STEREO GUIDE test verdict
+ Rich bass response
+ sophisticated app with many useful functions
+ passive cable operation possible
+ effective Active Noise Cancelling
- ANC reacts to wind with noise outdoors
- does not seem overly robust
Sound: naturalness / transparency7.0
Sound: Bass / Dynamics8.3
Practice / Connectivity9.1
Price / Performance9.3
The company’s own top model among the over-ear headphones with Bluetooth and Active Noise Cancelling (ANC), the Sony WH-1000 (we already reviewed the XM4 version) has become even more expensive in the latest version. In the in-ear models, on the other hand, the Japanese are going on the offensive with a double-digit price range. This, of course, calls for an affordable version of an over-ear model with noise-canceling and Bluetooth power. The Sony WH-CH720N takes over this role from its predecessor, the WH-CH710N.
At an official price of 120 Euros, the technical spec sheet offers almost all the important selling points that even the more than three times as expensive models use to woo buyers: Up to 50 hours of battery life, large drivers, effective noise-canceling, app control and a wealth of features. Can this balancing act work?
Lightweight with many functions
When you take the WH-CH720N out of the box, you’ll notice that the casing and frame have obviously been spared a bit. The plastic of the rather low-slung capsules doesn’t look very valuable, the artificial leather doesn’t offer a particularly charming feel, and the whole construction felt a bit like a cheap copy of a Sony WH-1000XM4 or WH-XB910N to us. Including a somewhat rickety bracket, which lasted through the test program, but should better not be subjected to stronger loads. The colors are blue, white and black.
With a weight of 192 grams, it is once again almost a fifth lighter than its predecessor. Nevertheless, the battery promises a similar runtime of 35 hours with NC enabled and even 50 hours without. Sony installs a 30 mm driver capsule in the entry-level models. These transducer units can also be operated passively via the included jack cable. This is perfect in case the battery does run out. On the other hand, if battery power is still available with the cable plugged in, the WH-CH720N functions like an active wired handset. This promises a significantly higher dynamic range for weak analog outputs such as those from smartphones.
Whether it increases the sound quality compared to wireless operation is another question. This is because the latest standard is available here with Bluetooth 5.2. However, only the standard codecSBC and the higher-quality AAC are supported. aptX and LDAC are not available. Two Bluetooth devices can be connected simultaneously. This is very practical, especially when working with laptop and smartphone at the same time.
Buttons instead of touch
Sony’s affordable on-ear ANC headphones do without touch surfaces and swipe functions. This is not a disadvantage in practice because the small keys with a clear pressure point sit ergonomically and it is relatively easy to memorize the functions. There are dedicated buttons for volume control, as well as for playback control, the voice assistant and noise cancelling or transparency mode. Besides Google Assistant, the manufacturer also promises a built-in Amazon Alexa. And you can of cause make phone calls with the built in microphones of the mobile over-ear Bluetooth headphone. The speech quality was quite good in our sound check.
With its light weight and proper contact pressure from the bracket, the Sony WH-CN720N sits securely on most heads. The pads of the circumaural headphones are also just the right size and shape for most ears. However, the somewhat cheap imitation leather becomes noticeable in hotter weather, and it gets hot a bit faster under the shell accordingly.
The connection with the Sony Headphone Connect app worked flawlessly on several smartphones. Although the WH-CN720N wanted to push us into some setup procedures and app rights as well as a registration Sony, it did its job at the end of the day even without measuring the head and data releases.
The app reveals, as usual with Sony, an initially confusing abundance of functions and settings. Besides the somewhat deeper basic settings, an adjustment of the noise cancelling intensity and an equalizer are also available. The latter is officially a 5-band equalizer, but not a graphic equalizer. Rather, it offers 5 rather narrow-banded controls in the mid-high range, the bass can be additionally dosed via the “Clear Bass” slider (which should still prove to be important).
Shadow and light of the active noise cancelling feature
If you activate the active noise-cancelling, a perceptible background noise appears immediately. No strong, certainly, outside or in transport you should hardly notice it. However, we preferred to turn off the ANC immediately for use at home. However, this in turn brings about a change in the sound character. The bass then becomes slimmer. With this, one is then again tempted to set the EQ differently accordingly.
When in doubt, can you do without ANC altogether? Yes, it works, though the Sony is not as well muffled passively and just lets in a somewhat annoying growl from outside. In traffic, airplane or train for quiet music playback absolutely not ideal. However, wind noise can push the ANC to its limits outdoors and lead to strangely phased effects.
This is how the affordable Sony on-ear sounds
The Sony WH-CH720N initially attracted attention in the listening test with a somewhat oversaturated bass foundation, especially in ANC mode. However, the bass did not deliver any particularly exalted beats, but rather covered the other timbres. Therefore, as a second step, we first had to try the equalizer in the app. A significant reduction of the “Clear Bass” control brought the tonal tuning halfway back on the path of virtue. By the way, this effect is stronger in active noise cancelling than in normal mode. Obviously, the manufacturer also chose a slightly different tonal tuning for the two modes. So you should decide for which variant you correct the bass. (Or maybe just leave it as it is or boost it, if you like strong beats for Hip Hop tracks).
Linearized in such a way, the Sony cut a good figure overall in the listening test. Especially its wide, albeit somewhat diffuse, spatiality was pleasing. It tended to present sound events in a somewhat more distanced way, which should probably please lovers of quieter or acoustic music better than those who want to get hammering beats as directly as possible on their eardrums.
Sound tuning via app makes sense
Tone colors of acoustic instruments and voices showed a little tendency towards dark timbres, also lacking a bit of tonal presence at times. But both could be adjusted to one’s taste quite well with a turn of the 2.5 kHz control of the equalizer. Corrected in such a way, the Sony then delivered a well-balanced, grown-up show suitable for practically all music genres. It sounded pleasant in the trebles with more than decent resolution, but neither as detailed nor as transparent as more expensive models.
We were positively struck by how well the WH-CH720N harmonized with any kind of music. With electronic beats and harder rock he lacked a bit of pressure and joy of playing. However, especially on longer trips, his somewhat more relaxed pace was just right for his character.
Conclusion of the review and alternatives to the Sony WH-CH720N
In terms of features and versatility, the Sony is unrivaled in its price range. As an all-rounder with a sound tuning that is more suitable for long-term use than impulsive, it proved to be an ideal ANC headphone for traveling in the test. However, the subjective heat development under the imitation leather upholstery and the active noise cancelling that is not quite flawless in open-air mode reduce the joy a bit.
Sony WH-CH720N – Specifications
- Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: 120 Euro
- Type: Over-Ear
- Transducer principle: Dynamic
- Weight: 192 g
- Special features: Passive mode possible, active noise-canceling, app control, equalizer in the app.
- More at: www.sony.com