Sony or JBL, who makes the best cheap wireless headphones?
The Sony WH-CH520 and the JBL Tune 720BT – we’ll call thse Sony and JBL in this video. Because we’re not in the habit of sharing our passwords with strangers on the internet. Now both of these headphones retail for around 70 bucks, have no noise cancelling and no touch controls. Starting off with the design and build quality.
Design & Build Quality
The Sony and JBL both come in 4 different colors. We have them both in their yin and yang colors. And in terms of materials, both are hard plastic with faux leather on the ear cups and headband. There isn’t any sort of creaking on these but the JBL takes the cake for the sheer reason that they can fold! You typically fold up headphones before putting them in a case, but this is where you see some of the cost cutting measures. No case here guys.
But if wired audio is important to you, then there is a case to be made here. For only the JBL again. You get a headphone jack with a cable included in the box. And you can use the JBL wired even if the battery is dead.
Ok, let’s talk battery life numbers. Remember, no active noise cancelling, so you can expect good numbers here. Sony advertises 50 hours of playback and JBL a whopping 76 hours!
We here at DHRME always need to test those numbers. Now the issue with testing these headphones for so long is that it takes a long time! And sometimes things act unpredictable. The Sony for example went from 100% to 50% in about 23 hours. So that would suggest about 46 hours. The JBL went from 100 to 50 in 81 hours and we were about to extrapolate that, but when we turned it off and on again, the battery showed 20%. Long story short – that’s a lot of battery life and this was a lot of work! Give this video a like if you like it this long!
And just for good measure, both of these headphones are charged by USB Type C, with quick charging getting you around 1.5 hours of playback after 3 mins of charge. You can easily throw these headphones into your bag for vacation and not have to worry about battery life for a while. Just make sure to pause your music before you take the headphones off. Neither of these cans have a wear sensor so they can’t automatically play or pause the audio depending on whether you’re wearing them or not.
Instead of touch controls you get nice, clicky, reliable buttons. The JBL has chunkier buttons and because of the dimple for the play-pause button, it’s easier to know which one you’re pressing.
While the tactile feedback on buttons is always comforting, we did prefer the ones on the Sony to the JBL. The JBL’s buttons felt a bit cheap because you can hear the little spring clickety through the headphones. Not necessarily a deal breaker, but something we noticed.
The actual functionality of those buttons are the same. You get your play-pause, volume, track controls and the ability to pull up your voice assistant. The biggest difference is that the Sony works with 3 buttons to do all of those controls, whereas JBL has 4 buttons. JBL’s 4th button is for power on and off but double clicking it puts the device into pairing mode. Pretty handy actually if you switch devices a lot. The only way to do that on the Sony is to keep the power button held in when powering it on.
On the topic of pairing, they both support multipoint pairing. To be honest, we did not expect this at this price point. Oh and “Multi” sounds like a lot, but it’s actually dual point since they can stay connected to two devices at the same time.
Despite that pairing button gesture on the JBL. The Sony one ups the JBL in the multipoint department. On the Sony you can pull the connection from a previously paired device by just selecting it from the bluetooth list. And in the Sony app you can see a device list and connect or disconnect to devices from there if you like. But, a big butt. You will lose LDAC codec support if you choose to use multipoint.
Oh yes, you get companion apps on both of these bad boys. Again, not bad for this price segment. The Sony Headphones app is very familiar and brings you a lot of those features you get on higher end devices. Features like upscaling lower quality audio using DSEE as well as 360 reality audio. But most importantly you get a custom EQ and presets. More on audio in a bit. Then you’ve got the JBL Headphones app which also has EQ presets and supports custom EQ. Besides that you get a few other features than the Sony. There’s a low latency mode for you gamers out there! And you can change what JBL calls VoiceAware, which is how much of your own voice you would like to hear when on a phone call.
So how do these perform for phone calls? Let’s take a look at the popsicle, icicles and testic …
In noisy conditions, both headphones cut out background noise quite well. But there’s only one clear winner. The Sony CH520. Throughout the test you could comfortably hear the voice without any weird processing or it cutting out. The JBL 720BT, although it cut out the car noise better, when it comes to the voice it was a whole different story. Even in parts where there were no cars, the voice had a lot of reverb, the overall volume was lower, and sometimes not even audible. In the slightly windy situation, we would give the slight edge to the JBL. Not by a whole lot, but you could hear the voice relatively consistently through the sample. On the Sony you could tell that the voice cut out when speaking softly.
From a vakman perspective, we’re happy to see that the volume controls work on calls. The JBL is more vakky though. You can mute the mic by holding down the play-pause button when on a call.
Whether you’re listening to music or taking long phone calls, comfort will be kindaaa important. What’s good to realize is that the Sony is worn on-ear whereas the JBL is a bit curious. It feels like it’s neither on nor over ear. But somewhere in between. The padding on the headband on both are not extremely plush but in our testing we didn’t feel any pressure on the crown with the Sony. On the JBL we did feel it press against our crown after a little while. The earpads are definitely different in the plushiness department because the JBL has way more cushioning.
That’s not to say that the Sony is uncomfortable. In our opinion, it was actually more comfortable despite having less cushioning. Compared to the JBL it even had less clamp and heat generation. Overall, for comfort the win goes to the Sony. Now, none of these hold a candle against the comfort of over-ear headphones, but these headphones are targetted to a different type of customer. Are you the customer looking purely for sound? Then listen up.
You’re getting reasonable codec selection. And by reasonable we mean SBC and AAC. Super basic. But what about the sound itself? The Sony sounds… fine. Sub bass is present but it’s a bit less controlled. Overall the Sony feels like a set of cans that knows its limitations and sticks to them. The famous 5 band EQ and the Clear Bass slider certainly gives it a ton of customization. But software ain’t gonna fix mediocre hardware.
The mids sound fine – not great, but there’s reasonable timbre to be had. Where it really lacks is the treble – a place where you often see price play a role. It’s not very audible and when you do hear it – it ain’t exactly airy. The JBL takes an opposite approach. The V-shape is strong with this one! The sound out of the box is way more open than the Sony. The bass hits harder and is a bit more present. Overall there is way better instrument separation and space on the JBL and it turns up the spice on the treble too. But yeah spicy food can cause indigestion and… we’ll stop with the metaphors for now. In quite a few recordings, this comes across sounding artificial and not ‘clean’. Timbre is also out of whack. But it’s certainly a more fun presentation than Sony.
And even though I don’t really like these drivers or the stock tuning, that amazing JBL Headphones app with the band EQ and great presets puts these over the top for sound. Starting with the ‘studio’ preset – makes the sound a bit more bearable.
The JBL also has an additional advantage – a 2.5mm to 3.5mm headphone jack that gives you the ability to listen to these passively, even if you’re out of battery.
But guys, let’s be clear – you’re not buying any of these for even ‘semi-serious’ listening. They’re ok for this price segment and if you want a reasonable amount of bass, you’ll be fine. And if you wanna buy these brands. Just don’t expect too much and you’ll be ok. And yes, we see you getting your keyboards ready – you can get WAY better sounding cheaper headphones.
Be that as it may – these are two very popular brands offering similar specs on paper: multiple color options, buttons with many controls, multipoint support, a companion app and killer battery life. Yes, you sacrifice on the overall comfort and sound quality. But at the price of 70 bucks, you’re still getting a decent feature set for the money – IF you want to own these brands. If not, why not check out this video of a pair of over-ear headphones by Edifier for under $100?
Speaking of money – we don’t accept it from companies whose products we review. We bought both of these products with our own money. And the reason we can is because of you guys, our Patrons and YouTube Members.
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You’ve been paying lower and lasting longer, And we’ve been DHRME. Namaste!