Sony Hybrid Black In-Ear Headphones - XBA-H1

Average User Rating:
3.8/5,
  1. GVladM
    4.0/5,
    "OK, but no revelation"
    Pros - Clear, powerful bass, nice design, hybrid system works well
    Cons - Low-quality music sounds awful, they stick out of the ear quite a bit, no in-line controls
    Disclaimer:
    I will compare the XBA-H1s with my old IEMs, the Sony MDR-XB50APs (used them for about 1500 hours, gave them a proper run for their money)
     
    You can see that the XBA-H1s are Sony's top-of-the-line in-ear headphones from the packaging, which is similar to Beats's boxes. Inside the box you can find buds of different sizes (the ones that were already on them fit me just fine), along with a little case and some instructions (just in case you don't know how to plug some headphones in a device). The headphones themselves look really nice, and they don't look kitsch-y like the Sennheiser Momentums. In fact, they have one of the most understated yet nice design out there. The cable is red on one side and black on the other, giving it a more modern look.
    Unlike Apple's EarPods, they go deep into your ear, eliminating all the noise from the outside (don't use them whilst driving!!!) and keeping the music in the ear, not dissipating it around you, letting everybody know what your musical tastes are. They do stick out of your ear, so using them in the bed (whilst resting your head on the pillow, you naughty boy!) is really not a good idea. 
    Unlike usual headphones, these are called hybrids, because they use two types of drivers. One is a usual 9mm dynamic driver (found in just about every headphones out there), and the other one is a Balanced Armature driver, which looks like a small box. The dynamic handles the lows and some mids, whereas the Balanced Armature handles the other part of the mids and the highs (from what I've heard), so the instruments and the voices should sound a bit more separated in the end. The truth is, that they do and they don't. It's really up to the quality of the music and the sound card of your device. Some songs sound incredible, whilst others sound like they're coming from some supermarket in-ceiling speakers (okay, I did exaggerate a bit). Compared to my old XB50s, the bass is about as powerful (even if the old ones had 12mm dynamic drivers), but there's a lot of details that I didn't hear with the XB50s. Yes, they were only 30$, so I couldn't expect much from them (yet they delivered a lot), so this is the reason why the XBA-H1s just don't feel like they're worth paying three times more money for. Clarity? Only when listening to high-quality audio files (which aren't available anywhere, as you might know). Bass? Enough at all times, even without a smiley-face set eq. 
    Now, I'm going to talk about their performance based on the songs I've auditioned with them: mostly 2000s pop, a tiny bit of rock, no Papa John 50s music and Mozart and so on. 
    Songs like Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' sound really bad, with Queen B's voice being almost muted in the favour of the instruments. The song which sound glorious on these headphones is Lenny Kravitz's 'Will You Marry Me'. The instruments and voices are well balanced and the guitar(s) are really warm-sounding (thanks to the small but powerful dynamic driver).
    I shall end this review by saying that the Sony XBA-H1s are some nice headphones that do need a proper burn-in to reach their full potential. I bought them because they were on stock in the closest electronics shop to my house, and I didn't want to mess with small headphone companies. There are plentiful of other options in this price range, but those will surely serve you well.
    (Sorry for my English, it's not my native language :)  )
  2. suburbanite
    5.0/5,
    "good value, good sound when paired properly paired, awesome design"
    Pros - detail, warmth, easy ingress/egress, plenty of ear fittings, availabile at Best Buy
    Cons - sensitive to source, cables not serviceable
    DESIGN
    Large, bulky, arguably overbuilt ear elements
    Perfect for those with larger hands as the ear elements are easy to not only handle but also to remove from one's ears
    Large ear elements may be problematic for those with smaller ears- may excessively contact outer ears
    Cable does have some memory, but it otherwise easy to handle
    Sturdy-feeling 90* 3.5mm jack with good strain relief
     
    ACCESSORIES
    Nylon pouch which is just a bit smaller than I'd like
    6 ear fittings- S, M, L in both silicon and foam-impregnated silicone
    Plentitude of ear fittings makes asymmetrical ear canals easy to fit
     
    SOUND SIGNATURE
    Depends on source device!
     
    SYNERGY WITH SOURCE DEVICE
    These seem to pair well with the (onboard DAC and AMP) headphone-out on my ThinkPad X220 with good detail and bass that's ample but reasonably controlled
    They pair poorly with my SanDisk Santa Clip+ with which they have OK detail but excessive, poorly-controlled bass
    These are much more source device-tempermental than my Etymotic HF5's, which seem to deliver a pretty consistent sound signature amongst my source devices
     
     
    EDIT:
    The more I listen through the headphone-out of my X220, the more I notice how distinct the bass guitar and background vocals are on my copy of Jimmy Hendrix' "The Ultimate Experience" (greatest hits). This reinforces my earlier impression that synergy is important with these and which makes them a "garbage-in, garbage-out" type of 'phone. FYI. YMMV. Etc.
  3. jmotyka
    4.0/5,
    "Detailed and Fast with imperfections."
    Pros - Clear, Precise, Decent bass.
    Cons - Sounds weird in certain songs.
    I have been using the xba-h1's for about three days now. I am no audiophile, What i am is someone who loves music and knows what good sound is. My past collections are piston 2.0, xba-3, shure se-215, klipsch x10, klipsch s4, v-sonic gr07, Among others and i have found these to be one of my favorite headphones. But there is something weird about the sound as a whole that i cant point my finger at. I know that i wish these had a more expansive soundstage. The treble could use quite a bit more extention and the mids i wish were alot more airy. Instrument separation is pretty impressive. Im still on a search for what is the perfect IEM for me, and have been for a long time. For now these are close and i enjoy them. The bass is very much present and definitely not boomy. Which i love! I would definitely recommend these to anyone who can get them under $90 like i did. The reason for my low value rating is because i know from what ive read on this website you can get better IEM's for this price range all though i have yet to find them, i have a limited wallet and cant keep buying earphones. If i could i would.
  4. a_recording
    3.0/5,
    "One driver good, two drivers better? Not quite."
    Pros - Good isolation, smooth sound, light weight
    Cons - Large earpieces, wind noise, real lack of treble extension and sense of space
    Here is my video review of the XBA-H1. If you like the video please check out my channel :) Below the video is a quick summary of my opinions.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Design & Comfort
     
    The XBA-H1's earpieces are quite large, and may not suit every user's ears. Thankfully they are quite lightweight. The cable is good quality and doesn't tangle easily, and microphonics / cable noise is reasonable even when worn down. Isolation is good, but with the large earpieces wind noise can be a problem. Given the large size of the earphone, Sony should perhaps had gone for a negative profile design.
     
    Sound

    The H1 does really sound as if someone took a XBA-1/10/C10 driver and added a bass driver to it. You get the same feathery, brittle kind of sound of the XBA full range driver now combined with a dramatically more thumpy bass line. As a result the earphone is very thick and smooth in sound, and has a similar character to the Shure SE215. However, the addition of the dynamic driver means that treble, which already lacked extension in the XBA-1 series, now really ends up taking a backseat. The lack of treble extension means that strings and vocals sound blunted, feathery and brittle, and there is a real lack of air in the sound. The Shure SE215 in comparison has a much more natural high frequency roll-off and overall I think sounds better.
     
    Given that the SE215 has a negative profile fit, detachable cables, a more natural sound and a lower price, I would not really look at the H1 unless I was absolutely allergic to high frequencies.
    romeyp likes this.
  5. shady1991
    3.0/5,
    "Nicely built headphones "
    Pros - Detailed sound, instrument separation, clean vocals
    Cons - Flat soundstage, Subbas
    [​IMG]
     
    Hi, My last headphones before these were sony XB90ex, so my review will be loosely based on comparison with xb90.
    Firstly since I paid $50 more than xb90ex (95$) my expectations were bit high. xb90 had 16mm driver and I really liked it and the second I put h1 in my ear and pressed "play" I felt that they were small 9mm drivers, don't get me wrong, I didn't literally feel the size of the driver but it has somewhat thinner sound, the sound that you can tell it comes from earbuds, which wasn't the case when listening to xb90.
     
    Soundstage:
    xb90 had huge soundstage so the first thing that disappointed me when I tried XBA H1 was the soundstage. while it's still larger than low-priced headphones(< 70$) it is nowhere as wide as xb90's (though it's better than ex310's). Even though the sound is pretty much front oriented it still never comes very close (I like when sometimes it feels like sound comes inside your brain), neither it goes too far, so i'ts kind of 2D.  On the other hand instrument separation is very good, I would say better than xb90, highs and lows don't distract each other, I think 2-way drivers have something to do with this. Overal I'd say that soundstage is pretty flat, when I listened to xb90ex after these it was like returning in heaven after living on earth for a while.
     
    Bass:
    compared to xb90 subbass somewhat lacks, generally bass is good and high enough for me and majority of listeners but that subwoofer feeling of xb90ex is gone. Good thing is that it is by no means under or overpowered. Bass texture is decent, Midbass is punchy and fast, maybe bit better than xb90's. 
    Overral bass performance is slightly inferior compared to xb90's.
     
    Mids:
    Mids are definitely front-oriented, bright and very clean. Female vocal is real joy to listen. I think generally this is the easiest area for IEMs to perform and there is no point to talk much about it. In one word, mids are very pleasant to listen.
     
    Highs:
    before burning in, highs were harsh, bright and there was sibilance, after burn-in the harshness smoothed and sibilance faded away (not completely though), in fact it got too smooth for my taste. Arguably inferior performer compared to xb90ex in this area, which had fairly smooth but bright treble. The good thing is that it's smooth and quality is good, it's just not bright enough for me, it feels like it cuts frequencies above 12 KHz.
     
    Amp:
    I used them on my walkman x1050 which has great sound quality regardless its age. Since the impedance of the headphones is 40 OHM which is much higher than most earbuds (majority have 16-24 ohm) I thought amplifier would be necessary but the difference isn't that much, Even without amp these earbuds sound decently, Though the sound is somewhat hollow, with amp it gains some midbass and sound gets more full.
     
    Conclusion:
    Overal these earbuds are noticeably cleaner and more detailed than XB90EX but flat soundstage is dealbreaker for me. When you listen to these you don't feel anything special, I mean it doesn't have specific signature like XB90 which has very 3D sound with excellent subbass which is very much like bass of expensive overhead headphones.
    Xba h1 earbuds are good but very overpriced IMHO. I would take xb90ex over H1 without any second thoughts, they are overall as good performers and much cheaper than these. I think real price of these should be at most $100.
    One more thing, the left headphone is slightly quieter than the right one but I'm the only one who notices it but still it drives me crazy. I played with balance on PC and measured around 0.8 db difference. I thought it was my units fault but then I so test on goldenear and there was the same situation.
    This review maybe was too critical, they're not bad at all, at least instrument separation and clarity were excellent for the class.
    I was planning to write bigger review with photos that I spent much time to take but unfortunately the editor doesn't allow me to insert them.
    Thanks for reading.
    Mogosanu Sorin likes this.