Sony’s latest noise-canceling headphones, the WH-CH710N, are for listeners seeking ANC on a budget. At $199.99, the headphones certainly aren’t cheap, but they’re about half as much as you’ll pay for a high-end model from Bose (or Sony for that matter). Accordingly, the ANC here is good, not great, and the audio performance features robust bass and crisp highs, but feels a bit too sculpted at times. That said, you’re still getting above-average ANC and a solid sonic experience for the price, making the the WH-CH710N a strong alternative to the pricier Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and Sony WH-1000XM3.
Available in a matte black or white, the circumaural (over-ear) headphones feature large, heavily cushioned earpads. They feel exceptionally lightweight despite their bulky build, and the fit is quite comfortable, even over long listening periods. Internally, 30mm drivers deliver a frequency range of 7Hz to 20kHz. The headphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 and support AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, but not AptX.
The left earcup houses the power/pairing button, as well as connections for the included USB-C charging cable and the 3.5mm headphone cable. Plugging the audio cable in immediately breaks the Bluetooth connection, but you can still use the headphones in active ANC and ambient listening modes. If you’re trying to conserve battery life or the headphones are out of juice, you can also listen in wired, passive mode, though some of the bass response and high-frequency clarity suffers.
The controls are located on the right earcup’s side panel. There’s a multifunction button that controls playback, track navigation, call management, and voice assistants, depending on how many times you tap it or how long you hold it in for, while the plus/minus buttons on either side of it control volume. A dedicated ANC/ambient listening mode button cycles through ANC on, ambient on, or turns both off.
Surprisingly, there’s no carrying case or even a drawstring pouch to protect the headphones during travel. The earcups swivel down flat, but there’s no case to help them hold that position. And the lack of an app is a bummer, especially as in-app EQ and ANC are becoming quite common.
Sony estimates battery life to be roughly 35 hours with ANC on, or 45 hours with it off, but your results will also vary with your volume levels.
When it comes to noise cancellation, the headphones successfully tamp down low-frequency rumble like you hear on a plane or a train. They’re a bit less effective with higher frequencies, so you’ll still hear plenty of the treble-range noises. The headphones aren’t terribly effective at dialing back sounds like computer keyboard typing or office chatter, and in quiet scenarios, activating the noise cancellation adds an audible (though not at all unpleasant) faint hiss to the signal, which is common in this price range.
So for lows, the ANC is quite good, while for mids and highs it’s merely decent. And keep in mind it does affect the audio slightly—with ANC on, expect increased bass depth and slightly higher overall volume levels. However, these differences are incredibly subtle. Ambient listening mode works well for conversing or hearing your surroundings without removing the headphones.
For audio performance, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the headphones deliver powerful-low frequency response. At top volumes, the bass doesn’t distort, and at more moderate listening levels, the lows are still powerful, but they never overwhelm the balance of the mix.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the WH-CH710N’s general sound signature. The drums on this track get some added bass depth, taking them to near-thunderous territory. Callahan’s baritone vocals also receive some added richness in the low-mids, but the lower-range boosting is balanced by high-frequency sculpting—the tape hiss takes a step forward in the mix, for instance. The acoustic strums and higher-register percussive hits have a solid presence in the mix as well, but things can sound a little scooped at times—all lows and highs, less mids.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives plenty of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its punchiness, while the background vinyl hiss and crackle take a step forward. The sub-bass synth hits are delivered with solid depth, but they’re less powerful than we’ve heard on some truly bass-boosted headphones—it seems the boosting here focuses on the lows and low-mids, and is less intense with sub-bass frequencies. The vocals on this track are delivered with solid clarity and not much added sibilance.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, receive a pleasant added low-frequency depth without sounding wildy boosted or unnatural. The higher-register brass, strings, and vocals have some added crispness as well, maintaining the overall balance. This isn’t a sound signature for purists, but those who like a little added bass depth with clear, well-defined highs will not be disappointed.
The mic offers decent intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we could understand every word we recorded, but there was some Bluetooth distortion fuzzing up the edges. The mic signal was strong, however, so despite the distortion, the words came through loud and (somewhat) clear.
At $200, Sony’s WH-CH710N headphones are a good option for budget-friendly ANC. The class leaders—the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and Sony’s own WH-1000XM3— cost far more, at $350. In the WH-CH710N’s price range, we also like the $200 Marshall Mid ANC, which will appeal to fans of a classic rock aesthetic. Ultimately, ANC is expensive, and if you want serious quality, you either need to spend more on a top model or accept that in this price range, this is about as good as it gets.
Sony WH-CH710N Specs
|Active Noise Cancellation||Yes|