Sony WH-CH720N Lightning Review: The “Baby” WH-1000XM5

The Sony WH-CH720N headphones are now available for purchase in Malaysia, and many are drawing comparisons between it and the brand’s more premium WH-1000XM5. That statement really does beget the question: why is that, and is it really as good as its high-end counterpart?

What Is It?

Dubbed the “baby” version of the last year’s 1000XM5, the CH720N is fitted with the same Integrated Processor V1 noise cancelling chip, dual noise sensor technology, along with Sony’s DSEE technology that effectively upscales any song that you hear, and is accessible via the dedicated Sony Headphones apps or Walkmans. In addition to those features, these headphones are also capable of maintaining connections with two devices simultaneously.

Other features on the CH720N include beam-forming microphones, as well as Wind Noise Reduction that provide clear, crisp conversation during calls. Oh, and unlike the 1000XM5, the CH720N retails for RM649, which is less than half the going price of the premium headphones.

Is It Any Good?

One prevailing factor of the CH720N is its lightweight design and chassis. Compared to the 1000XM5, these headphones actually feel lighter than their premium counterpart, and that’s likely due to the fact that they are lacking the gesture controls that allow you to control your media and music functions, directly from the right earcup via touch, literally. In its place, the headphones have physical buttons built into its sides, along with a dedicated 3.5mm headphone output and USB-C port for charging.

The chassis of the CH720N is a blend of plastic and metal, with the housing of the earcups being made of the former, while the headband is made of the latter. It’s durable and flexible enough, although I wouldn’t recommend trying to push the boundaries of how far you can actually bend them. On a related note, Sony isn’t being subtle with the placement of the microphones, as you can clearly see them on the outside of each earcup.

As for battery life, Sony’s boasting about the CH720N having an average 35 battery life isn’t unfounded or empty. As my daily driver and fully charged – this includes on and off usage and taking breaks – I can stretch out the usage of these headphones over a period of four days before I need to plug them into a power source. Of course, when all else fails and I do not have a power source, there’s also the the 3.5mm cable that comes with it, but do note the majority of smartphones these days have ditched the medium, opting instead to go fully wireless. In which case, you’ll need a 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter. Oh, and that lifespan is with ANC turned off.

The Sound Quality. Talk To Me.

At RM649, the CH720N actually sounds relatively balanced in its audio delivery. Again, compared to the 1000XM5, their strength lies in their ability to deliver some decent highs and mids, although it doesn’t have the same level of depth. For that matter, sound staging feels just a tiny bit compacted. In Dinah Washington’s After You’ve Gone, all the elements – that includes the vocals, crashes, and trombone – aren’t as well defined but for the most part, these elements do not sound flat.

The lows of the CH720N are a similar story, with the headphones not really able to replicate the deep, deep percussions and bass drum in Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelt’s Digging My Potato. The Harmonica stands out, sure, but the accompanying beats in the background feel, once again, muted.

The Bad Stuff. Tell Me.

While the CH720N shares some of the good features that defined the 1000XM5, it also inherited several of the design flaws that brought about reservations about it well. For starters, they’re not foldable. Second, the earcups can swivel but only outwards, and not inwards towards the body. I have always preferred the latter to the former, as I believe it helps protect the inside of the earcups from the elements and random stuff somehow making their way into them. Yes, that has happened to me before and let me assure you, it isn’t a pleasant experience when that “material” begins moving around inside your ears.

On the plus side, the CH720N does not show any signs of breaking with the mids or high pitches, nor is there any audibly noticeable distortion on tune with deep lows. Again, the overall experience feels just a little muted, if not damp.


Then there’s

the functionality of the ANC and Ambient Noise button on the CH720N. Unlike the more premium 1000XM5, the button only allows switching between the two modes out of the box, and that’s it. There isn’t a third option that disables both audio functions at a press by default and to gain that option, you actually need to do it manually via Sony’s dedicated Headphones app. On that note, the button to activate said functions is, in my opinion, located too far in the front of the right earcup but that being said, there isn’t a lot of room left on the rim, especially since the volume rocker already takes up most of the space in the rear.

Should I Buy It?

At RM649, the Sony WH-CH720N isn’t a bad investment, especially if you’re only after the noise-cancellation and other creature comforts that the headphones have spirited away from the more premium WH-1000XM5. Again, I’m not saying that these headphones will move heaven and earth, but at the bare minimum, the listening experience is pleasurable and warm enough that you’ll still enjoy whatever you’re listening to and even bop your head to it. That, and the fact that they barely weigh anything.


Photography by John Law.

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