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Sony MDR-XB700 Impression

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
In this rare moment of freedom, I hastily write my impression of the Sony MDR-XB700 (with a mention of the Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi USB):

Looks and Feel

If you read my impression of the Shure SRH440, you'll know that I love sleek, black electronics. It's almost like my kryptonite. That being said, the tactfully placed stainless steel finish on the adjustable part of the headband makes it even more attractive. I'm not so thrilled about the leather earpads, but I'll get to that soon. I can definitely wear this in public and not feel ashamed, but a bit admired.
The leather earpads aren't that stylish, but they aren't hideous either. I would like to also say that the earpads are almost as big as a CD, maybe half a centimeter smaller in radius. Really though, I'm not exaggerating on that either. I should have taken a picture to show you all, but I couldn't think of a way to position my headphone and camera and CD to allow for a really high quality shot (not that my first picture is much). But these headphones look great, and definitely fit the urban look.

But they aren't very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. They get very warm, to the point that every 30 minutes or so I would wipe around my ears because it was getting a bit humid inside the headphones. It may have something to do with its 53mm driver , but I'm not complaining, too much. Another thing that's fun to do is to watch the cone of the driver in bass heavy songs literally move. It only moves down around 10Hz, and it makes a weird higher frequency sound when playing a 10Hz tone mp3. I'm not sure if it's the source, or the XB700, but it's certainly mildly entertaining to watch it move. Oh, I should also mention that they aren't very heavy, they feel lighter than the SRH440 in fact, despite being bigger:

They are much more comfortable than the SRH440 to wear (in the short run, in the long run, neither are especially comfortable to wear). The driver cover presses on your ear in the SRH440, but practically nothing touches your ear on the XB700, in fact, they sound better (with their original pads) further from your ears than close to them.

Sound Quality

As a note, all songs referenced are in lossless flac. The source is a Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi USB.

You can never have enough bass (the Creative DAC can though )! The XB in XB700 stands for Xtra Bass, and that is a title it definitely lives up to. I know that the Creative DAC still does not push the XB700 to the limits of its bass, in fact, the XB700 pushes the Creative DAC to the limits of its bass. What I mean to say is that the Creative's driver equalization clips after a certain level. To be fair, it's not noticeable in most songs and bass levels do have to be pushed up to a fair degree. So, this means that if you have a song like "huge knives" by the Ali Project, the bass lines won't be as entrancing. What makes me so sure that it's the source and not the cans? Well, the definitive proof came between Ubuntu and Windows, in which Ubuntu was able to turn my headphones into very effective speakers (using the drivers built into the kernel), whereas Windows struggles to make it over the sound of my dog's jingling name tag (he's about a 100 pound German Shepard, in case you're wondering). Furthermore, the Creative is just fine outputting the same amount of dB if you turn the program volume down as far as reasonably possible and then turning up its own volume, but it clips if done the other way around. So more accurately, I should say that the source's drivers limit the overall bass of the system, but they're pretty much one and the same for all practical purposes. Edit: While on that note, I should say the fidelity of the source is not perfect. It does not lend itself to be neutral; it colors the music when set to headphone mode, but it lacks clarity in regular speaker mode, and I found the VIA source to be more distinct in songs like "Forces" and "Tank!" (Susumu Hirasawa and The Seatbealts), where multiple instruments across the sound spectrum play out of sync. In orchestral songs, they both do well at the climax of the song, but in "Forces," I hear sound as opposed to distinct notes and rhythms from the VIA, which is not even close to mid-fi. This analysis was done using both the XB700 and SRH440.

Now with that out of the way, the XB700 will literally vibrate your ears and adjacent head area, literally. Considering that the pads are about 2" thick and about 1" in outer diameter, are padded, and are leather, that's quite a feat. There's nothing more relaxing than listening to "The Blue Monday E"r"Etrical Parade" by Iwasaki Tarou and feeling your ears resonate to the beats of the music. Or, listening to "Shut Up and Explode" by the BOOM BOOM SATELLITES (thanks Cyberbeing ) and really feeling like your head is going to explode (in other words, you have to listen to this song when you're in the mood, otherwise it will be unpleasant). Or listening to "Forces" by Susumur Hirasawa and being subdued by the force of the drums. I've heard a few other of Sony's headphones and they have a similar sound signature, but the XB700 definitely has better defined, controlled, and greater bass extension. Their bass is not as epic as having a subwoofer next to your head, but even that sounds a bit crazy to me. Compared to the SRH440, the bass is not clean, but I can easily tone it down to similar levels (but not the same, as the SRH440 still sound significantly different) as the Shures.

It should come as no surprise when I say that you will definitely not mistake these cans for open headphones. They do have good treble and mids, but it doesn't sound as warm as the SRH440. The highs are equally present in both headphones, and the XB700 has better sibilance control. I can listen to "'Libera Me' from Hell" by Iwasaki Tarou with more satisfaction on the XB700 because not only does the opera singer attain all her notes with as much clarity and extension as the SRH440, it also delivers the song's powerful bass at the same time. HOWEVER, her voice does not sound as open as when heard from the SRH440, which is a bit of a trade-off. Another song where these can's lack of openness is revealed in "Mermaid Song" by Susumu Hirasawa (one of my all time favorite songs and my favorite composer). "Mermaid Song" is not very bass heavy, and delivers most of its wonder through the mids. I hate to say it, but it's more enjoyable to listen to this song using the SRH440 than the XB700. "Omae no XXX de Ten wo Tsuke!" by Iwasaki Tarou (the victory theme song from Gurren Lagann) is also not as joyful from the XB700 as from the SRH440.

Moving on to the highs, I'll keep this section brief as I have other things to do soon, it's either can's victory. Please note that I'm not very discriminating when it comes to this section of sound, but when I listen to "Tank!" by The Seatbelts (a nice jazz song that has instruments in all frequency ranges), I don't hear anything on the SRH440 that I don't hear on the XB700.


For audiophiles interested in hearing how the other half lives and don't want to spend much money, try these cans.
For bassheads, I'm sure their better sounding alternatives, and I'm wondering what the Beyerdynamic DT 990 sounds like, but if you're looking for a budget headphone, definitely get these.
For everyone else (especially gamers) consider these headphones, they won't disappoint.


AWESOME bass that DOES NOT distort or shrink back at high volumes
Well-defined and warm highs
Good-looking, lightweight (comparatively), seemingly durable
Decent soundstage


Not comfortable to wear for long periods of time
The mids leave you wanting


These headphones aren't technically "closed:"

It may be a bit hard to see, but those aren't just cosmetic holes. In a quick and dirty check to see if they affect sound quality, I covered the holes (3 on each driver), with a bandage, and low and behold, sound quality was changed (for the worse). What these means is that although they are isolating (at high levels for a closed can), they also leak a lot more noise than other closed cans. Granted, the holes are covered by the headband when in use, and the section that covers them has a cloth-like material on it. In other words, these might not be the best closed headphones for listening in public. I've been thinking of what material would best cover the holes without severely diminishing sound quality, so any suggestions would be useful.
post #2 of 37
And you would think the padding would help

Good impression.
post #3 of 37
. Another thing that's fun to do is to watch the cone of the driver in bass heavy songs literally move.
Oh man, been there.

Very good review, I've never experienced heat discomfort with these for long periods of time though. Maybe my noodle just keeps cool or something. :P
post #4 of 37
Got these, did small modding. Great 'phones for this price.
post #5 of 37
great review on these man it was spot on in alll areas... i listened to these fro 2 hours and sampled an eclectic selection of about 80 songs that i love... i concluded that these cans would not be good for a person with varied taste in music since they are great at bass but not great at all the rest so you would have these for your loud bass music mood and something else for when you want to hear music in all its sonic glory minus teh booooming bass..

So i may get them and mod the cushions to make then half as thick so i dont look like a space man in public
post #6 of 37
Originally Posted by 3602 View Post
Got these, did small modding. Great 'phones for this price.
what mod did you do?
post #7 of 37
I have been singing the praises for these phones here for a while for this reason you state: "For audiophiles interested in hearing how the other half lives and don't want to spend much money, try these cans."

They are not joke phones. These aren't monster beats or skullcandys. These are a real effort at a quality product at their pricepoint, that do something few phones can do that are even near what these cost. They do, indeed, go FLAT down to sub human bass. They do it in a way that is controlled, not bloated, while not distorting the upper range. The recessed mids, I think is a perception issue related to how they tend to slightly roll off in the HF. For me, this is actually acceptable, because they are not siblant like some other phones that are known for dipping down low (it takes some tweaking to get a nice flat-to-relaxed response from DT770s for example, like new pads). My modded d1001ks will *almost* get there, but nothing I own right now provides a flat response down well below human hearing, and in such a way where, yes, you have this cylinder of air between the driver and your ears, and you can feel it, yet, again, it isn't bloated. The drivers are, I am almost sure, the same used in their mdr v700dj phones. I would not quote me on that, but it is my hunch. They have such a similar treatment of the midrange and HF that it is hard not to think this. The difference is the v700s are entirely colored in the midbass and low bass, for dj queuing. I would prefer these to have a quarter inch plug screw adapter thing, but I can live with the little one, and a nice extension. The *perfect* mate for these is the E-MU 0202. It has enough power to drive these without any feeling of stress on the amp section. I have hooked them into my main system and did not notice anything MORE from the bottom end, but also, if you plug them into a sansa fuse, you do not notice a significantly less amount of bass output as long as you stay within a sane volume. These have become my de-facto portable set of cans.

Isolation is actually really good, better than any full sized headphone I have. I will wear these at the bookstore and play even the most heavy powernoise without worrying about annoying people. The recessed HF keep my ears from being shredded, while also acting as a slight lp filter for an mp3. Most good phones will reveal artifacting in anything but a LAME 320k, and sometimes even that. I can go down to V0, and even acceptably, a V2, but I would never go below V0 anyway. I can fit more music on my DAP and enjoy it, while at the same time, give redbook the justice it deserves while out and about.

I put them up against a few others and, while their sound is a bit colored, they deliver what they promise, and that is all that I ask. The extra, is that I can trust them to play Jazz quite well, as a solid snare, or kick, is faithfully reproduced without worrying about any hats or cymbals breaking up or shredding my ears. There are better phones for this genre, but they can't go from jazz to some of the heaviest industrial and EBM and back.

You get exactly what you are paying for, and this includes their build quality, as it isn't bad at all.
HF won't shred your ears.
They can deliver with a DAP, almost 100%, as long as you don't go insane with the volume control.

They don't scale much beyond very moderate prosumer type equipment, such as the E-MU 0202 usb. This could be a budget pro, but I was hoping to hear them respond even more to my main system, and I got a sound that was very hard to tell apart from, even a DAP if the volume was low. The differences I did hear had more to do with my system's sound signature as there are tubes in the chain plus an NOS DAC.
After a while the pads will slightly begin to compress to your head shape. Think of your side of the bed. The issue with this, is that part of their sound comes from equal plushiness all the way around. This is something that bugs me a bit, and a bit of massaging the pads before putting them on helps. The 3 holes on the sides BTW are not cosmetic, yes, but once the phones are on, tap on the side, you will feel your ear drum compress and the phones will very slowly recover, indicating a good seal regardless.

If you want a quality pair of budget headphones that will deliver on the lower octaves without failing to pay attention to the rest of the freq. band, and want to try something different, buy em'. I think every budget basshead should, at least, give them a test drive, and even people looking for something with an interesting design aesthetic, and wants a DAP set of full sized cans. To compare, on my sansa, the denon 1001ks are too siblent, even with some mods, and there is just not near enough power for my DT770s, and grados, i don't have a DAP friendly set so cannot speak for them, nor AKGs. I like these more than the Shure 440s. At home, I have to EQ my 440s, not for more bass, but again, harsh HF. Perhaps I have the hearing of a dolphin, but most headphones, even through a nice warmish tubed system, tend to have somewhat ear shredding HF unless I turn the treble on my amp down a bit, or mod the phones themselves. Like, leather pads for the dt770s, or damping the inside of the denons' earcups and driver magnet with blu tack.
post #8 of 37
stated like a true auidophile.
post #9 of 37
Thread Starter 
I definitely agree with almost everything you said yashu. I have to say that the SRH440s are absolutely more isolating. This is from me asking other people and comparing the intensity of sound that I heard (playing music through both cans at the same time with no EQ) from a person wearing the headphones a few meters away. At low and acceptable levels, there's not much of an issue, but around midday my ears aren't very sensitive (I listen to music in the morning and night [even if I use them almost non-stop] at about 1/2 to 2/3 of the volume during midday), and occasionally I might play it loud enough to disturb students around me. This problem does not happen with the SRH440, but I don't like them nearly as much as the XB700.

Otherwise, I completely agree with you. I did find the highs a bit strident, although it was annoying for me, and not so bad that I would say the were shredding. You probably have the hearing of a dolphin =D. As much as I like the bass, I can't really comment on it as much as you did. The limiting factor of my setup was definitely my DAC, so it would be unfair for me to overly praise or critic these headphones in terms of bass quality and amount. The songs "huge knives" by the Ali Project and "Welcome to the Circus" by Susumu Hirasawa both have sub-bass, and I know that this headphone can handle it, even when I boosted 10Hz by 12 dB (useful in the Planitb Remix to Hikari). There was no perceived distortion or recession of the highs and mids.

But going back to the boosted 10Hz by 12 dB thing, I'm not sure if it's the headphones or DAC, but playing a 10Hz bass tone produces a sound that is of a mid-bass frequency, kind of like the driver itself is hitting something softly. Maybe it's just an artifact that might be caused by the DAC, headphone, or headphone cable.

But still, these are much better than the skullcrushers one of my friends let my listen to in my set-up (a few months ago, don't remember the specific model. It was green and supra-aural is what I remember). The XB700 will vibrate your head while delivering clearly audible bass.

In summation, I can't comment on the true bass ability of the XB700 because of the limitations of the Creative DAC, but I can say that they live up to the "extra bass" moniker that Sony gives it.

PS: When I get home, I'll upload a picture of my EQ with Bass Boost so that people can see what I mean when I say I love bass and how much the XB700 can deliver.
post #10 of 37
Sound signature-wise, and fun factor-wise, the XB700s are my favorite headphone. They are blast to listen to.

I too admit that they are NOT comfortable over long stretches of time. Once the pads heat up, they are borderline painful to wear, especially around the stitching where the hole where your ears are supposed to go starts. That ring rests directly on the side of your head, and if you have exposed skin, it HURTS.

Had it not been for that, I would've never went past them for a closed can. I love them, but had to let them go.
post #11 of 37
These things are huge!! they are perfect for bassyheads, nice impressions buddy!
post #12 of 37
If there was one thing I could say of the XB700s, is that they are the poor man's DT770 Pro 80s. That doesn't mean they have a fraction of the performance. The DT770s are a little clearer in which more of the detail is kept through the powerful bass. Both have similar sounding/feeling bass, though the DT770s is more balanced, whereas the XB700s bass can completely overwhelm other sounds. I found the XB700s to sound less muddy actually if you were to dissect the actual instruments, but as stated before, don't LET you hear all the detail because the bass is so emphasized.
post #13 of 37
Thread Starter 
As the only thing I have no other bass headphones to compare the XB700 to, I cannot comment on clarity, although it might be, as yashu stated, a perception issue. That's not to say that there are no headphones that have great clarity and bass, but I can't say.

Now, for those pictures I promised:

post #14 of 37
Originally Posted by Merdril View Post
As the only thing I have no other bass headphones to compare the XB700 to, I cannot comment on clarity, although it might be, as yashu stated, a perception issue. That's not to say that there are no headphones that have great clarity and bass, but I can't say.

Now, for those pictures I promised:

You buy bassy headphones and then you do this. Nice fart cannon you created
post #15 of 37
Ya'll should get AT es10.. very controlled bass far better than sonys and its all your ever gonna need!
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