The Sony WH-CH720N might feel inexpensive but they perform admirably and offer a great range of features
- Smart and capable noise cancellation
- Customisable and detailed audio
- Convenient physical controls
- Feel quite cheaply made
- Sub-par microphone quality
- No LDAC support
The Sony WH-CH720N over-ear headphones are the follow up to 2020’s WH-CH710N and sport an updated design, while making improvements to both noise cancellation and audio quality. They also support a number of the features found on the Japanese manufacturer’s flagship over-ears, the WH-1000XM5.
Sony features aside, they don’t bring anything particularly novel to the party, and are a little rough around the edges in a couple of areas, but otherwise do almost everything you could reasonably expect of them given their affordable price tag.
Sony WH-CH720N review: What do you get for the money?
The Sony WH-CH720N are over-ear headphones that cost £99 and are available from a variety of retailers, including Amazon, Currys and Argos. They house 30mm dynamic drivers and have a stated frequency response of 20Hz to 20,000Hz when streaming over Bluetooth, with sub-bass frequencies going as low as 7Hz if you’re using a wired connection.
Those drivers are the same size as those found in the Sony WH-1000XM5 (available for around £315), although those headphones have a wider frequency response (4Hz – 40,000Hz via a wired connection) and lower impedance (48 ohms to the WH-CH720N’s 325 ohms). In total, the WH-CH720N weigh 192g and come in a choice of three colourways: white, black and blue.
Each earcup houses one feedforward microphone used for noise cancellation and another mic for calls. Physical controls to play/pause audio, adjust volume and engage noise cancelling or ambient mode are found on the right earcup, while there’s a button to turn the headphones on/off, a 3.5mm jack and a USB-C port used for charging over on the left earcup.
Bluetooth connectivity comes courtesy of version 5.2 and there’s support for Bluetooth multipoint, but codec support is limited to SBC and AAC. Fast Pair for Android devices is present and correct, as is support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice controls. Processing is handled by Sony’s integrated Processor V1, which is also found on the WH-1000XM5, although that higher-end model also has a second QN1 processor to look after noise cancellation.
Battery life clocks in at 35hrs with active noise cancelling engaged, which is on par with most flagship over-ear models, or up to an impressive 50hrs with ANC off. A full charge will take three and a half hours but you can bank an hour of playtime from just three minutes on charge if time is tight.
At this price point, the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 are our long-standing favourite noise-cancelling over-ear headphones. Their battery life is twice that of the WH-CH720N and they have larger, lower impedance 40mm driver units. However, the WH-CH720N are able to delve a little deeper and let you change ANC profiles without needing to dip into a companion app. They also offer those all-important Sony-specific features, which I’ll dive into shortly.
Sony WH-CH720N review: What do we like about them?
Noise cancellation is a big strength of more expensive Sony headphones and is pretty good here, too. There are two modes available – Noise Cancelling and Ambient Sound – and with the former on, office chatter was reduced to the point where I was only able to make out conversations that were taking place directly in front or behind me. The WH-CH720N didn’t fare quite as well in busier environments, but with music playing at a reasonable volume, most distractions faded into the background and didn’t interfere with my listening too much.
While attenuation is understandably not as effective as it is on Sony’s flagship cans, the WH-CH720N benefit greatly from the company’s Adaptive Sound Control functionality. With this active, the headphones can change the level of ANC applied based on what you’re doing – “Staying”, “Walking”, “Running” or “Riding a Vehicle” – or where you are. The latter requires you to grant the Headphones Connect companion app access to your location, but that’s well worth doing if you want a truly hands-free experience.
Ambient sound control also works well. It operates on a 20-point scale and at 20, it’s as though you’re not wearing any headphones at all. There’s a “voice passthrough” option but I didn’t find this made much of a difference, so would recommend sticking with the default setting.
The WH-CH720N perform impressively when it comes to audio, too. Carlos do Complexo’s beat-driven track “Indigo” revealed that the default tuning is skewed slightly towards lower frequencies, but the overall balance remains decent. I noticed a bit of muffling in the upper mid-range while listening to songs with varied instrumentation and vocals such as indie folk track “Gnaw” by Alex G, but otherwise found little to complain about. And any issues you may have can be effectively remedied using the in-app EQ presets or five-band graphic equaliser.
Support for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format is another welcome inclusion and increases immersion when listening to compatible tracks streamed from 360 Reality Audio Live, Artist Connection, nugs.net or TIDAL. Supported content is limited, but the technology works effectively.
I also appreciated the WH-CH720N’s implementation of earcup controls. Some over-ear headphones ditch physical buttons in favour of touch controls but Sony has stuck with buttons and they’re handled smartly. The noise cancelling on/off button is convenient when you want to override Adaptive Sound Control, and discrete volume buttons make finding the right volume level a breeze.
Sony WH-CH720N review: What could be improved?
The Sony WH-CH720N look pretty sleek but their build feels rather cheap. That’s mostly down to the lightweight plastic they’re made from, which didn’t fill me with a great deal of confidence that they’d survive being sat on. They can’t be folded and don’t come with a carrying case, either, so the WH-CH720N are going to be exposed wherever you put them when they’re not on your head.
The earpads could do with a bit of extra padding, too. The WH-CH720N aren’t uncomfortable by any means but they do exert a reasonable amount of clamping force, so a little extra softness in the earcups wouldn’t go amiss, particularly if you plan on using them for more than a couple of hours at a time.
Elsewhere, microphone quality is at best average for the money. While my voice was intelligible, the headphones struggled to keep background noise at bay and recordings sound fairly crackly. Microphone quality isn’t typically a high priority for headphones in this price bracket, but I was left unimpressed all the same.
Sony has also omitted a couple of features that would have helped enhance the overall package. First, there’s no wear detection; not an essential feature but something that’s always welcome. Similarly, and perhaps more crucially, there’s no support for Sony’s high-resolution audio codec, LDAC. Had this been available, it would likely have elevated the Sony WH-CH720N to elite status in the sub-£100 price bracket.
Sony WH-CH720N review: Verdict
The Sony WH-CH720N are something of a slow burner. Initial impressions of their build quality didn’t bode well, but the more I used them, the more appealing they became as an affordable option for day-to-day use.
ANC is competent, audio is detailed, and their physical buttons allow for easy playback control on the go. Meanwhile, support for Sony’s superb Adaptive Sound Control, 360 Reality Audio and a highly impactful in-app equaliser help deliver an experience not too dissimilar to what you’d get with Sony’s WH-1000XM5, albeit with inferior ANC and audio quality.
Should you want a pair of headphones that can be folded up for easy storage or come with a case, the Anker SoundCore Q30 are the superior alternative. And for a more attractive design, you’ll want to check out the 1More SonoFlow. If you’re not fussed about such things, however, the Sony WH-CH720 are £100 very well spent.