Which noise-canceling Sony headphones should you buy?

We’re a virtual company made up of tech experts from across the globe, but we’re also avid music lovers who love getting the best experience at the best price. We’re here to help you do the same.

Sony WH-CH700N

Budget-friendly

$148 at Amazon

Pros

  • Affordable noise canceling
  • Easy to pair with NFC
  • Long battery life
  • More comfortable earpads

Cons

  • Charges via Micro-USB
  • Flimsy build quality

Sony’s entry-level option, these headphones don’t offer the best noise-canceling in the world, but they’re still handy for travel and deliver great sound for the price.

Sony WH1000XM2

Best in class

$348 at Amazon

Pros

  • Powerful noise canceling
  • Convenient gesture controls
  • Ambient Sound mode lets you hear your surroundings
  • Great sound quality

Cons

  • Charges via Micro-USB
  • Price hasn’t changed since the release of the 1000XM3s

Though they were once Sony’s top-of-the-line noise-canceling headphones, the 1000XM2s have become difficult to recommend.

If you have the extra money to shell out, the WH1000XM2s offer superior noise canceling, audio quality, and conveniences, but they haven’t seen any price reduction since the release of the followup 1000XM3s — which you should absolutely buy instead for the same price. The cheaper CH700Ns won’t steer you wrong for the money you’ll save, however, and many actually prefer its comfort over the more expensive models.

What’s the difference?

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on headphones, but you probably won’t regret it if you do.

It’s hard to compare headphones at such different price points, but it gets a little easier when you remember that they’re intended for different users. Yes, of course the WH1000XM2s are better headphones than the WH-CH700Ns for more than twice the price, but not everybody needs to spend over $300 on headphones. For the vast majority of people, the CH700Ns are more than good enough, and they’re a significantly better value.

If, on the other hand, you’re a frequent traveler who doesn’t want to sacrifice audio quality, the 1000XM2s are worth the extra money. Not only do they sound better, but the active noise cancellation is significantly more powerful than the CH700N’s “digital” passive equivalent. It also features an Ambient Sound mode that uses the built-in microphones to filter select audio from your environment back into the headphones so that you can still hear and hold conversations.

Category WH-CH700N WH1000XM2
Price $148 $348
Dimensions 8.71in x 2.72in x 10.28in 7.29in x 2.92in x 9.81in
Weight 0.53lbs 0.61lbs
Noise-canceling Digital Active
Color options Black, Blue Black, Gold
Wired option Yes Yes
Extra features Visual EQ through Headphones Connect app Visual EQ through Headphones Connect app, Google Assistant, Ambient Sound, gesture controls
Battery life 35 hours 30 hours
4K Streaming No Yes
USB Micro-USB Micro-USB

Understanding the WH1000XM2’s extra features

Sony has built in touch sensitivity on the right cup of the WH1000XM2 that allows you to quickly jump in and out of Ambient Sound mode by placing your hand over the cup, or tap and swipe in various directions to play, pause, or skip between tracks without having to pull out your phone. Once you get used to using these gestures, it quickly becomes hard to imagine going back to living without them.

You can also enable Google Assistant on the WH1000XM2s by using Sony’s Headphones Connect app to assign it to the Ambient Sound button on the left cup. Google Assistant works just the same as it would on a phone, answering queries and changing songs through voice commands.

Still, even without the gesture controls and active noise cancelation, the CH700Ns are a great deal for casual music listeners. Sony advertises a whopping 35 hours of playback on the rechargeable battery, and you can easily pair the headphones to your NFC-capable phone by just tapping it against the left ear cup — of course, simply putting the headphones into Bluetooth pairing mode works just as well. Many people even prefer the comfort of the CH700Ns’ lighter earpads, something you may value if you wear your headphones for extended periods.

Why you shouldn’t buy the WH1000XM2s

Even if you’ve determined that the 1000XM2s suit your needs better than the CH700Ns and you’re willing to spend the extra money on them, there’s a major problem with these otherwise great headphones: they’re still $348, even after the release of the followup 1000XM3s.

Typically, when a new product is released, the previous model will either be discontinued or see a sizable discount. Sony apparently missed the memo, as the 1000XM2s still retail at their original $348 price point alongside the identically priced 1000XM3s. The newer headphones offer notably better noise cancelation and sound quality, as well as a USB-C port and quick charging.

To be clear, you should still pick up the 1000XM2s if they happen to go on sale, as they often have in the past. Amazon also offers refurbished models for $250 with a 90-day warranty — not a terrible way to get these excellent headphones at a more reasonable price.

WH-CH700N

Budget-friendly

$148 at Amazon

Hard to argue with for less than $150.

Sony’s entry-level option, these headphones don’t offer the best noise-canceling in the world, but they’re still handy for travel and deliver great sound for the price.

WH1000XM2

Best in class

$348 at Amazon

Still some of the best noise-canceling headphones around.

It’s hard to recommend the 1000XM2s for the same retail price as their successors, but they’re still fantastic headphones that are absolutely worth buying on sale or refurbished.