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[REVIEW] Sony XBA-1 and XBA-4 - Page 3

post #31 of 170

The topic may have changed since the review at the beginning, but I just wanted to say that I got the XBA-1 for $27 on clearance at bestbuy today.  My impressions are a bit different.  I've been listening to them for a bit and comparing them to the Sony EX85LP and the new Apple EarPods.

 

I find that they lack the real bass and highs that make a good pair of IE phones.  The mids do seems fairly decent with details and smoothness of a nicer pair of headphones, however there is just something 'off' about them.  It almost sounds as if things aren't as 3D as the EX85LP or EarPods.  The medium frequency dominance around the 1-4khz range is where I find they push the most. At higher listening volumes these phones are almost unusable to me.  They just have way too much "something" in your eardrum that sounds almost painful.  I'm not talking head-banging loud.  I just mean listening to a song at a reasonable volume.  At lower volumes it isn't bad, but again lacks the bass and crispness of the other phones mentioned.  I would say they are better than the cheapos that come with the old iPods, but unfortunately for me, the quality is underscored by the non-balanced frequency curve of the phones.


I'm going to use them a bit more to see how they fare, but I think they're going back.  I only picked them up in the first place, because they were $37 from the original $80 (which are the price of my EX85LP) and I was hoping for something similar with a little more airy-ness.  Nope.  I guess I'll keep saving for those UE 700 perhaps?

post #32 of 170
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by luisdent View Post

The topic may have changed since the review at the beginning, but I just wanted to say that I got the XBA-1 for $27 on clearance at bestbuy today.  My impressions are a bit different.  I've been listening to them for a bit and comparing them to the Sony EX85LP and the new Apple EarPods.

I find that they lack the real bass and highs that make a good pair of IE phones.  The mids do seems fairly decent with details and smoothness of a nicer pair of headphones, however there is just something 'off' about them.  It almost sounds as if things aren't as 3D as the EX85LP or EarPods.  The medium frequency dominance around the 1-4khz range is where I find they push the most. At higher listening volumes these phones are almost unusable to me.  They just have way too much "something" in your eardrum that sounds almost painful.  I'm not talking head-banging loud.  I just mean listening to a song at a reasonable volume.  At lower volumes it isn't bad, but again lacks the bass and crispness of the other phones mentioned.  I would say they are better than the cheapos that come with the old iPods, but unfortunately for me, the quality is underscored by the non-balanced frequency curve of the phones.


I'm going to use them a bit more to see how they fare, but I think they're going back.  I only picked them up in the first place, because they were $37 from the original $80 (which are the price of my EX85LP) and I was hoping for something similar with a little more airy-ness.  Nope.  I guess I'll keep saving for those UE 700 perhaps?

I think I might be able to offer some explanation, though not to say your opinion isn't correct -

EX85LP is basically vented on both side, so it behaves more like an earbuds with nozzle rather than an typical fully (front chamber) sealed IEM. Earpods is of course just an earbuds that is designed for side mounting. Since they are by definition open earphone, they naturally will have much better soundstage than a sealed IEM like XBA-1. Even $270 IEM will not likely able to beat an earbuds for soundstage, it is just the limitation of its design. From what I can tell, your disappointment seems to be a mix of both picking the wrong sound signature as well as not used to how an IEM sounds like. In such case, I'll generally recommend something with a more U-shaped FR curve (but not a deep V) for a more earbuds like soundstage. UE700 is still a good choice, but it will not have the soundstage to match earbuds, not to mention the mid has some similar flavour to XBA-1 as well.
post #33 of 170
Quote:
not to mention the mid has some similar flavour to XBA-1 as well.

I don't mind the mid sound quality of the xba 1, i just feel like it has the opposite frequency curve.  To my ears, not a literal graph, but a theoretical graph of the xba-1 frequency response would be a hump in the middle.  Low bass, low high-highs and more mid.

 

I'm trying to find an in-ear monitor that servers a few functions.  First, reproduces a flat eq curve for mixing music.  Second, is enjoyable as hell to listen to and third sound as close to listening to a nice speaker as it can get.

 

So far the sony ex85lp are the closest to this I've found.  I'd be fairly happy if the sonys simply had more airyness, but i can't seem to find a pair like that.  I stepped up a model or two a while back and they were too sibilant, as if they over compensated.

 

The apple earpods are decent enough I suppose, but they just don't awe me as much as the sonys the more i hear them.  I've been listening more lately, and they have two issues i notice more and more.  First, I think the have some level of distortion or "something" that just doesn't sound right with certain frequencies/volumes.  It's almost as if they are as high resolution, or that they are grainy.  It's hard to explain and very slight.  Second, the bass and treble seem to have humps around 100-150hz and let's say 4khz (guessing).  While not really 'bad' sounding, they push the response curve into the "not reference" category for me.  Vocals and such almost sound too loud a lot of times because of the frequency push.  And bass sounds more mid-bass and sometimes boxy.

 

The sonys have incredible bass for the price.  They have sub bass in just the right amount that smoothly tapers into the mid bass.  They are a little more bass overall than what I would consider reference, but it is smooth into the other frequencies, so it doesn't sound bad at all.  It's just the highest highs missing.

 

The UE 700 are what I'm leaning toward, but if the bass on par with the xba1 than forget it.  If it has more bass level and closer to the sonys or even the earpods I'd be happy if the rest is open and clean and flat.

post #34 of 170
Thread Starter 
You want an IEM with flat FR curve, yet you like EX85LP, which is actually quite far from being flat in FR curve, so I am not really sure whether you are actually looking for a flat curve or not. Given your idea of flat is very far from actually flat in measurement, I don't think I can recommend anything to you. My best advise is for you to visit a store that can let you demo some good, really flat and accurate sounding IEM (Etymotic for an example, or Phonak PFE1xx) and compared it to what you believe is flat, then you can start looking for you really want.
Edited by ClieOS - 11/12/12 at 11:00pm
post #35 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by luisdent View Post

I don't mind the mid sound quality of the xba 1, i just feel like it has the opposite frequency curve.  To my ears, not a literal graph, but a theoretical graph of the xba-1 frequency response would be a hump in the middle.  Low bass, low high-highs and more mid.

 

I'm trying to find an in-ear monitor that servers a few functions.  First, reproduces a flat eq curve for mixing music.  Second, is enjoyable as hell to listen to and third sound as close to listening to a nice speaker as it can get.

 

So far the sony ex85lp are the closest to this I've found.  I'd be fairly happy if the sonys simply had more airyness, but i can't seem to find a pair like that.  I stepped up a model or two a while back and they were too sibilant, as if they over compensated.

 

The apple earpods are decent enough I suppose, but they just don't awe me as much as the sonys the more i hear them.  I've been listening more lately, and they have two issues i notice more and more.  First, I think the have some level of distortion or "something" that just doesn't sound right with certain frequencies/volumes.  It's almost as if they are as high resolution, or that they are grainy.  It's hard to explain and very slight.  Second, the bass and treble seem to have humps around 100-150hz and let's say 4khz (guessing).  While not really 'bad' sounding, they push the response curve into the "not reference" category for me.  Vocals and such almost sound too loud a lot of times because of the frequency push.  And bass sounds more mid-bass and sometimes boxy.

 

The sonys have incredible bass for the price.  They have sub bass in just the right amount that smoothly tapers into the mid bass.  They are a little more bass overall than what I would consider reference, but it is smooth into the other frequencies, so it doesn't sound bad at all.  It's just the highest highs missing.

 

The UE 700 are what I'm leaning toward, but if the bass on par with the xba1 than forget it.  If it has more bass level and closer to the sonys or even the earpods I'd be happy if the rest is open and clean and flat.

  GR07mkii and Sony MDR7550 have a similar response to the EX85, while more neutral. Personally I would choose the GR07 because its more accessible and practical, bass will be more to your preference than the UE700. 


Edited by Inks - 11/13/12 at 12:34am
post #36 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post

You want an IEM with flat FR curve, yet you like EX85LP, which is actually quite far from being flat in FR curve, so I am not really sure whether you are actually looking for a flat curve or not. Given your idea of flat is very far from actually flat in measurement, I don't think I can recommend anything to you. My best advise is for you to visit a store that can let you demo some good, really flat and accurate sounding IEM (Etymotic for an example, or Phonak PFE1xx) and compared it to what you believe is flat, then you can start looking for you really want.

I'm not sure what you mean.  I said that they are closer to flat than the specific models i mentioned.  Comparing my ex85lp to listening to my infinity alpha speakers which are very accurate, the sonys are much more accurate than the xba-1.  The xba-1 are fatiguing and simply don't have the proper frequency curve. Even if a graph were to show that they were relatively flat eq, i wouldn't believe it.  How can a speaker eq curve being the same as an ie eq curve differ in actual sound?  If eq is flat shouldn't it sound flat?

 

So what I was saying is that the sonys offer more bass level like you would hear with my infinity alphas.  and i use absolutely no eq adjustments or any processing when i listen to my music... Anywhere.  I always prefer the original sound over anything else.

 

But this is the reason i'm looking for a new ie in the first place, the sonys are not flat.  I was merely indicating that the sound properties were more like a speaker than the other models i noted.  That's all.  When i hear david benoit's bass lines on any speaker i hear the bass.  When i listened to it on the xba-1 the low bass was barely audible.  I want my low bass! :-P  Not 'more' low bass.  I just want it there like he recorded it.  The ex85lp to my ears have a hump in the bass section, but for whatever reason the overall sound of the set is closer to a speaker experience that the xba-1.

 

Unfortunately, I have nowhere to test headphones anywhere within 100 miles from my house.  the nearest bestbuy only sells klipsch 4si and the xba-1, which i already returned.  So i'm just trying to get the best info and make an informed online purchase.  For reference, I have a pair of alesis mk1 active mk2 bi-amp studio monitors.  While not the best in the world, they are obviously more reference eq than most speakers when setup properly.  They are not too bassy, but when a sub or low bass line exists they can punch it out if the song requires.  The xba-1 never did that in all my testing.  My sonys do, but again, they aren't reference eq.  So, with that said my idea of flat would be flat like a good studio monitor.  My idea of a good headphone is one that can accurately reproduce frequencies.  Not one with a huge bass dropoff like the xba-1.  That is all.  Hopefully my tone doesn't sound hash, I only want to give you the most info on my views so I can get the most effective opinions on what i'm looking for.

 

The ue 700 seem to get good reviews and have a good response graph wise, but a few reviews i read said the xba had a good response curve as well,. which i don't understand based on my real listening test.  Not to say they are bad, but simply not flat.  I know fit in the ear is extremely important, but i tried every ear tip and every possible depth and angle.  I know from every other pair I've ever tried they have to fit correctly, and sometimes that required fiddling, but in absolutely no position could I improve the bass at all.  But to more precisely describe their tone, it wasn't really that they lacked bass from a technical standpoint, but that the mids were so overpowering they made everything else seem lower.  When I turned up the volume to any degree I felt like the mids were being pushed in my face and it simply got uncomfortable.  I can't find any graphs on the ex85lp, but these graphs at en.goldenears.net show something interesting that I wonder if you could answer for me.

 

The earpods: http://en.goldenears.net/12850 compared to the xba-1 http://en.goldenears.net/12124 would indicate the the xba should have better bass than the earpod in terms of a smooth curve.  The level would 'appear' to be similar as well.  I'm assuming this by the shape of the graph alone.  I'm not sure how the different x/y values affect the curve seeing as how they differ between charts.  However, the curve being similar should be a similar 'sound' would it not?

 

Anyhow, if that is in fact the case, why would I have perceived that the xba-1 had at least less than 50% of the bass of the earpods?  Did I get a faulty pair?  Could they simply not fight my ear no matter what I do?  They felt like they fit the same as my wifes sony bumpin buds.  And those give me the proper bass (too much) when inserted.  I want to save up and pull the trigger on the ue 700 I think, but based on reviews I wouldn't have thought the xba-1 would have sounded like it did.  I realize a lot of audio is subjective opinion.  However, when talking about reference sound, there must be a standard, flat, studio quality reference point that these things can be compared by...  Any thought?


Edited by luisdent - 11/13/12 at 7:01pm
post #37 of 170
Thread Starter 
Listening to speaker, earbuds and IEM are three very different experience and, at least IMO, required different mindsets for interpretation. I still believe the difficulty for you to 'switch' your expectation from one type of presentation to another has a big part on whether you can enjoy a particular type of headphone or not. Of course, it is merely guessing on my part - without knowing if that's the case or not, I'll rather not recommend any IEM to you.
post #38 of 170

I realize that each type has different properties.  For instance, speakers give you the room ambiance and timing/distance that give a certain realism in the atmosphere of a recording.  While, in-ear headphones are more like the music is in your hear or right in front of your head.  And over-ears being somewhere in between.  I am happy with those differences, but my desire is that of quality reproduction.  Let me phrase it this way.

 

No matter which medium I use to listen to the music, I would like to hear all of the things the artist recorded in the music.  For instance, one of my all time favorite songs "look what you've done to me" by boz scaggs.  In my opinion simply an incredible recording.  Even on moderate quality speakers/headphones, the mixing really shows dynamics and clarity of instrumentation.  However, with a nice set of speakers like the infinity alphas, entry level in-ears like the sony ex85lp or the even "cheaper" earpods, the details really start to reveal themselves.

 

Using my ex85lp as an example, I can clearly hear the body of the electric guitars, the mid punch of the snare drum, the smoothness of the strings, the clean defined bass notes.  The song just has much more body and depth than lesser headphones/speakers.  This is ever more prominent with the infinity alphas, but it is there nonetheless with the ex85lp.  However, what I notice is that the ex85lp lack the true airy clearness and presence of the alphas or (i assume) a better headphone.  But, while listening to the ex85lp everything sounds smooth and decent.

 

Now take for example the xba-1.  When I listened to the same song on those, I noticed a much better mid range representation.  Things sounded perhaps smoother and more precise in the mid range.  However, because of a lack of bass "level" and also a strange sort of "distant" sound they had, the body of the song was completely lost to me.  I didn't feel any of the awe the song produces with the ex85lp or even the earpods.  The depth of being in the instruments and hearing the foundation of the song, the body of the song and the realism of the song wasn't there. The separation and details were masked by the lack of a flat response curve, with all the mids pushing forward.  If I turned down the volume a good deal and focused on the mid range, that specific portion sound good.  But music isn't just midrange.  So for me, those just didn't sound anywhere near "reference".  Perhaps they aren't, but the ue 700 seem to be reviewed as closer to reference than most at the price.

 

Which brings me back to my original question.  Would listening to the ue 700 be like the xba-1, not providing me the properties I described?  Or would they be like the sonys, earpods, infinitys, but have a more flat reference eq curve?  Does that make sense?

 

I realize there are many 'properties' of sound, and I don't know which exactly might be detracting from my enjoyment of the xba-1, but the most prominent seems to be eq curve.  With that said, are we any closer to being on the same page? :-)


Edited by luisdent - 11/13/12 at 7:49pm
post #39 of 170

Luisdent, I think what you're looking for is the GR07.  Similar signature to the EX85, but flatter, more refined. 

post #40 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inks View Post

Luisdent, I think what you're looking for is the GR07.  Similar signature to the EX85, but flatter, more refined. 

Would you say it has more airy-ness?  And would the bass be slightly less and more accurate?  It's a bit more than I wanted to spend, but if I find a pair that sounds absolutely incredible $50 more for years of listening is probably worth it...  However, I'd like to keep it as close to $100 as possible.  The $120 for the ue 700 was actually a bit of a stretch, because they get so good reviews, yet unfortunately I can't sample them first...

post #41 of 170

It looks like the gr07 isn't available from any major retailer like amazon.  I'm pretty picky about buying from stores I don't know, so I think that's out.  :-o

post #42 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by luisdent View Post

It looks like the gr07 isn't available from any major retailer like amazon.  I'm pretty picky about buying from stores I don't know, so I think that's out.  :-o

 

What about LendMeUREars?

post #43 of 170

XBA-4 on the way to me, but sadly not here over the weekend. The price was just to good, could not let it pass.

post #44 of 170
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post

Listening to speaker, earbuds and IEM are three very different experience and, at least IMO, required different mindsets for interpretation. I still believe the difficulty for you to 'switch' your expectation from one type of presentation to another has a big part on whether you can enjoy a particular type of headphone or not. Of course, it is merely guessing on my part - without knowing if that's the case or not, I'll rather not recommend any IEM to you.

ClieOS, would happen to know where I can find a FR graph of the old ex85lp?  I'm just curious how the frequencies I hear correlate to the actual response.  I'm thinking that might help me decide which of the few I've narrowed down compare in the different ranges...

post #45 of 170
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