I recently acquired a set of Sony EX800ST IEM's from a Head-Fi member who had originally purchased them from a Japan dealer, as these phones are not distributed in the US.
The EX800ST is marketed by Sony as a studio monitor. That is a term that I have found to be much overused in the headphone market, but the few reviews I was able to find
were all very positive.
Most of my pre-purchase information was provided to me by the original owner, as he had the opportunity to compare them with quite a number of different IEM's, including the
highly regarded JVC FX700. He stated to me that he found the very neutral and uncolored SQ of the Sony to be much to his liking and was selling them only because they did not
have the isolation necessary for use on commuter trains.
As far as packaging goes, it is about as unremarkable as can be imagined, with the phones and accessories contained in a plain white box. There are 3 sets of tips: S-M-L, none of which fit me very well. There is also
a manual consisting of several sheets of Japanese characters. There is a small zipper container that is of a very nice size to carry the phones and some tips safely and securely.
Similar to the EX1000, the EX800ST has removable cables designed for over-ear use. The cables, while fairly thin, have very adequate strain-relief at all points of stress.
The jack is "L" shaped and should fit most any DAP, amp or phone.
Upon first listen, I felt that the phones tended toward brightness and lacked bass impact although the depth of bass and tightness seemed to be quite good. Based on my experience with
other IEM's, I felt that the sound was typical of that resulting from lack of proper seal. I have quite a stash of tips from various phones that have come and gone over the years, so I set about to find
something that would both fit the Sony nozzle and my ears. Normally, I need to use tips of different sizes to achieve a proper seal in both ears.
I found some very soft silicon tips that had been bundled with some unremarkable long-gone V-Sonic phones. These fit the nozzles perfectly and also had a larger opening on the outlet than the included Sony tips.
With these tips in place, the resulting sound was totally different. Not a trifling amount but a night and day difference. The bass now had impact, accuracy and speed while the
highs no longer tended toward sibilancy. I can readily agree that they would likely serve well as studio monitors, as I find the sound to be extremely well-balanced and tonally accurate.
I conducted several sine-wave sweeps from 20-20k HZ and heard no obvious peaks anywhere in the sweep, confirming to me that these are truly neutral and well balanced across the audio spectrum.
While audibly they sound very well balanced, I would assume that if the frequency response were plotted, it would not appear flat, as the response of the human ear is not flat but rather has peaks and valleys.
The phones are as comfortable as any of this type I have worn, as the tips I am using are very soft and do not insert deeply into the ear canal. The soundstage is far more expansive than one usually experiences with IEM phones,
and often does give the impression of extending beyond the confines of my head.
Overall, I am very pleased with the performance of the 800ST and consider it to have a more neutral and accurate SQ than the EX700 that I own. I do find the sound to be somewhat similar to that of my
Sony F1 which I consider to be a very accurate headphone.
I have experienced no listener fatigue at all with the 800ST even after many hours of continuous usage. If I had to nitpick, I would suggest that a greater variety of tips be included.
If one needs a very high degree of isolation, perhaps these would not be the IEM of choice. The cable can be a bit microphonic but the over-ear style along with the cable slider allows one to really minimize this annoyance.
Whether or not Sony will decide to introduce these phones to the US market remains to be seen, but in terms of overall accuracy, tonality, imaging and soundstage as well as user comfort, I would rank the EX800ST right up there
among the better universal IEM's that I have owned.
Edited by HiFlight - 5/20/11 at 11:39am