In corner #1: The Sony MDR-XB1000 eXtra Bass headphones. These babies tout extra bass, sport extra-sized earpads, and are considered the grown up, most refined EXTRA BASS Headphone of the XB series. Known to pack an incredible bass wallop, these cans have been long revered for their bass smack-down.
In corner #2: The reigning bass cannon champion of Head-fi: The Ultrasone PRO 900. Largely considered the most refined headphone with THE biggest bass available. You want pure bass? The Pro 900 is the champion of bass authority.
5-point rating scale: This is based off my ears and what I hear - and is only my opinion. My rating scales are only meant to show the degree of difference to my ears between these two headphones in each category, and are limited to / defined by only these two headphones.
Ding Ding Ding
I am always interested in the best bass for the buck. I didn't find too many comparisons of these two headphones that are similarly priced. The Ultrasone is found consistently for less than $350, and the XB1000 runs about $300. Both are contenders for the biggest bass, and I want to know how they stack up against each other. And I think this will be helpful to others too. I want these strictly for EDM. It is the music I will use to make the comparison. I don't listen to Hip-hop, so I won't provide insight on how it sounds with it, because that music doesn't speak to me. And it is my opinion that these headphones make for bad all-rounders in general, and are geared for bass-heavy genres, like EDM. My sole purpose is to listen to EDM on them, so that is what I will listen to on them to compare.
I listened to everything to Armin Van Buuren with lots of synths and sparkly highs, to Deadmau5 with his sub-bass, to some thumpin’ Richie Hawtin minimal techno. Throw in some Umek bangin’ tech-house for good measure. I tried to be diverse with my EDM.
Wow, the XB-1000 is crazy comfortable, they are just MASSIVE! First time I saw them in real life, I laughed out loud at its incredible size. With over 3-inches from out cup to inner pad, they stand out. Possibly portable. My ear doesn’t touch anything inside when wearing them. They stand very clear. After a while, those massive pads can build up some heat being made out of that vinyl material. The Ultrasone Velour is much cooler and comfy against the skin. Smaller earcups mean I get my earlobe squished occasionally, but no big deal comfort-wise. Clamping force about the same. The XB is more comfy, but at the expense of a massive size.
Comfort: 900 - 4.5, XB - 5.0
Pro 900 isolates reasonably well, but leaks a fair amount, especially with those highs ringing out. The XB has small vent holes to allow that bass to reverberate, so the isolation is considerably less, and the leakage much more.
Isolation: 900 - 4.0, XB - 2.0
1. Baby got Bass
The Bass is why we're all here, right? Let's get down to it! Both these babies got bass.
The bass on the XB is tighter and more in control. It’s a bit dryer, but hits a little harder, with accuracy. You can hear the detail. The 900 has more bloat to it, but it makes it a bit less impactful when just listening to bass. Listening to some minimal-tech, Hawtin style, where the bass was most present and pumpin’, I could turn up the XB and it gave me that in-club feeling of having my innards jarred out all over the dance-floor by a poppin’ sound system finely tuned with high-quality subs. 900 doesn’t give me that feeling or impact as much. The bass is tight and hard vs bloaty and meaty. Both are very present. Now, the way the REST of the sonic spectrum is presented plays a very big outcome to how the bass is actually presented.
Bass Presence: 900 - 5.0, XB - 5.0
Bass Quality: Pro - 4.5, XB - 5.0
2. Mids anyone?
Mids on the XB make me cringe. Literally cringe and wince. They are much more present than the 900, and if you are listening to Trance with lots of synth mids in it, you have to back down the volume before you can get the bass pumping like you want. The mids overshadow and ruin the fine fine bass on the XB. The mids, when compared to the Pro 900 sound like a hollow joke. 900 has much more realism, texture, air and detail. There is no contest. The 900 is LESS present for sure, but the quality of the Pro 900 blows the XB out of the water. The mids on the XB sound like a loud screeching banshee by comparison. The mids on the XB sound like they originated in a 5-gallon paint bucket. Well, the XB basically sets your ears in a giant bucket with those earcups, so maybe that’s the problem.
Mid Presence: 900 - 3.0, XB - 4.5
Mid Quality: 900 - 5.0, XB - 2.5
3. Highs - Reaching for the stars
Highs are almost the same story as the mids. The 900 devastates the XB in quality. I can hear double-tap high hats on the 900 that I can’t even hear on the XB – it’s just smeared together. The highs on the Pro 900 are more present, and of higher quality. Much higher quality. They are very present, sometimes a bit harsh, but can be toned down a tad with EQ. The present highs on the 900 sound good with all the lows going on, but can get a little peaky with some Trance that has a lot of high-end going on. Sometimes it can be hard to get loud without having to back down the volume because of the highs on BOTH cans. But with the XB, you have to back down first because of the mids.
Highs Presence: 900 – 5.0, XB – 4.5
Highs Quality: 900 – 4.5, XB – 3.0
The 900 is a much more scooped out, V-shaped sound. And those highs can get hot sometimes, but the highs on the XB are almost as hot, and the mid-range is even hotter when compared to the Pro 900.
If you were listening to some very minimal techno which is mostly bass, without much else going on in mids and highs, definitely the XB. It’ll kick you in the pants. If you’re listening to anything with substance, lyrics, synths like trance, with swooshes or anything going on in the mids and highs, 900 is the much more highly recommended.
Because of this screaming mids on the XB as compared to the Pro 900, the bass on the Pro 900 is more present when you factor in the entire frequency spectrum. With the whole spectrum, that bloat sounds pretty good. You might be able to tell the XB is a tad tighter, but you’re so distracted by the shrieking banshee mids and spray-paint shaker-ball treble, that it doesn’t matter. The Pro 900 is more refined in almost all ways. The XB is distracting, the 900 draws me in and gets me shaking my head. For me, there’s no comparison. The XB will be on its way back tomorrow. It’s a shame that great bass was ruined by the rest of the audio spectrum.
200 hours burn, Pro 900.
50 hours, XB-1000
Edited by SoundFreaq - 9/20/12 at 7:53am