Pros: Extremely clear sound for less tha $100, Small and comfortable, semi-flat cord, super lightweight, Accesory set
Cons: No strain relief, thin cord, don't isolate that much noise, not bassy
I got a set of XBA-3s a few months ago and I liked them a lot, but I had been wary with them because of the somewhat steep price. Then I found at a local audio-store super discounted XBA-1s and I though those would be a really nice gift for my friend who still used crappy earbuds. I got them but I was very curious about how they sounded so I ended up opening them and what a pleasant surprise that was.
They retain the looks from Sony's XBA line, with sober colors and glossy paint. These come with the standard XBA ear-tip kit: 4 sizes of standard universal tips, and 3 sizes of "hybrid" tips (they have a ring of foam inside the flap of the tip to privide more isolation), a cord wrap, and a small carrying pouch. This is above the standard for what you get with most good sounding earphones costing less than $100. The cord is semi-flat, asymmetrical, and while it is thin and feels fragile, it is very easy to untangle. They are well constructed but they have one design issue that worries me to some degree: they lack strain relief for the wires going into each earbud. Really, they simply have no strain relief whatsoever, so when taking them off you really should not pull the cable. They are extremely comfortable. Their shape is just perfect; the pill-like shape helps getting them deep into your ear canal and the sony tips don't chafe my ear canal at all (although the hybrid tips do exert more pressure on the ear canal and I find them comfortable only for minutes at a time). They rest on the outer ear canal with no discomfort at all since they are extremely light as well.
These have only one BA driver inside, but still could reproduce every frequency with no problems at all. The bass is not as punchy as with the XBA-3 or 4, but it has impact and it's solid enough while the mids are great in a not in-in-your-face way. The highs, although bright, are not piercing in -most- scenarios. But the best part about these, both at the launch price and their current price, is their clarity. They offer an incredible resolution. Astonishing for anything under $100, really. The sound has obvious faults but in my opinion are very minor. They are not distortion free, but only on high volumes and with very congested tracks they do show that THD. Then there's little isolation, wearing them with no music doesn't mute anything to a considerable amount, with both the regular and hybrid tips. And then there's the bass which will leave bassheads wondering what's the point of these.
This is an amazing back-up set for audiophiles or beginners who are not looking for "moar bass!!" but for those looking for an economic and clear earphone/headset that is lightweight and comfortable. If you get a gool deal on these, don't hesitate.