Sony WH-CH720N Review: Budget-Friendly Headphones With Great Sound | Engadget

Sony has a great track record in budget headphones. The company was great, but initially too expensive. Sony made them an incredible value at $150 after it dropped the price shortly after its 2020 debut. Excellent sound quality, capable ANC, good battery life and ease of use made the WH-CH710N a compelling, affordable alternative to a premium model. the flagship model of the company at the time. Earlier this year, the company debuted this three-year-old kit: .

On paper, the 2023 edition should maintain Sony’s reputation for solid mid-range and budget headphones as an alternative to expensive headphones. The WH-CH720N features the same V1 chip from the M5, providing both active noise cancellation (ANC) and overall sound quality. There’s also an updated design and a lower price after another early cut ($130), but battery life remains the same at 35 hours. So is the WH-CH720N another mid-range hit from Sony?

Sony WH-CH720N


  • For an affordable price
  • Light and comfortable
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Some handy features


  • The ANC is fighting in a certain environment
  • Lots of plastic
  • No automatic pause
  • Advanced features reserved for more expensive models

Sony WH-CH720N headphones

Let’s start with the design. The WH-CH720N takes cues from Sony’s latest 1000X headphones and mainly the headband and ear cup hinges. The outside of the earcups is flatter and is all hard plastic – no soft-touch material here. Like previous mid-range Sony models, the WH-CH720N has physical controls with a power/pairing button on the left side next to the USB-C charging port and 3.5mm jack. On the right is a dedicated noise canceling button that toggles between ANC and transparency mode. There’s also a typical three-button block with volume controls next to the multi-function track and call button. This center control also calls your preferred voice assistant. While the buttons work reliably, the raised dash on the middle button is low, making it difficult to position your thumb quickly.

Like the WH-CH710N, this new model is also extremely light and comfortable. I can easily wear them for hours. The ear pads also have enough cushioning and the headband hinges aren’t so tight that it compresses my head. I liked a lot of what the 710N had to offer, but overall comfort was near the top of the list, so it’s great to see that Sony didn’t take that aspect into account when designing the next version. The only real problem is that it is used lot of from plastic. While this helps keep weight down, it also makes the 720N look decidedly cheap.

The WH-CH720N’s feature set in the Sony Headphones app is where you’ll notice the main differences from the WH-1000XM5. Most importantly, the 720N doesn’t have Speak-to-Chat, which automatically mutes the sound when it detects you’re talking. Relatedly, this new model also doesn’t have an automatic pause when you take them off your head.

Sony has been king of the headphone pile for a while now with its 1000X line, but the company is staking its claim in the mid-range as well.  With the WH-CH720N, the company continues to achieve excellent sound quality and a comfortable fit in a less expensive set of headphones.  You'll have to give up some premium features, but there's still a lot to like here.

Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

Despite some omissions, there are still some handy tools available. First, Adaptive Sound Control allows the app to automatically adjust settings based on your location or activity. This allows you to turn on ANC when you arrive at the office, or activate transparency mode when you start a run, for example. Here and in the general sound settings, you can specify the ambient sound level and choose to have this mode active.

In addition, Sony offers an EQ slider for manual adjustment, as well as a separate bass control. There’s also a collection of audio presets if you’re in a hurry. 360 Reality Audio is available on the WH-CH720N (with a compatible streaming subscription), and the app gives you the ability to upscale DSEE to enhance compressed content. The app also lets you activate multipoint Bluetooth for two devices, and there’s a safe listening feature to help preserve your hearing.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the WH-CH710N was the overall sound quality. I was impressed with what Sony managed to do in a set of headphones that cost half the price of its flagship model. There was enough bass with an open soundstage and great clarity in detail. Fortunately, the WH-CH720N is more of the same. These headphones let you enjoy the intricacies of Boygenius record to shine, from the brooding guitar effects to the quieter keyboard/organ parts on songs like “True Blue”. The record has a lot of quieter parts that you can easily pick up on. The finger-picked acoustic guitar and banjo on “Cool About It” are also quite dynamic and textured.

Heavier, more chaotic genres do just as well. Better Lovers’ gritty, frenetic metal track ’30 Under 13′ is pretty exciting. Even the fastest, most subtle riffs are captured with amazing clarity. All the instruments stand on their own and at no point do they become a broken mess. The dynamics of songs like O’Brother’s ‘Halogen Eye’ also come through well. The verses are full of grainy, thick distortion, and these headphones have all those textures, along with reverb and other effects that create the band’s atmospheric, moody soundscape.

Finally, Nickel Creek’s Celebrants – modern bluegrass recording – the WH-CH720N makes you feel like you’re with the band. Helped in part by the positioning of the guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bass in the mix, the headphones keep the feeling of sitting in on a private performance rather than simply listening to a recorded track.

Sony has been king of the headphone pile for a while now with its 1000X line, but the company is staking its claim in the mid-range as well.  With the WH-CH720N, the company continues to achieve excellent sound quality and a comfortable fit in a less expensive set of headphones.  You'll have to give up some premium features, but there's still a lot to like here.

Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

In terms of noise cancellation, I think the WH-CH720N is a slight step back from the 710N. In most cases, ANC will serve you well, especially with constant noise. However, these headphones really struggle with human voices, which doesn’t make them the best option if your primary goal is to block out nearby phone calls or chatty coworkers. Transparency mode offers great natural sound, which is especially useful for video and voice calls. When it comes to calls, the 720N does a decent job of blocking out background noise, and the overall audio quality lets you hear better than a speakerphone and most headphones. It’s not pristine, but it’s less than the status quo.

As for battery life, Sony promises up to 35 hours with ANC on. In my estimation, during normal use—a combination of noise canceling and transparency mode for music and calls, and a few times during nighttime shutdown—the app showed 40 percent remaining after 28 hours. The Bluetooth menu on MacOS duplicates this. The company says you can expect up to 50 hours with ANC off, so my mixed-use trials were on par with that. Battery life has never been a problem for Sony headphones, and it’s not here either. Also, 35 hours is on par with most flagships today, even if it’s the same figure as the previous model.

It’s a strong contender to replace the current budget pick in our guide, but if you need a solid alternative to the Audio-Technica. While $79 is our current low-cost pick, it’s a more appropriate comparison. The M50s don’t offer active noise cancellation, but they do have a more refined design, physical controls and a warm, inviting sound. If you don’t need extra help with troubleshooting, they’re currently available for $69 more than the 720N. Sony introduced the WH-CH720N alongside, which could be an option if you’re really pinching pennies. This on-ear model also doesn’t have ANC, but it does have 50 hours of battery life and multi-point connectivity, as well as built-in controls. Plus, they’re only $50.

Sony has managed to create another solid set of noise-canceling headphones at an affordable price without cutting too many corners. Of course, there are some high-end features you’ll have to do without, but the WH-CH720N covers the basics well. Good sound quality, with special attention to finer details and rich bass, is combined with a convenient transparency mode and automatic sound profile switching. Noise cancellation does a decent job, but it’s not the best, and you’ll have to do without auto-pause. However, at well under $150, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option at this price point.

Gallery: Sony WH-CH720N review | 9 Photographs

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