Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
But on your quest for headphones, you'll quickly learn that to have the "best," you'll need to cough up a couple hundred bucks, which not everyone can or wants to do. Fortunately, some of the internal audio components that make Sony's XM5 over-ear headphones so great are also in the Sony WH-CH720N headphones, for less than half of the price.
So, should you choose the economical option or pay up for the more expensive ones? Here's my argument for the former.
To start, the 720N have a clear and bass-heavy sound, thanks to its 30mm dynamic driver. The bass gets deep and handles hip-hop, rap, and electronic music very well. The deep frequencies of Gotta Have It by Jay-Z and Kanye West translate well, delivering full-bodied bass that you can feel, especially at higher volumes.
However, the bass can override and muddle other musical notes that occupy the same frequency range. In vocal-heavy songs like One Republic's All The Right Moves, you'll need to play with the EQ settings to bring out the layered harmonies in the midrange.
For such a small and light pair of headphones, I was surprised at how present the bass was, even at low volumes. Overall, the sound quality is impressive and will satisfy those who listen to lots of rap and hip-hop.
The 720N features Sony's DSEE technology that enhances the sound quality of compressed audio files on streaming services like Spotify. DSEE won't give you as much of a boost in audio quality as Sony's LDAC Bluetooth codec will, but most listeners won't be able to hear the difference.
The 720N's ANC works well for the price, as it'll mute the low rumbling noises of a plane engine, running car, or even lawnmower. If you wear these while traveling, you won't need to listen at high volumes to block out surrounding noise. However, conversational noises will skip past the ANC, and to hold off outside noises, you'll have to increase the volume.
You can adjust the 720N's Ambient Sound mode on a 20-point sliding scale. If you turn it on above 15 without music, you'll hear a static-like hum. The hum is indicative of the two mics in each ear cup working overtime to digitally process and funnel external noise into the ear cups.
You can access your EQ settings, ANC, and Ambient Sound mode levels in the Sony Headphones Connect app on iOS or Android.
The 720N headphones are incredibly light; Sony says they're the company's lightest pair, and I can tell immediately when I first put them on. I wore them for hours on end without any ear fatigue or overwhelming head pressure. The ear cups are oval, but they're not very deep, which reduces the immersion of the sound quality.
The build quality is plasticky, but you won't hear any concerning creaks or squeaks when bending and stretching the headband or twisting and turning the ear cups. You don't get a carrying case with your purchase, but these headphones buff out scratches well and can survive shorter drops. So even though they don't feel like it, they're quite sturdy.
ZDNET's buying advice
For $150, the Sony WH-CH720N are a great pair of mid-range headphones. The sound is sufficient for casual listeners, they feel great for hours-long wear, and they won't break the bank. But let's do a quick comparison to help you decide if you should take the 720N or save up for the WH-1000XM5.
Here's what you're sacrificing with the 720N: The LDAC Bluetooth codec, four extra microphones, one extra ANC processor, touch controls on the ear cup, and a premium, more stylish build.
What you're gaining from the 720N is Sony's lightest pair of wireless headphones that delivers 50 hours of battery life (35 with ANC on), which is ten more hours than the XM5. You'll also save up to $300, as the 720N are frequently on sale for $100 at retailers like Amazon and Best Buy.
So, if you're looking for a pair of backup headphones or a pair of headphones that will give you all the bang for your buck, these are for you.