Plus, the earbuds are sweat-proof thanks to an IPX4 rating — regular gym-goers will love them. 

Sony claims the earbuds can manage 10 hours of playtime on a single charge (with DSEE switched off), with a full additional juice-up coming from the supplied case. That's double the 5 hours of charge time offered by AirPods v2, although Apple’s charging case can boost this to 24 hours of additional power. 

The Sony WF-C500 wireless earbuds is available to order from multiple retailers including Sony, Amazon, Best Buy, and Target. While all retailers will be selling them in black, some do have exclusive colors: Amazon has white, Best Buy has green and Target has orange.  

Alternatively, if you're looking for over-the-ear noise-canceling cans, the best Sony headphones are a great place to start. Or, if you'd rather stick to a pair of wireless buds, some of the best cheap wireless earbuds are expected to receive big discounts in this year's Black Friday deals

Rory is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics including tech news, deals, gaming, streaming and more. When he’s not writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found watching a borderline unhealthy amount of movies and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.