Pros: Good bass for BA earphone
Cons: impedance problems
Sony XBA-3 Review
The accessories that come with the xba-3 are pretty standard. A decent array of tips, reasonable case. I wish it had the molded plastic winding tray that came with my last pair of sony earphones. But it is decent enough. There is a cord wrapper and a shirt clip. But let's get right to the important stuff. How do they sound?
Before I go into the main sound quality details, there is a known issue with the XBA-3 and how it interacts with impedance. This can be seen in many reviews as well as a good graph over at en.goldenears.net that very accurately shows exactly what I've heard.
Basically, with a low impedance source such as an ipod or probably most headphone amps that strive to be "low" impedance (below 5 lets say) the xba will shine. However, as the impedance from the source grows the xba will become excessively bright. And I mean excessively. With my ipod classic which is a bit higher than 5ohms things open up a bit, but nothing serious. However, when connected to an apogee duet, which is a 32ohm headphone output, the sound jumps up in brightness to a horrid degree. This causes the metallic properties to really stand out and the bass sound anemic and everything is just hash and bright. So, if you're considering these, I would make sure you'll be using them with lower impedance sources. Or make sure you don't mind an overall bright sound with less bass.
I'll focus this review on the low impedance sources as most people will have portable devices or headphone amps.
The xba does two things very well that stood out for me. First, they have a great bass response for a balanced armature earphone. It is very capable, extends reasonably low and can give a good deep punch. Very impressive. It also does a reasonable job at staying pretty well controlled and not overpowering other things too much. The second thing is the level of depth. While there is a slight metallic-ness to the treble, it still manages to give a great sense of depth. It is very well extended into the high treble and really brings out crisp details. The place the xba-3 lacks the most would be the mids.
This is definitely a V shape headphone. The mids are good and the frequencies flow pretty smoothly together from one end to the other. However, the mids are reasonably low in comparison to the low and high frequencies. They still sound good and reproduce things well, but you won't get a thick meaty center to your music. Most of what you hear in mids is going to be mid bass. Above that you get a a dip and then it comes back into the clear treble range.
Relatively speaking though, this isn't too drastic. But compared to others in the price range I would say these are pretty V-shaped rather than neutral and it sounds like it when listening. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just one out of a few sound signatures to choose from.
As for fit, these seem pretty bulky when you hold them, but the fit pretty well and are fairly standard in that regard. I actually like the design a lot personally. I find that they look professional and well built. They have a simple shape with nice accents.
Overall, I would say that if they worked well on every source they would be a great value. However, not working well on higher impedance source might rule them out on some computer interface or studio equipment. Therefore, I'd have to say the value is average. If this isn't a concern, and you'll be sporting them with a portable device mostly, then you will probably have no problems and I would give them a good recommendation for a V-shape phone. I've always though sony did a great job building things that work well and have pretty good value. These are no exception.
For a hand on look check out my youtube review: