Hello forumers, being rather new to head-fi and seeing that most people don't really post reviews on Hardwarezone, i decided to write a review of my XBA-4s that i got about a few days ago... Do take note that this is my very first try in writing one so don't be tooo harsh on me ^^"
I got these guys from one of my visits to Bic Camera a few days after the official release, they retailed there for about 24,000 yen. Buuuuuut cuz i had so many points collected in the membership card i managed to grab them at 15,000 yen (what a steal!!). These iems are really popular here and most electronic stores then had already started to run out of stock (i got the last pair!!)
I mainly use a pair of butt-kicking tf10s (with lune cable) from my sansa clip+/iphone 3G (with a hippobox amp) and have previously owned an ie8 , ckm99 , monster turbine and a ckm77, and i have to say i am rather impressed with the XBA series.... now down to the nitty-gritty parts!
I was actually rather turned off by the short 0.6m cable and the fact that you have to drape these guys behind your neck. The IP version (the one with the mic) has slightly longer cables (of equal length) so they fit on like your average iem.
These earphones are predominantly made of chromed plastic which may be rather unappealing to some, but being so big and bulky in nature metal casings would have made the XBA-4s so unwieldly it would be almost impossible to wear! I already have some difficulty putting these guys on so good thinking on Sony's part!
The earpiece themselves are rather large (severity of the issue coming from a tf10 owner) and excluding the tips they should be as large as the tip of your thumb. Not recommended for people with small ears. Wearing it over-ear solves some weight issues but the cables flop out at times so i'd recommend getting earguides.
Having tried the xba-1,2 and 3s i'll kick start this portion of the review by taking a quick run through of the rest of the XBA-series. All of them were played from my amped iphone 3G.
The xba-1s i guess were the best bang for anybody's buck, but i do find that the single driver made it very bland in my opinion... cold and analytical, absolutely no bass. Fortunately the low frequency driver did miracles to the xba-2, and there was substantial amounts of detail along with the bass that was missing in the 1s, they also had a far "wetter" sound frequency compared to it's relatively cheaper counterpart.
All i can say for the xba-3, is that they sound exactly like my tf10s =.= (which explains why i didn't pick them up)
Now on to the 4s :D now i find these rather bass oriented, having 2 bass drivers they deliver substantial (and at times a little too much) amounts of bass. like the 2s and 3s it has a very wet and warm sound freq (which should result in a curvy sound sig.....right?) Details in the mids are retained, moreover i find that they're also brought forward compared to the 3s/tf10s. However i can hear slight mid bass which may be annoying to some, but i'm pretty much fine with it. The highs are what puzzles me.... bright highs are like my pet-peeve, too much and it just kills the music, which also explains why i had to sell away my ckm99s (in case you haven't tried them yet, the ckm99 highs are VERY BRIGHT) the xba-4's highs are a reminiscence of the ckm99, but they aren't that strong, making it very enjoyable to hear. The highs do sound rather different from the sparkly tf10 highs, but if i were to compare the two, it all boils down to preference....
Though the xba-4s are warm in nature, i do find that it gets slightly more sibilant without amplification. Moreover i find that by EQing these guys by reducing lower frequencies, you can pretty much get them to sound like the xba-3s (pretty neat!)
Sound leakage is present too and thats quite a problem - my mom can hear music coming from them when i'm sitting next to her in the car, but i think that can be solved with correct eartip sizing.....
The xba-4s are very fun sounding in nature, and in my opinion is Sony's attempt to reach out to the crowd by coming up with a more consumer-oriented iem, contrary to their high-end ex1000 that they released about a year ago.
To Wrap Things Up
xba-4 - bright highs, loads of bass, detailed and yet not analytical. If you're into bass you have to pick up one of these....
xba-3 - a much cheaper alternative to the tf10
xba-2/1 - perfect for casual listeners with a tight budget