Review of Sony WH-CH520 Wireless Headphones

The Sony WH-CH520 represents a step forward from the casual-use on-ear Sony WH-CH510 Wireless headphones. What sets them apart as a significant upgrade is their customizable features through the Sony| Headphones Connect app. This app allows users to tweak the sound profile using a 5-band graphic EQ and presets, personalize the control scheme, and access Sony’s 360 Reality virtual soundstage software. Straight out of the box, their sound is more balanced compared to the Beats Solo3 2019 Wireless headphones, and they boast a longer battery life. Overall, these on-ear headphones offer several premium features typically absent in higher-priced models, making them a worthy option to explore.

The Sony WH-CH520 delivers a commendable neutral sound. The bass and mid-range exhibit excellent balance, rendering genres like EDM and rock with punchiness, richness, and clarity. However, the treble range tends to be recessed, resulting in a slight loss of detail in vocals and instruments, with sibilants sounding somewhat muted. Thankfully, the companion app’s 5-band graphic EQ and presets allow users to adjust the sound profile to their preference. Nevertheless, there is some distortion in the low-bass and low to mid-treble frequencies, which compromises clarity, especially at moderate to high volumes.

Sony WH-CH520 Wireless Headphones
Sony WH-CH520 Wireless Headphones

These on-ear headphones boast a sleek and understated design. The yokes seamlessly integrate with the ear cups, and a subtle manufacturer’s logo adorns the headband. They are available in four monochromatic color options: Black, White, Beige, and Blue.

In terms of comfort, the Sony WH-CH520 performs decently. They exert minimal clamping force and feel lightweight on the head, thanks to well-padded and plush headband and ear cups. However, due to their on-ear design and relatively small ear cups, users may need to make adjustments to achieve a comfortable fit.

The headphone controls are adequate, offering intuitive operation with tactile feedback and voice prompts indicating maximum/minimum volume levels and battery status upon power-up. However, discerning between buttons may be challenging despite the presence of indicator protrusions.

The Sony WH-CH520 offers a slightly warm sound profile characterized by flat and well-balanced bass and mid ranges, albeit with a noticeable low-bass roll-off. This results in audio that feels full-bodied, clear, and present. However, the treble range exhibits less balance, causing vocals and instruments to sound clear yet lacking in detail, while sibilants like cymbals may appear dull. Fortunately, the companion app provides a graphic EQ and presets for users to customize their listening experience according to their preferences.

In terms of frequency response consistency, these on-ear headphones require adjustment each time they are worn to ensure consistent audio delivery, especially impacting treble delivery, which can be affected by factors such as hair length or wearing glasses.

Regarding peaks and dips performance, a mismatch in the L/R drivers leads to slight differences in performance between each side. A small mid-bass bump, more pronounced in the right driver, lends punchiness to the audio but extends into the high-bass, potentially muddying the mix. Additionally, a wide peak from mid-mid to low-treble, particularly noticeable in the left driver, may render instruments and vocals sounding boxy and harsh. The presence of a deep dip and peak in the mid-treble range causes sibilants, such as S and T sounds in dialogue, to sound alternatively dull and piercing, noticeable in both drivers.

The Sony Headphones Connect app’s 360 Reality Audio feature, capable of analyzing ear shape and integrating a virtual soundstage via compatible apps like Tidal and Sony’s own 360 Reality Audio Live, enhances the listening experience. However, it’s worth noting that many of these programs require a subscription for use.

Sony WH-CH520 Wireless Headphones
WH-CH520 – images: Sony

Comparatively, the JBL Tune 660NC Wireless and Sony WH-CH520 Wireless are both on-ear Bluetooth headphones, with only the former featuring active noise cancelling (ANC), albeit not particularly impressive. The JBL model offers better noise reduction against ambient chatter and traffic noise, along with more comprehensive controls and a more compact fold-down design. However, its sound profile is notably more bass-heavy without the option to adjust EQ through an app. On the other hand, the Sony WH-CH520 boasts longer battery life and a more balanced sound profile with the inclusion of EQ adjustments and virtual surround sound via the companion app. Nevertheless, its passive noise isolation is limited to high-pitched sounds, and while its headband offers better padding for comfort, it lacks ANC.

For calls, the Sony WH-CH520 performs adequately, with the integrated mic delivering clear but slightly thin and unnatural voice reproduction. The mic effectively separates the user’s voice from moderate background noise but struggles in louder environments, such as busy subway stations, where the user’s voice may be drowned out. The absence of ANC and poor passive noise isolation further impedes call clarity, especially in moderately loud environments.

The Sony WH-CH520 offers a commendable neutral sound experience. With well-balanced bass and mid-range frequencies, genres like EDM and rock are delivered with punchiness, full-bodied presence, and clarity. However, the treble range takes a step back, leading to a slight loss of detail in vocals and instruments, with sibilants appearing somewhat dull. Thankfully, the companion app’s 5-band graphic EQ and presets allow for sound profile customization. Yet, there’s noticeable distortion in the low-bass and low to mid-treble frequencies, particularly evident at moderate and high volumes, impacting clarity.Sony WH-CH520

In terms of noise isolation performance, the Sony WH-CH520 falls short. Lacking active noise cancellation (ANC) and a seal around the ears due to their on-ear design, they struggle to block incoming noise effectively. Bass-range noise, such as the rumble of a bus engine, remains largely unaffected, while mid-range noise like ambient chatter barely gets isolated. However, they fare relatively better in eliminating treble-range noise, such as the hum of an AC unit.

Battery performance is a strong suit for these headphones. Offering nearly 53 hours of continuous usage, they can last through multiple workdays without requiring a recharge. Additionally, their standby mode extends up to 200 hours, alleviating concerns about unintentional power drain if left on overnight. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that being Bluetooth-only means there’s no passive listening option via an AUX cable in case the battery depletes. It’s worth mentioning that actual battery life may vary based on usage patterns.

Bluetooth performance of the Sony WH-CH520 is noteworthy. Capable of maintaining connections with up to two devices simultaneously, seamless switching is facilitated, although audio playback from a second device requires pausing on the first. On iOS or Android devices, there’s minimal sync discrepancy while watching videos. However, latency issues are apparent on PCs, resulting in audio lag during live streams or gaming sessions. It’s essential to consider that different apps and devices may handle latency compensation differently.

Here’s a summary of the key points regarding the Sony WH-CH520 Wireless headphones:

Sony WH-CH520
Sony WH-CH520

Sound Quality: Offers a neutral sound profile with well-balanced bass and mid-range frequencies, providing punchiness and clarity to genres like EDM and rock. However, the treble range is slightly recessed, impacting detail in vocals and instruments, but can be adjusted via the companion app’s graphic EQ.

Noise Isolation: Limited noise isolation performance due to the absence of active noise cancellation and an on-ear design that fails to create a seal around the ears. While they fare better with treble-range noise, bass and mid-range noise, such as engine rumble and ambient chatter, remain largely unblocked.

Battery Performance: Impressive battery life of nearly 53 hours of continuous usage, making them suitable for extended periods without recharging. Additionally, standby mode extends up to 200 hours, ensuring prolonged usability without worrying about power drain.

Connectivity: Strong Bluetooth performance allows for simultaneous connection with up to two devices, although playback from a second device requires pausing on the first. Minimal sync issues are observed on iOS or Android devices, but latency may affect PC usage, particularly during live streams or gaming.

The Sony WH-CH520 Wireless headphones offer a neutral sound experience with customizable features, long-lasting battery life, and reliable Bluetooth connectivity, although their noise isolation performance may be lacking for some users.