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Sony WH-CH720N review: Impressive and affordable ANC headphones

Sony WH-CH720N review: Impressive and affordable ANC headphones

The new Sony WH-CH720N noise canceling headphones directly replace the previous CH710N model, adding new features and upgrades for sound and noise cancellation.

Officially priced at $129 / £99 / AU$259, the Sony WH-CH720N is aggressively positioned, bringing some flagship features from the best noise canceling headphones to lower budgets, including adaptive noise cancellation, multipoint pairing, and app support.

But do they also offer peak performance? Not really – you’ll definitely be more in line for what you pay for here. We were blown away by what the Sony WF-C700N earphones offer for the price, and since these are the equivalent over-ear headphones, we were again hoping for the same. But we’re less amazed and more like, “Oh wow, there’s a strong breeze today.” Which is absolutely fine for this price: it would have been rude to expect them to really challenge the Sony WH-1000XM5s, which cost more than three times as much.

Let’s start with the sound quality, as it really is the most important element. Out of the box, I found them to be quite heavy when it came to bass. I didn’t hate it, but it’s not what I expected. However, once I plugged the headphones into the Sony Headphones app and looked at the settings, I realized they were on the “Excited” EQ preset, which was cooking things up. After turning it off, I’ve found that they offer a pretty much ideal balance.

The bass is warm yet balanced, the midrange is robust and individual instruments pop well within it, and the highs have plenty of clarity to bring out small details. What you do get is definitely an extra level of precision that most other budget headphones can’t offer: detail across the entire range is strong and songs sound crisp.

They are fun to listen to, capable of giving something a nice energy and bounce. Where they slip a bit is in the naturalism and their dynamic response. The sound doesn’t feel open, and it doesn’t have the ability to suddenly explode and shift gears like the best headphones can – it feels like it has to stay in a certain lane, and that limits it.

On the plus side, it’s also a fairly relaxed presentation. Some ANC processing can make the sound quite forward and aggressive, but this is not the case. I didn’t find it tiring to listen to them for an entire afternoon or an entire flight.

That’s partly because they’re light and comfortable: weighing in at just 192g/6.8oz, they’re much lighter than higher-end headphones, so while they’re less padded than premium models, I don’t they never bothered.

The lightweight plastic feels a little rougher and lower quality than that of the older Sony WH-1000XM4, let alone the newer XM5, but it’s fine.

Speaking of design, there are buttons on the underside of both earbuds. On the left are the controls for turning them off and on and changing ANC modes. On the right are the play/pause and skip buttons. They are all easy enough to find under your fingers.

Sony WH-CH520N headphones have play/pause buttons on the bottom of the ear cup

The WH-CH520N is available in white, black or blue. (Image credit: Future)

The active noise cancellation here is effective at drastically reducing the volume of external sounds, but it’s not the massive, mind-blowing sound blocking you get from truly elite models. It’s great for the price, though.

The noise cancellation of the CH720N effectively reduces the loud sounds of city traffic, for example. I walked down the street listening to music I could hear clearly, and I didn’t have to turn the volume up loud to figure out what I was hearing: At only about 25% volume, I could listen happily.

But standing at an intersection and switching from the CH720N, to my old Sony WH-1000XM3 and my new Apple AirPods Pro 2 earphones, I revealed that the CH720N was leaking traffic noise from an adjacent busy street about 200 feet away. With XM3 or AirPods Pro 2 that path ceased to exist, as far as my ears were concerned.

Getting the CH720N airborne was a similar story: They made it much easier to focus on sound, but the powered drone lived longer than with high-end equipment. Watching Rye Street with its soft, conversational levels of dialogue, I had to turn the volume up (over 60%) to make sure I could hear everything clearly.

The CH570Ns are well equipped for features that go even beyond what I have mentioned so far. There’s support for 360 Reality Audio and Sony’s DSEE upscaling of middling quality tracks (looking at you, again, Spotify), which no doubt contributes to the detailed sound.

There’s no hi-res LDAC support, but the CH570N has Bluetooth 5.2, so it could support Bluetooth LE Audio and Auracast in the future, if Sony can persuade itself to support the same next-gen standards as everyone else. Multi-point pairing works well for switching between devices easily – there can be wobbling, but nothing that a second try didn’t fix for me. They have a USB-C port for charging and a 3.5mm jack, with a good length cable in the box.

The claimed battery life of 35 hours at normal listening volume with ANC on is right in line with my experience – if anything, it’s a little low. However, there’s no automatic pause when you take them off, so make sure you don’t accidentally download them.

Overall, I think these are some of the best budget headphones available today – their performance ranks really well against the competition from the likes of JBL. They sound good, the noise cancellation is effective, and you have a lot of smart features. They’re great, but if you can push it further, even to a pair of Sony WH-1000XM4s, you really take a leap forward in audio quality and ANC.

Sony WH-CH720N review: price and release date

  • $149 / £99 / AU$259
  • Released in Spring 2023

The Sony WH-CH720N is competitively priced at $149 / £99 / AU$259, though the UK is the most competitive of these. However, you typically don’t find many noise-canceling headphones from the big brands at that price point. Much like their in-ear siblings, the Sony WF-C700Ns, they offer somewhat too much functionality overall compared to most other options in this price range.

Much of the WH-CH720N’s competition comes from the likes of Anker Soundcore or 1More, though JBL is probably the best-known contender, especially with the JBL Tune 750BTNC, which costs about the same.

Sony WH-CH720N review: specs

Drivers 30mm
Active noise cancellation YES
Battery life 35 hours (ANC active)
Weight 6.8oz / 192g
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2, USB-C, 3.5mm jack
Frequency range 7Hz-20kHz
Waterproofing Not rated
Other characteristics Sony Headphones app support, DSEE upscaling, 360 Reality Audio

Should you buy the Sony WH-CH720N?

Section Notes Point
Characteristics Great battery life, lots of smart features, very flexible. It just lacks hi-res audio, really. 4.5/5
Sound quality Very well balanced and full of details: a lot of fun. But it feels a bit compressed. 4/5
Project Lightweight and comfortable, with easy to find buttons. It’s not a very premium feel, though. 4/5
Value Excellent for the price, especially considering the wealth of features. 4.5/5

Buy them if…

Don’t buy them if…

Sony WH-CH720N: Also consider

SonyWH-CH720 Anker Soundcore Vita Q30 JBL Tune760NC
Price $149 / £99 / AU$99 $80 / £80 / AU$150 $129 / £99 / AU$179
Drivers 30mm 40mm 40mm
Active noise cancellation YES YES YES
Battery life Up to 35 hours Up to 40 hours (ANC on) Up to 35 hours
Weight 6.8oz / 192g 9.2oz/260g 7.8oz/220g
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2, USB-C Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, 3.5mm jack Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, 3.5mm
Frequency range 20Hz-20kHz 16Hz-40kHz 20Hz-20kHz
Waterproofing No ratings No ratings No ratings
Other characteristics Sony Headphones app support, DSEE upscaling, Multipoint Bluetooth, 360 Reality Audio Support for the Anker app Support JBL app, Google fast pairing, multi-point Bluetooth

How I tested the Sony WH-CH720N

Sony WH-CH720N headphones worn by EliteViser editor Matthew Bolton, near a road, who also has a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones around his neck

The streets were always very busy, except at the moment I took this photo, I swear. (Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for a month
  • Used in the office, while walking around the city and on a flight
  • Mainly tested with Apple Music and iPhone 13 Pro

To test the Sony WH-CH720Ns, I mostly used them as part of my standard routine: I used them for walking around town, I used them in EliteViser’s office to drown out dungeon wails, and I used them on the bus. But I also took them on a business trip that involved a longer train and then a flight, so I was able to really test out the active noise cancellation.

I mostly listened to music from Apple Music on my iPhone 13 Pro, but also used them with my laptop, streamed videos from YouTube and other sources, and watched movies from Amazon Prime Video and Mubi.

I’ve been testing headphones and audio gear for over a decade, ranging from affordable options like these, up to much higher-end sets.

Learn more about how we test

First revision June 2023


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