This is an in-depth review of the Sony WH-H900N Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Headphones, and a comparison of that headset to the more expensive Sony WH-1000XM2.
Reviewed Brands and Products
Sony WH-H900N Review
- Excellent sound, thanks to DSEE HX and LDAC
- Touch sensor for playback controls
- Available in various colors
- Good active noise cancelling
- The “Quick Attention” feature lets you hear what’s going on around you
- Rechargeable battery with 28-hour life
I picked up a pair of the Sony WH-H900N wireless headphones the other day, and was excited to give them a try because I had never owned noise-canceling headphones from Sony before.
The Sony WH-H900N Bluetooth wireless headphones feature a slick design without any of the visible playback controls you’ll find on most other noise-canceling headphones. That’s because Sony makes smart use of the touch sensors that are built into the right earcup.
Using those touch controls, you can:
- Play or pause music playback
- Skip a track
- Change the volume
- Activate Siri (or other digital voice assistants) by tapping or swiping on the earcup
That may sound confusing at first, but Sony implemented those touch controls very well and I’ve found them to be intuitive.
Another feature I like is what Sony calls “Quick Attention.” By covering the right earcup with the palm of your hand, the active noise cancelling technology (ANC) turns off, and the headset lowers the playback volume if you’re listening to music.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve had to press pause and take off my Bose QuietComfort 35 on an airplane to listen or talk to a flight attendant. With the Sony WH-H900N, I only have to touch the right earcup.
Quick Attention vs. Ambient Sound
On a recent trip to Florida, I was walking up to the gate agent at the Atlanta airport to board my flight. As I approached, I activated Quick Attention by covering the right earcup with my hand, so that I could hear what the agent was saying. The whole interaction took about 15 seconds and, honestly, it felt a bit weird running around with my hand on my head.
If you feel the same, the Sony WH-H900N headphones also have a button on the left earcup to allow ambient sound through. But while Quick Attention amplifies ambient noise, pressing the NC/Ambient button doesn’t — it just lets the natural sound through.
As a result, Quick Attention works better in noisy environments because it amplifies the sounds around you, while pushing the NC/Ambient button is more convenient because you can press it once and let go.
The digital noise cancelling technology in the Sony WH-H900N headphones works well, and better than in other Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones I have reviewed. However, if falls short of the more expensive Sony WH-1000XM2 (Amazon) or my trusted Bose QuietComfort 35. Still, by using Sony’s “Headphones” mobile app (iOS), you can control the active noise cancelation (ANC) mode and choose between
- Noise canceling
- Wind noise reduction
- Ambient sound
Additionally, you can tweak the equalizer settings, toggle DSEE HX (Sony’s digital sound enhancement engine that restores the high-range sound lost in digital music compression) on and off, and change the priority between sound quality or a more stable Bluetooth connection.
During the testing for this review, I used the default setting (“Priority on sound quality”) and enjoyed near hi-res audio without any connectivity problems.
For times when you just want to enjoy music and don’t need any kind of digital noise cancelling in effect, you can turn ANC off via a button on the left earcup. This will extend the set of headphones’ battery life to a whopping 34 hours.
Audio and Sound Quality
Objectively judging the quality of sound and audio is difficult, and I’m certainly not a professional audiophile. I just enjoy music and appreciate how high resolution audio (and close to high-res audio) sounds.
So far, the Sony WH-H900N Bluetooth headphones haven’t disappointed me. Music playback is crisp and clear with decent bass. If you don’t like how the WH-H900N sounds out of the box, you can change the equalizer settings using Sony’s mobile app. Sony offers some presets, and you can also create custom EQ settings.
This pair of headphones is relatively lightweight and comfortable, but the ear cups are on the smaller side and the headband padding could be a bit denser. During my tests, I wore the WH-H900N for a couple of hours in a row and felt only minor pressure points on my skull.
Sony decided to use synthetic leather for the ear cups on these headphones, which may impact how “hot” they feel when you wear them for long periods, so keep that in mind.
Ultimately, your level of comfort depends on how long you intend to wear this set of headphones. If you only use them for a couple of hours at a time, you won’t have any issues. But if you want to wear them for a 10-hour transatlantic flight, you may feel pressure points on your head and ears — especially if you have large ears.
Should the headphones start feeling uncomfortable after a few hours of wearing them, take them off for a few minutes before putting them back on.
With noise cancellation (NC) active, the rechargeable battery of the Sony WH-H900N lasts for up to 28 hours before you need to recharge the device using the included Micro-USB cable. If you turn NC off, you can get up to 34 hours of playback time out of WH-H900N.
Overall, I have been more than satisfied with the battery on these headphones, and there are only a few other models that beat Sony in that category.
I tested the microphone by making a couple of phone calls from a relatively quiet office environment. Based on the feedback I received from the people I called, my voice sounded crisp and clear.
To test how Sony’s headphones would perform in noisy environments, I played “airplane sound” on my iMac on full volume while recording a short voice memo on my iPhone. You can listen to the recording using the embedded media file below.
If the embedded audio file above doesn’t play in your browser, here is a direct download link to the MP3 file I recorded to test the microphone of the Sony WH-H900N headphones with and without background noise.
The MSRP for the Sony WH-H900N is almost $300, but I have seen them cheaper on Amazon. If you’re willing to pay $300 for wireless noise canceling headphones from Sony, I’d recommend getting the WH-1000XM2 instead, because they offer better noise reduction. But if you find them for less than $300, the WH-H900N offers excellent value and I’d grab them.
What’s in the Box?
The Sony WH-H900N comes with a soft carrying pouch, a standard headphone cable with a 3.5mm jack, a micro-USB charging cable, and a warranty card.
While the carrying pouch has a fleece lining, I wish Sony would have provided a hard case to better protect the headphones while they’re in a backpack or carry-on.
Sony WH-H900N vs. Sony WH-1000XM2
|Wireless||Bluetooth 4.1||Bluetooth 4.1|
|Battery life (Wireless playback, ANC on)||28 hours||30 hours|
|Battery life (Wired playback, ANC on)||28 hours||N/A|
|Battery life (Wireless, only ANC on)||N/A||N/A|
|Battery life (Wireless playback, ANC off)||34 hours||38 hours|
|Charging time||6 hours||4 hours|
|Quick charge||10 min for 65 min||10 min for 70 min|
|Audio||DSEE HX, SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC||DSEE HX, S-MASTER HX, SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC|
|Noise-cancelation||Active, AI||Active, AI, Customizable, Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing|
|Playback controls||Touch sensor||Touch sensor|
|Material of ear pads||Synthetic||Synthetic|
How to Update the Firmware on the Sony WH-H900N
If you decide to purchase these headphones and you buy them from Amazon (or another retailer where they may have been sitting on the shelf for a while), they may not have the latest firmware installed.
Aside from stability improvements and bug fixes, the most recent firmware update provides support for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.
Updating the firmware is a somewhat involved process. Before you start, keep in mind the following:
- Make sure your battery is fully charged before starting. Sony says that if your headphones lose power during the update process, they may become unusable (i.e., you’ll brick them).
- You cannot charge your battery during the update.
- Make sure your smartphone is also fully charged, as it needs to remain connected to the app for the duration of the process.
- You need an active Wi-Fi signal to download the firmware to your phone. Sony discourages you from trying to update anywhere you have a weak or inconsistent Wi-Fi signal (such as on a train or airplane), as well as anywhere the signal might meet interference (such as around a microwave or a cordless telephone). What happens if you lose signal? You run the risk of bricking your device.
- Note that it takes about 25 minutes to update on Android devices and about 35 minutes to update on iOS devices.
Once you’re ready to update, follow these steps:
- Open the “Connect” app (the same app you use to change the ANC settings).
- Make sure your headset is connected to the app. If not, connect it by tapping the button.
- Open the Connect app menu by tapping the three dots in the upper right corner of the screen.
- Tap on the name of your model (WH-H900N). If you don’t see your model, it means your headphones aren’t connected.
- Tap on your model name. If your firmware is out of date, you’ll see a message that says “Headphone update available – More Info.”
- Tap “More Info.”
- You’ll be taken to a screen with the heading “Headphone Update Available.” Tap “OK” in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.
- From this point, the update should proceed automatically. If you’re running the Connect app on an iPhone or iOS device, you may see the following message: [Bluetooth Pairing Request]. If so, click “Pair.” to continue.
If at any point you see a message telling you that the headphones have disconnected, do not panic. Wait for them to reconnect. If you quit the app or interrupt the process…
…you guessed it: you might brick your device.
You can read more about the process at Sony’s official firmware update support page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to a few of the most common questions people ask about the Sony WH-H900N headphones. I’ll update this section periodically as more questions roll in, so please feel free to ask away in the comments section below!
I have reviewed and ranked many models of noise canceling headsets. You can read about my favorites (and why I love them) here.
The WH-H900N features a rechargeable battery that takes about six hours to fully replenish. Just attach the provided Micro-USB cable to the headset, and then plug the cable into a computer or USB charging station.
This pair of headphones officially supports high-resolution audio only when it’s connected to a device by a standard headphone cable via the available 3.5mm jack. In theory, some of the hi-res audio is lost during the transmission via Bluetooth. However, while I am admittedly not an audiophile, I did not notice much difference in quality between wired and wireless.
Sony WH-H900N Review
I thoroughly enjoyed writing this Sony WH-H900N review. And while Sony wireless noise canceling headphones were not on my radar for a long time, the company managed to surprise me with innovative features, such as touch sensors and an overall solid product offering.
I consider the WH-H900N middle of the road headphones, both from a price and features perspective. They have a clear, natural sound that’s perfectly suitable for listening to digital music, podcasts, or other everyday purposes. And while the wireless audio quality may fall short of the official “hi-red audio” benchmark, it’s still going to blow you away if you’re used to listening on AirPods or other in-earn devices with limited dynamic sound output capabilities.
And in terms of design, I found both the headband and the ear pads to be comfortable (although the synthetic leather is a significant drawback, especially if you plan on wearing them for an extended period).
Add all that together with a top-of-class battery that lasts for well over a full day and recharges in just six hours, and I would not hesitate to recommend the WH-H900N to a friend.
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