Sony WH-CH700N offers wireless noise cancellation without costing a lot of money.
It has a design similar to its premium sibling but some functions have been removed.
At Rs 12,990, it is virtually free of competition in the segment.
Noise cancellation can be described as one of the big new features that the audio industry has added to headphones in the recent times. The feature allows users to cancel the noise around them without compromising on the audio that they are listening through their headphones. The feature comes into its own when you use such headphones on a Boeing 787 jet and drown out the noise made by Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine. The feature became extremely popular when Bose introduced its QC25 headphones, but Sony set a new benchmark with its WH-1000XM3 headphones last year.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 is the best wireless noise cancellation over ear headphone anybody can buy right now. The Bose QC35 II, which is a bit old, gives it a fight but does not quite match it. The only thing that limits the WH-1000XM3 from becoming mainstream is the price. At Rs 29,990, the WH-1000XM3 is too expensive for most users. Sony knows it, and its answer is the WH-CH700N. The Sony WH-CH700N can be described as a watered-down version of the WH-1000XM3 that keeps critical features and drops the rest. I have taken them on two eight-hour flights and have used to make video calls and listen to my team on PUBG, and I think it is among the best headphones for most users, if you overlook some of the issues. Here is why.
How does the Noise Cancellation Work?
If you are even considering the Sony WH-CH700N then it must be for its wireless noise cancellation feature and not the sound alone. For the first time, I want to say that Noise Cancellation > Audio Quality. Noise Cancellation has always been restricted to the premium segment and whenever it has been available at budget, the performance has been so sub-par that you ended up ignoring it altogether. With the WH-CH700N, Sony breaks all those barriers and shows how the feature is not premium anymore.
It works simply by pushing the NC button on the left ear can of the headphone. While the WH-1000XM3 uses adaptive sound control to achieve superior noise cancellation, Sony says the WH-CH700N relies on Artificial Intelligence Noise Cancelling (AINC) to selectively block the ambient sound. In my experience, I found it to be effective during my eight-hour long flight. I could hear literally no sound of those plane engines, and it was also perfect when blocking the noise made by people seated in front of me.
Having said that, I must admit that the WH-CH700N is not as effective as Sony’s flagship wireless noise cancelling headphone. For instance, even with NC turned ON, I could hear sound of a person shouting nearby clearly. Since it is tuning the effectiveness of noise cancellation automatically, you get limited control. There is no way to hear the ambient sound through the NC button and it also acts as the control for Google Assistant when tweaked from the app. Sony has cut corners to reach the price point of Rs 12,990, but there is not much overbearing of it anywhere. Yes, the Sony WH-1000XM3 makes the world around you go silent literally while the WH-CH700N only blocks enough sound to enrich your primary listening experience.
What about comfort and sound quality?
When I tried the Sony WH-1000XM3 last year, I was split in my view that it offers great sound and superior noise isolation but is not the most comfortable of the pack. I think the latter part of the judgement remains true for the Sony WH-CH700N as well. They are over ear headphones that completely cover your ears and if you listen to them for a really long period of time then you could see sweat accumulate around them almost instantaneously. I have never had such an issue with Bose QC 35 but considering the price, wiping those sweat and using them again should not be an issue. I want to note here that sweat glands, in my case, are always on hyperdrive and the issue faced by me, may become a non-issue for others.
Apart from that small complaint, the Sony WH-CH700N is comfortable to wear and offers relatively good padding for the design. The Ear Pads completely cover the ear and have a furry feeling, which makes it comfortable but, in my case, the air circulation was not quite optimum and thus left those earpads sweaty after few hours. The headband, on the other hand, is designed to fit tight enough to remain stable over your head. They don’t weigh down on your head and thus maintain the position of earcups over your ears. The WH-CH700N weighs 240 grams, which makes it lighter than the WH-1000XM3 and comfortable to wear and move for a longer duration of time.
We are talking headphones here and one thing that matters the most is sound quality. In this area, the Sony WH-CH700N does not disappoint but is not astounding either. It is good for audio which comes into its own when you drown out the noise around you. For example, listening to Taylor Swift’s Blank Space is much more rewarding with NC enabled. It also delivers clear and crisp vocals and balanced acoustics but since it is Sony, the headphone holds its own when you play bass heavy songs.
I have been listening to a lot of Marian Hill lately, and the newest song Differently from the Philadelphian electronic duo sways you with its bass. On the WH-CH700N, it sounds much more composed and cleaner than it does on my in-ear monitors thanks to the 40mm dynamic drivers with frequency response of 20Hz to 20,000Hz. That’s not all, it also works well with jazz inspired music like Toto’s Rosanna. The sound is well balanced, but I won’t say it is neutral and is clearly aimed at bass music. It can handle any type of genre but owns those which are bass heavy and offers balanced treble. I mostly listened to music through streaming platforms such as Spotify, Saavn and Gaana at the maximum quality offered by these services.
When you change the source and play FLAC audio, the sound-stage gets wider and there are more details to absorb than otherwise possible. For example, if you listen to any song by Queen, you will notice distinct separation of instruments and more range in the dynamics of the vocals. The overall sound quality is worth more than the price and does not disappoint. You can get more out of it with Sony’s Headphones Connect App, which lets you enable or disable surround sound experience using company’s proprietary sound processing called Virtual Phone Technology (VPT). There is also option to change equalizer and one can create two custom profiles to suit their listening experience.
The app is also the only way to set the control for the NC button. While it is set to noise cancellation by default, you can change it to control Google Assistant as well. It also lets you change sound quality mode with priority on either sound quality or stable connection. The headphone, by default, set priority to stable connection but changing that to sound quality would be among the first things that you should do. Another thing that works like charm with the Sony WH-CH700N is the NFC pairing and with NFC enabled on your mobile device, tap on the left ear cup and the pairing happens instantaneously and you can start listening to music right away.
Should you buy?
I have had the Sony WH-CH700N for over a month and after watching four Oscar nominated movies onboard a Boeing 787 Jet and streaming TV shows on Netflix and listening to music via Spotify, I am convinced that this is the over ear headphone most people should buy. If you have budget of Rs 30,000 then don’t even think twice and get the Sony WH-1000XM3 but if your wallet is not that big then you should look at Sony’s cheaper offering.
The WH-CH700N offers a balanced sound-stage that does justice to wide array of audio but every time you listen to bass heavy music, the headphone owns it, as if the musician created them with these pair of headphones in mind. The noise cancellation is not as dynamic as that of premium 1000XM3 but it works most of the time. It is also comfortable to wear with leakage of sound only happening when the volume is turned up to its highest level. At Rs 12,990, the Sony WH-CH700N aims to please every kind of user, one who wants good comfort and audio and those who want novel feature such as noise cancellation.