Sony Inner Ear Hi-res Stereo Headphone Xba-a2 Black (Japan Import)

General Information

High-resolution audio support. /HD hybrid 3-way driver./Linear drive balanced armature./this has a microphone and multi-function button on the remote control.You can be hands-free calls and sound playback, pause with your smartphone./Only Japanese manual.

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Pros: Versatile bass, capable of both rumbling bass and tight bass
Mid-bass very natural
Sub-bass very satisfying, texture, speed and tightness are all on a very natural level
Natural mids
Very well balanced male/female vocals
Non-fatiguing treble
Big and Holographic soundstage
Extremely good timbre, makes you question if there are any Balanced armatures at all
Very good stock tips
Cons: Mid-bass is weak against "mashine-gun drumming", as it gets a bit muddy
Some Electric guitars are a bit sharp
Discontiuned, so most likely only second hand units left
Build quality, some plastic on the shell and on the nozzle
Weird MMCX connection, most 3rd party cable wont work and will need a specific MMCX cable for it
Unique fit might not suit everyone
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Disclaimer: I bought this second hand from amazon japan, in “used very good” condition.

Price: Around 250 usd(?), it is discontinued now so probably hard to find it new. (I got it for around 100 usd).

Specifications:

DRIVER UNIT: Hybrid 3-way – 12 mm dynamic + 2 Balanced Armature

IMPEDANCE (OHM): 32Ω at 1kHz

FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 4-40,000Hz

SENSITIVITIES (DB/MW): 108dB/mW

PLUG: Gold-plated L-shaped stereo mini

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Accessories:

S/M/L “hybrid” Sony tips (they are not hybrid, as in having foam+ silicone)

Cable without mic and buttons

Cable with mic and buttons (Not included in my second hand package)

Carry case

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Cable: Quite a good cable and no need to change it. Unless you dislike the “flat” type of cable it has. It uses MMCX so other 3rd party MMCX cables work, BUT the connector reaches deeper so unless your MMCX cable has a long plug it is hard to fit it. The stock cable also has some kind of locking mechanism that makes it unable to spin (no annoying MMCX spin).

I do not recommend getting just a normal 3rd party MMCX cable for this because it is hard to know if it will fit. Although there might be 3rd party cables for this kind of MMCX connector. No preformed/memory hooks so it can work, wearing up and down. Has a working chin slider. There are also red and silver markings for the L/R channels.

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Build: On the pictures it looks like it is fully made of metal, but it is not. Only the “outer plating” is metal and on the most part it seems to be plastic (including the nozzle).

I was quite disappointed in the build quality because of that because I felt “cheated”. L and R marking are clearly marked on both sides, with the L marking in black and R in red.

Fit: It fits me really well, usually I don’t have a good fit nor do I like bullet style iems (although I guess this one can’t be considered a bullet style iem. It fits a bit deeper than average. Although I would not use it for any kind of training since the fit isn’t good enough for that.

Comfort: Quite good comfort and not a problem. It isn’t a very big iem, in that it doesn’t take up much space in your ears. So, it doesn’t generate much heat. Although with the deeper fit than average it gets a bit fatiguing for longer sessions.

Isolation: Just average isolation, not too bad because of the deeper fit than normal but also not that good because it is on the smaller side.

Setup: Fiio M11 (low gain, volume around 55), stock cable, stock Sony hybrid L tips

Lows: Very good bass quality. It is both capable of deep rumbling bass when the song has it and also being tight when it calls for it (most of my songs in my library has tight bass).

The speed is also quite good but not among my fastest. Quantity also has quite the amount but not something I would recommend if you want basshead quantity levels of bass. Sub-bass focused due to the quantity and quality being better than mid-bass.

Mid-bass: On a song like Metallica – fight fire with fire (02:55-03:01) the bass isn’t quite as fast and tight it needs to be to hear the “Chopper” like sound in the background, making it slightly muddy.

But on songs like Avenged Sevenfold – Hail to the King and Hiroyuki Sawano – CRYst-Alise the bass is clear and not muddy at all, instead it adds some body into the sound that makes it very organic/lifelike. The mid-bass is very good overall, except that it shows its weakness on songs where there is a lot of “machine-gun drumming” going on.

Sub-bass: very versatile sub-bass as it can rumble when needed as on Contiez ft. trey G – Trumpsta (Djuro remix) (01:30 – 01:43) but also stay very tight, fast and textured on Will Sparks – Sick like that (03:08-03:22). The sub-bass is definitely better than the mid-bass as It doesn’t have any apparent weaknesses like in the mid-bass (“machine-gun drumming” is a bit too much for the mid-bass).

But also, because how versatile and satisfying the sub-bass is. Aurosonic – All I need (progressive mix) (0:00-0:26) has a lot of texture, tightness and natural speed (not too slow or too fast), this combined with the quantity is just extremely satisfying.

Mids: The mids are so extremely natural that I actually question if Sony really has placed 2 balanced armatures along with a single dynamic. This level of Timbre for BA´s and even for DD´s is on a level that makes the rest of the hybrids I have heard look like a joke (in timbre).

Both male and female vocals have the needed amount of warmth/thickness (male) and brightness/thinness (female) that makes them sound so very natural. Instruments sound very natural too such as pianos and acoustic guitars.

Female-vocals: On Hiroyuki Sawano – The Way (01:55-02:47) her vocals sounds very natural and not too bright either so it isn’t fatiguing. But on Evanescence – bring me to life (01:18-01:35) there is a tiny amount of sharpness (I believe that this is how it is supposed to be like).

Male-vocals: On Hiroyuki Sawano – Call your name (0:15-01:06) the warmth makes his voice sound very natural and the amount of thickness makes also helps add some body into it without being too much so that it gets too much (it is a very clean song, so too much thickness is not good here).

And on a song like Linkin Park – A place for my head (02:02-02:17) it has the needed amount of brightness for his voice to sound energetic while avoiding any kind of sharpness.

Highs: The treble is also quite natural but not as natural as the bass and the mids. Due to electric guitars being just a tiny bit too bright, making it sound a bit sharp. This happens on for example Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day (03:24-03:42), it is very slight but it can be a bother to more treble sensitive people than me.
Quantity is close to neutral for me, just that since the bass quantity is high, it is a warm sounding iem.

Soundstage: quite big both in depth and width but the part that stands out is how holographic everything is. Makes it feel like the music is all around you. (similar to how holographic the Shuoer Tape is.)

Tonality: L-shaped sound with very impressive timbre. The most natural hybrid iem I have ever heard up to this point, rivaling the best single DD´s in timbre.

Details: Average details

Instrument Separation: Average separation

Songs that highlight the IEM:
Good genres: Bass focused songs like EDM, Hip-hop, Trance, OST, Hiroyuki Sawano (not all J-pop/J-rock), Pop

Bad genres: Metal/rock (with “machine-gun drumming”), maybe Classics and orchestral? (I don’t listen to them so can’t comment much, but it might have too much bass for them). It is really good with my library so can’t comment much here.


Comparisons:

Blon BL-03 (mesh-mod):
Treble on the 03 is a bit higher in quantity, also a bit less sharp. But Quality is better on the A2 since it is more natural.

Mids are more even between the male/female vocals on the A2 and they sound more natural. With the female vocals on the 03 being a bit too bright to sound completely natural in comparison to the A2. Male vocals on the A2 has some added warmth and thickness that makes it sound more bodied and natural.

Mid-bass is faster and tighter on the 03 so it is cleaner (although not by much). Mid-bass quantity is similar but a little bit more on the 03. Sub-bass extends a bit lower on the A2, but the quantity is similar. Texture is a bit better on the A2 while speed and tightness are better on the 03. Bass on the A2 overall is a bit more natural.

Soundstage is much better on the A2, being holographic. Timbre is actually better on the A2 (which is extremely impressive for the A2, since it is a hybrid and that the 03 is in my top 2 for timbre). Details/instrument separation on the other hand is similar, because the 03 is a bit cleaner in the bass and because it has more treble quantity.

Overall, the A2 has better SQ and sound more natural, I believe that the A2 is actually a good upgrade for the 03 (more so if you don’t have the mesh-modified version because with the mesh-mod the signature is a bit different).

Urbanfun ISS014: The ISS014 has more treble quantity, both have some slight sharpness here. Quality is more natural on the A2 as it doesn’t have as much coloration (boosted) treble as the ISS014.

Better male/female vocal balancing on the A2. Female vocals are brighter (and cleaner) but less natural. Male vocals are more similar but a bit better on the ISS014 as it is more clear (due to the cleaner bass).

Sub-bass have a bit more rumble in the A2, although the ISS014 extends lower and has a cleaner sub-bass (tighter and faster). The sub-bass quantity on the ISS014 have more quantity, much better texture, speed and tightness. Mid-bass is similarly better with texture, speed and tightness.

Soundstage is better on the A2 due to it having a holographic effect. Details and instrument separation are better on the ISS014 (due to higher treble quantity and cleaner bass). Timbre is better on the A2. (I would say that the bass is more to my personal preference on the ISS014, being tighter/faster/more textured but the A2 is more “correct” to the music).

Overall, the quality is better on the A2 with mids and treble, but the bass is on another level with the ISS014. The ISS014 is more recommended if you want more bass quantity while staying clean. Otherwise the A2 is better.

Final Audio E5000: Treble quantity is “perceived” as a bit higher on the A2 (due to the bass in the E5000) and quality is equal, the A2 has the same organic/natural sound that the E5000 has. Although the A2 has that slight sharpness that the E5000 doesn’t have.

Mids, even more similar. The quantity and quality are “perceived” as on the same level, but the bass makes the vocals (the entire range) muddy.

Sub-bass rumbles just a bit more on the A2 but with better extension on the E5000. The A2 has a more natural and versatile sub-bass as it can go from rumbling to tight powerful punches. Texture, speed and tightness are on another level on the A2. The mid-bass is more similar but the A2 still has better speed and tightness making it not bleed into the mids.

Soundstage is a bit bigger on the E5000 but does not have the same holographic effect as the A2. Details, instrument separation are much better on the A2.

I honestly see no reason for you to get the E5000 unless you want that boomy bass and is sensitive to treble, when there is the A2 (which you can get for even cheaper than the E5000).

LZ A6 (pink filter): Treble on the A6 is MUCH higher in quantity, massively much more air and you are bombarded with details. Although with this amount of air, it is not as natural sounding as the A2. Strangely the A6 does not have any sharpness at all for me, while the lesser treble quantity A2 has some.

Female/male vocals are more balanced on the A2, and also more natural sounding. But the A6 has much more details here.

Sub-bass have more rumble on the A2 and a bit more quantity. But the A6 is much tighter, faster and have more texture to it, making it a much more cleaner bass. Mid-bass have more quantity on the A2, but it is looser, slower and less textured than the A6, making it a bit muddy on “machine-gun drumming” songs.

Soundstage, details and instrument separation are much better on the A6, not really a contest here. Timbre is much more natural on the A2 however and overall sound is more “correct” to the music. Sound quality is on another level with the A6 and it also has a very unique sound to it, it is also its weakness as it doesn’t as natural as the A2.

A2 is recommended if you like a more natural, warmer and more relaxing sound. While the A6 is recommended if you want more treble, better sound quality and a more unique sound.


Conclusion:
In conclusion, I think that this is one very impressive iem and that it should be deserving of some recognition as I could barely find ANY information on it at all. Test of time? Hell yes, the A2 passes it with flying colors (6-year-old iems!!!). Should you get it? You most likely won´t find any new units of it as Sony has discontinued it (whyyyyyyyy), but if you can find a second hand unit like me for only around 100 usd it is a steal.

Would I pay the 250 (?) usd full price of it if it were new? Yes, I would. Do I still recommend it at 250 usd for you? If you like a better blon 03 (stock) then yes, if you dislike the Blon Bl-03´s and/or Final Audio E5000´s sound signature then I would not recommend it. Thanks for reading.
Pros: Balance sound, accurate timing, thick vocal, detailed with silky smooth high, natural and warm, great integration among 3 drivers , quality bass
Cons: Not comfortable for long wearing due to big size , average soundstage.
This earphone make me realise how good the sound of certain Songs (eg : from Spotify) can be.
Pros: Sub-Bass, background noises brought out, details, mids, highs, forgiving sound signature for all audio.
Cons: Thickness of housings.
They're big but so is their sound!
 

 
Classic Sony style packaging.
 

 
English and Japanese wording 
 

 
Like gems in a ring setting.
 

 
Even the accessories are given great attention to detail. Kudos Sony!
 

 
 
THOUGHTS:
 
When it's all said and done, are these absolutely perfect for the sound signature I've looking for? YES!!
 
I completely understand why it takes manufacturers a couple of generations to get it just right in terms of sound. Remember, Sony manufactures their own Balanced Armature drives. Therefore, they get to tune it to exactly the sound they want, not just what what Knowles produces or any other manufacturer of Balanced Armature drives. The first generation XBA series were quite amazing honestly for Sony's first execution. Everyone raved how much better their 2nd gen were (XBA-10 through 40's). This new generation is no different. They've really gotten the hang of it down. In addition, know exactly what they need to do in order to get their Sony Signature sound.
 

 
BASS:
 
These sounded great out of the box.. The only reason why I burned them for 30-40 hrs, was only due to the 12mm Dynamic Driver, as Balanced Armatures don't require burn in. 
 
After the burn in period, the bass settled out deeper and had a quicker thump. Listening to Fear Factory's new album Genexus was a pleasant walk in the park for them. Even listening to bands like Fleshwrought the song Mental Illness from their Dementia/Dyslexia that contains blast beat drumming amongst some of the fastest on a legitimate song, (there are faster blast beats for world record purposes, but that's not musical, nor will I be listening to audio that fast on a daily basis to enjoy. lol )
 
MIDS:
 
The mids are honestly very reminiscent of my XBA-1's they are so forward without being bloated. Granted if you alter the EQ, they will and can be.. which is a good and bad thing. What I mean by that.. some music requires a different sound signature and needs that boost in the mids, while others require just a slight dip in EQ for the mids. I prefer their sound with no EQ in general. For example, while listening to Anup Sastry's song Titan on his self-titled album Titan, there are additional guitar parts only on the left channel and later switches to the right channel. I haven't heard that so clear and pronounced on any other IEM with exception to the XBA-1's. Even the XBA-3's due to the additional BA drivers and no crossovers, caused it to sound recessed in comparison. 
 
HIGHS:
 
The only issue I had here was solely dependent on amped or not. Let me explain before I get to the details. Amped: regardless of the bass in the song had, the highs shine through, cymbals are well defined and I can differentiate which ones were being hit and where they were located on the drum set. Unamped: if bass is too heavy in the song, if they aren't dialed back just a hair (depending on volume of course) the cymbals can still be heard and are distinguishable.. However, they have a faint distortion to them.. Like a slight extra sizzle.. And once again.. If I dial the bass back a hair, I don't have that problem.. but hey... honestly.. that's going to pretty much always be the case of Amped vs UnAmped.. In addition, I'm being VERY picky.. however, since I noticed it.. I have to list it as a subjective con.. 
 
Most people probably won't care.. but then again.. Most average customers probably wouldn't buy IEM's in this price range.. most average consumers (like my wife) are more than satisfied with her UrBeats, and "Can't tell the difference".. Ugh.. who did I marry? lol.. 
But back to my point.. Since the majority of us aren't "Average consumers" I figured that we are the people I should be writing this review towards. 
 

 
COMFORT:
 
Dadgum.. Do I have to talk about this??.. lol..
Okay, so sadly, I turned my self off from these due to this fact alone.. Seriously, if they were the size (thickness) of the XBA-3's I'd be completely fine with them.. However, sadly for my ears, they are too thick.. If Sony is listening to this, Keep this configuration but put the nozzle in an angle, that would make the fitment SO much more comfortable.. They have no problem angling all of their affordable line ups (MDR-XB110 or the MDR-EX50's for example). The nozzles themselves are just right for my ears though.. I had no issues with finding the perfect fit as I always do with every other Sony product I've ever used. 
 
CONCLUSION:
 
Although I have stated they are the perfect sound signature I have been after this whole time.. now I am faced with another issue that I wasn't expecting. The thickness of the housings. For some this may not be an issue. For those lucky individuals, all I can say is get these if you're on the fence of getting them. They sound amazing! Thank you Sony for taking the time to perfect this Hybrid technology.
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Hawaiibadboy
Hawaiibadboy
Comply foam tips will take the housing issue off the table pretty much as they just stick out your ear like foam earplugs do :) Worked for me with these...love these btw!
sledgeharvy
sledgeharvy
Thanks for the tip.. Pun not intended, but happy coincidence.. Lol... I flipped the Left cable onto the Right earbud and vice versa.. So I could wear these upside-down cable up and still get the sound from the Left channel coming out of the Left earbud.. I am picky about sounds I know should come from the Left or Right, they better be there.. Lol.. It seems to have helped.. Plus helps with Microphonics.

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