Yup, that does seem like a gross exaggeration, but the WH-CH700N is to date, the cheapest headphones you can buy from Sony that feature the popular noise-cancelling tech.
It is the younger sibling of our Stuff Award winner, the Sony WH-1000XM3, but skimps on the fancy bells and whistles like the QN1 processor and unsurprisingly LDAC is missing too. You get aptX HD, and at this price, it sort of seems fair. So, how good is this entry-level noise shusher?
Design and build
One look is all you need to know that these cans have emerged from Sony’s stable. The quintessential design of the WH series is a familiar sight now and they look like your regular pair of headphones. Nothing too fancy, just an understated sense of class. Under the left earcup rest the NFC button, aux-in, charging port and the power button, while the right side has the volume rocker and a two-way switch for music and call control.
It is when you pick the CH700N that you notice where Sony has skimped, but not in a very big way. The CH700N don’t feel too premium, but rather built to price and done well at that. It’s a plastic construction throughout that is reinforced by a metal slider for adjustments on the headband. They don’t fold up like a yoga instructor either but they do swivel like a professional salsa dancer, which makes them sort of travel-friendly and comfortable to place on the neck when not in use.
Comfort and fit
Since the CH700N weigh only 240g, they don’t feel heavy in the least when you place them on your noggin. The material of the earcup feels quite premium and soft and sits comfortable covering the ear. The headband although has what seems like a thin cushion, provides plenty of padding and doesn’t cause any discomfort when worn for hours on end. There is a slight heat issue though as the earcups aren’t as breathable as we’d like and your ears do tend to heat up quite a bit after an album or two.
There are no gestures here that lower the volume and amplify what’s been spoken at you. You’ve got to get a bit handsy and physically remove the earcup from your ear, which thanks to the swivel design is not a big deal. The design also allows it to rest on your neck comfortably, without it getting into the way.
Software and connectivity
The Sony CH-700N come with NFC built in, which makes pairing monkey-easy. For the rest, there’s the regular old way, but do note that for the CH-700N to accept aptX HD signals (if your phone allows it), you need to download and connect them through the Sony Headphones Connect app and set the ‘Sound Quality Mode’s priority to ‘Sound Quality’ rather than prioritising ‘Stable Connection’.
Setting it to prioritise sound quality gives you a prompt to reconnect and also disables the in-app equalizer option and its host of presets, which you can experiment with, but garner not many real tangible results. The app also allows you to switch off DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine), but you might want to leave it on if you use potato quality mp3s. However, even when switched on, it works when it has to and not all of the time, understandably.
There’s also a surround mode and a host of presets for that, but it sort of sounds outlandish and unless you’re a hardcore fan of said presets like ‘Concert Hall’, ‘Arena Club’ and others, even you would struggle to see the point of these. You can also change the function of the Noise Cancelling button and convert it to a trigger for Google Assistant, should you need to and the app also is responsible for software updates on your headphones.
Or you can go the wired way too, for which a standard 3.5mm cable is already provided in the box. Using this with the headphone also allows a slightly wider frequency range (on paper) at least.
Sound Quality and Noise Cancellation
The WH-CH700N boasts noise-cancellation, but it is more of the dormant kind and only when you pay close attention, you realize it is doing its thing. There’s no impending sense of vacuum like what its elder sibling, the Sony WH-1000XM3 is capable of. You may have to wait for a year or two for that technology to be made available at this kind of a price.
I started off with a Google Play stream of Dark Necessities by RHCP and it became apparently clear that the CH700N isn’t very fond of the lower frequencies. The bass notes at the beginning lacked a bit of definition and could certainly do with a bit more detail for a cleaner delivery. There’s punch and attack a plenty though and considering the price, we won’t complain too much about the bass.
Where the CH700N really shines is in the mid and the top end. Sam Smith’s soul-filled crooning is put forward with emotions intact and there’s a semblance of richness and body while listening to Lay Me Down. Most of the leading edges are delivered precisely and sound quite crisp too. Overall, the CH700N isn’t biased to any particular frequency and puts forward a balanced sound, which is quite spectacular at this entry-level price point.
The younger sibling of the Sony XM2 makes quite a case for itself, but if you’re main criteria of buying these headphones is noise-cancellation, you might want to audition them before purchase as it isn’t as strong as we’ve come to experience from Sony. However, as an overall headphone, this one ticks all the right boxes for an affordable BT headphone and even with sub-par noise-cancellation is worth the asking price. They’re pretty balanced when it comes to sound, provide a bit of noise-cancellation and give you close to 35 hours of playback, while giving you an option to plug in a wire when the juice runs out.