I’ve been keeping an eye on this post as I was in a similar position early this year contemplating to buy either a Sony or Ultimate Ears balanced armature IEM. And since no one has replied I ended up buying 3 of the IEMs mentioned in the above post so I could compare them; Sony XBA-1, Sony XBA-2 and Ultimate Ears 700.
There is plenty of information in this forum regarding each of the IEMs but I could not find a direct comparison between Sony and UE.
The following is a brief summary in case anyone may find it useful without having to spend money purchasing each one to find out which one suits your sound preference. I can post a more detailed comparison if there’s any further interest.
Sony XBA-2 (least preferred)
The Sony XBA-2 has bloated bass which bleeds into the mids thus causing a muddy sound signature that is not to my liking. EQing by reducing the bass and increasing the mids/highs still resulted in a muffled sound. I ended up returning these although I was impressed with their hard carry case and hybrid ear tips which have awesome isolation.
Sony XBA-1 (better)
Because I returned the XBA-2 with all the accessories I still wanted to have the Sony hybrid ear tips and since I could not find any Sony replacement ear tips in local shops I ending up buying the XBA-1 for the ear tips! The XBA-1 has a more balanced sound and clarity compared to the XBA-2. Although compared to the UE700, the XBA-1’s treble sounds slightly more synthesized/metallic and it has less bass than the UE700. I still rate the XBA-1 as good value for the current market price of less than $50.
Ultimate Ears 700 (even better)
With bass boost EQ turned on and using the Sony hybrid ear tips, the UE700 has smooth highs, clear/forward mids and accurate bass with good impact. It has an intimate soundstage with good instrument separation. It’s my pick of the 3 IEMs.
As for a comparison between UE700 and UE600, it is unanimously agreed in the following thread that UE700 is a better performer than UE600 so I did not bother buying/testing the UE600.
The UE600 also had a larger housing compared to the other IEM. Microphonics was evident on the UE700 so they need to be worn over the ears when on the move; doing this eliminated the microphonics. It wasn’t an issue with the Sonys.
So it is definitely worth spending more money to buy the UE700 if you value good quality sound. I wouldn’t consider the Sony XBA-2 due to its inflated price and poor performance. Also, if your budget is less than $50 then the Sony XBA-1 would also be a good entry point.
Can your dollar be stretched further in the quest for quality sound? Well that’s a question for another post as I’m just getting started with my induction to head-fi.
Edited by sonicaudio - 7/7/13 at 10:19pm