There’s a lot to love about the Sony WH-CH710Ns if you’re a spec-nerd, but that low pricing, that’s what’s the big USP here.
Lite variants are common among smartphones. But not so much among audio products. It’s not every day you see an audio company launch a more affordable, more toned-down take on a premium product. The few times that it happens though, well, that’s music to the ears. Sony’s new WH-CH710N wireless headphones are a classic example. These wireless headphones are designed to bring some of the headlining features of the critically acclaimed WH-1000XM3s to the budget segment, more precisely, at a staggeringly low price of Rs 9,990.
Now, before you get your hopes too high, let me tell you that the WH-CH710Ns won’t blow your minds out in any way, and this includes audio quality, but that’s alright. What they do manage to achieve is a fine balance of feature set and affordable pricing, so more people can gain access to some high-end features normally reserved for more expensive headphones, case in point, noise cancellation.
But that’s just one bit. The WH-CH710Ns are also claimed to offer up to 35 hours of battery life on a single charge and there’s USB C charging. There’s a lot to love about the Sony WH-CH710Ns if you’re a spec-nerd, and some of these also work well enough, but that low pricing, that’s what’s the big USP here.
Design and build quality
Sony had to literally do away with a few things, some of which could be deal breakers for some, too in order to keep the price low (as low as possible). And you can easily tell where the corners have been cut. This starts with the design. The WH-CH710Ns look nothing like the WH-1000XM3s. They don’t feel the same either. The difference is night and day. The WH-1000XM3s exude a premium from every nook and cranny, the WH-CH710Ns look (and feel) pedestrian.
It’s clear, Sony has designed these headphones with the sole purpose to get your job done. No more, no less. These headphones are built out of plastic (obviously) and while I wish Sony had used slightly better-quality plastic here, I guess, it’s alright considering the price. At least, they’re built well which is more important. If you’re looking for a better-looking pair, I am afraid, the only option is to increase your budget and maybe opt for a pair of Sennheisers.
There are many plus as well as minus points of owning headphones like the WH-CH710Ns. I am talking strictly in terms of designs here. Let’s start with the positives. The first and foremost thing to note about the WH-CH710Ns is that they are extremely lightweight. The headband has soft cushion too, something that’s a rarity among budget headphones. Both these aspects ensure comfortable long listening hours.
The ear pads or cups have a decent amount of cushioning as well though you might want to try these out in person first before buying because the WH-CH710Ns may be small for people with big ears. You can adjust the provided slider all you want, but Sony was also hard pressed to make these headphones as compact as possible (it seems). There’s little spacing or cavity between the ear pads and the drivers that sit underneath. People with large ears will feel these drivers pressing on to their ears, which could entail in an uncomfortable listening experience in the long run.
The WH-CH710Ns also fit very snugly, which could result in sweat if you’re listening for long hours (in Indian summers). Of course, the tight fit also means you can jog around wearing them effortlessly. If only they also had some sort of sweat or splash resistance.
A couple of other downsides are the lack of any bundled case and the fact that you can’t fold them (they swivel flat only).
Being low-cost wireless headphones also means the WH-CH710Ns lack any touch controls. There are actual buttons here. But the good thing is, Sony has managed to put every button you’ll ever need, on the WH-CH710Ns. Connectivity ports too (including USB C). In fact, this is one area where the WH-CH710Ns punch above their weight. They may not be the most tactile or clicky, but hey, you get separate power, volume up and down, voice assistant, and noise cancellation/ambient mode buttons, and all of them are positioned right.
Setup and connectivity
Setting up the WH-CH710Ns is easy. Simply long press the power button to turn pairing mode on and you’re good to go. You can only pair with one device at a time (which is a limitation that even the more expensive WH-1000XM3s have) though connections are generally rock-solid in tune with Sony’s legacy (and history) with audio. NFC pairing is also an option if your device supports it. The WH-CH710Ns also ship with a headphone jack and cable, for when you feel like going old-school.
Connectivity, as I just said, is generally good. I have had absolutely no instances of signal drops or failures during my review, even when I was on the move or when I moved to an adjacent room though your mileage may vary depending on the area. The WH-CH710Ns don’t have any fancy gaming or low latency mode, but gaming has been pretty enjoyable with these headphones so far, so I guess, all those gimmicks weren’t necessary (and would have increased cost maybe) in the first place.
One thing I don’t like about the WH-CH710Ns’ connectivity though is that for some reason, they’re not compatible with Sony’s companion audio app (which is weird) which means you can’t manually fiddle with their EQ settings.
Sound quality and battery life
Sony says the WH-CH710N headphones use AI to constantly analyze environmental ambient sound components and automatically select the most effective noise cancelling mode for your surroundings. Sony doesn’t explicitly use the term “active” noise cancellation here, and after using these headphones for a while, I can see why. The WH-1000XM3s have what Sony calls a HD noise cancelling processor (QN1). The affordable WH-CH710Ns have no such tech and it’s understandable.
Active noise cancellation is hard (and expensive) to pull off, which is why you don’t see many budget headphones having this feature. The fact that Sony is even giving you some sort of (digital) noise cancellation and an ambient mode (too) is remarkable here. So, what’s my take? The WH-CH710Ns can easily become your go-to ticket into the world of noise cancelling wireless headphones without breaking your bank or something.
Like their design, noise cancellation on the WH-CH710Ns are also designed to get the job done. No more, no less. It’s refreshing to see this in the entry-level segment. I am more impressed with Sony’s ambient mode though. It does well to filter outside chatter (noise) when you want to and lets you be aware of your surroundings when you’re out and about.
As for audio quality, it’s decent (for the price). The WH-CH710Ns have 30mm driver units and support SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs (only). Considering that these are made by Sony, it’s surprising there’s no LDAC support here.
Sony’s budget-friendly headphones don’t seem to prioritize any specific frequency, note, or music genre. Most audio products in India are generally bass-heavy. The WH-CH710Ns sound balanced, even flat if I was to nit-pick — no matter the kind of music you’re listening to. If you’re someone who’s into hip-hop, EDM or even the new-age Bollywood stuff, the WH-CH710Ns are not meant for you. The WH-CH710Ns also don’t particularly shine at low or mid frequencies. Vocals in music and dialogues in movies won’t necessarily overwhelm you either, if you’re into that kind of thing. I wish they’d get a tad bit louder too. So, what’s good? Stereo separation is good. So is the all-round clarity.
There are also dual microphones built into these headphones to make voice calls. They work well enough.
Clearly, the WH-CH710Ns are a jack of all trades and a master of none. That’s not a bad thing at all, at their low price.
The WH-CH710Ns are claimed to offer up to 35 hours of battery life and real-world usage figures fall mostly in line with these claims. These have fantastic standby and even using them with noise cancellation on will easily take you through a full day with ease. The WH-CH710Ns also support fast charging. A 10 minute charge is said to give you up to 60 minutes of music playback.
Should you buy the Sony WH-CH710N wireless headphones?
The WH-CH710Ns have every spec (and more) you expect wireless headphones to have in 2020. The fact that Sony is bringing these specs at a price of Rs 9,990 is amazing. Remember, their predecessor headphones (the WH-CH700Ns) launched last year at Rs 12,990. So, you can very well say that the WH-CH710Ns are dirt-cheap for what they offer.
They may not necessarily excel at anything, including sound quality, but their value proposition is what makes them an easy recommendation. The only other “new” wireless headphones that I can think of (and that are also better) are the Sennheiser HD 450BTs that cost almost Rs 15,000.
- Compact and light-weight
- Noise cancellation on a budget
- Ambient mode
- Great battery life
- Fast charging
- Questionable design choices
- No multi-device pairing
- Sound quality could be better