When it comes to active noise cancelling the brand to beat used to be Bose. But in the last few years, Sony has really stepped in and taken over. Headphones like the WH-1000XM3 have been one of the best options you can get for years now, but they aren’t cheap. If you don’t want to spend that kind of money but still want active noise cancelling headphones, then you might want to check out the WH-CH710N. At $199 these are significantly less expensive, but what are you giving up for that lower price point?
Editor’s note: the score is currently incomplete, as we’re still running our battery tests.
Who is the Sony WH-CH710N for?
- People that want Sony ANC, but don’t want to spend money. These can’t dethrone the Sony WH-1000XM3 when it comes to active noise cancelling, but they’re still pretty solid.
- Anyone who cares about battery life. If you don’t want to be plugging in your headphones every single night then these are a good option.
- Commuters. For anyone who wants to block outside noise while on the way to work these are the way to go.
How are the Sony WH-CH710N built?
The first thing you’ll notice when you take these out of the box is just how light they are. At 218 grams they don’t weigh much at all, and you don’t feel like you’re wearing a giant gadget on your head when you put them on. That’s because these are made entirely of plastic and… not the less expensive kind. What I mean is: the build materials here aren’t premium by any stretch. This is the first and obvious part of the headphones that took a hit in order to get the price down.
There’s a lot of creaks and squeaks here and while the earcups do swivel 90 degrees to lie flat, there’s no hinges. So if you’re trying to save space in your bag: you’re out of luck here. The plastic also has a habit of amplifying sounds. So if you happen to accidentally bang into something or even just lightly scratch the side of the headphones, you’ll hear it immediately.
The Sony WH-CH710N also aren’t the sleekest-looking headphones around (I still give that award to the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700), the WH-CH710N aren’t bad looking either. They have a rounded design that doesn’t attract too much attention—right up my alley, even if I don’t particularly enjoy the silhouette of the headphones. Okay, you get the point: these aren’t lookers. That’s fine though, because these are really comfortable, and how they are when you’re wearing them is really what matters isn’t it? The earcups are covered in plush memory foam padding that I found super comfortable even after three or four hours of constant use. The padding is also on the headband and doesn’t give me that pinch at the crown of my head that so many other products do.
The padding doesn’t feel or look premium to the touch but they do their job when you put the headphones on, which is to make the headphones as light as possible. My only issue here is that I don’t feel like the earcups are deep enough and if you have big ears (like myself) I can actually feel the drivers pressed up against my ear and after a few hours of listening that’s the only part that became uncomfortable. Unlike the Sony WH-1000XM3 there is no touch-sensitive earcup here for playback, instead you’ll get good ‘ol fashioned buttons. They’re super clicky and provide good feedback so you’ll always know when you clicked a button.
How do you connect to the Sony WH-CH710N?
You can pair to the Sony WH-CH710N headphones in two ways. First you can just hold down the power button for a few seconds after turning them on. From there the headphones will enter pairing mode and you can just find the device in Bluetooth settings of your source device. The second way is via NFC, so if you have an Android phone you can just hold it up to the NFC logo on the left earbud and a little pop-up will come up on your phone asking if you want to pair to them.
The headphones are rocking Bluetooth 5.0 and only features the AAC Bluetooth codec which is surprising considering that LDAC is custom-made by Sony. Why it isn’t included here is beyond me but if you were hoping for higher quality sound you’re not going to get it here, at least not wirelessly. Thankfully, you can still always just plug in the included 3.5mm audio cable into the input on the bottom of the left earcup. Connection strength was also pretty solid and in my testing I didn’t have any issues within the 30 foot range. There was also no audio sync issues when watching YouTube which is good if you spend a lot of your time watching videos.
Playback controls are all on the right earcup and they work as you’d expect. There are three buttons and the middle one acts as a multifunction that will pause/play music, answer and end phone calls, and also access your phones assistant if you hold it down. On either side are the volume buttons and then there is a fourth button that lets you toggle between the active noise cancelling feature or the ambient mode. This uses the onboard microphones to let you hear what’s going on in your environment. It’s basically the opposite of noise cancelling and can be super useful when you’re on a plane or train and want to hear any announcements. The only issue I have here is that when you click the button you’ll get a little voice that says “Ambient sound” which is… debatably helpful.
How’s the battery life of the Sony WH-CH710N?
Sony headphones aren’t known for skimping on battery and these are no exception. The company claims that you can get 35 hours of constant playback. In my battery test I had these on a output of 75dB with active noise cancelling turned on and managed to squeeze out 41 hours and 35 minutes of constant playback which is more than the company even claims on the packaging. Beyond that, these also have quick charging. So if you forget to charge Sony WH-CH710N up before heading out the door, just ten minutes on the charger will give you a solid 60 minutes of playback.
Is the Sony WH-CH710N noise cancelling any good?
The noise cancelling here is really good for what you’re paying for. The combination of the padding on the earcups and the active noise cancelling technology really cancels out a lot of ambient sound around you, including frequencies 300Hz and below which is where most noise cancelling headphones struggle. I haven’t been able to jump on a plane or go on the subway with these just yet due to quarantine but I don’t see these having issues with the low rumbles that so frequently cut through most other headphones.While these aren’t as great at cancelling out sound as the Sony WH-1000XM3 are, they’re pretty damn good considering these cost about $150 less at the time of this review.
How good is the Sony WH-CH710N’s microphone?
While the microphone is good enough for phone calls, it isn’t going to blow you away. The frequency response is pretty inoffensive, but because the Bluetooth connection is the way it is, the voice data sent back through your phone is pretty compressed. Here’s a sample so you can get a feel for how these sound in perfect conditions, and then how they sound with an AC blowing in the background.
Sony WH-CH710N voice sample:
How do the Sony WH-CH710N sound?
The Sony WH-CH710N sound really good and I enjoyed my time using them, but they’re not perfect. As you can see from the frequency response graph these headphones only give a mild sort of emphasis to notes in the low end so bassheads are probably better off with something like the Sony WH-XB900N since those have a much stronger low end.
Instead, these have just a slight bump in the lows so the bassline that comes in at 0:39 in the song Water by Ra Ra Riot was still there but not overpowering any of the other frequencies, just like how I like it. That said, I felt like the mids were really lacking here. For example, in that same song I found that the vocals during the chorus was not as loud as I’m used to. The climax of the song just fell a little flat because of that. It could just be that I’m used to the more consumer friendly sound of other headphones but I found vocals in a lot of my favorite songs to be underpowered and underwhelming.
Clarity in the highs is also not great and the cymbal hits in the song Heaven In Her Eyes by Gappy Ranks did nothing to enhance the feeling of space in the track. Overall, these headphones sound a little too flat for my liking, but thankfully this makes them extremely easy to EQ yourself if you feel up to it.
Should you buy the Sony WH-CH710N?
If you want the best pair of active noise cancelling headphones around, then no you shouldn’t buy these. Instead you should go with the Sony WH-1000XM3. The lack of LDAC support, the cheaper build quality, slightly worse sound quality, and the lack of swipe gestures means that they can’t dethrone their bigger brother for that title.
Still, if you only have $200 to spend on headphones, then these will definitely get the job done. They have decent noise cancelling, comfortable padding, and a solid battery life. While these aren’t a must-buy by any means, they’re serious contenders for anyone with a hard limit of $200 USD.