Sony XBA-N3

General Information

  • Dynamic Type: Closed, Hybrid / Driver Unit: Hybrid
  • Cord Type: Detachable Y type / Cord Length: Approx. 1.2m
  • Frequency Response (Hz): 3Hz-40,000Hz
  • Sensitivities (dB/mW): 105dB/mW, 107dB/mW
  • Impedance (Ohm): 32ohm (at 1kHz)
Listen to a full spectrum of sound with extended clarity across the frequency range. These sophisticated in-ear headphones with a newly designed HD Hybrid Driver system pack a wealth of fine detail in a small package. Enjoy the subtlest nuances of studio quality sound in higher-than-CD quality with High-Resolution Audio. Pairs a dynamic driver with LCP diaphragm for rich bass and smooth mids with a Balanced Armature driver for soaring highs. An extended open enclosure design and enhanced airflow improves soundstage for a richer, more natural sound. The 9mm dynamic driver maintains drive force for deep bass and clear mids without dropping off like other drivers, while the airtight Balanced Armature driver provides natural high frequency sound for longer. Both drivers work together to keep sound response steady across the frequencies. More airflow in an extended enclosure design means more space for the driver to move and sound to resonate. The result is a more natural sound with richer mid notes and balanced lows to highs.

Latest reviews

Bass delight
Pros: Overall tonality
Bass
Fun signature
Easy to listen to
Cons: Cable from hell (microphonics)
Bass might be too much for some
Better detail retrieval would have been great
First review (?)



Hello everyone.

Since this is my first review, I would like to preface a two things.

Firstly, I do not completely believe in audible “burn in” or cable changes (in regard to sound). My review however will be based on my final impressions after 20-25 hours of “burn in” with the stock cable.

Secondly, my music preferences consist of many genres ranging from Rock/Metal, Rap, J-Pop/K-Rap, and some acoustical/vocal based music. They will be listed below as examples.

Lastly, my reference over-ear headphones are the Sennheiser HD58x Jubilee. These are the first and open-back cans I have. Just in case it mattered, I wanted to put this here.

Sample songs used to evaluate gear to get an idea of the type of music I listen to. Hopefully you can find a new artist/band.

Wage War – Twenty One, The River, Low

Slipknot – Before I Forget, Duality, Psychosocial

Hoshino Gen – Koi, Continues, Sun

Mariya Takeuchi – Plastic Love, Yume No Tzusuki, September

Jakubi – Holiday, Pillow, Nobody Better

Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood, On Melancholy Hill, Ascension

Tupac – Ambitionz Az a Ridah, Changes, All Eyez on Me

Mos Def – Mathematics, Hip Hop, Ms. Fat Booty

Polkadot Stingray – Free, Mermaid, A Stinging Spica

Etc.



Now onto the review!

All listening was done off the Shanling UP4 (bluetooth and USB Dac mode) and LG V30 using Flac files or Tidal premium. This was purchased with my own money as well.

Let’s start with bass, the highlight of these for me. The bass is elevated making them quite nice for more modern genres. Bass extends low, hits hard, all while never bleeding into the mids in my experience. There is a good amount of texture and impact. Bass guitars and kick drums sound fantastic, piano keys feel weighty, and with certain songs you can really feel a nice rumble. The added bass boost adds warmth to the overall sound. I think bassheads would be pretty happy with these honestly.
9.5/10.


Onto the mids. The mids are never seem left behind. They seem to be neutral with a bit of warmth. String instruments sound full and never sound too forward. Male vocals sound smooth and seem to about on the same level as everything, if that makes sense. Female vocals on the other hand feel a bit distant. Many of my favorite songs include female vocals so this was a bit of disappointment. Not to say that they’re inaudible, but I do wish they were a tad more forward. 8/10


Lastly, the highs. Highs seem kind of relaxed to my ears, while still having enough details. Cymbals sound quite good while never being over-the-top. I never experienced any kind of sibilance/harshness, although I don’t consider myself sensitive to that. I honestly feel these are really non-fatiguing. I do wish they had more “sparkle” or a little more energy. There doesn't seem to be a whole ton of air as well.
7/10


In terms of soundstage/imaging, these are adequate. Soundstage is larger than most Chi-fi I’ve tried, but never feels huge or give me an out of head experience. Imaging is definitely better. I feel like I could pinpoint where certain instruments were placed.
7/10


Genres that work well with these: Rock/metal, Rap, EDM, Pop


Select Comparisons:

FiiO FH5

The FH5 can be seen as a competitor to the N3. They are more similar than not. Bass on the N3 has a bit more presence/warmth and can even be considered “boomy” in comparison. Slam/impact is close but is overall more enjoyable on the N3. The FH5 does give slightly more texture to the bass though. The Mids are where these differ. Mids are much more forward and slightly more detailed on the FH5’s. Although I never felt the vocals on the FH5 were ever shouty, in comparison the forwardness gives off that impression. Highs seems to be a tad more detailed on the FH5 as well and never get sibilant/harsh. Overall detail retrieval seems to be better on the FH5’s but not by much. The N3 just seems to fall a hair behind. Soundstage and imaging are on par with each other. The N3 seem to be a warmer version of the FH5, which can be a good thing depending on your preferences. I personally enjoy the FH5’s more due to the forward midrange, but that can be a dealbreaker to some. If that’s the case, the N3’s would be a better set. These are both really nice sets for rock and metal/rap/edm/or anything needing that extra bass emphasis.



BLON BL03

Ahh yes, the infamous BLONs. Why compare these you ask? Because these are both what I would consider basshead iems. With the popularity of the 03’s I feel like it makes sense to compare what others probably have. Let’s start with the obvious, bass. Both have a generous bass elevation making these the stars of the show. The 03 have a bit more rumble/impact to the bass but is also slower in comparison to the N3. Bass notes are better defined on the N3 and provide more detail. Unfortunately, the 03 has noticeable bass bleed, not that it really matters since you can find them for <$30. The N3 presents mids in a much cleaner and well-defined manner. Vocals never feel behind and give good clarity as they do with the 03's. Highs are overall better on the N3 providing better clarity. So do I think the N3 is better than the 03? Yes. Do I think it’s worth 10x the price? Depends. In this hobby, the law of diminishing returns is too real. To those who can’t spend over $100, I think the 03 is a phenomenally good sounding set with little trade-offs compared to its competition (especially in its price range).



Moondrop Blessing2

What do these have in common? Price, that’s pretty much it in my opinion. I would argue these are polar opposites. The N3 is the fun bassy, yet neutral set. Details aren’t its strong suite, but they’re present. On the other hand, the Blessing2 are much more neutral with an emphasis on the midrange. Bass is anemic in comparison, despite it's quality. These are different sets for different people in my opinion. The Blessing2 is the more well-rounded set, while the N3 is more enjoyable, especially for longer listening sessions. If you listen to a lot of rock, metal, rap, and edm, the N3 is what you’re looking for .If you like to hear details, listen to more instrumental music, or any type of music where bass isn’t prominent, the Blessing2 would suite your tastes.





Conclusion

Do I recommend the Sony XBA N3’s? Of course! Depending on what you listen to, they’re extremely fun and easy to listen to. Since this was my first detailed review, I'm sure there's bound to be some mistakes and weird phrasings. If you're curious how these compare to an iem you have, please feel free to ask and I'll see if I have them to compare!.

Thanks for your time!
FelixTheFylax
FelixTheFylax
@Ace Bee Mids are neither forward nor recessed in my opinion and highs seem inoffensive. They are pretty much opposite of the of the Blessing2 honestly. Vocals will never be in your face but not seem unnatural. I think male vocals sound a little better though. The bass might be a big issue for you. It will definitely come off as muddy coming from the Blessing2.
F700
F700
Welcome in the N3 club. A very nice IEM indeed. Stock cable is unusable, but there is the M12SM2. Pricey, but solid.
FelixTheFylax
FelixTheFylax
@F700 Unfortunate as they could have used anything less noisy. I'll definitely take a look into that wire.
Pros: Fun and clear sounding. Great Isolation. Sounds great with smartphone!
Cons: Micro details are barely audible.
Set-up:
Iphone SE > Sony XBA N-3
Playing AAC. No EQ
Using Triple Comfort Tips (Smallest)

Looks:
Shell: low profile.
Cable: It has a faded bronze color and it has a nice feel to it, not the cheap rubbery kind. Subtle.

Sound:
Initial Impression: Enjoyable & Clear. I don’t usually bob my head when listening to iems but this N3…..
Detail: In very rARE occasions, some details are barely audible.
Soundstage: It’s good. The speed & impact of the bass & the clarity in the mids help with making it not sound boxed in.
Separation: Instruments can be heard with high clarity except for micro details which I can barely hear.
Bass: Quality and impact are great even on an iphone. I think it is the best part of the sound.
Mids: Very clear. But not as extended as the Very Best. It’s also not endearing or sweet sounding like the Senn HD600 but not cold either (its far from being cold sounding).
Treble: Weakest point in the sound but on par with other iems & headphone in its price range. It’s just not gonna wow you.

Music: Led Zeppelin, Daft Punk, Michael Jackson -- the beat will make your head bob. I prefer to listen to rock & fast upbeat music w/ the N3.

Compared to my Sony MDR-ex800st: these iems are at the same price range & level of clarity.
N3 is not flat like the 800st.
N3 is slightly less detailed.
N3 is more enjoyable (I never bob my head with the 800st).
N3 is more usable --the 800st has a super long cable, N3 has better isolation, N3 plays better w/ my iphone, i actually prefer to use the 800st w/ a desktop amp.
My mind tells me that the 800st is technically better but I'm using the N3 more..a lot more. FYI, I hold the 800st in high regard.

My Final thoughts: Not cheap @ $300 but competitively priced. Not endgame in terms of technical capabilities. N3 has a low profile look, great isolation, and a fun and clear sound signature out of a smartphone.
F700
F700
Stay away from the Sony stock tips. I have the N3 since almost 3 years now and it really shines with Final Audio E-Tips or JVC Spiral dots, which open the treble, improve details and enlarge the soundstage. Believe me, switching tips bring the N3 to the next level.
Pros: Smooth, natural tonality.
Exceptional Timbre.
Clean and clear midrange.
Well implemented upper treble peak which rarely gets harsh, allows for an airier presentation.
Comfortable to wear.
All round fantastic sound.
Cons: Slightly rolled-off highs.
Mid-bass and Lower mids could have more emphasis.
Cable is a little thin.
Full Review on AudioRambles: https://audiorambles.com/xba-n3/


Overall, the XBA-N3 possess a relatively neutral sound signature with a slight sub-bass and lower treble boost. It retains a good amount of warmth, allowing it to never sound muddy but still maintain its smoothness across the board. Where it really excels, however, is in its natural tone and timbre, providing an enjoyable and relaxing listening experience .

Bass (7.5/10): The XBA-N3 showcases thumping sub-bass which goes down low, though it still remains a controlled affair. It may sound very slightly boomy on certain tracks, but it's a tradeoff I'd take any day of the week for that little bit more "oomph". Keep in mind it's not an extravagant hump of any sort, but just the perfect amount to keep your toes tapping.

Mid-bass, however, was tuned to be more neutral in the grand scheme of things, with a very very slight hump to provide it more warmth, but that's about it. Impact and slam is sacrificed to allow for a smooth transition from upper bass to midrange, and an almost complete lack of mid-bass bleed. Bass, however, still maintains good, natural decay, texture and detail, especially evident in Daft Punk's "Instant Crush".

Mids (7.5/10): The XBA-N3 produces such smooth, silky and clear mids. Both male and female vocals are very well presented. Male singers ike Andrea Bocelli have sufficient weight and body, with a velvety texture in its delivery. My personal preference, however, lies in having greater emphasis in this region, as the relative lack of mid-bass causes a slight perceived dip compared to female vocals. Female vocals as a result are slightly more prominent, also in part due to the upper mid/treble peak which adds a good amount of air to the overall soundscape. Diamond Zhang's unique, breathy voice in particular is presented beautifully.

Detail retrieval, while above average and good, is really nothing to write home about due to its smooth tone and signature. There are IEMs out there with better detailing in this price range, but few which will ever compete with the N3's relaxing and non-fatiguing qualities midrange.

Highs (7/10): There's a peak as mentioned previously in the lower treble region, though it at times can be bordering on sibilance. Keep in mind however, that I am sibilance sensitive, so for you normal folks out there this is more than tolerable for you, given I did still enjoy the highs and rarely found them fatiguing/harsh. The treble is smooth throughout with a slight roll-off at the very top end, while still presenting details convincingly.

Soundstage, Imaging, Seperation and Timbre (8.5/10): The XBA-N3 produces a wide sounding soundstage, accompanied by realistic perceived depth. There is good air between instruments, and the XBA-N3 held up well on complicated tracks such as "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men and Supercell's "Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari". Staging is fantastic as well with backup singers and instruments in Amy Winehouse's live rendition of "Valerie" highlighting the precision the N3 is capable of. Above all, the N3 has such a realistic and natural timbre to its presentation of instruments, that it is hard to find faults in that regard.

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