Launched in April at a price of Rs 4,490, Sony WH-CH520 is the successor to the popular WH-CH510. Sony’s reputation in the headphone market precedes the products it puts out. The premium Sony WH-100XM5 (review) is unanimously agreed to be one of the best-sounding headphones, facing very little competition – if any – in its price segment. However, things aren’t the same in the budget category, where Sony locks horns with high-value products from boAt, JBL, Sennheiser, and the like. While WH-CH510 may have enjoyed a fair bit of success in this category, they were by no means the outright best. Sony’s latest in the CH500 series aims to build on the performance while also offering some new features like Multipoint connectivity, DSEE, 360 Reality Audio, and Sony Headphones app support. We spent a week with these wireless headphones to see where they land. Here is our in-depth Sony WH-CH520 review.
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Sony WH-CH520 review: Design
Sony WH-CH520 ships within a compact square box. Inside, you will find the headphones, a USB Type-A to Type-C cable, and a reference guide. There is no hard case or soft carry pouch for the headphones inside the box.
The WH-CH520 doesn’t stray too far from its predecessor in terms of styling. It still rocks the on-ear design and doesn’t have an excessive clamping force. There’s optimum foam padding on the earcups and headband. The headphones are made out of plastic, but the quality of the material is quite nice here. It can withstand rugged, outdoor use. The matte finish on the plastic body is also a nice touch, as it elevates the feel of the headphones. You don’t have to worry about the earcups and headband attracting any fingerprints or smudges either.
The earcups are capable of swivelling inwards, making the headphones easier to pack in your luggage while travelling. The Sony logo is branded on either side of the headband, right above the earcups. The right earcup houses the three control buttons, a USB port, and the only microphone on this pair of headphones. The control buttons are clicky but could have been a bit firmer. It takes a while to get familiar with their arrangement before you can instantly reach for the button you want. There is no 3.5mm jack on the headphones which means you’re completely dependent on the battery.
While you can’t ask for anything more in terms of design, if you’re not fond of on-ear headphones, Sony WH-CH520 won’t change your mind in any way. The fit and the clamping may be comfortable, but the constant force exerted on the earlobes while wearing these headphones can get too overbearing. After an hour of use, we had to take off these headphones for a bit before using them again. Since these headphones don’t fully go over your ears, there is very little passive noise cancellation.
Sony WH-CH520 review: Performance
Sony WH-CH520 deliver audio output through powerful 30mm dynamic drivers. The headphones come with Bluetooth 5.2 support and have an effective range of 10m. There is no LDAC support, you get the standard SBC and AAC codecs to play with. Pairing the Bluetooth to your device takes very little time. Perhaps the only hangup here is that you need to press the power button for 7 seconds to enable pairing mode. If the headphones are already connected to a device, they will be unpaired before entering pairing mode.
Before we move on to the sound quality, let’s talk about the different features on offer. As we mentioned earlier, Sony WH-CH520 replace the WH-CH510 which had been on the market for four years. This update brings some much-needed features to Sony’s entry in this price category. The biggest of them all is multi-point pairing. Connecting your headset to multiple devices is something that is only possible with a wireless connection. But surprisingly, this feature is often missing on budget wireless headphones.
Sony WH-CH520 can connect to two devices at once. Pairing them with your PC and smartphone at the same time means you’re never going to miss a call while you’re gaming or watching a movie. However, if you’re playing media on one of the devices, it doesn’t automatically pause it if you play something on the other device. We also noticed some audio stuttering while watching videos on YouTube on PC with the multi-point connection turned on. Thankfully, the Sony app (more on that later) offers an option to stabilise the connection, but it comes at the cost of compromising audio quality.
Another important function that has been included in WH-CH520 is app support. To unlock the full potential of these headphones, you need to link them to the Sony Headphones Connect app. This app has a bunch of sound profiles and equaliser presets you can use to tune the audio output according to your liking. Sony’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) can also be turned on from the Headphones Connect app. DSEE upscales the audio for compressed files on your device. If you primarily stream music on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, or many major platforms, you won’t find much use for this feature. But if you have a digital library of music in compressed format, DSEE works like a charm to enhance the sound quality.
Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, like Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio, offers an immersive listening experience. To use this format, you will need to take pictures of your ears and upload them in the app for optimisation and tuning purposes. Currently, there are not a lot of apps that support this format, so this feature may be a hit or miss for you.
Let’s talk about the most vital aspect of the performance – the sound quality. Sony WH-CH520 delivers a punchy, texture-rich audio output with the signature Sony sound. The bass isn’t tuned too high, giving other frequencies optimum representation in the mix. If you want, you can opt for a more bass-oriented output in the Sony Headphones Connect app.
We played a bunch of genres on the WH-CH520 and they delivered a decent performance. While the soundstage is certainly not category-defining, there is very little to complain about here. The headphones manage to relay the glossiness of hyper-pop songs pretty well. The intricacies of bass notes were also very well handled. The thumping delivery of rock music was also very good. However, the high-end frequency response leaves a little more to be desired. The vocals and guitars sound as they should, but the cymbal hits sometimes tend to get lost in the mix.
Overall, we were happy with the audio performance that we got on the Sony WH-CH520. There is a single microphone on these headphones, which surprisingly performs pretty well on calls. It is able to extract the caller’s voice from the surrounding noise and relay it to the receiver with minimal loss in quality. We’d suggest these headphones if you work from home and have to attend a lot of meetings during work hours.
The 50-hour battery life on offer here is the cherry on the cake. With no headphone jack available, a good battery backup was necessary on these headphones. On our tests, the headphones lasted between 40-50 hours depending on the average volume level. It takes 3 hours to fully charge these headphones.
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At Rs 4,490, Sony WH-CH520 offers tremendous value for money. Multi-point pairing and app support are welcome features on these headphones. We’d recommend these headphones to folks that work from home and are looking for a pair of headphones that can connect to their PC and smartphone at once while also offering a good calling experience. Music enthusiasts will enjoy Sony’s signature sound on offer here. If you’re tired of the bass-heavy output offered by most budget headphones, Sony WH-CH520 offer a nice respite.
Sony WH-CH520: Pros
- Good audio output
- Muti-point connectivity
- App support
Sony WH-CH520: Cons
- On-ear design can exert a fair bit of pressure on the earlobes
- No headphone jack
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