Several weeks ago I got in on a deal that seemed too good to be true on one of these Sony XBA-3s
Future Shop of Canada was selling these for a mere $100. They retail upwards of $280 or so. I am a big fan of Sony stuff and I use a Sony Z1060 as my main portable device for music listening so I thought why not. I contacted my best friend who happen to live near a Future Shop so I had him pick me up what turned out to be the last pair of XBA-3. So I got lucky. I got them a week later and opened up the box and started listening to them.
My only other experience with a 3 BA driver earphone was none other than a pair of TF10s I bought off another headfier a while back. But truth be told I was never all that impressed by them, But this thread is not about the TF10s. It is about the XBA-3s. I have to say. These are my favorite earphones to date and for good reason. What these earphones have done is made me a believer of Armature technology.. See for me I never was sold on armatures. Could have been the lack of real sounding bass end or the robotic nature of the highs that put me off. These. Are a different story. These I feel are special. I did a quick search of the XBA line and there is not too much about these earphones. Most guys get the XBA-4s or the XBA-1s but not these. Perhaps they are a bit pricy for most to try out. I feel at a sale price for $200 or so these should be purchased with confidence.
But at $100? I got what turned out to be the most impressive earphones I have ever put into my ears. I know there are many guys here at headfi that have much more experience with higher end universals than I do but I felt after using these ever since I got them I feel it is a shame there is not a thread just for them and the new XBA-30s that have just been released in Japan.
So without further ado. What makes the Sony XBA-3 sound so seductive. I was listening to of all tunes. Johnny Cash Ring of fire and as many times as I have heard that tune what was a huge surprise to me was just how wide that tune sounded on the XBA-3. I do a lot of commuting for my business so I was in my car listening to my XBA-3s when this tune came up. The tune sounded wider than the speakers that are in my car. It sounded like I was in a big concert hall. This turned out to be one of many more out of head experiences on so many tracks..I kept on taking the earphones out as I was simply amazed at the sense of space the tune was throwing out. The advantages of BA drivers and the great tuning are clearly evident here. Earphones and headphones relay a sense of space to your ears giving you that stage that we all know. These are the first earphones that adjusts to the actual recording. If the tune was recorded in a bigger scale these relay that to what your hearing much better than any other earphones I have heard. It is quite addictive as I found myself going from tune to tune and it threw a big smile on my face as the sense of space of a particular tune would actually change pending on how it was recorded. Simply Amazing.
The sound is a complete one perhaps more complete than I ever thought an earphone could convey and Sony did a masterful job with the tuning on these earphones. I have quickly become a fan of the mids on these earphones. Very accurate and detailed..I read many a review on these earphones but I had no idea just how good the mids were until now. It seems Sony takes their mids very seriously. Every single Sony headphone and earphone I have had always had good to outstanding mids and these are perhaps the best I have heard to date..The meat of your tunes reside in the mids and the accuracy these convey is. Dare I say perfect..These earphones really shine with instrument and vocal presentation that is some of the best I have heard. The 3 drivers works extremely well together and sound like high end speakers in your ears.. I read some reviews online saying the bass is a bit much ect. Lol. It has enough bass for even Hip hop and EDM but these aren't bass heavy at all. Music without my bass is like music without highs. For this sound, it is perfect imo.
More of a balanced sound than tilting toward highs or the bass end. Now the highs I had to get used to but I quickly realized my ears are too used to colored highs that are on many of my earphones and headphones. These have a delicate clean and crisp approach to the highs that once you figure out put the focus back to the mids more than the highs and if you think about it that is actually the correct way to hear your tunes. The highs should be the rhythmic accents to your tunes and not the focus and that is the tuning Sony did on these. I simply bow down to the delicate balancing they did between the 3 drivers in each ear..Bass has solid impact and the subs in here are tuned much like the highs in that they convey more accurately how the bass should sound more than anything bloaty or exaggerated. Yet they threw in just a touch more than neutral levels because who don't like their beats hitting hard?
I am very much more impressed with these than any other Sony product I have heard to date. These are what I thought my Sony EX600 should have been. These are what I hoped the TF10s was going to be.
I don't know if there ever will be another opportunity to grab one of these for $100 but if you ever see such a deal online. Grab them like it was the last bottle of vodka at the end of the world..
Last word of advice. Anyone that is looking for one of the most engaging, lush, fantastically 3D layered detailed and dreamy out of your head sounds around. Try these with absolute no hesitation. I can't express to you guys just how much I enjoy these earphones. And as always. Happy listening.