The Sony WH-CH510 review in a sentence: they feel, if anything, even cheaper than they actually are – but the WH-CH510 have half-decent sound quality and entirely decent battery life.
These wireless headphones from Sony are way more budget than the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4 that have made it such a famous name for portable audio. The WHCH510 may be over-ear headphones, but the lack of feature mean they won't be troubling our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones.
These are focused on price and battery life, and they excel at both, though with some limitations as you might expect from lower-priced headphones.
Sony WH-CH510: Price & battery life
The Sony WH-CH510 are on sale now, and are priced in the UK (by Sony, at least) at £50. You don’t need to be any kind of internet search-engine wizard to find them at a pretty significant discount, though.
It’s a similar story in the United States, where they’re nominally priced at $60 – five minutes in front of a computer will find them with a large chunk of money off. And in Australia, where in theory you’re looking at AU$90, discounts can be had too – although admittedly of the slightly more modest type.
The WH-CH510 will go for an impressive 35 hours from a single charge, as long as you’re listening at realistic volume levels, anyhow. You can expect 30 hours ‘communication’ time, but if you’re the sort of person who can stay on the ‘phone for 30 hours at a time, obviously you’re welcome to never, ever call us.
Should the worst happen and the Sonys run flat, they can be fully charged in around four hours. And in extremis, a 10-minute blast should hold you for 90 minutes of listening.
Sony WH-CH510: Build quality & design
There’s a lot to be said for usefully compact on-ear headphones – and, no two ways about it, the Sony WH-CH510 are a usefully compact pair of on-ear headphones. And at just 132g, they’re hardly a burden to wear.
The design is unadventurous, because anyone who tries to mess with the function-dictates-form realities of on-ear headphones needs to have a look at themselves. The WH-CH510 are made of mildly textured plastic, hide their expandable headband inside their plastic arms, and feature mildly padded earpads on earcups that swivel through 90 degrees. It’s absolutely par for the course, and none the worse for it.
As far as build quality goes, well, there’s nothing overtly wrong with it. Headband adjustment feels robust enough, and if the swivelling earcups don’t feel damped in the slightest at least they don’t move any further than they’re mean to.
The plastics here are of the thin and hard variety, though, and they make it apparent the WH-CH510 have been built down to a price. Tap the headband with a finger while wearing the headphones and the reverberation is as loud as the music you’re listening to.
Normal Sony service is resumed where specification is concerned, though. The WH-CH510 uses a couple of 30mm full-range dynamic drivers to deliver sound, and Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connectivity. This is more than capable of dealing with the highest-resolution files served up by the premium tiers of TIDAL, Amazon, Qobuz and so on. Curiously, though, the only format support is for AAC and SBC – there’s no sign of Sony’s proprietary LDAC format.
As far as an interface goes, the WH-CH510 do pretty well. There are three control buttons on the right-hand earcup, covering ‘power on/off/pairing’, ‘volume up/down’, ‘play/pause’, ‘skip forwards/backwards’ and ‘answer/end/reject call’. Or you can summon Siri or Google Assistant and just issue commands that way – the integrated mic proves sharp-eared.
Sony WH-CH510: Sound quality
It’s all very well having the ability to play back a TIDAL Masters file via Bluetooth 5.0, but we don’t think many people who spend this much on a pair of wireless headphones are doing £20 a month on a premium music streaming subscription. No, the Sony WH-CH510 will stand or fall on how they handle a bog-standard stream from a bog-standard streaming service.
And it turns out the WH-CH510 sort-of stand and sort-of fall all at the same time.
Certainly they want for nothing where drive and attack is concerned. No matter the sort of music you like to listen to, the Sonys will attempt to put a rocket up it. Theirs is an immediate, quite in-your-face presentation – every element of a recording is seemingly shoved to the front of the soundstage, where it engages in a scrap for primacy with every other element. At best, this is a vigorous and energetic listen; at worst, it’s quite shouty.
And within the enthusiasm of the overall presentation, each element of the WH-CH510 tonality is similarly proactive. If the attitude at the top of the frequency range appeals to you, you’ll call it ‘forthright’ – or if you don’t, you’ll probably go with ‘overstated’.
It’s the same story at the opposite end: bass is either ‘fulsome’ or ‘overconfident’. The midrange? ‘Upfront’ or, yes, ‘shouty’. It’s possible to say with reasonable confidence that the entirety of the frequency range is quite well integrated, but that’s because each part of the frequency range thinks it’s the most important and tries to hog the spotlight.
Dynamically, the Sonys leave themselves little room for manoeuvre – if you’re in full ‘attack’ mode during the quieter moments of a recording, you don’t leave yourself anywhere to go when the recording itself decides to get a bit more assertive. The WH-CH510 are an absolutely flat-out listen, all the time.
And yet. Despite all this bluster the Sonys are by no means an unengaging listen. They make a decently detailed sound, with pertinent observations to make about the harmonic variances in a tune even as they absolutely launch it towards your ears. They express rhythms with something approaching expertise, and there isn’t a tempo yet recorded that they can’t keep on top of.
As long as you don’t mind being bossed around by your headphones, there’s a fair bit to like about the Sony WH-CH510.
Sony WH-CH510: Verdict
Sony builds some of the most accomplished wireless headphones around. These aren’t them, admittedly, but then they're a fraction of the price. And while they may be budget, the WH-CH510 are not without their appeal.
Ignore the rather mean-feeling plastics and they’re a comfortable, stamina-packed and pretty well-specified proposition – and far from a tentative listen.