Sony XBA-N3 - 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.
Pros: Amazing sound quality
Bass
Comfort
Highs
Likes all kinds of digital/analog sources (+not bad with lower quality productions )
Good product quality
Detachable cable
Very decent soundstage
Cons: Upper mids/low highs are good but a bit in your face, I've heard better from open designs so better soundstage ( Soundstage could be bigger when mids are only present. )

A bit expensive
I've owned many headphones but now I have : Fidelio S2, Yamaha PRO 500, Sennheiser HD598. Speakers : Wharfdale Diamond 10.1/Cambridge Audio stereo amp, Cerwin-Wega active subwoofer. Many dac/headphone opamps. I don't agree with flat earphones, I want to hear music as if I play them, I play the piano drums and guitar and I know how my instruments sound and how they are supposed to sound. Flat earphones sound dull and don't reproduce what I hear when I play my instruments.

Bass : Super solid bass, coming from xb90ex or yamaha pro 500 or my cerwin-wega subwoofer, the n3 goes deep,it's solid, clear and fast. Compared to xb90ex, the xb90ex feels like a big used(loose) acoustic kick drum while the n3 feels like new(tighter) smaller kick drum If you EQ and amp you go to eardrum rupture basshead levels and the bass remains clear quick and textured. When I a/b with 50mm dynamic ( yamaha pro 500 ) the bass is there, the low end is there but the yamaha pro 500 delivers head rumbling and the 80-125hz is more "kicky", the phone literally moves. The Sony n3 doesn't rumble the same as in it seems the housing doesn't even want to move, sony has done something right here, it remains solid and very clear. Just the opposite of the cheap JVC FX series. We are talking about extreme levels here. If you are not a basshead, this earphone, I don't believe will be too bassy for you... I know the bass is pronounced but not unrealistic, for me this level of bass is more real and better than flat earphones ( I don't agree with their frequency targets of what is a flat earphone anyway), sony feels more real, thats how I perceive music in a live environment with real instruments , not like flat earphones.
Bass 9/10

Mids : the mids come from the 9mm LCP dynamic driver. The mids are very good but probably the weakest point, I would love some more texture maybe but they are very solid dynamic mids, I can't really fault them, it's just I have heard higher quality mids before. Maybe in a soundstage way if you can understand me. They lose to something like a sennhesier hd598 for example, but they do sound at least and more textured as fidelio s2 but the fidelio is more airy and doesn't sound as closed to n3, s2 is similar to the hd598..mids sound better with open designs. I would like them a bit more airy but I do like the body of the dynamic driver mids, maybe a good tradeoff ? I think the smooth mids are also responsible for this phone not being picky with sources/recordings.
Mids 8/10

Highs : the super tweeter HD, whatever sony wants to call it, it's super good. When I was young I loved to go to high quality speakers and place my ear near the tweeter and be amazed with all that crystaly sounds. If you know have heard high quality speaker tweeters, you know sony has done something right :) Best highs I've ever hear in IEM and approaches the quality of speakers and 50mm dynamic headphones and good speaker tweeters.... no "sssss" siibiliance. Extremely textured crystal clear highs. For me it's almost a dream come true to marry the sony dynamic bass body with super highs. The highs coming from the BA driver, makes the sound seem effortless and you can only tell the highs are really coming from a different driver because it's so effortless, the sound marriage is perfect, it creates soundstage. The marriage is as good as a speaker with mid and tweeter if that makes sense. The XBA-N3 creates and simulates speaker sound because it is designed like it.
Highs 9.5/10

I am a basshead and I love this IEM, I amp it properly and push 30-60hz +3db , I feel amazing :)

Metal/Rock sound amazing, clear textured electric guitars, acoustic guitars approach the unmatched level of yamaha pro 500 ( my standard for strings and acoustic drums ), EDM sounds deep and club like with medium "good car audio" soundstage, orchestral/classical sounds very wide soundstage amazing details and instrument separation.

The comfort is ridiculously good and the noise leak is just absolute brilliant. If you are like me you will appreciate driving basshead levels in quiet office environment :)

Warm, dark sounding signature, extremely musical, deep bass, easier to drive than other headphones, not picky with dac/amp or files, comfortable. I love it.

The N3 is my favourite IEM and stands on it's own compared to anything that costs up to $500 , I paid 245euro ( May 2017 ). The N1 has grainer mids , a bit less deep bass and same highs. I a/b'ed for an hour at the shop.
mredmond
mredmond
When I EQ for bass, I don't have enough power without an amp to bring the highs and mids back into the picture using my Pixel 2XL. I need to find a good amp to bring up the power and really bring out the sub-bass impact.
mredmond
mredmond
But you are right, there is certainly mega bass. I can almost get to the eye-watering level.
F
FunkeXMix
Give the android Neutron app a try for raising low shelf in EQ, it's really good.
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