Sony and Bose are engaged in a battle of their own for making the best wireless noise cancelling headphones. While Sony WH-1000XM3 was the best in 2019, Bose answered with it’s Noise Cancelling 700 headphones. These are undoubtedly the best wireless headphones with noise cancellation right now. However, they come with a sticker price that cannot be described as affordable. Sony, in particular, has taken note and is trying to offer affordable options. The first such product was WH-CH700N, and the latest offering is called WH-H910N.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. How in the world did Sony come up with such a brand name? Well, that can be described as Sony doing Sony things. The Sony WH-H910N costs more than WH-CH700N, offers better performance, and noise cancellation. It was introduced in India as Flipkart exclusive but is now available across all major e-commerce platforms. The headphones, which are part of Sony’s h.ear range, cost Rs 21,990. At the time of writing, it was available for Rs 20,990. So, does the price and features make it an attractive option? We tune the noise out to find out.
If you are even thinking about wireless headphones worth Rs 20,000 or more then you definitely prioritize audio quality. With the WH-H910N, Sony is taking a very different approach to sound. It uses 25mm drivers with aluminum domes and soft urethane edge diaphragms. The company says it should produce the same sound pressure as a conventional 40mm driver. Guess what? Sony might be right with its product marketing. The Sony WH-H910N produces sound with very good vocal range and natural bass. It is not particularly bass heavy, but it tries a balanced approach to sound reproduction.
The versatility of this approach becomes evident when you play Aja by Steely Dan. The instrumental break from 2:09 to 6:04 is captivating and while listening on WH-H910N, it adds new life. The same is true while listening to Lady Gaga’s new electro-pop single titled Stupid Love. If you look up for these headphones on Sony’s website, you will see pictures of people having their eyes closed and experiencing melancholy or nirvana. While I didn’t quite get that experience, it was real close while listening to Arvo Part’s Tabula Rasa. The dynamic range of music and instruments used to create that music is phenomenal here.
Regardless of what genre you listen to, the Sony WH-H910N shines through the playback. Whether you listen to Bollywood, Hollywood, Electronics Dance, Pop, Trance or anything else. There is a distinctive character added to give the music the realness. It has great balance, meaning it covers the low-end and high-end really well. The bass is agile while the mid-range is clear. I recently finished The Mandalorian, and I observed how the ominous music was distinct on these headphones. They are also perfect for podcast and for making calls.
Noise Cancellation and Ambient Sound
It seems tuning oneself out of this world is becoming the new social norm. Noise cancellation headphones are a great tool when you wish to tune yourself out from the noise around you. On the WH-H910N, noise cancellation is effective but it is not magical like the WH-1000XM3. In our office, which has an open floor plan, I could still hear people talk with noise cancellation enabled. The only difference being that it sounded like a whisper. On the WH-1000XM3, the sound is cancelled to such an extent that you do not hear anything happening around you.
The noise cancellation on WH-H910N was the most effective while on a local train. It has dual microphones – one feed-forward and one feed-back – capable of cancelling the noise around you. While noise cancellation is great, you can also listen to natural sound using Ambient Sound. This feature can be enabled via a dedicated button on the left side. This button lets you toggle between ambient sound or noise cancellation.
Once ambient sound is enabled, you will hear people talking around you alongside the music playing on your cans. You can also control the ambient sound being played back through the Sony Headphones Connect app. With ambient sound, Sony has added another interesting feature called Quick Attention. Say you are listening to music and your friend wants to talk, you would either stop the music or take off the headphones. Quick attention eliminates the need to do both.
To enable Quick Attention, hold your hand over the touch sensitive area on the right earcup. The feature will immediately quieten the music and let you continue the conversation. As soon as your hand off the touch sensor, the music starts to play at the previously set volume. I was surprised how well it worked and had no false positive whatsoever. Sony also analyzes whether you are staying or walking to better implement the ambient sound. It is both practical and works reliably well.
Design and Sony Headphones Connect app
Sony is trying to make sure that noise cancellation is not restricted to most premium headphones in its lineup. With the WH-H910N, it is not only bringing premium features but also great design. The headphones come in a two-tone color where the earpad and the headphone use different colors. Our review unit is the black color variant where the headphone is matte black and earpad is glossy black. It does not look as classy as other colors in the lineup but these colors don’t seem available right now.
For years, headphones have looked the same and this two-tone color does add some uniqueness to otherwise same over-ear headphones. I like the soft-cushioned earpads which are a huge step up from WH-CH700N. They are comfortable to wear for a long duration of time. The headband is made from silicone and it offers a close fit. I liked the snug fit but some might find it aggressive. These headphones can be folded, making them easy to carry around and store in your backup.
The right earcup also comes with touch sensors to play or pause music, activate digital assistants like Google Assistant or Alexa or Siri and change volume. I have never been a fan of touch sensors on headphones or earbuds. On the Sony WH-H910N, my experience was somewhat better but it was not always reliable. There were times when I wanted to raise the volume and ended up activating Google Assistant instead. It takes some getting used to but definitely not difficult to learn.
Sony also offers an app called Headphones Connect to fine tune the performance and usability. You can change the function of buttons provided on the left earcup. The app also lets you change the function of “C” button from controlling adaptive sound to control digital assistant. You can also change the equalizer, enable or disable DSEE HX and change sound quality mode. The app is also useful for software updates and trust me, Sony does push updates.
Verdict: Should you buy?
Sony has launched the WH-H910N as an online-centric headphone available via major e-commerce platforms. It is priced at Rs 20,990, which seems like a reasonable price. The Sony WH-H910N has excellent sound, distinct bass and clear balance. The noise cancellation is not as profound as the one seen on WH-1000XM3 but it works well. The real deal is the ambient sound and quick attention, which are really useful features.
If you are planning to buy this headphone right now then you should take a pause and read the next line carefully. On Amazon India, the excellent Sony WH-1000XM3 is available for Rs 23,990 as part of Holi festive offer. I totally recommend shelling out extra Rs 3,000. However, when Sony WH-1000XM3 returns to its Rs 29,990 retail price, you should consider Sony WH-H910N as the new go-to for wireless noise cancellation headphones.