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Sony Inzone Buds Review: Gaming and Audio Combined

Pros

  • Exceptional audio quality for this format.
  • Successful sound immersion.
  • Long battery life on a single charge (especially with Bluetooth LE Audio).
  • Dual connectivity.
  • Customisable controls

Cons

  • Unnatural microphone capture.
  • Bluetooth LE Audio limited to a few smartphones.
  • Control limitations depending on the OS.
  • Bulky and average quality charging case.

Distinct from the PlayStation Pulse Explore, the Sony Inzone Buds represent a niche market: true wireless for gamers. Unique and almost unclassifiable, these hybrid earbuds balance strengths and peculiarities.

Overview

Like all wireless gaming headsets, the Inzone Buds (WF-G700N in Sony’s nomenclature) operate with a USB-C dongle. This offers compatibility with most standard systems, Xbox platforms being the exception. However, these earbuds go beyond just USB-C… perhaps too far. Like Sony’s PlayStation division’s Pulse Explore, they offer Bluetooth as a secondary connection mode, but only with the recent LE Audio standard, still rare in smartphones at the time of writing.

Although they are a hybrid set combining both true wireless features (RBA, touch controls) and gaming earbuds (low latency transmission, PC application), the Inzone Buds lean more towards the latter category. Without a dedicated comparison for gaming earbuds, we had to adapt certain aspects to integrate this model among the gaming headsets we’ve tested. Thus, the sub-scores for Build & Comfort and Battery Life are relative to what the Inzone Buds would have achieved in a true wireless earbuds comparison. The rest of the sub-scores, including the microphone, can be compared to gaming headsets in the comparison, with their weighting in the final score adjusted accordingly.

Sony INZONE Buds 2

Build & Comfort

Aesthetically, the Inzone Buds might initially be disconcerting. Neither possessing the divisive boldness of the Pulse Explore nor the elegance of the WF-1000Xm5, these earbuds remind some of the venerable WF-1000Xm3 with their stem design, bulkier than the Apple AirPods Pro 2. Not particularly modern-looking, these earbuds are not unattractive. A certain unity is evident, and the alternation between matte plastic and the slightly cheaper shiny touch-sensitive back is generally successful. Weighing 6.5g, the Inzone Buds manage to maintain enough lightness.

Above all, the build quality is almost impeccable. No element particularly stands out, no noble material is incorporated, but the construction is solid and conveys a sense of density. They are IPX4 certified, which is average.

Despite the in-ear design with fairly standard silicone tips (five sizes), the comfort is surprisingly good, though not perfect. The Inzone Buds are indeed intrusive, but they don’t exert excessive pressure against the ear canal and remain stable once properly positioned. We are far from the hesitant experience of the WF-1000Xm3 in this regard. However, considering comfort in a gaming context, it’s hard to be completely satisfied. A good over-ear headset is certainly more comfortable, but the good balance of the earbuds allows for enjoyable gaming sessions without discomfort.

Charging Case Far too bulky to fit in a trouser pocket, the charging case also falls short in build quality. The top cover is made of overly thin plastic, and the hinge has a very noticeable play. It feels like a step back in time…

This accessory can’t even redeem itself with induction charging, as this technology isn’t supported. Ultimately, its only real advantage is the storage space for the USB-C transmitter.

Sony INZONE Buds 3

Active Noise Cancellation

Another similarity with the WF-1000X cousins, the Inzone Buds also feature active noise cancellation. However, unlike regular true wireless earbuds, we don’t take isolation performance into account in the gaming headset rating.

One thing becomes clear quite quickly: although the technology is similar to that in the WF-1000XM4 and WF-1000Xm5, the absence of special ear tips (polyurethane foam) doesn’t allow for the same level of excellence. As a result, attenuation in the bass and low-midrange is excellent, nearing 30 dB. But as we approach the high mids, this performance is much closer to mid-range earbuds, with a characteristic drop around 1 kHz. The same is somewhat true for the highs, as the Inzone Buds effectively attenuate this range of frequencies, but the performance is closer to semi-in-ears than to good in-ear models.

Unfortunately, the Ambient Sound mode (sound return) is quite mediocre. The reproduction of highs is particularly lacking, resulting in a very veiled output.

User Experience

Controls

Creating an ergonomic design suitable for both gaming and nomadism from Bluetooth earbuds is a challenge. With the basic controls, it’s hard to be satisfied, as Sony offers a rather incomprehensible mix. The left earbud allows switching between noise reduction modes and muting/activating the microphone. The right earbud controls volume via a short press (volume up) or long press (volume down).

Like what is offered on its nomadic earbuds, Sony promotes customisable control groups in the app. However, these groups don’t seem entirely satisfying at first glance. Sony, however, opens the door to total adjustment through a concept of customisable groups.

Thus, by intelligently exploiting the four available commands per earbud, it’s quite simple to cover both music and gaming actions. However, this encompassing aspect has some limitations. For example, the volume control, while tied to the OS when connected to a smartphone, isn’t so when connected to a PC/MAC.

App

Mimicking other Inzone audio products, the Inzone Buds are compatible with the Windows Inzone Hub app, available only on PC. Seemingly basic in appearance, it offers a number of more or less useful settings. The functions related to video games are quite discreet; we are thus closer to an app for a nomadic product: 10-band equaliser, ear tip fit test, noise reduction type adjustment, command assignment, etc.

This app isn’t essential for daily use, but its few basic adjustments, particularly the controls, are a necessary first step.

While creating an account isn’t necessary to use Inzone Hub, Sony requires permission for customising “Spatial Sound”, a tedious process already present with the Inzone H9.

Sony INZONE Buds 4

Connectivity

As true wireless gaming earbuds, the Sony Inzone Buds are compatible with two types of transmission: low latency via USB-C dongle and Bluetooth. The USB-C dongle offers a Plug & Play experience valid on all platforms, except Xbox consoles. A microphone function is obviously present. In practice, this mode is very stable, and the range is in the good average of other wireless gaming products. Don’t expect any feats on this second characteristic, as the bitrate isn’t adaptive, so the drop-off is quicker than with Bluetooth earbuds. Note that while the transmitter has a switch, PC on one side, PlayStation/smartphone on the other, both positions work perfectly on smartphones.

The second transmission mode, namely Bluetooth, only supports the LE Audio standard, with nuances. Pairing went perfectly on our Sony Xperia 1 IV, but not on the Google Pixel 7 Pro, a smartphone that is compatible with this standard. LE Audio is still in its infancy, so Sony’s choice is one of modernity, but it seems a bit rushed.

Yet, LE Audio is interesting, as it already allows us to discover the benefits of the LC3 codec, particularly in terms of connection stability and battery life. The other advantages, Auracast system at the forefront, not yet deployed on smartphones, make it difficult to measure the potential of this standard. Adopting a Dual mode Bluetooth chip (Bluetooth Classic + LE Audio) would have been much wiser.

Our biggest regret is the impossibility of combining the two connection modes. By pressing the touch area of both earbuds simultaneously, the switch is made between Bluetooth and USB-C, but it’s not possible to have a USB-C connection on one side to check the status of the earbuds in the app, and an LE Audio bridge on a smartphone on the other.

Audio

All hopes are pinned on the audio part, as Sony integrates here an 8.4 mm Dynamic Driver X transducer, close (or identical) to the one equipping the WF-1000Xm5. Is the result as breathtaking? Not quite, but the Inzone Buds are nonetheless surprising. The sound signature, while slightly deviating from the recent WF-1000X, shares some similarities with them, such as an emphasis in the bass and a characteristic brightness peak around 10 kHz.

Closer to the behaviour of the WF-1000Xm5 than the quite soft WF-1000Xm4 in the highs, the Inzone Buds manage, without displaying perfect balance, to distil an extremely pleasing and controlled sound, far from the bloated nature of a Pulse 3D. The sound is powerful, slightly demonstrative, but without aggression or sibilance. The lower spectrum, while not quite matching the WF-1000Xm5 in breadth and control, comes very close.

More broadly, the technical quality of the transducer allows the Inzone Buds to rank highly in the Bluetooth earbuds market. Comparing them to gaming headsets is difficult, but Sony’s creation has no reason to blush, in our opinion. The soundstage is particularly vast with impressive width, and the level of detail is equally convincing. This good sound disposition greatly benefits video games, as the combination of technicality and balance favours immersion. First-person games are particularly effective in this respect and highlight the level of detail well. However, there’s no need to dwell on the Spatial Sound mode offered in the app, a sort of 3D sound emulation. Calibrated or not, this mode brings no advantage and impinges on both immersion and sound signature.

Microphone

Knowing Sony’s past issues with microphones for true wireless earbuds, we didn’t have high expectations. The fact is that, while not truly disappointing, the microphone capture lacks naturalness in an office environment. Without noise in the room, the voice lacks presence in the low-midrange, and saturations related to sibilant phonemes are frequent. Intelligibility is guaranteed, but the quality is far from matching that of a good headset with a boom microphone, such as the Razer Blackshark V2 Pro (2023).

The handling of external noises is double-edged. The manufacturer manages to reduce them to a low level, but the voice quality gradually deteriorates. A PC hum and keyboard tapping barely alter the rendering, but really complicated situations can disrupt the intelligibility of the capture. Outdoors, especially on a noisy street, it’s much preferable to use your phone.

Battery Life

Attention, records in sight! Equipped with a large battery, the Inzone Buds announce a battery life (on a single charge) of 11 hours with the USB dongle, and 18 hours in Bluetooth LE Audio, each time with RBA.

With and without active noise reduction, we measured 11 hours 30 minutes and 13 hours, respectively. This performance, already excellent for such a format, is almost overshadowed by our observations in Bluetooth LE Audio. In this mode, the battery life climbs to 17 hours 30 minutes with RBA and 24 hours without, simply the absolute record in this area. This provides a quite telling glimpse of the possible optimisation under this new standard, especially with the LC3 codec. The case, meanwhile, provides just over one additional charge (about 1.3 charges), but that’s already very sufficient given the performance on a single charge.

Conclusion

The Inzone Buds were not far from really establishing themselves as excellent gaming models. Enduring and audiophile, these earbuds miss a few key points, such as the quality of the microphones, while also erring on the side of modernism. By integrating the Bluetooth LE Audio standard, Sony paves the way for future true wireless earbuds but cuts itself off from the majority of current smartphones. A very interesting formula, but one that needs refining.

★★★★★

Sony INZONE Buds - True Wireless Gaming Earbuds, 360 Spatial Sound, Light Weight, Comfortable Fit, Active Noise Cancelling, AI Microphone, 24hr Battery, Low Latency Dongle, PC & PS5 Compatible - Black

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Amazon.co.uk
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Price History

Statistics

Current Price -
Highest Price £17,900,180.00 February 8, 2024
Lowest Price £161.10 March 4, 2024
Since January 31, 2024

Last price changes

£179.00 March 19, 2024
£161.10 March 16, 2024
£179.00 March 13, 2024
£161.10 March 4, 2024
£179.00 February 9, 2024
★★★★★

Sony INZONE Buds Truly Wireless Noise Cancelling Gaming Earbuds, 12 Hour Battery, for PC, PS5, 360 Spatial Sound, 30ms Low Latency, USB-C Dongle and LE Audio (LC3), WF-G700N Black

BUY NOW
Amazon.com
Wait For A Price Drop

Price History

Statistics

Current Price -
Highest Price $198.00 January 31, 2024
Lowest Price $198.00 January 31, 2024
Since January 31, 2024

Last price changes

$198.00 January 31, 2024
5/5 (1 Review)

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Richard Garrett

Richard Garrett

As an expert on the latest techy stuff, the primary focus is PCs and laptops. Much of his time is split between smartphones, tablets and audio, focusing on the latest devices.
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