Following on from the exceptional WH-1000XM3 (around Rs29,990) noise cancellation headphone, is the slightly more affordable WH-CH700N headphone. The idea is, and there is no ambiguity on this, to bring the top-notch noise cancellation tech to a more affordable headphone—after all, this one is priced at Rs12,990. In many ways, this is taking a lot of inspiration from its elder and more expensive sibling.
In terms of the design, the Sony WH-CH700N has a rather unassuming personality. To keep the weight in check, the headphone is made of plastic. And that surely has an impact, as it is 15 grams lighter than its sibling. In terms of the finishing, the earcups have a matte finish with a dash of sparkle, which is evident only if you look closely. The headband has a matte finish. The materials used for the earpads are quite comfortable, also helped by the fact that the earcups are pretty large and go around the ear easily. That said, the slight colour difference on the materials used for the earpads doesn’t exactly contrast well with the black on the rest of the headphone. If we are to say, it isn’t exactly the most premium thing to look at. At present, Sony is bringing only the black colour variant to India, though they do have a blue and a white headphone line ready to be unleashed if the consumer demand suggests so.
All said and done, the comfort level of wearing this for hours on end, is pristine. The earcups are large and the ears don’t get pressed inwards by the pads, something that is a big problem with a lot of headphones. There is a slight gap between your ears and the layer behind which the audio drivers sit—that adds to the sense of space and comfort. The cushioning is plus, and comfy, without ever feeling too thick or too dense. The latter is something that compromises on ventilation—with leather earcups, it is always about a fine balance, which Sony has clearly managed with the WH-CH700N headphones.
Spread out on the bottom of both the earcups are some physical controls. On the left speaker is the power button. Pressing this once generates a voice based update for the current battery life status, a long press does the desired task of switching the WH-CH700N on or off, and an even longer press and hold mission puts the headphones in Bluetooth pairing mode.
Adjacent to this is a micro-USB charging port, which seems a bit odd now. Even more so considering its larger sibling, the brilliant WH-1000XM3 has made the upgrade to the USB-C standard already. There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack to connect a physical headphone cable, in case the battery runs out at some point and you are nowhere close to a charging point yet.
Then there is the small matter of the noise cancellation switch. It is clearly marked NC, which would lead one to assume that pressing this would control the noise cancellation feature. As it turns out, things aren’t as simple as they seem. Despite the labelling of the NC button, it is by default programmed to invoke the Google Assistant instead. Which renders this useless if you have initially paired these headphones with your laptop, MacBook or an Apple iPhone, for instance. You will have to install the Sony Headphones Connect app (free for Android and iOS) to configure this as the NC button to switch the noise cancellation feature on or off.
Over the years, there have been two very distinct opinions about Sony headphones and the sound signature they generate. There are those buyers who prefer the bass-heavy nature of the sound, something that could perhaps be considered a throwback to the Beats headphones of the not too distant past. Then there were those who instead preferred a more neutral sound. In a way, weirdly enough, the Sony WH-CH700N headphone is actually doing a fine balancing act. There are large 40mm audio drivers in each year, and they really show their magic. It isn’t as bass heavy as some of its predecessors, but yet retains a good amount of bass topping for your music. At the same time, this isn’t what you can call a neutral sound signature either, but something quite close.
Bass is still quite powerful, but this time around, it is tight and punchy. The biggest difference now is that you will not feel it overpower other elements of a soundstage. This is great if your music library holds a lot of up-tempo genres such as trance music. We did notice that the mid-range frequencies aren’t the brightest with many genres. But, you will never really encounter a scenario where any particular instrument or element on a soundstage goes missing or sounds incomplete. The Sony WH-CH700N more than makes up for it with excellent handling of higher frequencies. Vocals get a generous dose of crispness, and the way they stand out is excellent all through. The stereo separation and the wideness of the soundstage are perhaps the most impressive about the Sony WH-CH700N headphones.
The noise cancellation feature definitely feels a notch above what its rivals offer. Though this does not have the QN1 audio processing hardware and thereby misses out on atmospheric pressure optimising and personal NC optimising feature, these headphones really hold their own against the rivals. Nevertheless, the fit of the earcups and the effective noise cancellation get the job done. That said, in a really noisy ambience, you might still notice some sound trickle though, but that’ll only be in extreme situations.
The one upgrade that the Sony WH-CH700N get over the WH-1000XM3 is the extended battery life. With noise cancellation active, the battery lasted a bit more than 36 hours on a single charge—that is more than even what Sony claims, though our listening volume for the most part was around 50%, irrespective of the source device. The disappointing thing though is the charging time. While a 10 minute quick splash and dash gives you about an hour’s worth of listening, to completely charge a fully discharged battery takes close to 7 hours. Now, in this day and age, do you really have 7 hours’ worth of time to sit around while the headphones get charged, if you forget to plug them in to juice up before hitting the bed?
The Sony WH-CH-700N supports the SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD audio codecs. One of the rivals includes the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC (around Rs14,999), which is great in its own right—and comes along with a slightly more subdued sound signature. In many ways, the Sony WH-CH700N trumps it with richer sound, a detailed companion app and much longer battery life. This is clearly learnt a few tricks from its more expensive sibling, and is our pick as the noise cancellation headphone under the Rs15,000 price point.