11 New Sony BA IEMs
Apr 27, 2012 at 7:51 PM Post #796 of 845

Yggdrassilious

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It's all for a good cause...I'm sacrificing my wallet so that my fellow head-fiers can be better informed. Plus it's Amazon... this wouldn't be the first $600 worth of headphones I've returned (and certainly not last) 
L3000.gif

 
I'm not a Sony fan. Just curious about how these sound. Again, opinions are too scattered and contradicting. 
 
Quote:
You just spent $594 USD on Sony XBA's.
 
 
I am a Sony fan, I like the XBA-4, it's pretty nice for the money, but it's totally nothing like the 4-driver sound I was hoping for, a la UM Mage and JH11.

 
 
 
Apr 27, 2012 at 8:22 PM Post #797 of 845

Carlsan

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Quote:
It's all for a good cause...I'm sacrificing my wallet so that my fellow head-fiers can be better informed. Plus it's Amazon... this wouldn't be the first $600 worth of headphones I've returned (and certainly not last) 
L3000.gif

 
I'm not a Sony fan. Just curious about how these sound. Again, opinions are too scattered and contradicting. 
 
 
 

 
Will be curious to see what you think. I have the XBA-4's and really like them. I think they get a bit of a bum rap here at Head-fi. Wanted to check out the XBA-3 as well, especially since what I like the most out of the XBA-4 is the low end, so I would think the XBA-3 would not be as good at bottom end reproduction. Anyway, good luck with your comparison.
 
 
Apr 27, 2012 at 8:34 PM Post #798 of 845

Yggdrassilious

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Quote:
 
 
Will be curious to see what you think. I have the XBA-4's and really like them. I think they get a bit of a bum rap here at Head-fi. Wanted to check out the XBA-3 as well, especially since what I like the most out of the XBA-4 is the low end, so I would think the XBA-3 would not be as good at bottom end reproduction. Anyway, good luck with your comparison.
 

 
That's what I mean... some people really like them, others say the XBA3s are better, while some even goes to say the XBA1 is the only one with good value.... as the multi-driver XBAs sound disjointed. 
 
Apr 28, 2012 at 12:46 AM Post #799 of 845

kenshin27

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I own the XBA3 and got the chance to try a friend's 4 for a short while. It's definitely got the 3 beat in terms of bass and I didn't really notice the complaints about the weird sound with the 4 that I've read about. And the mids didn't seem that much more recessed to me. However, the 4 is HUGE compared to the 3 which I already thought was pretty big.
 
Apr 28, 2012 at 12:51 AM Post #800 of 845

kiteki

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Lol, I will try to write a level-headed review of the XBA-3's if I have time.
 
Come on guys, Sony invented the IEM, right?  Let alone the earphone, portable headphone, cassette tape walkman, the Compact Disc, the MiniDisc.
 
I think they have some kind of idea what they're doing.  The issue in the XBA series is it sounds like it was made in the 90's, Sony reinvented the IEM here.
 
The XBA-3 has a dirty sound like a cassette tape, it has limited soundspace, it has limited precision, it has fuzzy imaging... haha...
 
Wait, let me rewind.  My previous Sony experiences have been the best earbuds ever, especially for their low prices, I listened to the MDR-EX300 / EX500 which sounded okay, then I ended up with Audio Technica CK10 and Sony MDR-EX700, I used them side by side for a long time, eventually got rid of the CK10.  Then I (with hesitation) bought the Sony MDR-E888, I was so close to not buying it, head-fi reviews having me convinced "Yuin" earbuds and the like are the way to go.  No way... the E888 wasn't a temporary fad like Yuin, it was in production for over 10 years, it used bio-cellulose technology, it was built in three different countries and sounded great.  After all, Sony invented the earbud, recap.
 
Anyway, back to the EX700.  After my CK10 vanished in a trade, the EX700 became my standard IEM for a while.  I've demoed Final Audio Heaven's, Sennheiser IE8's and Shure SE425 / SE535's, list goes on, and often lost interest in my auditions of them... versus EX700.
 
Still, it was famously harsh and a bit expensive, the EX300 / EX500 were a little bass / consumer type sound.  Sony seemed to have lost traction in IEM's and headphones, the MDR-V6 had been out for what, 25 years?  The CD900ST, the SA-5000... sure, the SA-5000 is a top-tier headphone, even by current standards, but their newer technology seemed to be mostly XtraBass, 7.1 surround, Noise-Cancelling IEM's, unattractive clock-radios and not very impressive Discmans, compared to their flagship Discmans years prior!
 
So, Sony is failing, falling... in the portable audiophile market... which they invented...
 
Then all of a sudden... BOOM... here comes SONY (the one and only!), they release the ZX series and XB series headphones, at different price points to cater to everyone.  The pillow-head (most comfortable HP ever) XB's are a success, the ZX's perhaps even more so, ZX300's all over the place, ZX700 a new ~$120 standard to consider... then there's the $700 Z1000, What is happening?
 
Along comes the announcement of a new IEM... looks like some kind of polished black heaven metal... the Sony MDR-EX1000.
 
RRP $750... ... what!!
 
Failure alarm is going off, initial frequency response graph's look like the ever unpopular / harsh EX700.  Expectations are not much higher than a revamped EX700 with replaceable cables.
 
Luckily, intial listening impressions of the EX1000 are very good, angelic accolades.  What did they do to the EX700?  The EX1000 sounds totally different.  Authority, romantic, fresh, unintrusive, atmospheric soundspace.  People are throwing pink roses all over the place.
 
Then there is the Sony MDR-EX600... looks like Sony is catering to all price points as per the ZX and XB series.
 
ZX300, ZX500, ZX700, Z1000
 
XB300, XB500, XB700, XB1000
 
EX300, EX500, EX700, EX310, EX510, EX600, EX800ST, EX1000
 
 
So... the Made in Japan EX1000 looks like it was exported to Thailand, cheaper looking housing, no magnesium on the inside, different specs... same sound?  Not quite, but the EX600 and EX1000 are close.
 
The EX600 is neutral and edgy, fresh and atmospheric like the EX1000.  The EX1000 is more refined, the EX600 has more edge.
 
At street prices falling to ~$150 for the EX600, all of a sudden the higher-end Sony IEM's are very accessible (compare ~$150 to the previous ~$300 for the EX700 and ~$400 for the EX1000).
 
The EX600 becomes more popular in Japan, Sony has succeeded in yet another sector, the IEM.
 
Likewise, they released the MDR-EX800ST as a stage monitor for studio use, no warranty and limited accessories, long cable, slightly mid-centric sound for vocalists.  This one uses magnesium alloy on the inside like the EX700 and EX1000, it's made in Japan and error-checked by Sony Music Communications.
 
Another success, for studios to accompany their MDR-CD900ST with (standard-issue in Japan).
 
 
So what's next?  Sony releases the XBA series.  They've reinvented the balanced-armature driver, making it themselves, something no other IEM company has done.  So, this fact alone gives the new XBA series credit.  The price points look extremely reasonable considering the new drivers MIJ and the relative competition of what other universal balanced-armature IEM's cost.
 
However, the new BA driver doesn't sound like the Etymotic ER-4 driver.  It sounds closer to a dynamic driver, it seems more transparent and less visceral.  There is a very hazy landscape without a specific source to the sounds, like an illusory TV screen which moves around.
 
It's really difficult to assess the XBA-3 coming from the Sony classic earbuds, E888, EX700 & EX600.
 
Aside from these, I've liked the Audio Technica CK10, Ultimate Ears UE700, Hifiman RE252, RE272 and various other IEM's a lot. 
 
The XBA-3 just sounds too different to me and too lacking in precision for me to like.  I can't personally get past it's 90's sound like it was supposed to compliment a MiniDisc, Walkman or cater to average mobile phone users, perhaps not far from the truth.
 
I just want to get back in the stainless steel kitchen of precision, and pretend I never heard the XBA-3.
 
The XBA-4 is better, but not a success story either.
 
Synergy with these is paramount above any other IEM I've heard, but you can't save a dying horse.
 
k
 
 
 
May 1, 2012 at 11:39 PM Post #801 of 845

Yggdrassilious

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So here I have been fiddling with my newly arrived XBA4 and 3iPs all night. Next to them: CKM99, ER4PT, PFE112 (and of course, forever and always, UE700, which did not get into the picture). 
 
I do see what Kiteki was talking about the XBAs: lacking in "precision", and sounding like they were made for the 90s. Girl you are spot on, "There is a very hazy landscape without a specific source to the sounds, like an illusory TV screen which moves around." 
 
The above quote describes exactly this weird feeling I have when listening to the XBAs. I don't think I could have said it any better. However, I don't see that as a bad thing. The XBAs somehow give me a very nostalgic effect, like back when I used to just enjoy the music out of my iRiver player, with the stock iRiver buds, out of 128kbps mp3 files that I found online, back when you could just google "mp3 download" and come up with download links, back when "Google" was not used as a verb. It was simpler then, just me enjoying what music I have with whatever earbud I had. Indeed, when I take off the XBA4s and put on the XBA3s, I forget about all that extra baggage I now carry. I forget about what balanced armature sounds like, and what dynamic drivers sound like. I don't notice if the treble is too sibilant, or if the bass is not thumping, or if female vocals could've sounded better on my ATHs, or if male vocals would've sounded better on Shures. 
 
The XBA3s sound indeed very good. May not be as precise as my ER4PTs, or as spacious as the PFE112s, or as punchy and hot as the CKM99s. But I've been listening to my favorite tracks from Les Miserables 10th Anniversary, personally ripped Apple Lossless. There are lines where the singers would enunciate, and it would feel like they are spitting in my face! The "to"s and the "P"s sound so very real, and I am enjoying the music a lot.  These kinds of details are brought to my attention by my XBA3s, details I have never taken notice before, not when I had SE535, or EX600, or GR07, or CK10.  Of course, these other IEMs flesh out details that on the XBA3 may have faded into the background. 
 
There is definitely something weird about the XBA4's sound presentation, which I cannot quite pinpoint. It sounds...so very fake, makes you aware for every second you wear them that you are listening to IEMs. 
 
At this time, neither is truly comfortable. But the 3s are definitely more comfortable than the 4s. 
 
These are my brief impressions. 
 
May 2, 2012 at 12:02 AM Post #802 of 845

Carlsan

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Quote:

 
So here I have been fiddling with my newly arrived XBA4 and 3iPs all night. Next to them: CKM99, ER4PT, PFE112 (and of course, forever and always, UE700, which did not get into the picture). 
 
I do see what Kiteki was talking about the XBAs: lacking in "precision", and sounding like they were made for the 90s. Girl you are spot on, "There is a very hazy landscape without a specific source to the sounds, like an illusory TV screen which moves around." 
 
The above quote describes exactly this weird feeling I have when listening to the XBAs. I don't think I could have said it any better. However, I don't see that as a bad thing. The XBAs somehow give me a very nostalgic effect, like back when I used to just enjoy the music out of my iRiver player, with the stock iRiver buds, out of 128kbps mp3 files that I found online, back when you could just google "mp3 download" and come up with download links, back when "Google" was not used as a verb. It was simpler then, just me enjoying what music I have with whatever earbud I had. Indeed, when I take off the XBA4s and put on the XBA3s, I forget about all that extra baggage I now carry. I forget about what balanced armature sounds like, and what dynamic drivers sound like. I don't notice if the treble is too sibilant, or if the bass is not thumping, or if female vocals could've sounded better on my ATHs, or if male vocals would've sounded better on Shures. 
 
The XBA3s sound indeed very good. May not be as precise as my ER4PTs, or as spacious as the PFE112s, or as punchy and hot as the CKM99s. But I've been listening to my favorite tracks from Les Miserables 10th Anniversary, personally ripped Apple Lossless. There are lines where the singers would enunciate, and it would feel like they are spitting in my face! The "to"s and the "P"s sound so very real, and I am enjoying the music a lot.  These kinds of details are brought to my attention by my XBA3s, details I have never taken notice before, not when I had SE535, or EX600, or GR07, or CK10.  Of course, these other IEMs flesh out details that on the XBA3 may have faded into the background. 
 
There is definitely something weird about the XBA4's sound presentation, which I cannot quite pinpoint. It sounds...so very fake, makes you aware for every second you wear them that you are listening to IEMs. 
 
At this time, neither is truly comfortable. But the 3s are definitely more comfortable than the 4s. 
 
These are my brief impressions. 


What source did you use?
Curious because I do believe that the source makes a difference with this earphone.
 
May 2, 2012 at 5:28 AM Post #803 of 845

kiteki

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The above quote describes exactly this weird feeling I have when listening to the XBAs. I don't think I could have said it any better. However, I don't see that as a bad thing. The XBAs somehow give me a very nostalgic effect, like back when I used to just enjoy the music out of my iRiver player, with the stock iRiver buds, out of 128kbps mp3 files that I found online, back when you could just google "mp3 download" and come up with download links, back when "Google" was not used as a verb. It was simpler then, just me enjoying what music I have with whatever earbud I had. Indeed, when I take off the XBA4s and put on the XBA3s, I forget about all that extra baggage I now carry. I forget about what balanced armature sounds like, and what dynamic drivers sound like. I don't notice if the treble is too sibilant, or if the bass is not thumping, or if female vocals could've sounded better on my ATHs, or if male vocals would've sounded better on Shures. 

 
Nice review.
 
I've spent a huge part of my audio life with classic Sony sound.  There is a time when I would have enjoyed these, but now I don't.  I know a lot of people are buying them and enjoying them, and they don't know what they're missing in the CK10, but then you'll turn into an analyzer and start to deem the quality and resonance of every kitchen knife, at least I did.
 
May 9, 2012 at 9:27 PM Post #806 of 845

a_recording

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Quote:
 
There is definitely something weird about the XBA4's sound presentation, which I cannot quite pinpoint. It sounds...so very fake, makes you aware for every second you wear them that you are listening to IEMs. 

 
There is definitely some strange 'enhanced' sound to them.
 
I actually wrote a (too lengthy) comparison between the XBA-4 and the EX1000 if anyone is interested :3
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/608553/review-comparison-two-flagships-pass-in-the-night-sony-xba-4-review-vs-the-mdr-ex1000
 
May 10, 2012 at 1:33 AM Post #807 of 845

RAFA

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May 15, 2012 at 4:24 PM Post #808 of 845

dnullify

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So, in short I auditioned all four xba models at the sony store this weekend, and was blown away. I was most impressed by the XBA-3.
 
 
i'm having a hard time figuring out what the general head-fi opinion is on these new sony BA phones though...
I'm definitely going to have to go back and re-try them to be sure, but there was something about the general sound signature that i really enjoyed. Somehow they are mid-forward, but still exceptionally detailed, hi-fi but musical. They were completely unfatiguing to my very sensitive ears, absolutely no tinnitus flare up i typically get from detailed analytical phones, yet the sound was surprisingly detailed.
 
I'm seriously considering the XBA-3 at the $190 it can be had now, forgoing my usual routine of comparing them to the competition at that price point. Can anyone verify my sanity? Are they really as good as I thought after trying them for all of 15 minutes, or did i simply fall into the honeymoon period?
 
As far as pricing, are they priced aggressively/competitively for 3 driver phones, or where do they stand from a value standpoint?
 
I mean, i've heard high-end BA phones before- i own e5cs, TF10s, and JH5s. Yet I can't quite figure why the sony's were so different or why i liked them so much - especially since i couldn't A/B them with anything other than each other.
 
 
What is the consensus on the XBA series then? I do know that I wouldn't bother with either the 1 or 2. I didn't like the 4 as much as the 3. But they seem to repeatedly get bashed by some in this thread, not being worth time or money, but where is that coming from?
 
May 15, 2012 at 6:45 PM Post #809 of 845

Aelavin

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Quote:
So, in short I auditioned all four xba models at the sony store this weekend, and was blown away. I was most impressed by the XBA-3.
 
 
i'm having a hard time figuring out what the general head-fi opinion is on these new sony BA phones though...
I'm definitely going to have to go back and re-try them to be sure, but there was something about the general sound signature that i really enjoyed. Somehow they are mid-forward, but still exceptionally detailed, hi-fi but musical. They were completely unfatiguing to my very sensitive ears, absolutely no tinnitus flare up i typically get from detailed analytical phones, yet the sound was surprisingly detailed.
 
I'm seriously considering the XBA-3 at the $190 it can be had now, forgoing my usual routine of comparing them to the competition at that price point. Can anyone verify my sanity? Are they really as good as I thought after trying them for all of 15 minutes, or did i simply fall into the honeymoon period?
 
As far as pricing, are they priced aggressively/competitively for 3 driver phones, or where do they stand from a value standpoint?
 
I mean, i've heard high-end BA phones before- i own e5cs, TF10s, and JH5s. Yet I can't quite figure why the sony's were so different or why i liked them so much - especially since i couldn't A/B them with anything other than each other.
 
 
What is the consensus on the XBA series then? I do know that I wouldn't bother with either the 1 or 2. I didn't like the 4 as much as the 3. But they seem to repeatedly get bashed by some in this thread, not being worth time or money, but where is that coming from?

 
Maybe this thread could resolve your problem:
http://www.head-fi.org/t/608447/sony-xba-series-review-and-comparison-xba-1-2-3-4
 
And I've got XBA-3 for about week (it's hard to get them in Poland) and comparing them to my MDR-EX700 at first they were so... different. I'm listening to music through NWZ-X1050 and it was quite difficult to "balanced" them (a little bit too "close" cymbals which botter me), but with current EQ (ClearBass +3, | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | -1) and after accustomed to them I think they sound sooo great :D Also I don't find them too analitical. Rather balanced with quite deep and soft lows, and really good mids :wink:
 
May 15, 2012 at 7:09 PM Post #810 of 845

a_recording

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Quote:
So, in short I auditioned all four xba models at the sony store this weekend, and was blown away. I was most impressed by the XBA-3.
 
 
i'm having a hard time figuring out what the general head-fi opinion is on these new sony BA phones though...
I'm definitely going to have to go back and re-try them to be sure, but there was something about the general sound signature that i really enjoyed. Somehow they are mid-forward, but still exceptionally detailed, hi-fi but musical. They were completely unfatiguing to my very sensitive ears, absolutely no tinnitus flare up i typically get from detailed analytical phones, yet the sound was surprisingly detailed.
 
I'm seriously considering the XBA-3 at the $190 it can be had now, forgoing my usual routine of comparing them to the competition at that price point. Can anyone verify my sanity? Are they really as good as I thought after trying them for all of 15 minutes, or did i simply fall into the honeymoon period?
 
As far as pricing, are they priced aggressively/competitively for 3 driver phones, or where do they stand from a value standpoint?
 
I mean, i've heard high-end BA phones before- i own e5cs, TF10s, and JH5s. Yet I can't quite figure why the sony's were so different or why i liked them so much - especially since i couldn't A/B them with anything other than each other.
 
 
What is the consensus on the XBA series then? I do know that I wouldn't bother with either the 1 or 2. I didn't like the 4 as much as the 3. But they seem to repeatedly get bashed by some in this thread, not being worth time or money, but where is that coming from?

 
The XBA series definitely does seem to sound *different* from other BA IEM's. Generally the common consensus is that the XBA series sounds a little artificial but make for a fun, dynamic sounding option in the market. The treble on the XBA-3 and XBA-4 can sound a little shimmery / metallic. Personally I preferred the XBA-4 to the XBA-3, because the XBA-4 has a better sense of scale and pace, though the XBA-3 sounds a little more balanced and natural. The pricing is quite aggressive on both though.
 
What source are you using? One big issue with the XBA series is that the load impedance is so low that it is extremely sensitive to your source's output impedance.
 
I did a review comparing the XBA-4 to the EX1000, and in one section I detail how the XBA's might sound different with different sources:
http://www.head-fi.org/t/608553/review-comparison-two-flagships-pass-in-the-night-sony-xba-4-review-vs-the-mdr-ex1000/45#post_8382543
 

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