The Sony WH-CH510 are a solid pair of budget headphones and prove that Sony is an audio brand capable of making some of the more impressive headphones you can buy today, as well as top affordable cans that won’t break the bank.
If you want to see the very best of Sony’s audio tech, head on over to our Sony WH-1000XM4 review for our favorite over-ears and our Sony WF-1000XM4 review for our top in-ears. Both are top of their class when it comes to both noise-cancelling and quality sound.
The Sony WH-CH510 can’t compete, but they’re not designed to. This pair of budget on-ear headphones have a simple design, offer great sound and have no-frills features. This is why they're one of our top picks for the best cheap headphones you can buy right now.
Audiophiles, look at our best headphones and best wireless headphones guides instead. But everyone else, read on for our Sony WH-CH510 review. Because it’s frankly insane that wireless headphones could cost this little, not to mention a pair like the Sony WH-CH510 that has decent sound, a USB-C port, and 35 hours of battery life. So be sure to keep its price in mind when you notice any shortcomings.
Sony WH-CH510 review: price and availability
- Only $59 / £50 / AU$89
- Available in black, navy blue and white
The Sony WH-CH510 are an affordable set of headphones and are available now for $59 / £50 / AU$89.
They're similar in price to some of our best cheap headphones. For a similar but slightly more stylish over-ear option, check out ourJBL Tune 750BTNC review. But the key difference between the two, and something you need to consider when weighing up options, is that the Sony WH-CH510 are on-ear headphones.
This means the ear cups sit on your ears, instead of surrounding them. The design means sound is less immersive, but they're ideal for working out or situations where you could do with hearing noises around you.
Take a look at our best on-ear headphones guide for more options, but the Sony WH-CH510 hold their own compared to rivals. You might want to read our Jabra Elite 45h review for on-ear headphones with a little more style. Or our Sennheiser HD 250BT review for on-ear headphones with slightly better sound.
Sony WH-CH510 review: design
- On-ear headphones design
- Extremely lightweight and portable
These are on-ear headphones rather than over-ears, meaning that their cups won’t surround your ears but rather rest upon them. This makes the Sony WH-CH510 considerably more compact, but arguably a little less comfortable (it also impacts the audio quality, but more on that later).
Aesthetically, there isn’t much to say about these Sony cans, but their subdued and simple appearance does wonders to broaden their appeal given that the aim here is accessibility. They’re available in a tasteful black, white, or navy blue, and their shape profile is as close to ‘a straight line with a circle on each end’ as you can get.
Apart from the Sony logo on both cups, the only other flourish is a simple diamond grid texture covering most of its exterior.
Drivers: Closed, dynamic, 30mm
Frequency response: 20 Hz–20,000 Hz
Battery life: 35 hours
Charging method: USB-C
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Perhaps the most obvious and striking reflection of the Sony WH-CH510’s price point is in its structural integrity. The plastic headband, swivel joints, and ear cup housing don’t feel remotely rugged and we’d be remiss to recommend “chucking” them in your bag or treating them at all unkindly.
The headband does seem to have some amount of flex, so it might be more forgiving than we give it credit for, but we really didn’t want to push this theory too far. It doesn’t fold or collapse any further to make for a more compact package (although the cups do swivel 90° and flatten), but the fewer hinges the better in this case as we suspect that will be the first point of failure.
It’s worth noting that, although this particular reviewer has an abnormally large head and often pushes headphone bands to their limit, the Sony WH-CH510 only got about halfway extended before sitting comfortably on both ears. We suspect this will be particularly good news for the large-headed among us, as well as those that like to wear hats and cans at once.
Of course, the upshot of all this is that they’re incredibly lightweight which, coupled with their diminutive size, makes them ultra portable. Thankfully, the padding in the ear cups seems to be of a higher standard than the rest of the unit, so they’re comfortable to wear for extended periods considering their on-ear form factor.
Sony WH-CH510 review: features
- Very simple controls with three buttons
- USB-C charging port
- 35 hours of playback time
For a control interface, the Sony WH-CH510 have a Spartan array of three large buttons that are easy to locate, differentiate and interact with. They’re responsible for the usual array of play/pause, volume up/down, and skip forward/back options but they also allow you to activate your device’s voice assistant.
There’s an integrated microphone next to these buttons for this purpose and for taking calls, and while it’s certainly serviceable, it’s not the clearest option out there.
Next to the controls and microphone is the sole port for USB-C charging (audio over USB isn’t supported from what we tested). We’re disproportionately excited to see a budget product adopt this future-proofed port instead of micro USB.
These Sony cans boast 35 hours of playback time, which we’re incredibly impressed with. And, if you’re in a pinch, you can top up 90 minutes worth of juice from just 10 minutes of charging from flat.
The absence of a 3.5mm headphone port and lack of audio over USB means you’ll be out of luck if you do run out of batteries on the go, but the impressive battery life and affordability this presumably allows for makes up for it.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but the Sony WH-CH510's lack of features is one of its strengths. In focusing on more significant attributes – battery life and audio quality among them – costs have been cut on features that its target audience could do without (active noise-cancelling prime among them).
Sony WH-CH510 review: performance
- Not as immersive as over-ears
- Clear and present bass
The fact that these Sony WH-CH510 headphones are in the on-ear format means you won’t quite get the audio quality that over-ear competitors offer. This is largely due to the smaller cups not creating a seal, as well as offering less sense of space.
With that said, it’s remarkable how solid these Sony’s still manage to sound, despite their low price and limited form factor. We found the bass to be clear and present, but certainly not overbearing. The higher frequencies were a little more dominant than we’d like, and the mids too suppressed, but the profile was pleasing overall.
While they won’t have the superb clarity, balance, and sense of space that their WH-1000XM3 siblings boast, the sound these on-ears produce definitely belies their size and price. You’ll find most genres perform well here, although tracks that already have low mids and bumped treble might get uncomfortably exaggerated.
During our testing, the Bluetooth 5.0 connection never faltered and we didn’t come across any interference or drop-out woes. There’s no app companion that we could find, but we couldn’t think of a need for one, given the unit’s innate simplicity.
Sony WH-CH510 review: conclusion
If you’re looking for the best budget headphones, you’re likely already willing to make a few sacrifices.
Thankfully, most of the compromises Sony has made with the WH-CH510 haven’t been too crucial. The lack of analog input mirrors the loss of the 3.5mm port on most modern smartphones while the lightweight, plastic construction improves their portability and comfort.
For those chasing something that's substantially more sturdy or sporting a 3.5mm port, you’re unlikely to find an alternative at this price that’s also wireless, let alone boasts solid battery life and sound.
If our Sony WH-CH510 review has you considering other options, here are three more wireless headphones worth checking out.
Jabra Move Wireless
Another budget on-ear option, this time designed with fitness and exercise in mind. Like the Sony WH-CH510, its a lightweight design with solid sound. We think the Jabra Move Wireless are a little more stylish, too, with a choice of colour options and minimal lines.
Check out our Jabra Move Wireless review (opens in new tab)
Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro
The Sony WH-CH510 on-ear headphones will suit most people. But the Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro are a solid competitor. These studio monitor headphones are a worthy alternative if you're looking for an audiophile-grade pair of on-ears for less than $100/£100.
Check out our Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro review (opens in new tab)
Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0
Sure these aren't on-ear headphones, but if you're looking for wireless headphones that are portable and affordable, you might want to consider the true wireless form factor of the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0, an excellent-sounding pair of earbuds for under $100/£100.
Check out our Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 review (opens in new tab)
- First reviewed June 2020.