Great feature set
Long battery life
Noise canceling could be better
Sony has been making some waves in headphones lately. Just take a look at the intense popularity of the relatively young WH-1000XM3 over-ear and WF-1000XM3 true wireless headphones. These popular options really indicate that Sony knows what folks are looking for when it comes to a balance of excellent noise canceling, great sound, and long-term comfort.
The "problem" with those headphones (if I had to identify one, upon pain of death and whatnot) is that they're just too expensive for most folks. Especially the over-ear WH1000XM3s—they're our current top-rated headphone, but they regularly go between $300 and $400. For a lot of folks, that's just too much. Enter the Sony WH-CH710N, a 2020 followup to last year's pricy, premium headphones that hopes to offer many of the positive features of the WH-1000XM3 for considerably less money.
Of course, Sony couldn't exactly reproduce the excellent WH-1000XM3s and not cut some corners—that's to be expected here. But if you're okay settling for slight reductions in premium features and sound quality, the WH-CH710N are a great choice.
About the Sony WH-CH710N
The Sony WH-CH710N, new for 2020, are the successor to the older WH-CH700N, filling in a midrange or upper midrange niche within Sony's fairly massive headphone lineup. They're not cheap at $199 MSRP, but can also be found much cheaper online (closer to $130), making them friendlier to budget-conscious buyers than the company's priciest and most feature-stuffed cans.
If you do spring for these, just make sure you consider that they don't include a bag or carrying case, since you may want to pick up a third-party option.
Here's the details and specs for the WH-CH710N at a glance:
- Price: $199
- Type: Wireless Noise-Canceling
- Style: Over-ear
- Battery life: Up to 35 hours
- Speakers: 30mm drivers
- Available colors: Gray, Black
What We Like
A sleek, simple form factor that's comfortable enough
One of the first things most people notice about a new pair of headphones—after wrestling with their unavoidably complex packaging, anyway—is how they look, and these Sony over-ears look pretty good, all things considered. Their rounded plastic ear cups and rigid headband don't scream "expensive," but they do look handsome, practical, and modern.
They're not as flexible and foldable as the higher-end WH-1000XM3s—the cups still lay flat against your collarbone, at least. On the back of the left cup, you'll find the input for the included USB-C charging cable, an input for an included 3.5mm audio cable (so you can use them passively/wired if you choose), and the power button.
On the back of the right cup, you'll find tactile buttons to adjust volume and play/pause tracks, as well as a button that cycles between noise canceling (which is enabled by default), Ambient mode (which allows you to listen more easily to the world around you), and a customizable version of Ambient mode you can set up via the included app.
A word on general comfort: the WH-CH710N are quite comfortable, but they're not nearly as comfortable as the WH-1000XM3. The ear cups don't have as plush of padding, nor the headband. They're lightweight enough to be wearable for many hours at a time, but they achieve this by way of a light but rigid plastic that makes up the lion's share of the chassis. The rigidity of the plastic (and initial stiffness of the ear pads) will surely yield comfort as they "break in" over time, but you may find them a bit stiff upon first wear.
Finally, there are also small indentations for microphones on the back of each cup, and the left cup also serves as an NFC tag, if you're so inclined.
Solid sound quality for what you're paying
I'll be honest, my initial reaction to the WH-CH710N was not overtly favorable. After regularly using high-end open-backed headphones, I found their stereo image to sound kind of compressed, like the music I was listening to was being a bit choked. However, once I had an hour or so to get used to them, I started to really enjoy the sound qualities.
No, naturally, these don't sound as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3, but for $150 less that's to be expected. I listened to a bunch of different kinds of music—such as thrash metal darlings Megadeth; Stevie Wonder; and my main man Beethoven, amongst others—and everything sounded plenty good. The overall sound is well-balanced, with good bass and midtone presence. You also won't find any of the perceptible tinniness in treble frequencies or overtone clipping that often plagues lower-end and even many midrange headphones.
I still don't prefer these to the headphones I own at home, but I also would definitely use them regularly if I did own them. Everyone's ears are different, though, and you may absolutely love them, or recoil from them, depending on your auditory tastes. However, I feel confident in saying that unless you're super picky, you'll get along with these Sony cans just fine.
Real strengths are found in the features
The Sony WH-CH710N wouldn't be worth their asking price if they didn't sound good, but where they really deliver value is in the range of features you're getting. Essentially, it's hard to triangulate a good pair of wireless headphones that checks off every box: not just solid sound, but good battery life, consistent Bluetooth connectivity, and useful noise canceling. That's where the WH-CH710N really deliver.
While they aren't amazing at any one thing, you're still getting passable versions of all of those things here. The main point of comparison for the WH-CH710N is against Sony's blue-ribbon, top-tier WH-1000XM3. That model, which debuted in 2019, is essentially the flag-bearer in terms of showcasing Sony's talents in combining wireless/Bluetooth functionality and stellar noise-canceling into a comfortable over-ear headphone package, and in many ways the WH-CH710N is a "diminished" version of that product, with an equally diminished price tag.
In tech, there's generally a "trickle-down" effect when it comes to implementing chip-sets and software functions from the flagship products into cheaper options, and the WH-CH710N benefits from this practice.
To that end, the WH-CH710N deliver a lot of the same panache, from a features perspective, as the more posh WH-1000XM3. It's true: It doesn't sound nearly as good, doesn't cancel noise as well, and lacks the robustness of the functions made available through the Sony app, but that's not to say it falls short in any of those areas, more that it simply doesn't outshine in the WH-1000XM3 in any particular area. But considering those are some of the most well-reviewed headphones around—and $150 more expensive than the WH-CH710N—it's a difference we're willing to forgive.
Top-notch battery life
One area where the WH-CH710N does seem to actually outshine its sleeker, more lightweight big brother is in battery life. When I reviewed the Audio Technica ATH-ANC900BT, I was pretty blown away by the company's claim of 35 hours of battery life—that's about 10 more hours than you'd get from Sony's top-notch WH-1000XM3.
Well, a big gold star for the WH-CH710N is that they deliver roughly the same 30+ hours of battery life. They may have a larger battery, which makes them a bit heavier, and generally less comfortable than the WH-1000XM3. But if this is your price range, you'll be jazzed to know that Sony did their best to deliver a decent upgrade to battery life here. You could use these for commuting for a week or two and not have to charge them.
However, if you do run out of battery, the included 3.5mm cable makes passive listening a piece of cake. While the WH-1000XM3 also have a 3.5mm input, you don't get the cable included like you do with the WH-CH710N.
What We Don't Like
It may take some breaking in to achieve maximum comfort
We're a long ways off from the popularity of massive cans with 10-foot cables that use a combination of headband padding and "paddles" to maintain good weight on your head and neck all day, but comfort is still a chief consideration for any over-ear headphones you're buying, wireless or not.
The WH-CH710N aren generally comfortable, but they don't deliver that "I totally forgot they were on my head" comfort like the WH-1000XM3. The smooth plastic is rigid, and the padding on the headband could be thicker. Over time, the clamp force of the headband will ease up and the stiffness of the ear cups will yield to entropy—but it may take some time for the WH-CH710N to feel maximally comfortable.
Noise-canceling is just okay
It's hard to know what "degree" of noise-canceling you need without having a few pairs to compare. If you've never used
However, while my experience with the WH-CH710N's noise canceling, the difference in quality between the exterior microphones here and the ones the WH-1000XM3 are equipped with is pretty clear. If they are the same, then the WH-1000XM3's ability to measure barometric pressure and adjust in real time to your environment are to blame for the difference.
In either case, the WH-CH710N just don't cancel out noise as effectively as their forebears. But at this price difference, that's to be expected.
Should You Buy It?
Yes—if you want great Sony features for less money
The appeal of these headphones is pretty clear: You're getting the winning combination of sound-forward over-ear headphones, wireless/Bluetooth functionality, tons of battery life, and good-enough noise canceling for a lot less money than the top-tier models from many manufacturers.
Of course, the trade-off is kind of a "master of none" situation. They're comfy, but not luxurious; they dampen ambient noise, but don't deliver the absolute isolation of top noise-cancelers. They sound good, but not, well, great.
At a couple hundred dollars (and sometimes less than that during sales), these are a great pick if you've been hungry for a reliable pair of over-ears that doesn't skimp on features in order to bring its price tag down. Instead, the WH-CH710N simply shrink the "portions," but you're still getting a balanced meal.
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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