The Sony WH-CH510 is a solid pair of cheap headphones that prove Sony is an audio brand capable of making some of the more impressive headphones you can buy today, as well as top-notch affordable headphones that won’t break the bank.
Learn about our favorite over-ear headphones, and our Sony WF-1000XM4 review of our top in-ear headphones. Both are best in class when it comes to noise cancellation and sound quality.
The Sony WH-CH510 can’t compete, but they weren’t designed with that in mind. This pair of budget in-ear headphones are simple in design, great in sound quality, and simple in function. That’s why they’re one of the top picks for the cheapest headphones we can buy right now.
Sony WH-CH510 Review: Design
In-ear headphone design
Extremely lightweight and portable
These are in-ear headphones rather than over-ear headphones, which means that their ear cups don’t wrap around your ears, they rest on them. This makes the Sony WH-CH510 more compact, but arguably less comfortable (it also affects audio quality, but more on that later).
Aesthetically, there’s not much to say about these Sony cans, but given that the goal here is accessibility, their soft and simple appearance does broaden their appeal. Available in elegant black, white or navy blue, their shape is contoured as closely as possible to “a straight line with a circle at each end.
Aside from the Sony logo on both cups, the only other highlight is the simple diamond-shaped grid texture that covers most of its exterior.
Perhaps the most obvious and striking manifestation of Sony’s WH-CH510 price point is its structural integrity. The plastic headband, swivel connector and ear cup housing don’t feel sturdy, and we’d recommend “clipping” them into a bag or treating them unkindly.
The headband does seem to have some flexibility, so it may be more forgiving than we thought, but we really don’t want to push that theory too far. It doesn’t fold or collapse further to form a more compact package (although the cups do rotate 90° and flatten out), but in this case the less hinges the better, as we suspect that would be the first point of failure.
It’s worth noting that despite this reviewer’s unusually large head and frequent pushing of the headband to its limits, the Sony WH-CH510 only stretches about halfway to fit comfortably over both ears. We suspect this will be especially good news for the big heads among us and those who like to wear both hats and cans.
The upshot of all this, of course, is that they are very lightweight, which, combined with their small size, makes them very portable. Thankfully, the padding in the earcups seems to be of a higher standard than the rest of the unit, so they can be worn comfortably for long periods of time, given their snug ear shape.
Sony WH-CH510 Review: Features
Very simple controls with three buttons
USB-C charging port
35 hours of playback time
For the control interface, the Sony WH-CH510 features a Spartan array of three large buttons that are easy to locate, distinguish and interact with. They are responsible for the usual play/pause, volume up/down and skip forward/backward options, but they also allow you to activate the device’s voice assistant.
Next to these buttons is an integrated microphone for this purpose and for answering calls, and while it certainly works, it’s not the clearest option.
Next to the controls and microphone is the only port for USB-C charging (the ones we tested do not support USB audio). We’re very happy to see budget products using this future-proof port instead of micro USB.
These Sony cans have 35 hours of playtime, which we’re impressed with. And, if you’re in a pinch, you can top off 90 minutes of juice with just 10 minutes of charging from the tablet.
The lack of a 3.5mm headphone port and the absence of audio transfer via USB means you’re out of luck if you do run out of juice on the go, but the impressive battery life and affordability probably make up for it.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the Sony WH-CH510’s lack of features is one of its strengths. In focusing on more important attributes (among them battery life and audio quality), the cost of features that its target audience may not need (among them active noise cancellation) has been reduced.
Sony WH-CH510 Review: Performance
Not as immersive as in-ear
Clearly rendered bass
These Sony WH-CH510 headphones are in a fit-to-ear format, which means you don’t get the audio quality offered by their over-ear competitors. This is mostly due to the smaller cups that don’t create a seal and offer less of a sense of space.
That said, it’s remarkable that despite the low price and limited form factor, these Sony’s still manage to produce sound. We found the bass to be clear and present, but certainly not overbearing. The higher frequencies were more dominant than we would have liked, and the midrange was suppressed, but overall the contours were pleasing.
While they won’t have the great clarity, balance and spaciousness of their WH-1000XM3 siblings, the sound produced by these close-to-the-ear headphones definitely belies their size and price. You’ll find most genres perform well here, although tracks that already feature low mids and highs can be uncomfortably exaggerated.
The Bluetooth 5.0 connection never faltered during our testing, and we didn’t experience any interference or dropout issues. We couldn’t find any app companions, but given the unit’s inherent simplicity, we can’t think of a need for one.
A pair of black Sony WH-CH510 in-ear headphones next to a window with a wooden surface
Sony WH-CH510 Review: Conclusion
If you’re looking for the best budget headphones, you’re probably already willing to make some sacrifices.
Thankfully, most of the compromises Sony has made with the WH-CH510 aren’t too significant. The lack of analog inputs reflects the lack of 3.5mm ports on most modern smartphones, while the lightweight plastic construction improves their portability and comfort.
For those looking for something more rugged or equipped with a 3.5mm port, you’re unlikely to find a wireless replacement at this price, let alone one with consistent battery life and sound.