Tune out this troubled world with some music

Mala Bhargava | Updated on June 12, 2020 Published on June 12, 2020

Sony’s WH-CH710N headphones give big bassy sound and cut out the noise at an affordable ₹9,990 but the cut-backs are obvious

Every pair of headphones coming from Sony now tends to be compared with the universally loved WH-1000 series, now in Mark 3 coming in at ₹29, 990 at this time. That’s the standard the new WH-CH710-N will also be measured by for anyone who wants Sony headphones, though at ₹9,990, this is strictly an entry level set.

The WH-CH710N is a mouthful, so we’ll just call it the 710. It’s a full-fledged over-the-ears set of headphones, but a little smaller than is typical.

The design on our black unit is understated and plain with nothing having been done to jazz it up with an accent or two, which is something young people today may rather have preferred. It’s designed in a matte finish sort of hard plastic with a a bit of cushioning on the bottom of the headband, except the cushioning on that and on the ear-cups isn’t particularly soft or plush. At a budget price, perhaps one shouldn’t except it, but competitors do manage greater softness. It’s instead surprisingly coarse but there’s nothing to suggest it’s inferior material or that it would any less durable. The ear-cups are on the shallow side. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you have ears that specially stick out, in which case things could get a bit squishy in there. But incidentally, the ear-cups don’t fold in. Even if you could fold them, there isn’t a case provided for you to put them in. This is probably not as bad as it sounds because I’m fairly certain users don’t bother using a case after a while.

The build on these headphones seems strong enough. There are thankfully no creaks and groans when handling the 710. Overall, they’re light and fairly comfortable to wear, even at a stretch. They don’t grip your head painfully and don’t slip off easily either. I didn’t feel that they were making my ears hot or itchy as I tuned out the troubled world for some hours.

The 710 pairs easily enough with your playback device via Bluetooth or NFC, but doesn’t seem to talk to the Sony headphones app. That’s strange, but also disappointing because it means you can’t control EQ and more from your phone. You could of course look for a third party app for this but won’t be able to access the noise cancelling settings from there. Instead, you can just reach for your ear-cups where you’ll find various buttons very well located and intuitively findable. You can turn on noise cancellation or ambient sound (to tune into important sound information around you) and get to all the basic functions, including access to whichever personal assistant you choose to use, including Alexa.

Noise cancellation

Sony is using what’s being called Artificial Intelligence Noise Cancellation (AINC) which is when the device constantly analyses environmental ambient sound and automatically selects the most effective noise-cancelling. The claim is that dual microphones feeding forwards and backwards enable these headphones to catch more ambient sounds than ever before and deal with them accordingly. Until you turn on the music, you can still hear things like air conditioners, but once the music is on, it all goes away quite effectively. Chatter becomes distant and barely audible and other sounds reduce in intensity. I actually almost missed the noisy garbage truck as it passed by — and that’s saying something considering it’s loud enough to interfere with almost anything. While not as powerful as on the more expensive ANC headphones, the 710 does a pretty good job of getting the world’s noise to recede. A button-press brings ambient sounds back.

The sound from the WH-CH710N, which uses 30mm drivers, is bass-lead. In some way it’s close to your ears rather than feeling wide open and airy, which is slightly disconcerting. It sounds a bit shallow and hollow, with mids and highs less prominent. The sound quality isn’t finessed, but I feel the average person will like it well enough and be thankful enough to be able to get that alone-time with music. Others could find the bass a bit overwhelming in its prominence. Different tracks and genres come across quite differently on these headphones and for the most part these are right for general pop and rock and electronic music. Phone calls with the 710 were also fine though occasionally the other person would miss out on words spoken a bit softer or at the end of sentences.

The WH-CH710N give up to 35 hours of playing time with a quick charge of 10 minutes giving an hour of use. It uses USB-C and has an additional stereo cable. You an use it only with one device at a time — no hot swapping — and has good handling of latency when watching videos.

Noise cancellation doesn’t come cheap. This solution of pretty good sound combined with effective quieting of ambient sounds comes in at an attractive price for those who aren’t looking for a particular kind of sound signature. But this space is heating up with as much competition as the smartphone market, so stay tuned.

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Published on June 12, 2020
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