The Sony WH-CH520 is a fantastic pair of on-ear headphones that surprisingly punches above their price point to deliver a sleek design, and high-quality audio and boasts more features than pricier rivals.
- Solid, well-balanced sound
- Versatile app customization in the app
- Bluetooth multi-point pairing is a winner
- 50-hour battery life
- Middling noise isolation
- Lack a 3.5mm jack
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The Sony WH-CH520 might as well be the coolest, most affordable pair of headphones you’re going to spend money on this year – and for a good reason. Part of Sony’s wireless lineup, these on-ear Bluetooth headphones deliver high-quality audio, and while the sound here isn’t going to compete with top-tier models like the Sony WH-1000XM5, you could happily hook them to your ears all day.
As you might expect at this price, though; you’re not getting high-end features like active noise cancellation or Hi-Res Audio support, but Sony focuses on sound and a few other extras that make the WH-CH520 fantastic value. Take, for instance, DSEE which optimally balances bass, mids, and treble; something you can’t achieve with similarly priced headphones out there.
Everything looks impressive on paper, and its take Sony four years to finally upgrade the WH-CH510 which paves way for the new Sony WH-CH520. We’re particularly interested in the Sony DSEE chip that upscales compressed tracks to better quality and supports the immersive 360 Reality Audio format. Is that enough to make the WH-CH520 a winner? Let’s find out.
|Active noise cancellation||No|
|Battery life||Up to 50 hours|
|Weight||4.8 oz / 137g|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.2, USB-C|
|Other features||Sony Headphones app support, DSEE upscaling|
- An all-familiar design
- Very lightweight
- Available in black, white, blue, and beige
The new Sony WH-CH520 headphones sport the same, likable design as its predecessor. They’re comfortable enough to wear for some time, but a first you might feel a pinch against the earlobes – maybe after 20 – to 30 minutes, but that subsides eventually. Plus, like all other on-ear, you have the option to adjust the headphone to sit for better comfort on your ears.
The shell is textured plastic and feels sturdy and durable enough. As expected at this price, it doesn’t have that premium feel to them, but it doesn’t feel cheap either. There are control buttons on the bottom of the right-hand earcup for play/pause, volume control, and track skipping, and you can summon your phone’s voice assistant with a double-press of the play button.
There’s fairly notable clamping from the headband on the sides of the head, so if you have a larger-than-average head, these headphones might not be the most comfortable, but I think they’ll be great for people with smaller skulls. Even with the cushioning, they’re not very noise-canceling (remember they don’t have any noise cancellation), so keep that in mind in case you need something to use for your daily commute.
- Great wireless connectivity
- Includes Sony Headphones app
- Bluetooth multipoint support
The Sony WH-CH520 supports Bluetooth 5.2, and this wireless connection remains great so far. It doesn’t suffer from dropped connection, stuttering, or breakups, just seamless streaming even in busy areas. In case you encounter any major issues, you can always tweak the Bluetooth performance via the app to prioritize the connection.
That said, the WH-CH520 doesn’t have any LDAC support for enhanced audio quality, so it makes do with SBC and AAC for Android and iOS devices.
Sony claims that the WH-CH520 lasts up to 50 hours on a single charge, but on the company website, it’s stated as both 50 and 40. Whichever one is true, that’s still long enough before you need to charge it again (a full charge takes around three hours). A Spotify playlist stream for two hours at mid-volume sips around 50% of the battery, meaning you have plenty of battery reserve to last a couple of hours.
Call quality is very great, and the person on the other side can hear you clearly, all thanks to Sony’s sole beamforming microphone isolating the voice and suppressing other external noises. The Sony WH-CH520 supports Sony’s Headphones app for firmware updates, gets a custom equalizer, playback/volume controls, as well as the option to toggle on multi-point Bluetooth in case you need to connect two devices simultaneously for multitasking.
We mentioned the DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) earlier, it upscales audio and its presence here is on the assumption that most of the people who buy this headphone will likely be listening to low-quality music streams. Thus, DSEE helps identify, correct, and enhance the compressed elements and adds more detail back to the tunes.
Well, it isn’t going to make a whole difference, but we’re glad that Sony attempts to better sense a track’s dynamic range.
Finally, this headphone supports the 360 Reality Audio format. This is Sony’s proprietary immersive audio format that’s similar to Dolby Atmos or Apple Spatial Audio. The approach is similar in presenting a twist of sound around the listener with instruments dotted around. It’s supported by Tidal, and if you’re interested, it’s worth going through the optimization process to sync the performance to your ears.
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- Sweet on the audio arena
- Good audio quality for the price
- So-so detail and clarity
At this price, I don’t mind at all that Sony put everything into audio quality, and though the sound here isn’t going to win any accolades for the price, I could happily listen to it all day. I reviewed the Sony WH-1000XM4 last year and liked it for its dynamic, detail-rich sound, and I can say its affordable sibling does a good job too. The good audio performance is due to DSEE, which when activated, cleverly balances the bass, makes mids and trebles clear, and the WH-CH520 delivers a reassuring dose of detail.
The bass makes things splendid by adding depth while staying controlled and makes the best of electronic or dance music. The mids bring out vocals clearly and let them stretch a little, giving dense mixes a chance to shine, although at lower detail than in higher-end models. As for trebles, nothing to complain about either, they elevate out of the mid-range well, and come out strong than you’d expect for an affordable pair of headphones.
That said, more expensive options don’t just add clarity to tracks, they also feel more natural and offer a more dynamic range with deeper bass and crisp highs. As such, when it comes down to sound, the quality here is more constrained and compressed than it is from high-end headphones – but I’m very satisfied with the audio you get here for the price. And even better, you can use Sony’s Headphones app to adjust the EQ to your liking, and this is more effective than in most headphones I’ve tried before, cheap or expensive.
Something you’ll note about the sound, though, is that it flares up once you’re listening at about 45% volume; lower than that it sounds a little thin and compressed. A listen to DJ Khaled ft. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, John Legend, and Fridayy’s God Did are characterized by smoothness and a very natural appreciation for the voices and instruments in the track. Bass reigns supreme here, kept in check and never trying to get obtrusive, so if you’re a bass friend, this is a worthwhile companion.
Overall, the Sony WH-CH520 sounds sweet, but it lacks the clarity, detail, and finesse of the Beats Solo3 wireless headset, but they suffice as a good listen at their price.
Should you buy the Sony WH-CH520?
The Sony WH-CH520 are a fantastic pair of on-ear headphones, though they don’t quite match the clarity and detail of the almost similarly priced Beats Solo3. They’re especially a good option if you want balanced sound for less, free of the bass overload you get on some cheaper headphones out there. With the WH-CH520, Sony made them handle all kinds of music for less.
To that, add 50 hours of playback and the ability to switch between devices, and the WH-CH520 cruises to the top of the range, albeit at the low price you’re paying for them. Well, you’re not getting extras for the professional audiophile and the on-design can pinch, but that doesn’t make these a bad option at all.
For the affordable price, clear call quality, solid wireless performance, and Bluetooth multipoint for multitaskers, the Sony WH-CH520 stands out as a good value that’s easy to recommend.