Comparable to the XM5 at a Fraction of the Cost: $99 Sony Headphones

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • For $150 (or $99 during Black Friday), Sony’s WH-CH720N headphones offer some of the company’s most premium audio technology, making them fit for those with expensive taste and tightly closed wallets.
  • The Integrated Processor V1 lends itself to improved noise-canceling technology and high-quality sound.
  • You’re mainly paying for the WH-CH720N’s internal audio components, as the build quality, style, and design are not as premium as other headphones in the same price range.

When you ask Google, “What are the best headphones?”, chances are at least one or two iterations of Sony’s flagship WH-1000X series headphones make the cut.

To be fair, we’ll tell you the same thing. Sony’s WH-1000XM5 appear on our list of best over-ear headphones, and they’re likely here to stay until the next model comes around.

So, should you choose the economical option or pay up for the more expensive ones? Here’s my argument for the former.


Sony WH-CH720N Wireless Over-Ear Headphones

Sony’s WH-CH720N headphones borrow some technology from Sony’s flagship headphones for less than half the price.

However, the bass can override and muddle other musical notes that occupy the same frequency range. In vocal-heavy songs like One Republic’s All The Right Moves, you’ll need to play with the EQ settings to bring out the layered harmonies in the midrange.

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For such a small and light pair of headphones, I was surprised at how present the bass was, even at low volumes. Overall, the sound quality is impressive and will satisfy those who listen to lots of rap and hip-hop.

The 720N features Sony’s DSEE technology that enhances the sound quality of compressed audio files on streaming services like Spotify. DSEE won’t give you as much of a boost in audio quality as Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec will, but most listeners won’t be able to hear the difference.

The 720N’s ANC works well for the price, as it’ll mute the low rumbling noises of a plane engine, running car, or even lawnmower. If you wear these while traveling, you won’t need to listen at high volumes to block out surrounding noise. However, conversational noises will skip past the ANC, and to hold off outside noises, you’ll have to increase the volume.

You can adjust the 720N’s Ambient Sound mode on a 20-point sliding scale. If you turn it on above 15 without music, you’ll hear a static-like hum. The hum is indicative of the two mics in each ear cup working overtime to digitally process and funnel external noise into the ear cups.

You can access your EQ settings, ANC, and Ambient Sound mode levels in the Sony Headphones Connect app on iOS or Android.

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The 720N headphones are incredibly light; Sony says they’re the company’s lightest pair, and I can tell immediately when I first put them on. I wore them for hours on end without any ear fatigue or overwhelming head pressure. The ear cups are oval, but they’re not very deep, which reduces the immersion of the sound quality.

The build quality is plasticky, but you won’t hear any concerning creaks or squeaks when bending and stretching the headband or twisting and turning the ear cups. You don’t get a carrying case with your purchase, but these headphones buff out scratches well and can survive shorter drops. So even though they don’t feel like it, they’re quite sturdy.

ZDNET’s buying advice

For $150, the Sony WH-CH720N are a great pair of mid-range headphones. The sound is sufficient for casual listeners, they feel great for hours-long wear, and they won’t break the bank. But let’s do a quick comparison to help you decide if you should take the 720N or save up for the WH-1000XM5.

Here’s what you’re sacrificing with the 720N: The LDAC Bluetooth codec, four extra microphones, one extra ANC processor, touch controls on the ear cup, and a premium, more stylish build.

Also: The best noise-canceling earbuds: Bose, Sony, and more compared

What you’re gaining from the 720N is Sony’s lightest pair of wireless headphones that delivers 50 hours of battery life (35 with ANC on), which is ten more hours than the XM5. You’ll also save up to $300, as the 720N are frequently on sale for $100 at retailers like Amazon and Best Buy.

So, if you’re looking for a pair of backup headphones or a pair of headphones that will give you all the bang for your buck, these are for you.