I sought out to upgrade from my HF5s which held me down for a good couple of years. I wanted something that was very different from the HF5s (non-analytical/cold - warmer, fun sounding) and needed something that had minimal sound leakage since I will be primarily using these for work, commute, and the occasional gaming on my comp. I went through the following:
GR07 - Absolutely loved the balance in the sound, great timbre, notes are have more weight. However, being dynamics, it leaked more than I liked. Additionally the over-the-ear application sucked. If you need to take these on and off multiple times per day, I'm not sure how much the strain reliefs will hold up over time.
GR01 - Upon listening to these IEMs, I wasn't too impressed. The clarity was there, and imaging/instrument separation as well, but didn't like the lack of bass. Additionally, I didn't like the build quality of the GR01. Despite it all, great highs, and clean, forward mids.
IE800 - Clarity/detail was there. However, the bass was pretty recessed for a dual-dynamic. If I can rate the low end between these and the other iems from low to high--> ER4p(s)--> HF5 --> GR01 --> IE800 --> XBA-3 --> GR07 . The thing that captured me was the smooooooth mids, vocals shine with these IEMs. Great iems but did not like the leakage of the dual dynamics.
ER4P with S Adapter (with JDS Labs CmoyBB)- I figured, after the GR07, after liking the Ety's sound signatures, I might go for the upgraded ER4P with S adapter. Additionally, I read that these really shine when amped. I opted to get the best bang for the buck amp there for Ety's, the CMoyBB. Overall Iloved the insane clarity and detail in the sound. Soundstage was supremely widened and gave me the best 3d/imaging effect I can get with IEMs (at this price). I was set on keeping these as my go-to set (as I only plan on having 1) but read about the...
XBA-3 - Just the right amount of bass, BA drivers minimize leakage and great clarity. Great soundstage and suprising detail. Fun and warm sounding. Great all rounder.. HOWEVER. There were the mettalic tinge in vocals and harsh treble-- deal breakers.. but I then read that Japan had a XBA-30 that apparently fixed these issues. I registered in Tenso and bought both the XBA-30, and XBA-40 (couldn't resist how much of a price difference I can get these IEMs as opposed to the states)--
Here are my opinions and comparisons of the XBA-3, XBA-30 and the XBA-40 - It is my first review as well, so I will describe the comparisons the best I can.
XBA-3 - Very hard NOT to rip open the packaging.Does its job but.. Compared to the..
XBA-30/XBA-40 - Ingenious packaging from Japan. Very compact and logical. When the 30s 40s come over to the states, I hope they adapt the packaging as well.
XBA-3- J cord, strain reliefs on both ends. Dots on the R of the housing to designate L from R. Housing is black sides, with silver back.
XBA-30 - Y Cord, Strain reliefs on both ends. Dots on the L instead of the R as opposed to the US' XBA-3. The cord is much more sturdier, and has ridges as compared to the XBA-3s smooth cord. Housing and back is all Silver.
XBA-40 (white with gold version) - Y Cord, same as above. The housing is pretty frickin huge, and is a bit more difficult to insert into your ear than the smaller housing of the XBA-30. Gold back, silver sides.
XBA-3 - Great detail in drums and guitar. Very tiny sibilance in the high-hats, . Love how the bass drum sounds, vocals are as expected from a live recording (a bit overshadowed by the instruments).
XBA-30 - Immediately notice a slightly wider soundstage and better instrument separation. Vocals are more in the middle than the XBA-3. Sibilance in the high hats are gone. A bit fuller notes and sound. Bass drum effect and timbre still there. Overall enjoying the listening experience more than the 3s.
XBA-40 - an even WIDER soundstage than the 30s, is this even possible with IEMs? No sibilant high hats and very similar sounding to the 30s. Bass drum has a more pronounced timbre. Will try this with an other source to compare...
2. Lupe Fiasco Ft. Bassnectar - VaVaVoom (Dubstep/Rap)
XBA-3 - Great clarity and detail, great low end impact.OK soundstage. Slight metallic tinge. Same great bass drum effect.Slightly bit recessed mids.
XBA-30 - Soundstage is better, much more refined and extended low-end. Clarity and detail still there. Better balance overall.Mids not recessed as such the 30s. Metallic tinge non-existant.
XBA-40 - Way wider soundstage than the 3/30s. Instrument separation wayyy better, Detail, clarity still existant. Bass a tad more emphasized than the XBA-30. Sounded like the XBA-30s with better bass, wider soundstage and better instrument separation. Until i tried...
XBA-40 + JDSLabs CMOYbb 2.03 - BASS BASS BASS. The super-woofer really kicks in with the bass boost. Better balance when amped, smoother mids.
3. The Eagles - Hotel California (Classic Rock)
XBA-3 - D & C (Detail and clarity), great vocals and balance on all frequencies. L and R guitars pronounced beautifully. Instrument seperation is good. Tiny sibilance in hi-hats, otherwise very detailed and sparkly.
XBA-30 -Immediate improved soundstage and refined bass. Instrument separation is improved. Vocals adjusted to be more center stage. L and R guitars are pushed back more L and R. No sibilant hi-hats, still sparkly and detailed.
XBA-40 - More bass impact, but certainly doesn't overpower the other instruments. Wider soundstage and insane instrument seperation. Vocals are still center stage, but slightly
XBA-40 + JDSLabs CMoyBB 2.03 - Better D&C then unampped. Vocals a bit more forward (more xba-30 like) than the XBA-40s unamped. Much better balance.
4. Robert Glasper - 59 South (Jazz)
XBA-3 - D&C, Balance and timbre. Great highs. Warm and smooth sounding all-around. Instrument separation good as well. Drums
XBA-30 - Fuller, richer sound than the XBA-3s. Improved soundstage, more "center stage" piano. The bass more refined, though impact is slightly reduced.
XBA-40 - Wider soundstage and instrument separation. More natural sounding drums. Not too different from the XBA-30.
The XBA-30s are without a doubt a marked improvement over the XBA-3s. Wider soundstage, no more metallic tinge, fuller sound , refined bass, and no harshness. This is the best all-around IEM that will cure my upgrade-itis for now. I definitely wanted to like the XBA-40s more, however, despite Sony Malaysia's website: http://www.sony.com.my/product/xba-40
theXBA-40s are still 8 Ohms like the XBA-4s were . The pickiness of the source makes it hard to be a flat out winner in my comparisons. I am definitely curious and confused on what exact source matches best with the 40s. I believe I'm hindered a bit by only having a Ipod Classic 5.5G, Iphone 4GS and a JDS Labs 2.03 CmoyBB as sources and will possibly seek to get an amp to properly power these things. For now the 30s will definitely do.
XBA-30- Awesome IEM with unmatched balance, bass and timbre. Not source dependent and will shine with any DAP. Fixes all the errors of the XBA-3s (Metallic Sheen, slight sibilance, slight harsh highs)
XBA-40s - U-shaped IEM with an insane soundstage. Very source/output impedance/synergy dependant. Will shine with proper pairing and ampage, super-woofer kicks in when needed.
The perfect pairing for the 40s - FiiO E11 amp + XBA-40s.
Will work on more abc comparisons tonight - so far the xba30 is awesome, however I do really want to like the xba40 because of its technical capabilities and the fact that it should be better. This iem is pretty picky for a source-
Just curious, why do you use different size eartips on the XBA-40? Are the housings so large that they actually affect your ability to achieve a seal with the green ones?
Well to my ears, yes. The XBA-40 housings are almost twice the size of the XBA-3/30s. With the 3/30s, I can easily slide them into my Cymba Conchae (the small indents right outside the ear canal). This helps with the majority of the 3/30's weight to rest in my ear. However, since the 40s are so huge, I can't slide them into my Cyma Conchae and thus stick outside the ear canal hole, which needed me to vary my tips. I tried to do the whole Ety treatment as well (holding the ear back, opening the mouth etc.)
Some more tests proved that the super-woofer kicks in with a lower impedance source (CmoyBB and Iphone 4s bolster a <1 zout and ~1.97 zout respectively.) I find my Ipod classic 5.5g zout of 5ohms has considerably less bass punch then the other two. Does anyone have a cheap (<$100) DAP or portable amp recommendation that has proved succesful with their Xba-4s?
Thanks for keeping up with the comparisons. It looks like the triple-driver XBA-30 is still the better all-rounder than the quad-driver XBA-40, as was the case with the XBA-3/XBA-4 from what I've read.
With regards to the impedance, are you saying that the box for the XBA-40 lists the impedance at 8 Ω rather than the expected 12Ω?
Yep the XBA-40 is still 8 Ω as per the box - still very source dependant.. but generally I am growing to love the sound. I recently paired the Sansa Zip Clip with the XBA-40s, the pairing is great! Compared to the Ipod Classic HP out, the Zip Clip is much more clear-- much much better controlled bass (no roll-off) and definitely has better tonal balance. The only downside with the pairing is a slight reduction in soundstage. If I were to quantify it, I would say a 10-15% reduction length and widthwise, but still enough to mark the XBA-40 as the biggest soundstage IEM I've heard so far.
How about the XBA-30? Any noticeable improvement when paired with the Clip Zip as opposed to your iPod?
The 30s soundstage is reduced a bit less than the 40s and I notice no evidence of bass roll of when paired with the clip. Additionally, everything seems to sound more forward, which could be the result of a smaller soundstage.
At the moment I'm more likely to sell the 40s- I believe it pairs well with the clip and sounds great out of all the sources I have, however, it would also mean a sacrifice a bit in soundstage. The super woofer definitely does kick in when needed in the majority of the bass laden tracks I do have, and doesn't when it's not needed. From my ears , I would say that the 40s are U shaped when paired with a low zout source, while the 30s overall have a better balance with any source you pair it with.