Pros - value for money, BA, sound signature, fitment
Cons - cable, size
The prices on these IEMs vary so my rating is based on value as a major rating...I purchased mine for $200USD.
You would buy these because you want a fun signature...you would buy these because you are an individual that tweaks with the EQ...
The first impression is the bass and sub-bass. Nothing on the short across the spectrum, it just gives me very fulfilling sensation. It comes to my favourite aspect of this IEM is its separation of sound! This is what 4 BA was meant to do! Wack on any tunes from Disclosure or Clean Bandit and this IEM just blitz every track with the rich detail and the well articulated bass and a breath of vocals.
Throw into any tunes with high complexity and overlays, the XBA40 takes it for a piss...*too easy*, notably many of the acoustics from Zedd...and the separation is excellent!
I say all of this purely from someone who enjoys his music and the ultimate rating is not based on its design or its natural signature but purely based on my enjoyment...
Pros - Its great for bass-loving listeners. Fun sounding with great soundstage.
Cons - Recessed midrange. The highs don't sparkle enough.
I got the XBA-40 almost a year ago. So I've been listening to these for a while now and know well the limitations and string points of these headphones. With that said, this is my first review and not have had very much experience with headphones so far. My only other headphone that I've bought with audiophilia in mind was a pair of Sony's too. The XBA-1(exercise versions), which i had a very bad experience at first and then gradually started to like. I've lurked around headfi for awhile now, so i have a vocabulary of the terms and words used when referring to certain sound sigs, ill try and use them to the best of my ability to explain the sound of the XBA-40's to you guys.
Oh and by the way guys, there are top people in me. To elaborate, there is a "me" that loves a bassy sound sig and a strong low end that feels like it could blow clouds out of the sky. Another "me" is a person that favours a neutral(maybe even bright) sound sig with emphasis on the mid and high end of the spectrum. Treble that bites and cuts while having a sweet and lush midrange that accentuates the talents of musicians and vocalists(which i will present in this font, underlined and italisezed). I will try and provide feedback from both parts of me during the review. Btw, i listen to many music genres. i have no idea how that fact might help though.
I have no idea what else to add at this point...Well, lets jump into the review.
The low end on this thing is really, really amazing. Deep, punchy and strong, it manages to pump volumes of air with vigor and determination. These can deliver a strong sub-bass that can be felt. Its incredible. The mid-bass is present but not so overwhelming that it eclipses the mid-range. But you will notice it. The bass is great for electronic music though.
With a strong low-end like this it does manage to make the mid-range sound recessed. So with that, comes an underwhelming experience when it comes to orchestral recordings and acoustics. Almost always, you hear the trombones, drums and other percussion instrument being very present. This puts the trumpets, violins, pianos and vocals(which are in an orchestra) a little in the background while adding a little colouration to them. The bass amounts might be considered as basshead quality but definitely bass-heavy. Nothing that can't be solved with a little equalization.
It takes a step back because of the bass. There is some mid-bass bleed into the lower mid-range. It feels....laid back. If likened to a person, it would be the guy that is relaxed and sits back at the back of the bar with a girl in each arm. Just...chilling, fully competent and does its job as required. When listening to solo guitar recordings or other stringed instruments(solo) the headphones reproduce it with detail and sweet twangy sounds. Pianos sound a little coloured though.Usually, the mid-range of the presentation is complemented by the low-end and the sparkle of the high-end. Here though, it feels as it the mid-range and the high-end complement the low-end. It doesn't engage the listener enough when it comes to acoustic or orchestral recordings. Does well with country songs and electronic music though. With country songs it makes the vocals sound sweet, because when the low-end in a song isn't very present the midrange takes centre stage though with a little colouration.
The high end has sparkle but it isnt bright enough to suit my tastes. I have to equalize so that the cymbals shine more. Boring high-end. Huge con for me. There's not enough detail in the high-end for me to enjoy, but somehow the high-end manages to provide a very wide soundstage and spacious feeling, i like this aspect of these headphones. This kind of sound is usually referred to as non-fatiguing. And yes, it doesn't fatigue your ears whatsoever. Its the kind of sound that lets you listen to headphones all day and when you take them off, it doesnt feel like a load has been lifted and your ears don't feel tired. It has a sparkle that is enough to let you know the cymbals are there. but other than that the high end isnt really impressive. If personified, I guess i would say the treble is like the man sitting near the life of the party with a beer in hand and slightly drunk. It does its job, but its not good and not bad either.
The soundstage on these are the one thing i'm impressed with. It seems to stretch out to just a little more than shoulder . It sounds good in that respect. Other than that, these also do good with "Airy". The music surrounds you, it feels as it it hugs your head. the sound envelopes your head like a really fat (american) football with the sharp ends being the at the sides at your head(as wide as your shoulders) wrapping around your head at eye level up from the crown of your head until the base of your nose. Detail retrieval isn't something to shout about, it does better than average but I know there are other ones that can do better than these headphones at this price range in terms of detail. I always find find myself yearning for a better crunch with rock songs, more bite, sharper cuts and more treble in general since the bass has a strong presence. I just wanna say again that i really like the spacious and airy feel the XBA-40 can provide. The wide soundstage is great! instrument separation is average. You hear the instruments at definite points within and without your head but when the music gets busy, the detail drops some.
Overall, I'd say these have a pretty laidback sound to them. A Low end that is loose with the sub-bass and lacking a bit of control. A midrange that complements the bass and sounds sleepy while managing to roll out good vocals and detail. Coupled with a treble that does its job well. Above average, but only just. I equalize these extensively to take the bass away in spades.
Well, that's it. Its done. I'm not sure if i had contradicted myself at any point during the review. But if i do, point it out to me and i can correct it for the benefit of those doing their research for purchasing.
I'd give the sound a 4/10 because of the overwhelming bass. I'd give the sound a 6/10 for the smooth laid back reproduction of my music while still retaining a fairly good amount of detail.
I also posted a Youtube review video of the XBA-40. If you like the video please check out my channel for more reviews
The XBA-40 has quite a comfortable design. Despite the large size of the earpieces they fit in my ear well and the light weight makes them quite comfortable. However, depending on the shape of your ear the large body may be uncomfortable with your outer ears. The revised elliptical cable with the new texture tangles less easily than the XBA-4 cable. The XBA-40 is designed to be worn cable down and doesn't work with cable up wear, which means microphonics is an issue (though not severe).
The XBA-4 is a very dark sounding earphone, and to some it might even sound congested. (Think Earsonics SM3). The bass reaches very deep and the mids have a glossy clarity about them. The one big improvement is that the metallic shimmer present in the XBA-4 has been corrected with the XBA-40. Bass also seems to dig a little deeper and more viscerally. Because of these changes, the XBA-40 seems even darker than the XBA-4! Because of the severe impedance swings of the XBA-40, the IEM is highly source sensitive and will sound shriller with sources with a higher output impedance. The real drawcard is that the XBA-40 has, lurking underneath the thick and intimate sound, a absolutely astounding ability to separate instruments and place them within a soundstage. I can think of no other earphone or headphone I enjoy more with electronica.
I would recommend the new revision XBA-40 over the XBA-4, but only for those who are fans of dark signatures to begin with. The XBA-40 is definitely an acquired taste and not nearly as balanced as some other earphones on the market. I personally really liked the XBA-40 and I especially love the improvements they made over the XBA-4 - but I would definitely acknowledge that it is not a good choice for most people, considering that even at a discount price there are more balanced dynamic drivers that are more balanced and more ergonomic (RE-400, GR07). Still, if you listen to a lot of electronica and you have a chance to get these at the current Amazon Japan pricing they are well worth it.