Good portable earphone

A Review On: XBA-3iP - XBA Series Triple Driver Balanced Armature In Ear Earphones with Apple 3-Button Remote/Mic

XBA-3iP - XBA Series Triple Driver Balanced Armature In Ear Earphones with Apple 3-Button Remote/Mic

Rated # 20 in In-Line Microphone
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Audio Quality
Microphone Quality
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Price paid: $210.00
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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 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:


Thanks for taking the time. Very nice video review.
How does this line differ from the last lineup (MDR-EX600)?
Well, I haven't heard it personally, but the ex600 is 'technically' the equivalent of the xba-2 according to sony. The main difference is that it is a dynamic driver earphone which typically sound 'different' from balanced armatures. The 600 comes with a nicer case ;) Otherwise, being discontinued I'm not sure how the prices differ. I would guess the 600 has the typical "drier" sound of the sony dynamics. I've heard the ex300 and ex500 and they share a similar dry sound with good bass response but slightly sibilant treble. I've read reviews that all of the sonys share the similar sibilance, but it bothers some less than others. Beyond that I can't really say without actually hearing it. I would say the xba-3 on a low impedance device like a portable audio player will give you some of the best sound with a slight v shape of many of the IEMs out there.
Thanks luisdent. Can you comment more about the fit?
I currently own the Westone UM2 and Sony MDR-EX600 and I find the Wesones very nice as they sit completely on the ear drum. The MDR-EX600's protrude a little (although not as bad as the TF10s)..
This picture shows the XBA line sitting pretty firmly in the ear. Is that accurate from your experience?
If you pull up on your upper ear and insert them like an earplug, yes, i found they went in securely and fit nicely. They are a pretty standard fit though. Not bad, but just "normal". The pfe112 and pfe232 feel more ergonomic more comfortable and just fit perfectly, but that's another story. Coming from a bunch of ergonomic IEMs they feel very 'standard'. This could be a good thing though, as there is no weird shape or anything to cause a fit problem. They simply push into your ear and stick out. ha. I had no problem with them, but again I had to insert them more like an earplug where some just pop right in easily. I would rate them as comfortable, sort of average in the middle somewhere with comfort.
oh, regarding that photo though, it's hard to tell, but they definitely stick out in general. it may not look bad, but they don't really lie in your ear like some, they stick straight out.
Thanks for the updates.. I went ahead and purchased it on sale at Amazon. Going to either keep that or the EX600 as a backup for the Wesones.