Sony is doing very well for itself and is making a name for itself in the personal audio industry. Sony’s over-ear WH-1000XM3 and in-ear WF-1000XM3 are both top class when it comes to noise cancellation and quality sound, but how do the budget audio products of the titanic brand weigh? When you look at the Sony WH-CH510, it’s frankly insane that wireless headphones can cost so little, not to mention a pair that has a decent sound, a USB-C charging port, and 35 hours of battery life. This is our Sony WH-CH510 Review.
So, when you read this review, make sure you keep the price in mind (just like we had to) when you notice shortcomings or flaws.
Sony WH-CH510 Review: Design
The first thing that strikes you is that these are on-ear headphones instead of over-ear headphones, which means that the cups are not around your ears, but resting on your ears. This makes them considerably more compact, but demonstrably slightly less comfortable (it also affects the sound quality, but that’s more to come later).
Aesthetically there is not much to say about these Sony cups, but their modest and simple appearance does wonders to broaden their appeal, as the goal here is accessibility. They are available in tasteful black, white, or blue, and their shape profile is as close as possible to ‘a straight line with a circle at each end.’ Apart from the Sony logo on both cups, the only other bloom is a simple rhombic lattice structure that covers most of the outside.
Perhaps the most apparent and striking reflection of the price point of the WH-CH510 is its structural integrity. The plastic headband, the swivel joints, and the housing of the auricles do not feel very solid, and we would be remiss to recommend “throwing” them in your bag or treating them unfriendly.
The headband seems to have a degree of flex, so it may be more forgiving than we think, but we didn’t want to push this theory too far. It doesn’t fold or collapse further to make a more compact package (although the cups do turn 90° and lie flat), but the fewer hinges, the better in this case, because we suspect that that will be the first point of failure.
It is worth mentioning that although this particular reviewer has an abnormally large head and often pushes the headphone straps to the limit, the WH-CH510 was only extended about halfway before sitting comfortably on both ears. We suspect that this will be especially good news for the big heads among us, but also for those who like to wear hats and cans at the same time.
The result of all this, of course, is that they are incredibly light, which, combined with their small size, makes them ultra-portable. Fortunately, the filling in the auricles seems to be of a higher standard than the rest of the device, making them comfortable to wear for more extended periods given their on-ear shape factor.
For a control interface, these cans have a Spartan series of three large buttons that are easy to find, distinguish, and interact with. They are responsible for the usual array of play/pause, volume up/down, and skip forward/backward options, but they also allow you to activate your device’s voice wizard. There is an integrated microphone next to these buttons for this purpose and for taking calls, and while it is certainly useful, it is not the most precise option available.
Next to the buttons and the microphone is the only port for charging via USB-C (audio over USB is not supported by what we have tested). We are disproportionately excited to see that a budget product takes over this future-proof port instead of micro USB.
Sony WH-CH510 Review: Performance
As we have already said, the fact that these headphones are in the on-ear format means that you do not quite get the audio quality that over-ear competitors offer. This is mainly since the smaller cups are not as robust and offer less space. It is therefore remarkable how solid these headphones still sound, despite their low price and limited form factor. We found the bass clear and present, but certainly not overpowering.
The higher frequencies were slightly more dominant than we’d like, and the midrange was too suppressed, but the profile was generally pleasant. Although they don’t have the exceptional clarity, balance, and sense of space that their WH-1000XM3 siblings boast, the sound these on-ears produce certainly believes in their size and price. Most genres perform well here, although tracks that already have low mids and bumped treble can be exaggerated uncomfortably.
When testing the Bluetooth 5.0 connection, we never failed, and we didn’t encounter any interference or drop-out woes. There is no app we could find, but we couldn’t think of a need given the essential simplicity of the device.
Sony WH-CH510 Review: Battery Life
These cans from Sony have 35 hours of playtime, which makes us super-impressive, and if you’re in a hurry, you can top up 90 minutes of juice from just 10 minutes charging from a flat. The lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack and the lack of audio via USB means you won’t be lucky if you run out of batteries on the road, but the impressive battery life and affordability that probably makes this possible makeup for it.
This may sound counterintuitive, but the WH-CH510’s lack of features is one of its strengths. By focusing on more essential attributes – such as battery life and sound quality – the host of features that the target audience could live without (such as active noise cancellation).
Price and Availability
No matter what region you are in, the WH-CH510 is an affordable set of cans. With these wireless on-ear headphones, you only pay $59 in the US, £50 in the UK, AU$89 in Australia, and INR 3,990 in India.
Sony WH-CH510 Review: Conclusion
If you’re looking for one of the best headphones at this price point, you’re probably already willing to make a few sacrifices. Fortunately, most of the compromises Sony has made with the WH-CH510 aren’t too crucial – the lack of analog input mirrors the loss of the 3.5mm port on the latest smartphones. At the same time, the light, plastic construction improves portability and comfort.
For those who are chasing something significantly more rugged or have a 3.5mm port, you’re unlikely to find an alternative to the same price point that’s also wireless, let alone a stable battery life and sound.
The Sony WH-CH510, with its solid audio, great battery life, and Bluetooth connectivity, is an excellent stunner for your buck. A slightly too lean build may be a breakthrough for some, but for most it will be a worthy sacrifice for that price.
- Incredibly affordable
- Solid audio and battery life
- Lightweight and compact
- Somewhat flimsy construction
- No 3.5mm jack or USB audio