Written by Cheryl Tan
The old adage “you get what you pay for” has always held true for audio products. There are some outliers, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. So I was sceptical of the new Sony WH-CH710N when I heard the price. At S$249, I thought there must have been some major cost-cutting in order to fit ANC technology in.
And yes, there are some areas where you can definitely tell that Sony went out on a limb to reduce costs, but the end result is a pair of headphones that has relatively decent ANC, is lightweight and comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time and is priced extremely competitively.
Let’s talk about the good first. You get 35 hours of battery on a single charge with ANC turned on. That’s five more than you would get from the more expensive older brother, the Sony WH-1000XM3. With about a week of testing it via music listening, conference calls and more, I can safely say that Sony’s estimate holds quite true.
There’s also quick charge, with 10 minutes of charging giving an hour of battery life. Sony’s operating instructions say that it’ll take 7 hours from empty to 100%, which seems a bit excessive, but it did take a few hours to charge the headset up to full the first time I plugged it in.
You get a USB-C charge port and 3.5mm jack on the left earcup, which I’m grateful for. On more affordable audio products, there’s the chance of getting Micro-USB charging ports, so it’s a huge plus that Sony didn’t cheap out on this. You get physical buttons on the right earcup for play/pause, track skipping and volume control. There’s also a button that toggles between noise cancellation, ambient sound and everything turned off.
Additionally, Sony kept the quick pairing NFC function on the left earcup which I’m a huge fan of. Simply turn on NFC on your smartphone, tap the phone to the left earcup and it immediately pairs to the headset.
Another plus point is that the headset is incredibly light. At 223g, it’s lighter than the WH-1000XM3 (255g) and the Bose NC700 (253g) and it definitely can be felt. It’s comfortable despite the thinner padding because of the lighter weight and that it doesn’t sit too heavily on the head. This comes with a major con too.
It feels cheap. There’s no way around it. This is probably the most obvious area where Sony has cut costs. The headband is made with plastic, the earcups are made with plastic and everything just feels very plastic-y. The only obvious metal parts are the headband adjuster on either side when the headband is extended, and even then it’s just a thin strip of brushed stainless steel over plastic.
The padding isn’t as thick as some headphones I’ve tried either, but that helps keep the weight down and since it keeps the weight down, less padding is needed for comfort. Chicken and egg situation.
Sound quality is also a bit of a mixed bag. You get decent bass with thump and highs that are quite clear and well-defined, but the mids are a little recessed. It’s still close to the typical Sony sound though, warm and lush, so Sony fans won’t be too surprised by this. The soundstage is a bit limiting, but that’s pretty standard on a pair of closed-back ANC headphones.
The big problem here is that Sony has decided to cut support for high res audio codecs in another bid to reduce costs. That means only the SBC and AAC codecs are supported. Because only the standard codecs are supported, this means that people who are using high res streaming services like Tidal or wanting to listen to files in LDAC or other lossless codecs won’t have much of a reason to purchase these headphones.
On the bright side, these run on Bluetooth 5.0 so connection has been pretty good so far. The microphones do a decent job at transmitting human voice, and listeners on the other end are able to hear the speaker clearly.
Moving on to the ANC, it’s definitely better than what I would expect out of a pair of headphones at this price point. Of course, it can’t compete with the WH-1000XM3 or NC700, but it tapers down low frequency rumbles quite well. Wind noise is controlled, albeit still present.
Higher frequencies aren’t completely removed, and office noise like mechanical keyboards clacking away won’t be 100% gone either. But for general noise reduction, it works well. With music playing at a normal volume, it’s hard to pick up external noise unless you really put in effort into trying to hear it.
Honestly, the biggest negative that I have with these headphones is the build quality and how it feels in the hand, but it also results in what I think is one of its strengths, the weight. For people who want really strong ANC and aren’t willing to put up with cheaper build quality, the WH-CH710N definitely won’t be for them.
But for the average consumer who wants a pair of lightweight, musically engaging headphones with decent ANC at an affordable price point, this is definitely what I would suggest to them.
More information about the Sony WH-CH710N (S$249) can be found on Sony’s website.