Basically i have put together two quicker and subsequently short reviews on both a dual balanced armature earphone the Sony XBA-2 and a dual dynamic earphone the Sonocore Bryan. Unfortunately this will not continue into a comparison of the two but it does give you two types of dual driver earphones to look at. Enjoy!
Sony XBA-2 Review
I do not see a need to tell you who Sony are, I mean they are surely the biggest consumer electronic company in the world and surely everyone owns at least one product of theirs. Well recently they released a new earphone line, labeled xperiance balanced armature or XBA. As you can guess it is a range of balanced armature earphones and it is their first.
The range is rather large including a single balanced armature (BA) sport, wireless and noise canceling earphones and then a single BA earphone (XBA-1), dual BA earphone (XBA-2), triple BA earphone (XBA-2) and a quad BA (XBA-4 earphone and all the normal earphones all offering an iPhone compatible version. I will now explain a bit more about the XBA-1/2/3/4. So the XBA-1 is full range driver, which apparently is quite flat, the XBA-2 has a full range and then adds a woofer boosting the bass. The XBA-3 then has a tweeter added boosting the treble. Finally the XBA-4 has a super-woofer boosting the bass yet again.
What Sony have done which is very brave however is that they decided to make their own BA drivers instead of using those made by Knowles and Sonion like companies such as Fischer Audio and Westone do. Now this left me having to know whether or not they done a good job making them so I decided to pull the trigger on one of them. I chose the XBA-2 for a number reasons, the least reviews, I have a lot of dual drivers and the price.
So lets go.
I have been doing most of my listening of these on the go, which means that mainly my Cowon J3 with FLAC and MP3 has driven them. Have been using the orange and red Sony Hybrids for the best seal and sound.
Being Sony there is no surprises that these look fairly nice. The have a shiny metallic housing that is silver and dark grey and is aesthetically pleasing in my opinion. It also has a J-Cord, which is a first for me, which I find really handy as you can have one earphone causally sitting around your shoulders.
The housings are built of a fairly solid plastic, which is bulky and thick. The nozzle is also very wide and no worries of snapping when tip rolling. The cable is a flatter cable, not quite the linguini cable of the Beats by Dre Tour but flatter than most. An easy way to describe it is get a normal cable and just squash it a bit. This does a good job of reducing tangles but does leave it feel very flimsy and it also does not get any thicker to the bottom of the cable which I sad. The split is a small cheapy piece of plastic with Thailand on it.
The jack is awesome and everything that I want in one. It is right-angled, gold plated and finished with a nice strain relief. Also looks pretty good.
With these being Sony you would expect to get absolutely loads but your actually missing most commonly found accessories. What they do come with however is 7 pairs of tips, which are of great quality, 4 pairs being their famous Sony Hybrid tips and the other 3 being made for isolation.
You then get a carry case and a cable winder. The case is fairly hard and is a cloth with something like cardboard inside keeping it rigid. It is pocket size and really quite portable. The cable winder is rather large and not something I will use as it is not really a long enough cable to warrant the use of it but it may be something you will find as a nice addition.
These, once inserted, are rather comfortable. They are always clearly present in your ear and you know that they are there but even with their weight they never become fatiguing. If the weight is too much for you however you always stick them over your ears so that the weight is distributed out more evenly.
However I do think that if you have a smaller canal then these may be a tight squeeze and that would be quite painful.
These give pretty strong isolation and they do not insert that deep all the same. This will get rid of anything unwanted in the room and most traffic as well. Pretty good.
Microphonics (Cable Noise)
Because of the way that you wear these with their J-Cord design I think it combats cable noise quite well as these are almost like a single cabled earphone. These do not need to be worn over the ear, as the microphonics are very pleasantly not a problem at all!
Soundstage and instrument separation
The soundstage is rather average on these. When I say this I mean by the fact that they have width just beyond your ears and are lacking a bit of depth, which stops them sounding to three-dimensional.
Separation is however fairly good and you know which is what and they are not blended at all. It does not quite have the air surrounding them but it is above average.
Presntation is not the most natural and instruments are most of the time in front of the vocalist, which as you can guess is not right, and the bass guitar is always leading the show.
This is the concentrated frequency for these and this is because the presence of a mid-bass hump. The quantity of it is rather big especially for a BA driver and is backed up by some good quality. It is very fast transferring quick punches and impact and it does rather well at getting some air with it but is lacking some texture.
It does extend fairly deep, not as much as a lot of dynamic drivers or even the cheap VSonic GR06 but it still leave them giving a pleasant groan and the odd rumble which to say for a BA is fairly unique and it has drawn equal with the sub-bass of the UE Triple Fi 10.
The mids are behind the bass and have slight coldness to them even with the bass in front of them. They are actually very clear and vocals have a very a whispery tone to them which is quite pleasant. These are actually really quite transparent, not to the level of the DBA-02 but they really do show of detail nicely. Females’ vocals are really rather shrill sound and high sounding and feel false.
The main quibble with them is that the bass can veil them and they could do with a nudge forward. They are by no means as shrouded as the IE8 for example but in some songs the vocals can be very quiet.
The treble is very recessed and this makes the earphones have a dark signature. It struggles to shin through the bass but when it does it is rather nice with some sparkle and even better detail. However it does also roll of a bit to early which causes some instruments to feel like they are lacking a top end.
As their first line of earphones with BA drivers I am really rather impressed and although my other dual Bas are better these are actually rather enjoyable and do deliver a good bassy sound. I am now wanting to try the XBA-3 as the addition of a tweeter is what I felt these lacked and I think that would brighten up the sound but the thought of the mids still be as recessed is still worrying.
Edited by Swimsonny - 6/13/12 at 1:58am