The entire Sony XBA Line is stunning: very sensitive and well executed lines, comfortable despite size, flat cable, nice case, a 90'plug.
The first time I tried the Xba3 the sound wasn't appealing at all. Unnatural and spiky treble, (some people refers as metallic sound) and didn't cope well with my recordings. Nowadays I understand the praise and it has to do (IMO) with music genres: I find the xba-3 perfect for jazz recording, in fact I never hear anything closer in terms of overall satisfaction for Jazz, classical is also very enjoyable.
I decided to mod them, I used micropore tape to reduce a bit the treble, although they lost a bit of detail they sound better for me.
My main source is an Iphone 4s. The sound is quite melodic in my opinion.
The sound changes a lot using a laptop/ipod/mp3 player or amps.
Pros - clear , good bass , nice mods , highs are okay .
Cons - v shaped sound sig , mids lack forwardness . j cord , should have added a cable clip !! come on , how can you lack sound stage ?
could have been a perfect phone if it had better sound stage and a bit more prominent mids , bass lacks pace , but its okay , i will take that , the sound sig is dark warm , and notes are thick , clarity is not a problem can be driven from daps , but a bit more life to highs will do good , amping does help . i like these as much as i hate these , why in this world , why a J cable ? and no cable clip ?
nice carry pouch , cable is good too .
, i like the design , 3.5mm pin is the best part of it . added a cable clip , i had a few from sony .
overall , its a nice phone if you can live with J cable , one of the best i must say .
Cons - Bass needs tuning, Some may find the cable annoying
When I first listened to XBA 3 I was startled at the detail of the sound that these earphones produced. Even lower bit rate audio sounded bright and detailed with clearly separated instruments.
The package contains noise isolation silicone earbuds with stuffing inside that blocks lot of noise. When you are in the street wearing this be careful because you wont hear any outside noise.
The soundstage is good for IEM but the bass needs lot of amplifying to get the desired result.
This is my first review and moreover and I am not an audiophile by any means. I would try to list out what I feel are the pros and cons. I am comparing these with RE-262 which I bought for approximately same price.
1. Price - In India they retail for around $140-150 which by any means for a triple driver IEM is good.
2. Received them approximately 8 hours ago and still trying to wrap my fingers around their sound.
3. Cable looks very fragile, could have been much thicker than this. By the look of it I still prefer the cables of RE-262 and Brainwavz M2. But only time can tell. One thing I don't like about this one is the right cable is way to long. I somehow prefer cables with equal length.
4. The vocal delivery in RE-262 is very in your face. However in these its more about the instrumental presentation and separation. You can hear and deduce more hidden sounds.
5. My source has been only Sansa Clip + with FLAC/MP3 files.
6. The best thing about these IEMs that I have been able to deduce so far are:
Soundstage is good.
Instrument separation is good
Bass is good
Isolation is good
7. The stock tips are good and they fit my ears perfectly. I don't think this can be worn over the ear though. The design is not made for that.
8. Construction wise, they look solid. I have never had any problems with Sony on that front. I have had several lower tier IEMs which have gone through a lot of abuse. This comes with a pouch which is neat and can fit my Clip + as well.
6. As per my opinion these work wonderfully with Classical/Progressive Rock/Instrumental music. Having heard Avial, Isis and Shakti on these so far I have no complaints. That said I am not sure if I like listening to more extreme metal ( Cattle Decapitation, Allegaeon) with them. But that could be because I have been using my RE-262 fairly regularly and there is some change in presentation and could take some time getting used to.
CONCLUSION: If someone is exploring the world of IEMs and want to check out a triple driver universal, they should go for it. That said, I won't be willing to pay more than what I did because for me a full sized headphone definitely makes more sense. Finally, when I first shifted from my Brainwavz M2 to RE-262 I was dumbstruck. I can't say the same thing now. Maybe that is because I am not a true audiophile. I am impressed by them but the differences are much finer.
I don't think I am going to explore the world of universal IEMs anymore, I will definitely try GR07 and the next stop would be a custom otherwise I would stick to cans
Retail Prices of a few Popular headphones in India:
HD-25 1-11 - $296
ATH-M50 - $157
Pro 750- $398
Pro 900- $555
HD-650 - $444.
Headphone prices are sky high in India, but I still don't understand why the retail prices of XBA-3 are significantly lower. This once again brings us to the the question which should interest everyone.
I am not sure how these things work, but if Sony India is retailing them for $140 then that definitely includes a sizable profit. This would imply that the production cost for these shouldn't run over $100. If so then the prizes in US and world over would come down.
Would the US prices drop lower than $140? Only time can tell..
This brings us to a greater dilemma. All the people who have reviewed these IEMs so far have compared them to much more expensive IEMs in the price bracket, which would there by make them the best choice available hands down. Then again, I am not sure about reviewers and their opinion anymore. Are you?
Pros - Comes with both noise-reducing and ordinary tips and good accessories. Sound is fairly well-balanced.
Cons - Cable is a bit short by itself so the extension is always necessary.
Naotaka Tsunoda is the first person I've ever met who has the title of "Distinguished Engineer". He handed me his business card at the Fujiya Avic show in Tokyo and suggested I try the new range of IEMs he had designed with his team.
I have been looking for a reasonable pair of IEMs for a while. I previously owned the UE TF10s and have a pair of RE-ZEROs, each has their faults. The TF10s had fit issues, even reversed and the bass was too strong, as well as the cable being terrible, introducing harshness. The RE-ZEROs have a lovely treble, but almost no bass to speak of. Every pair of IEMs I tried in-store with my iPhone and Pico Slim sounded wrong in some way or another. I don't need bass cannons. I don't need screeching sibilance. I don't want mids that sound honkey. I like instruments to notes to sound like something other than a flat fart.
So, trying the XBA-4 and XBA-3 I was pleasantly surprised to find that, while not perfect (no regular IEM will ever be for me) they didn't seem to do anything majorly wrong. Now having had some time to go over a greater variety of music with them, they do lack one thing: Deep bass. But, as with my full-sized headphones, I can live without listening to club music and related genres when I use IEMs.
I almost paid the extra for the XBA-4s, but to get the subwoofer, you get a pair of IEMs which are rather huge, so I went with the compromise. The result is a sound that seems to be a bit distant, especially when I use them with the Fostex HP-P1 and, being a bit bright, I don't want to turn the volume up to compensate for that. In this regard the XBA-4s might have been a better choice as they have a slightly darker sound signature, though not significantly enough I felt (in the store) that it would change my opinion.
Opening up the box for the first time, one finds they have a short cable, presumably intended to be used with the included extension cable, whether it be a normal one or the iPhone/iPod version. Thankfully a "cord adjuster" to wind the cable around is included. Three sizes of noise isolating and four sizes of ordinary tips are included, with the different sizes color-coded to make it easy to distinguish them. The noise isolating tips have rings of foam under the flange to reduce background noise, making them a bit stiffer on insertion. Also included is a generously-sized carrying case to put them in with a magnetic latch, similar to the case for my Plantronics Voyager, but without the belt hook.
Comparing them, briefly, to the Audio Technica line, the ATs seem to be excessively bright, though did a good job of making the music sound very spacious. In the end, the excessive sibilance with the ATs made me head back to the Sonys. My only disagreements with the frequency response would be that the usual treble peak may be a dB or two too strong and the mids and/or upper mids needing a dB or two boost, as quite a bit of music sounds a tad muffled to me, though it's hard to know how much this is purely because they are IEMs and unavoidable or just my ears, as I'm not a frequent IEM user.
In the end, I'm satisfied for my 19,800 yen. For something comparable from Audio Technica, they were asking considerably more, though the newer Pro and MKII versions have dropped in price, they still want ~$500 for the top-of-the-line models. It will definitely be interesting to read comparisons between them and the ATs from others in the future.
Pictures will follow at a later date, when I remember to take some.