Sony WH-CH720N Review: Premium Sound With ANC on a Budget

When it comes to consumer headphones, no one does it better than Sony, and that’s just a fact. So when I get a chance to try out a set of Sony cans, I pounce. Its new products regularly improve not just upon the sound but also the overall value that you get for your money. That is exactly what Sony’s WH-CH720Ns do and, for its price, offer arguably the best that money can buy.

Although it’s been a while since the WH-CH720N was released, I’ve only recently managed to get my hands on them. And, truth be told, I’ve been surprised in more ways than one. Here’s my full review of the Sony WH-CH720N headphones after a month’s use.

TL;DR: They’re great!  

What’s in the box?

Very little. Apart from the headphones, you get only the USB-C charging cable and a 1.2m long aux cable. The latter is great to have, for it lets you continue using the headphones even when the charge runs out. The sound isn’t any different with the wired connection, but at least there’s a way to continue using them.

It’s a real shame that Sony doesn’t provide a carrying case, especially considering the plastic build of the WH-CH720N and the matte finish that is prone to scratches. Moreover, because the headphones don’t collapse or fold up, it gets particularly difficult to haul them around. So the headphones are either on your ears or shoulders, or lying somewhere (safely, hopefully).  

Sony WH-CH720N Specs

Here’s the spec sheet for the WH-CH720N:

  • Driver diameter – 30mm
  • Frequency Response – 7-20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity – 108 dB
  • Impedance – 325 ohms
  • Battery Life – Approx. 50 hours without ANC; 35 hours with ANC
  • Weight – 192g
  • Charging Time – 3.5 hours
  • Charging Method – USB-C
  • Bluetooth Version – 5.2
  • Operating Range – Approx. 10 m
  • Compatible BT Profiles – A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
  • Support Codec – SBC/AAC
  • Microphone – Yes, with Sony’s Precise Voice Pickup Technology
  • Active Noise Cancellation – Yes
  • Ambient Sound – Yes
  • Multipoint connection – Yes
  • Foldable – No
  • Colors – Black, White, and Blue
  • IP Rating – IP67

Build and Design

Let’s eat the biggest frog first. The Sony WH-CH720Ns don’t exactly scream ‘premium’ at the first touch. It’s definitely a mixed bag in terms of build quality and design choices. Don’t get me wrong. They look great, and the aesthetic are similar to its predecessor the CH-710N and the bass heavy XB-910N.

It’s the largely plastic build that puts people off and makes them think less of WH-CH720Ns than what they truly are. But don’t jump to conclusions just yet. The matte finish, the comfortable fit, and the lightweight wear all come together to more than make up for that.

In fact, it is largely the plastic that contributes to the lightweight build. At 192 grams, they are the lightest noise-cancelling headphones that Sony has ever made. They sit comfortably enough on my ears, but the satisfaction of wearing gear that you don’t have to remove every few hours because of sheer fatigue borders on bliss.

With metal within the headbands, faux leather on top, and soft padding on the earcups, the basics are covered well in terms of design.

But because of their single-hinge design, they don’t fold up. Nor do the ear cups lay flat against the chest, which is a problem for me. They fold inward only very slightly, by a few degrees, which is neither here nor there. Bummer, yes, though given their price, it’s hardly a deal breaker.

For what it’s worth, they do swivel outwards. So if you like, they can act as little speakers. And sure, you could lay them flat on your chest if you don’t mind switching the ears. But I’m no heathen. Left is left; right, right.  

Prominent Features

One of the major selling points for the Sony WH-CH720Ns is, you guessed it, active noise cancellation. To be sure, ANC is also available on the 710Ns. But since I haven’t had any experience with the predecessor, I can only rely on other people’s reviews claiming better ANC experience on these than the 710Ns.

As far as my experience with ANC on the WH-CH720Ns goes, it is definitely not bad for the price. You’re not going to get the industry-leading ANC of WH-1000XM5 on these, of course. But the V1 chip on the 720Ns does a decent enough job of “digitally” canceling out external noises, such as traffic, people talking, and other sounds in your environment. Some high-pitched noises, like babies crying or phones ringing may still find their way in. Passive isolation is average, partly attributable to the plastic build and partly to the earpads. But am I complaining for what I’m getting at this price point? Hardly.  

The other prominent feature is its massive battery life. With ANC on, the battery life capped at 34 hours and with ANC off, it’s a whopping 48 and a half hours. Sony claims 35 hours and 50 hours of battery life respectively, which isn’t too far off. The USB-C charging is quick, delivering a full charge in 3.5 hours (I didn’t time this, I usually leave them to charge overnight). And a quick 3-min charge lets you listen for an hour. Perfect!

Multipoint connectivity is another notable feature. It isn’t enabled by default and you’ll have to manually turn this feature on from Sony’s Headphones app. But because of various connectivity issues, I hesitated at first to consider it a ‘working’ feature. Although CH720Ns are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, and can connect to two devices at once – say, a PC and a smartphone – I often found one or the other device disconnecting out of the blue. On some days, it’s a nonissue. On other days, it’s a pain.

UPDATE & FIX: After a good bit of research, I narrowed down the issue to the Sony headphones app. To be sure, it’s not so much a connection problem as it is an issue with the buggy app sending commands to the headphones to restart. To prevent this, I would suggest that you close the app after you’ve made adjustments to the EQ and other settings. Don’t just let it hang in the background. Go to the app switcher on your phone and swipe it away.

I have had zero connection issues since this fix and can safely say that the fault lies not with the headphones themselves.

How’s the sound?

Right, then. Let’s talk about the all important sound. For casual listening, the audio quality is excellent and offers much more than what the price tag suggests. Some level of tweaking is expected for consumer-oriented headphones so they don’t sound flat. But out-of-the-box, and with the EQ turned off, the sound profile is well-balanced.

The treble is clear, perhaps slightly on the sharper end of things, but clear enough to make the little details audible. The bass is round and punchy but not overpowering or muddled, which tends to be the case with most budget to mid-ranged headphones. The mids are slightly overexaggerated, in my humble opinion. But for most genres, the sound profile is close to ideal. 

Although I mostly vibe to high-BPM thrash metal and rock, I found myself listening to tons of alternative and ambient music, unplugged rock, and even the high falutin classical pieces of old on the WH-CH720N. A song like ‘Space Oddity’ by David Bowie (which to me is a masterpiece in song mixing) had me reaching for the volume up button, not because I couldn’t hear the details but because I could hear it all – the rough guitar rakes, the throb of the bass lines, the marching drums, and the many, many overdubs of Bowie’s vocals – all pop in a very satisfying way. Switch to Megadeth or Bach or some EDM, and the sound still holds up. 

That is not to say that you’ll be ‘blown away’ by the sound the way you would with, say, the 1000XM5, or even Audio Technica’s ATH-M50xBT2 (my go-to). It doesn’t have the same level of ‘clarity’ or ‘separation’ of instruments. The lack of LDAC is a big miss too, which may annoy some. But the sound is sure to raise eyebrows, especially considering the WH-CH720N is half their price. 

For a more precise sound, you can set the EQ from the app. And if you don’t know the first thing about setting EQ, the app has several presets to pick from. It also lets you select from several different sounds and sets a custom EQ for you. You also get the option of DSEE upscaling to improve the sound on compressed files. 

Sony Headphones app

You can surely live without Sony’s Headphones app and still use the headphones. But it’s a must if you want to control ANC, enable DSEE upscaling and multipoint pairing, or tweak the sound. 

Once you’ve paired and connected the headphones, you’ll be able to enable multipoint connection from ‘System > Connect to 2 devices simultaneously’. 

The same ‘System’ page lets you select your Voice Assistant, choose what the noise cancellation/ambient sound button does,  and determine how long the headphones remain active before they’re turned off (if at all). 

The ‘Sound’ page is where most of your audio tweaking will take place. Ambient Sound Control lets you manually select between Noise Cancelling, Ambient Mode, and Off. The EQ section lets you tweak the audio and determine the level of ‘Clear Bass’. Further down, under ‘Bluetooth Connection Quality’, you can choose between prioritizing sound or connection, as well as enable Digital Sound Enhancement (DSEE). 

The ‘Status’ page displays the devices the headphones is connected to, the media playing, and lets you enable Adaptive Sound Control that, if you like, can learn your listening habits and adjust the settings accordingly. 

The aforementioned bug, however, can be a spoilsport. If you experience no connectivity issues, then consider yourself lucky. If not, apply the fix as mentioned before – close the app once you’re done  adjusting the settings and EQ. 

Sony WH-CH720N Controls

The control buttons on the WH-CH720N are simple and intuitive, with no unnecessary buttons. If you’re unsure of what the buttons do, here’s a quick reference:

Button Single Press Long press or Multiple Tap
Power  Battery status check
  • Power On/Off (hold for 2 seconds)
  • Pairing mode (hold for 5 seconds)
Volume Up Volume up  
Multifunction button Pause/Play/Answer call
  • Double tap for next track
  • Triple tap for previous track
Volume Down Volume down  
NC/AMB  Switch between Noise Cancellation and Ambient mode (configurable via the app)  

The physical buttons on headphones are always welcome, though they’re not as tactile as I would like them to be. Unless I’m really conscious of the bumps, I can barely make out one button from the next. Differentiating the buttons can be an exercise in itself. But it’s still much better than having touch capacitive sensors that I can never bring myself to trust. 

What’s it like to use Sony WH-CH720N

For all the little issues that I’ve picked out, the CH720N is one of the better headphones that I’ve had the privilege of trying out. Being lightweight and having an extensive battery life, these headphones actually let me reliably listen to music from dawn till dusk, and then some. Coming from the much heavier ATH-M50xBT2, which weigh more than twice as much, the Sony WH-CH720N have literally taken the weight off my shoulders (and neck). There’s definitely some heat around the ears with extended use, but that’s just about impossible to avoid. 

Thanks to its Ambient Mode, I can safely walk along the narrow roads of my neighborhood without worrying about getting run over (which helps), while Noise Cancellation lets me tune out the outside world while I sit and write from the bustle of coffee shops.

Though I haven’t travelled with them, I foresee some difficulties in packing them right and finding a case that fits so I don’t mess them up. 

Should you buy the Sony WH-CH720N?

If there was ever a perfect pair of headphones, Sony’s WH-CH720Ns are not it. But despite its flaws – what with all the app bugs, the average build quality, the not-so-easily recognizable control buttons, and the lack of LDAC – Sony has managed to tick enough boxes that make the WH-CH720Ns a well defined set of cans.

It’ll be interesting to see how long they hold up. But Sony’s never disappointed me in that regard. I’ve never once had a pair of Sony earphones/headphones die on me. I usually lose them (heh). So when I consider the brand, the specs, the features which are usually reserved for more premium set of gear, and then consider the price, I think they’re an excellent set of headphones that do not get the love they deserve. And if you get a good discount – I’ve seen these go for 2/3rd of their original price, sometimes even less –  well, then it’s a downright steal.  

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