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Sony CH-720N review: ANC headphones get some nice upgrades

Sony CH-720N review: ANC headphones get some nice upgrades

Sony CH-720N review: ANC headphones get some nice upgrades

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products like The Sony CH-720N headphones can be difficult to examine. These are Sony’s new and improved entry-level wireless noise-canceling headphones, joining a lineup that includes the $400 flagship. WH-1000XM5the earlier XM4 and the $250 WH-XB910N, an Xtra Bass model. That’s great, but here’s the thing: at first glance – and first contact – they don’t quite look like $150 headphones.

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Maybe that’s because they’re so light and have a bit of a plastic budget vibe, even though there’s metal in their headband and their ear cups have a sleek and attractive design. Part of me expected them to sound pretty mediocre, but I was pleasantly surprised. No, they don’t sound as good as the XM5s. But they sound more premium than they look (and feel) and their overall performance is a nice step up from their predecessor, the CH-710N. Are they worth $150? Maybe or maybe not. But the good news is that, like the CH-710N and WH-XB910 before them, these should see some nice discounts in the not-too-distant future, which you might want to wait for.

As

  • Light and comfortable
  • Good sound with very good noise cancellation and ambient sound mode
  • Good voice call performance
  • Multipoint Bluetooth
  • 35 hours of battery life
  • Robust EQ settings

Do not like

  • No carrying case
  • No ear detection sensors
  • No LDAC support

Lightweight design, excellent comfort

To be honest, I didn’t like the CH-710N. I thought it was just okay and overpriced, unless it was on sale for less than $75. On the other hand, the CH-720N is a significantly better headset. It’s more comfortable, has better sound, better noise cancellation, and better voice call performance. At 192 grams, Sony claims these are the company’s lightest over-ear noise canceling headphones to date and feature well-cushioned ear cups. In short, it ranks among the most comfortable headphones, which include The Bose QuietComfort 45 and Sony’s WH-1000XM5, which weighs 250 grams.

Learn more: Best Noise Canceling Headphones for 2023

One of the clues that this may be more entry-level than mid-range is the fact that, as noted, there’s no carrying case or pouch with the headphones. They fold flat like their predecessor and only have one hinge, so they don’t fold up. Some people were upset when Sony chose this type of design for the WH-1000XM5 when the XM4 had a double hinge and was folded and flat.

The CH-720N has faux leather at the top of its headband with just the right amount of padding and the look and feel of the headset is an improvement over its predecessor despite its lack of premium qualities. I liked the matte finish and the headphones currently come in two colors: black or white (I only tried the white version).

Note that Sony also manufactures the CH-520, an over-ear model without noise cancellation that costs just $60. This model is a big improvement over this one, both in terms of design and sound quality.

The Sony CH-720N is also available in black.

David Carnoy/CNET

Equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, the CH-720N eschews the touch controls of the WH-1000XM5 and sticks to physical buttons, which some people may appreciate. There’s a universal control button with volume control buttons and an NC/AMB button that lets you switch between noise cancellation and an ambient sound mode (also called transparency mode) that lets you hear the outside world.

The headphones seem pretty sturdy and don’t make a grinding noise when you fit them on your head. I can’t tell you how they’ll hold up after months of use, but I’m sure they’ll hold up better if you put them in some kind of cheap protective pouch or hard carrying case when they’re not used.

Limited additional features

As you’d expect, the CH-720N doesn’t come with extra features like the WH-1000XM5. There are no ear detection sensors, so your music won’t stop when you take them off. The headphones can be set to automatically turn off after 15 minutes if you stop using them, saving battery life.

You don’t get Sony’s nifty Quick Attention and Speak To Chat features, which pause your music and put the headphones in transparency mode, allowing you to have a conversation without removing the headphones (Quick Attention is kind of a manual version of Speak To Chat). Sony’s high-fidelity LDAC audio codec, which is compatible with many Android smartphones when streaming audio via Bluetooth, is not supported. The CH-720N uses AAC and SBC audio codecs, supported by Android and iOS devices.

The headphones have multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can connect them to two devices simultaneously – a smartphone and a PC, for example – and have your audio automatically switch to your smartphone if a call comes in while you’re listening to audio on your phone. computer. The feature must be enabled in Sony’s Headphones Connect app for iOS and Android, which also lets you change the sound profile of the headphones, update the headphones’ firmware, and adjust the ambient awareness level.

I tended to set the ambient sound around level 15 (out of 20) for what I thought was the most natural sound. While the Ambient Sound mode works well, it’s not as good as the AirPods Pro 2’s Transparency mode. The headphones are compatible with Sony 360 Reality Audio for music streaming services that support it.

The Sony CH-720N headphones have physical buttons for controls, touch controls like the WH-1000XM5.

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

I should also note that you can use the headphones in wired mode (a cable is included). I didn’t notice a significant difference in sound quality when wired and although you can use them passively with the headphones off, they don’t sound so good that way. They’re really designed to be listened to as powered headphones, but you can use them in a pinch as wired headphones in the event of a power outage.

Battery life is rated at 35 hours at moderate volume levels with noise cancellation enabled, and a 3-minute charge via USB-C will get you an hour of battery life. You can get up to 50 hours of battery life with noise cancellation turned off.

Performance and sound quality

Like the WH-1000XM5, this model has 30mm drivers, although they are not of the same driver design. I found the sound of the previous CH-710N to be a bit dull and unimpressive, but the sound of the CH-720N is much more respectable. Although it lacks the extra clarity, definition and more dynamic nature of the WH-1000XM5, the headphones sound pleasant enough with good overall tonal balance (it has a slight “smiley” sound profile out of the box , with a touch of treble and bass push), punchy bass, good clarity and openness. I think most people will be quite happy with their sound and they work well with a variety of musical genres.

You can enable DSEE, or Digital Sound Enhancement, in the app, which Sony says “restores high-frequency sounds lost during compression.” It arguably improves sound quality a bit, adding a touch more detail (although the engagement does have a slight impact on battery life).

Sony has equipped these headphones with its V1 chip, which is supposed to offer better digital processing, especially with regard to adaptive noise reduction. And the noise cancellation is quite decent and noticeably improved over the noise cancellation on the CH-710N. It’s still a step back from the WH-1000XM5, but it’s not that far (Sony describes the XM5’s noise cancellation as “industry-leading” when it only refers to the CH-720N as “digital noise cancellation”, in the same way it describes the functionality of WH-XB910N, which also has the V1 chip.

For voice calls, the CH-720N appears to use a pair of beamforming microphones (a single vocal microphone paired with a pickup microphone), with Sony referring to the system as Precise Voice Pickup Technology. The microphone setup isn’t as fancy as what you get with the WH-1000XM5, but the headphones did a surprisingly good job of reducing background noise, including a good amount of wind noise, when I was passing calls from the noisy streets of New York. Callers said they could hear me clearly for the most part, with only minimal intrusions of ambient noise. Noise reduction fell short of the best-in-class noise reduction offered by the WH-1000XM5 during calls, but it’s certainly well above average.

Final thoughts on the Sony CH-720N

We have a list of best “cheap” noise canceling headphones which cost less than $100 and some models on this list offer somewhat comparable sound quality to this Sony (the 1More SonoFlow, which costs around $80, also supports Bluetooth LDAC streaming and includes a hard carrying case). That said, the CH-720N offers the attractive combination of a lightweight, comfortable design with respectable performance. The sound quality isn’t on par with what you get from higher end models – it lacks a bit of depth and definition in comparison – but I was happy with what I heard from most songs I’ve listened to and haven’t’ feel any listening fatigue.

As I said at the beginning, despite all their positives, these headphones seem a bit pricey at $150. There aren’t many competing noise-canceling headphones in this price range (they usually cost over $200 or under $100). You have the Soundtrack by Anker Space Q45 ($150) and Edifier’s WH950NB ($180), two other non-Sony headphones that support Sony’s LDAC audio codec as well as good overall performance. But wait until the CH-720N goes on sale. You might end up feeling good about paying full price for them, but they feel like they should cost a little less.

Tech

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