Sony WH-CH520 Review : Best Budget Headphones 2023

Sometimes I think Sony is a victim of their own success. It’s been four years since the WH-CH510, the elder version of the WH-CH520, was released, and that’s because the WH-CH510 can still compete and defeat many headphones in the $50 price range.

Buy Sony WH-CH520 Headphones on Amazon

Over the years, Sony has made numerous improvements to wearable audio technology. Since there is a lot of competition in the market for inexpensive on-ear headphones, Sony has decided this is the ideal time to raise the standard again. There are countless options on Amazon right now if you’re seeking the best cheap headphones under $50, but they might not be as good as the Sony WH-CH520.

Sony WH-CH520 Design

The color options that are available right now are cream, black, blue, and white. In addition, there’s some nice obvious but subtle Sony branding on the headband because, you know, you have to let them know it’s a Sony.

Sony primarily used plastics with a nice matte finish, making the WH-CH520 incredibly lightweight at just 144 grams. They look and feel surprisingly premium, given the price. And Sony has upgraded the padding on the headband and the ear cups making these light and comfortable. So, Sony has nailed two of the essential requirements for a good pair of headphones.

That’s comfort and weight. What I like about the design of the WH-CH520 is that when you’re not wearing them on your ears, you can wear them around your neck and twist them outwards. This means you can still play music or a podcast and hear it playing if you don’t want to wear them on your ears. That’s a thumbs-up from me.

And when you are wearing them, they have a firm grip. So yes, they’re ideal for running in general gym activities. I wouldn’t go trampoline with them, though. The tension on the headband seems to be just right so that even when you’re lying back, the headphones will not fall off your head.

Overall, the look and feel of these headphones are much like a miniaturized version of the Sony WF-1000XM5, which is the ANC flagship from Sony right now. But you could buy seven of the WH-CH520 for the price of one XM5. I’m not saying you should do that, but you could.

The WH-CH520 have clicky buttons for volume up and volume down. These buttons double up as skip forwards and skip back if you long push and hold them, and there’s a raised button in the middle for play or pause. The middle button has two additional functions, a quick tap to pick up and end calls and a double tap to wake your device’s default AI assistant.

You need to know two crucial things about these headphones: there’s no physical way of connecting a cable to a device. There’s no 3.5-millimeter audio jack, and you cannot use the USBC port to connect it to a device. WH-CH520 headphones have an LED indicator that blinks when pairing and shows when you run out of power and charging.

There are also some nice air vents just behind the hangers, allowing the drivers to move more air. And also, it might help your ears stay cooler for longer, and there is a single forward-facing mic on the right ear cup. And what’s that?

Voice Call Quality

How good is the voice call quality? The call quality, with no background noise, is clear and crisp. For the test, we introduced some noise, specifically road noise, in the background. I am amazed at how well the headphones isolated the background noise and projected great sound for the mic.

Outside on a busy road, you can answer your call without any problem. The voice is clear, and the person you call can hear you well. Let’s take it up another level by introducing some wind with a fan.

So the wind rushed directly at my face head-on. I started at a low setting, and you can hear the wind quite a bit and still can hear the voice distorted but still understand the words. For high settings, the fan produces quite a strong wind; you can listen to the strong wind sound, and the voice breaks up.

So, in the strong wind, the voice quality is relatively poor, so you should get to a cover before you can resume the phone call, as the person on the side might not hear you well.

Best Features of Sony WH-CH520 Headphones

360 Reality Audio

So remember when I said stick around, and you’ll find out why the Sony WH-CH520 headphones are so fierce in this price category? The Sony software features available are better than many headphones that are more than double the price of the WH-CH520. When you pair these to a device via Sony’s headphones app, you’ll be prompted to take photos of your ears so that the app can calibrate the EQ for 360 reality audio.

360 Reality Audio is a revolutionary immersive music experience powered by Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound technology. It will probably be the default format of the future when it comes to music. If you haven’t heard it before, it will blow your mind and something else that elevates the WH-CH520 above the rest.

It’s the fact that it does have Sony’s digital sound enhancement engine. Now what this does is metaphorically like blowing the dust off an old vinyl record. It enhances compressed audio files to make them sound better. So even old music recorded long ago when technology wasn’t as good as today will sound better than it does on other headphones.

Multi-Point Pairing

One more significant upgrade; again, this is a feature we only sometimes see on more expensive headphones. It’s multi-point pairing thanks to Bluetooth 5.2. So this means you can simultaneously connect the WH-CH520 to your phone and your computer if you need to do some work or if you need to get an important gaming session in, and it will switch automatically on the fly if you’re phone rings.

Excellent Battery

So, as you know, speed and power make the world go round, and only a little can be achieved without it. The engineers at Sony made the wise decision to make it so that the WH-CH520 can run for up to 50 hours at 60% volume. Now I know what you’re thinking. How loud is 60% volume?

Well, I tested these headphones thoroughly and discovered that the maximum volume I can listen to these at is around 70%. Listening at 70% would be approximately 45 hours, which is still way more than enough for me.

And they charge with USBC and with just three minutes charged, giving you one and a half hours of power, if that sounds impressive. That’s because it is. And do you know what else is impressive? So due to the compact size of the WH-CH520, the drivers are also proportionately compact at 30 millimeters. They do produce a 20-hertz to 20-kilohertz frequency response range. The Codex supported SBC and AAC but not LDAC supported.

Sound Quality

The sound quality is entirely subjective, but I have listened to tons of headphones, so I’ll give you my best explanation of the flat sound profile on WH-CH520, and then we’ll get into how to make them sound better for you. So the base output on these, by default, is excellent and bouncy.

It’s one of the more vital attributes of these headphones out of the box when it comes to vocal clarity. Male and female vocals are respectable; if one area needs a lift, it is the mid-range. And here’s why these headphones are so fabulous at this price point.

It’s the fact that you can adjust all of the attributes yourself to suit your specific style of music. So within the Sony Headphones app, there are many great preset EQs, two of them being my favorite, the Bright and the Excited. The Bright setup is ideal for rock, indie, and more old styles of music.

Then the Excited one is better for hip-hop tracks, for example, that new track by AI Drake and AI Weeknd’s Hot on My Sleep. So try this one out for hip-hop and base-heavy tracks. Trust me; it will slap like AI Drake said in that song.

That upscaling I mentioned is called DSEE, withstand for a digital sound enhancement engine. Basically, DSEE tries to reverse the effect of compression on streaming audio by fading out distortion and boosting other frequencies. You can turn on DSEE no matter which service you’re listening to.

These headphones are also compatible with Sony’s 360 reality audio, which creates a surround sound effect with your music. But you do have to listen to specifically supported streaming services to enable this feature. Just listening to Spotify with DSEE enabled, I was pleasantly delighted by the Sony WH-CH520 sound quality.

I could feel the base riffs, especially after I switched to the excited EQ preset, and the guitar had plenty of melodic punch and clarity. These headphones are meant for casual listening. You won’t think you’ve fallen into sound quality heaven or something equally esoteric, but they punch above their weight for the price.

My Verdict on WH-CH520 Headphones

Firstly, the name. I wish they could come up with something more catchy and memorable. Maybe a Japanese word like Yukio, I believe that means a floating world.

In the price category that WH-CH520 live in when it comes to on-ear headphones, there is a lot of competition. Many players are doing a great job at marketing, but only some have the audio expertise and heritage behind them like Sony do.

And that’s why if you want to make a good sound investment, the WH-CH520 from the one and only Sony won’t disappoint. There are four reasons why I place these firmly ahead of most of the competition.

Number one is Sony’s build quality. Number two is that you get Sony’s more than 40 years of audio expertise dialed into the sound signature.

And three, of course, is Sony’s headphones software, which is unrivaled at this price point. Number four is, of course, an incredibly powerful battery, which can deliver 50 hours of playback.

So I hope you guys have enjoyed the review for Sony WH-CH520 Headphones.