Hi Guys, since I havent seen a post with a properly review or impressions of the new XBA 3 SL from sony, and I just bought one myself 3 days ago here in Japan, I decided to post here my impressions so far:
1) Where I came from:
Well, Now I have been listening 3 headphones (I had others before), the Shure SE535, Beyerdynamic T50p and the Audio Technica ATH-PRO 700 MK2. For source, only an iPhone, iPod Nano and Classic, no amp.
from music taste, basically Adele, Killers, Maroon 5, Marcelo D2, Clazziquai, Buena Vista Social Club, Beastie boys, Tokyo Incidents and some other random artists, so I like either vocal centered music as heavy instrumental music. I practice bboy and capoeira too, so Im used to dance to music, and this counts a lot to me....vocal is important to listen, sing in the street, but a good bass, drums, guitars etc are important to dance
I use main my SE525 directly from my iPod Classic, I like it very much, but I had two complains, one is the fact that the SE 535 didnt perform very well with beastie boys, Marcelo D2 or more hip hop or bass based musics, somehow I think the vocal was always boosted by the iem natural eq, which for my taste is a little bit mountain shaped and the no-portability of the system (from portability "understand put everything in one pocket without become a weird volume in ur clothes").
So I wanted basically a small, U shaped eq BA headphone. Since I live in Japan, the XBA series looked very intresting and with the XBA 4 starting at 22.000 ienes, I found it very cheap! (for example, here a triple-fi is around 30.000)
2) build quality
Well, I think the XBA headphones has a good build quality, not an awesome one, but not bad either.
The cable is a flat type one, it doesnt tangle but somehow for me it looks a little bit fragile, perhaps because im coming from a SE 535.....
The cable has is also very short, from the left piece to the end it has 0,6m. Its also has the japanese standard J shape division, which means that after the cable division, the cable to the right piece is longer than the left one, It also comes with a 0,9m extension. I didnt fell very much microphonics
From what I noticed, the body is plastic with a chrome paint, each model is identified with small gold squares. For example, the 3SL has 3 gold squares.
The 1 SL is very small, maybe one of the smallest IEM that I saw, thinner than the q-jays and UE700. The 2SL a little bit bigger, not that much. The 3Sl has more or less the same body size of the SE535, but it doesnt have the angle in the plug. THE 4SL IS BIG, VERY BIG! man, its so big that I kind of became disappointed when I saw! I mean, its bulky, fat, and it isnt heavy, but also not light.....it looks like it falls very easily from the ear, personally I thought very ugly....
The IEM comes with two kind of eartips, sony standard ones, and a "noise isolation" ones, which I guessed it would be foam types, but they are just the normal ones with a "foam" inside, not very good quality too...quite disappointing...
The pack comes with a case too, a good one! hard, leather type, with magnets to close with kind of a velour inside, sure the leather and the velour are not the best materials available in the market, but still better than a lot of IEM cases....
3) Sound characteristics
Well, To be honest, due to the price ranges (1SL 6.000, 2SL 16000, 3SL 20000, 4SL 230000 if I remember well) I didnt feel very attracted to test the 2SL, so I jumped to the 1SL, 3SL and 4SL
I found the 1 SL very good! especially for the value. The mids and highs were very clear, but still, it had a good punch in the bass, better than I expected from a single BA driver, but I wouldnt recommend this to be a all rounder....despite the not bad bass, I found it still forwarded....Adele was great, but beast boys not at all... But if I would say, the 1SL has the basic sound signature of the line, A very good transient response with highs very clear and loud but still with a good bass body, not so tight, but strong
Due to the price, its impossible not to compare both! If I would resume, the decision between both can be summarized in one point: Muscial preference!
I found the 3 SL very U shaped, the bass has a really good body! very strong but still tight! and the highs reveal a lot of details in the music! Comparing with the SE535, it has excatly the opposite EQ I think....Vocal forward musics, I always thought to be the SE535 strong point. but somehow, the instruments tend to, in spite to be very clear, a little bit washed. I think the 3SL does the opposite work, The instrumental becomes very rich and with a lot of details, but the voice doesnt excel that much....I found easier to recognize for example, echoes in the SE535 than in the 3SL, but on the other hand, the 3SL had a bigger high extension, revealing some cymbals and hit hats that I didnt hear before....the SEbass is more tight, but the 3SL more pleasant I think. Overall I liked the 3SL very much, its a very musical IEM! that one that makes u wanna dance the music, without being too much analytical. So I thought it a very good complement to my SE535, so I ended up buying this one
Now the 4SL! man, this was a phone that puzzled me......Its very clear! u can hear a lot of details in all frequencies, but I found 2 big problems.....too boomy and too "cold"! Let me explain what I mean!
The 4SL at first listen, almost look like a bass head cheap headphone, so strong that is the bass! but when u start to pay attention, u see all the good transient response and the fine detail that it reveals......but u still have that boomy cloud in the background! to me, it created a very strange impression, a little bit incoherent if I could say....I think the strong bass makes my brain wants to pay attention in the flow of the instrumental, the band, the bass, the details of the drums, the details of the guitar, but then, u hear a very loud and clear voice too, and after all all frequencies just sound too emphatized! so because of this, in the end its really hard to focus in one aspect fo the music. So to me, the 4SL is very analytical, but "cold", it doesnt makes u wanna dance. I think u dont listen it paying attention only in the music (for example, running or walking) the music will sound very boring.
So in the end my opinion is
3SL-Very musical, U shaped eq, but not so analytical, if u want the maximum detail, its not ur choice, but if u want to listen music to take a walk and enjoy the music, take this one
4SL-Strong Bass, with a large body, very clear in mid and highs, if u want the maximum detail, this is ur choice.
Edited by digital analog - 12/14/11 at 7:59am