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Sony WH-CH520 Wireless Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Reviewed Apr 11, 2023 at 10:52 am
Latest change: Writing modified Apr 11, 2023 at 10:52 am
Sony WH-CH520 Wireless Picture
7.4
Neutral Sound
6.3
Commute/Travel
7.0
Sports/Fitness
6.6
Office
5.7
Wireless Gaming
5.5
Wired Gaming
6.7
Phone Calls

The Sony WH-CH520 Wireless are the successor to the on-ear casual use Sony WH-CH510 Wireless. While their design is similar, they now come with upgraded features like multi-device pairing and compatibility with the Sony | Headphones Connect companion app, allowing for sound customization via graphic EQ and presets. Their battery life has also been extended, now lasting over 50 hours continuously and 200 hours on standby.

Our Verdict

7.4 Neutral Sound

The Sony WH-CH520 are decent for neutral sound. The bass and mid-range are very well balanced, making genres like EDM and rock sound punchy, full-bodied, and clear. The treble range is recessed, making vocals and instruments lose some detail and sibilants sound dull. Fortunately, you can change the sound profile with the companion app's 5-band graphic EQ and presets. However, there's distortion in the low-bass and low to mid-treble that makes audio sound less clear at moderate and high volumes.

Pros
  • 5-band graphic EQ and presets in-app.
Cons
  • Bad passive noise isolation.
6.3 Commute/Travel

The Sony WH-CH520 are mediocre for commute and travel. They're decently comfortable but can't passively isolate you from much background noise due to their on-ear design and lack of active noise cancellation (ANC). Fortunately, their long battery life means you won't need to worry about them dying during a long flight.

Pros
  • Long battery life.
  • Comfortable and well-built.
Cons
  • Bad passive noise isolation.
  • On-ear design impacts stability during moderate movement.
7.0 Sports/Fitness

The Sony WH-CH520 are decent for sports and fitness. They're comfortable enough for a long run or hike, but their on-ear design limits their stability. As such, they'll likely fall off or move around during a more intense workout. They'll also require some adjustment to ensure a comfortable fit due to their smaller ear cups.

Pros
  • Comfortable and well-built.
Cons
  • On-ear design impacts stability during moderate movement.
6.6 Office

The Sony WH-CH520 are reasonable for office use. They're comfortable enough to last a long shift, and their long battery life means you'll likely only need to charge them once a week or so. They also support multi-device pairing, meaning you can switch between your laptop and phone easily. However, they don't have ANC and struggle to block out sound, though they do a good job of isolating you from higher-frequency noise like a whiny AC unit.

Pros
  • Long battery life.
Cons
  • Bad passive noise isolation.
5.7 Wireless Gaming

The Sony WH-CH520 aren't designed for wireless gaming. They can only connect to devices via Bluetooth, and their latency is too high for gaming.

5.5 Wired Gaming

The Sony WH-CH520 are wireless-only headphones, and you can't use them for wired gaming.

6.7 Phone Calls

The Sony WH-CH520 are alright for calls. Their integrated mic makes your voice sound clear but slightly thin and unnatural. The mic also does a good job separating your voice from moderate background noise, but your voice can get drowned out in louder environments, like a busy subway station. Their lack of ANC and bad passive noise isolation also means you won't hear your call well, especially in moderately loud environments.

Pros
  • Comfortable and well-built.
Cons
  • Bad passive noise isolation.
  • 7.4 Neutral Sound
  • 6.3 Commute/Travel
  • 7.0 Sports/Fitness
  • 6.6 Office
  • 5.7 Wireless Gaming
  • 5.5 Wired Gaming
  • 6.7 Phone Calls
  1. Updated Apr 11, 2023: Review published.
  2. Updated Mar 20, 2023: Early access published.
  3. Updated Mar 13, 2023: Our testers have started testing this product.
  4. Updated Mar 09, 2023: The product has arrived in our lab, and our testers will start evaluating it soon.
  5. Updated Feb 28, 2023: We've purchased the product and are waiting for it to arrive in our lab.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Sony WH-CH520 come in four color variants: 'Black', 'White', 'Beige', and 'Blue'. We tested the 'Black' variant, and you can see our model's label here. If you come across another variant of these buds, please let us know in the discussions, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Headphones

The Sony WH-CH520 are the next generation of the casual use on-ear Sony WH-CH510 Wireless. What makes them a significant upgrade from their predecessor is their customizability via the Sony| Headphones Connect app. It lets you adjust the sound profile via 5-band graphic EQ and presets, as well as personalize the control scheme and access Sony's 360 Reality virtual soundstage software. Their sound is also better balanced out of the box than the Beats Solo3 2019 Wireless, and they have a longer battery life. Overall, these on-ear headphones offer many premium features that some higher-priced on-ears don't even have, making them worth checking out.

For more headphones, check out our recommendations for the best Sony headphones, the best on-ear headphones, and the best wireless Bluetooth headphones.

JBL Tune 510BT Wireless

The Sony WH-CH520 Wireless are more customizable and versatile on-ear headphones than the JBL Tune 510BT Wireless. The Sony's companion app lets you customize the sound to your liking or make changes to the controls. The JBL, on the other hand, have no app compatibility and can't be customized at all. Their mic also makes your voice sound much quieter than the Sony headphones' mic, meaning you'll have to speak louder when answering calls. The Sony's battery also lasts a lot longer than the JBL headphones' and will get you through a whole workweek without needing a recharge.

Beats Solo3 2019 Wireless

The Sony WH-CH520 Wireless are better wireless on-ears than the Beats Solo3 2019 Wireless. The Beats are better built than the Sony, but they lack some key features that the Sony headphones provide. For instance, their companion app doesn't have a graphic EQ, meaning you can't change the sound if you're not a fan of the Beats' bass-heavy sound profile. The Beats also don't support multi-device pairing and have a shorter continuous battery life than the Sony, making them less ideal for use at the office. You'll want to consider the Beats if you're already in Apple's product ecosystem. Thanks to their H1 chip, they can pair seamlessly with Apple devices.

Sony WH-CH510 Wireless

The Sony WH-CH520 Wireless are better headphones than the Sony WH-CH510 Wireless. The WH-CH520 can connect to the Sony| Headphones Connect app, which features a graphic EQ with presets, playback control customization, and much more. The WH-CH510, in contrast, have none of these features, so you're stuck with their default controls scheme and sound profile, which is well-balanced but slightly bass-heavy. The WH-CH520 also have a longer continuous battery life and support multi-device pairing, so they'll last a whole workweek on one charge, and you can switch between your laptop and phone effortlessly.

Skullcandy Riff Wireless 2

The Sony WH-CH520 Wireless are slightly better headphones than the Skullcandy Riff Wireless 2. Both headphones have a graphic EQ and presets for sound customization and support multi-device pairing. However, the Sony headphones' clamping force is slightly lower than the Skullcandy, and their ear cups are better padded, making them more comfortable for long commutes and days at the office. Their battery also lasts longer and can isolate you from more mid-range ambient noise, like background conversations or leaking audio from a co-worker's headphones.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
Type On-ear
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless Yes
Transducer Dynamic

These on-ear headphones have a sleek and understated design. The yokes rest flush with the ear cups, and there's a subtle manufacturer's logo on the side of the headband. They're available in four monochromatic colorways: 'Black', 'White', 'Beige', and 'Blue'.

7.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.32 lbs
Clamping Force
0.6 lbs

These headphones are decently comfortable. They don't exert much clamping force and feel light on the head. The headband and ear cups are well-padded and plush. However, due to their on-ear design, as well as their relatively small ear cups, you'll need to adjust them to get the right fit on your ears.

6.8
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
Not OS specific
Ease Of Use Good
Feedback Good
Call/Music Control Yes
Volume Control Yes
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control No
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls Voice Assistant

These headphones have adequate controls. They're intuitive and easy to use, with good tactile feedback and voice prompts to let you know when you've reached max/min volume, as well as the battery level when you turn them on. However, it can be hard to differentiate between buttons, despite their indicator protrusions.

(+) Button:

  • Single press: Raises the volume.
  • Press and hold: Plays the next track.

(-) Button:

  • Single press: Lowers the volume.
  • Press and hold: Plays the previous track.

Middle button:

  • Single press: Plays and pauses audio. Also answers and ends calls.
  • Double press: Activates the voice assistant.
  • Press and hold: Turns the headphones on and off.
  • Press and hold for five seconds: Makes the headphones enter Bluetooth pairing mode.

6.4
Design
Portability
L 7.1" (18.0 cm)
W 6.7" (17.0 cm)
H 1.6" (4.0 cm)
Volume 70.23 inยณ (1,150.80 cmยณ)
Transmitter Required No

These headphones have passable portability. The ear cups can rotate to lay flat, but you can't fold them up more than their default shape, so they'll take up space in your bag. Unfortunately, they also don't have a case to protect them during storage.

0
Design
Case
Type No case
L N/A
W N/A
H N/A
Volume N/A
6.5
Design
Build Quality

These headphones are reasonably well-built. Their frame is made of plastic, while their earpads and headband are foam covered in faux leather. While they don't feel as cheap as their predecessor, the Sony WH-CH510 Wireless, they still don't feel as solid or durable as other on-ears, like the Jabra Evolve2 65 Wireless.

6.5
Design
Stability

These headphones have okay stability. They'll stay put while sitting at a desk or walking around but can move around with moderate movements, like a light run, and fall off during an intense workout.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Sony WH-CH520 headphones
  • USB-A to USB-C cable
  • Manual and warranty

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-0.53 dB
Treble Amount
-2.53 dB

The Sony WH-CH520 have a slightly warm sound profile. The bass and mid ranges are very flat and well-balanced, save for low-bass roll-off. As such, audio sounds full-bodied, clear, and present. However, the treble range is less well-balanced. As a result, vocals and instruments sound clear and detailed, and sibilants, like cymbals, sound dull. If you want a different sound, their companion app has a graphic EQ and presets for full control over your listening experience.

7.2
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.57 dB

These headphones have decent frequency response consistency. Because they're on-ear headphones, you'll need to adjust their fit each time you put them on to get consistent audio delivery. However, treble delivery is particularly impacted by factors like the length of your hair or if you wear glasses.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
8.8
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.52 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
31.29 Hz
Low-Bass
-2.02 dB
Mid-Bass
1.37 dB
High-Bass
1.01 dB

These headphones have excellent bass accuracy. The range is well-balanced and mostly flat, so genres like rock and folk sound full and punchy. The bass guitar in Venasque by Ian Pooley, for instance, sounds rich and full without overpowering the track's synths and vocal samples.

9.1
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.2 dB
Low-Mid
0.1 dB
Mid-Mid
0.3 dB
High-Mid
-0.48 dB

These headphones have remarkable mid accuracy. The range is very well-balanced, ensuring that instruments and vocals are clear and present. In songs like Sauna by Vulfpeck, the singers are right in front of the mix, and the twinkly pianos sound bright and clear.

6.5
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
5.16 dB
Low-Treble
-1.69 dB
Mid-Treble
-3.57 dB
High-Treble
-6.97 dB

These headphones have reasonable treble accuracy. The low treble is well-balanced, so instruments, drums, and vocals sound detailed and present. However, the rolled-off mid-treble makes sibilants, like cymbals, dull.

7.7
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.38 dB
Dips
1.53 dB

These headphones have good peaks and dips performance. Due to a mismatch in our unit's L/R drivers, each side performs somewhat differently. A small bump in the mid-bass makes audio sound punchier. It's most prominent in the right driver and extends into the high-bass, which muddies the mix. A wide peak in from the mid-mid to low-treble makes instruments and vocals sound boxy and harsh, especially in the left driver. Due to both a deep dip and peak in the mid-treble range, sibilants, like S and T sounds in dialogue, sound alternatingly dull and piercing. It's noticeable in both drivers.

8.3
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.3
Weighted Phase Mismatch
6.4
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.47
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
2.61

These headphones have great imaging performance. Sony is known for good quality control and ergonomics. Their weighted group delay falls beneath the audibility threshold, resulting in tight bass and transparent treble. The L/R drivers have a slight mismatch in the mid-range, with warping coming from the right driver, though it's not noticeable when listening to regular audio content. Keep in mind, however, that imaging varies between units.

3.5
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
5.11 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
1.46 dB
PRTF Distance
-0.01 dB
Openness
7.0
Acoustic Space Excitation
3.2

These headphones have a poor passive soundstage. They're closed-back, on-ear headphones, so while they can create a more open-sounding experience than most in-ears, the experience isn't immersive. As a result, the soundstage seems unnatural and centered around your head rather than from around the room.

4.1
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
On/Off
Speaker Modeling
On/Off
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
360 Reality Audio

The Sony | Headphones Connect app's 360 Reality Audio can analyze your ear shape and lets you integrate a virtual soundstage via compatible apps, like Tidal and Sony's own 360 Reality Audio Live, to give you a more immersive listening experience. Note, also, that most of these other programs require a subscription to use them.

6.4
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.961
WHD @ 100
0.337

These headphones have mediocre weighted harmonic distortion performance. Distortion is present in the low-bass and the low to mid-treble ranges at moderate and high volumes. It's noticeable with real-life content like EDM and hip-hop, which have artifacts in their thump and rumble that make audio sound less clear. Additionally, voices and instruments are affected by distortion, but at higher frequencies, and sound impure overall. If your unit is also experiencing distortion, please let us know in the discussions.

Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
1.0.1
Power
On
Connection
Bluetooth 5.0
Codec
PCM, 16-bit, 44.1kHz
EQ
No EQ
ANC
No ANC
Tip/Pad
Default
Microphone
Integrated

These are the settings used to test these headphones. Our results are only valid when used in this configuration.

Isolation
3.3
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-9.24 dB
Noise Cancelling No
Bass
0.01 dB
Mid
-4.69 dB
Treble
-23.27 dB

The Sony WH-CH520 have bad noise isolation performance. They don't have active noise cancellation (ANC), and their on-ear design doesn't create a seal around your ears that blocks incoming noise. As such, bass-range noise, like the rumble of a bus engine, isn't cut out at all, and they barely isolate you from mid-range noise like ambient chatter. However, they do a better job of eliminating treble-range noise, like the hum of an AC unit.

7.2
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
38.66 dB

These headphones have decent leakage performance. Leakage is moderately present across a lot of the range, meaning that escaping audio sounds full-bodied at high volumes. While patrons in a loud cafรฉ won't hear your audio, coworkers in a quieter office may be bothered by leaking sound.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
Yes
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
Mic Yes
7.7
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
LFE
261.43 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
2.43 dB
HFE
6,358.31 Hz
Weighted THD
0.119
Gain
6 dB

These headphones have good recording quality. Their integrated mic makes your voice sound clear and understandable but slightly thin and unnatural.

6.9
Microphone
Noise Handling
SpNR
16.46 dB
Noise Gate
Always On
Speech + Pink Noise Handling
7.5
Speech + Pink Noise Audio Sample
Speech + Subway Noise Handling
6.0
Speech + Subway Noise Audio Sample

These headphones have reasonable noise handling performance. You'll be clearly heard if calling from a moderately noisy environment, like a busy street. However, it can't separate your voice from louder background noise like a passing subway, and your voice will get drowned out.

Active Features
8.2
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
52.8 hrs
Additional Charges
0.0
Total Battery Life
52.8 hrs
Charge Time
1.9 hrs
Power-Saving Feature
Standby mode
Audio While Charging
No
Passive Playback
No
Charging Port USB-C

These headphones have very good battery performance. They last nearly 53 hours continuously, meaning they'll get you through several workdays without needing a recharge. Their standby mode also lasts 200 hours, so you won't need to worry about them running out of power if you accidentally leave them on overnight. However, these headphones are Bluetooth-only, meaning you can't listen to them passively with an AUX cable if the battery dies. Keep in mind, though, that battery life depends on usage.

7.5
Active Features
App Support
App Name Sony| Headphones Connect
iOS Yes
Android Yes
macOS No
Windows No
Equalizer
Graphic + Presets
ANC Control
No
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
Yes
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
Yes

These headphones have a good companion app. They can connect to the Sony | Headphones Connect app, which allows access to features like a 5-band graphic EQ and presets for sound customization, multi-device pairing control, voice guide customization, playback control adjustment, and much more. It's also where you can access the Sony 360 Reality Audio feature, which creates a virtual soundstage based on the shape of your ear. You can see how the app works here.

Connectivity
8.3
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
5.2
Multi-Device Pairing
2 Devices
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
334.65 ft (102.00 m)
PC Latency (SBC)
312 ms
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
137 ms
Android Latency
135 ms

These headphones have great Bluetooth performance. They can stay connected with up to two devices at a time, but to play audio from a second device, ensure that audio is paused on the first device. If you're watching a video on an iOS or Android device, you won't experience noticeable sync issues. However, latency is high on PCs, so you'll encounter audio lag when watching live streams or playing video games. Different apps and devices compensate for latency differently.

0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
0
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
No
USB Audio
No
Detachable No
Length N/A
Connection
No Wired Option
Analog/USB Audio Latency
N/A

You can't use these headphones wired. The USB-A to USB-C charging cable included in the box is meant for charging.

Connectivity
PC Compatibility
Analog
No
Wired USB
No
Non-BT Wireless
No

These headphones have full mic and audio compatibility with PCs via Bluetooth. You can't use them wired.

Connectivity
PlayStation Compatibility
PS4 Analog
No
PS4 Wired USB
No
PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
PS5 Analog
No
PS5 Wired USB
No
PS5 Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
Xbox Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
No
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No
Xbox Series X|S Analog
No
Xbox Series X|S Wired USB
No
Xbox Series X|S Non-BT Wireless
No
0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
No Base/Dock
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
No
Power Supply
No Base/Dock