SONY XBA-A1AP Review
May 17, 2015 at 5:14 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 71

LazerBear

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Note: the "AP" at the end of the name denotes the Android Phone version, which as far as I know is entirely identical to the A1, save for the on-line mic. Cables are non-replaceable in both models.
 
Note II: in the last couple of pictures you will notice some scratches and marks on the body of the IEM. That's because my pal's dog had a go at them and apparently decided they were tasty. They still work fine.
 
I've had these IEMs for around 6 months now and I finally decided to write a little review. These are the heirs to the old XBA-H1 and they are hybid IEM, in that they have both a dynamic (bass) and a BA (mids and treble) driver. I am kind of a novice to the audiophile world, having only started to get into serious headphones and equipment a little over a year ago, so I am afraid that the "Sound Quality" part of this review is going to be the least meaty for now. Please keep in mind this relative inexperience of mine also when checking the scores. Below a list of the equipment that I owned/have owned for reference:
 
Players: Note 2, Fiio X3
Headphones: Sony MDR-XB500, Sony MH1C, Klipsch S4a, Sennheiser Amperior
 
I used the Sony XBA-A1 mostly with my Note 2 and with a Sony A17. I listened to a variety of music, including (in no specific order) rock, country, metal, rap, church, classical, electronic, indie, and pop.
 
 
 

 


[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Packaging: 6.5 out of 10[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]I'm sure you're all going to skip this part, but I'm going to nitpick at the packaging anyways.[/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]At a first glance, the packaging is quite nice. It has a modern look, and after tearing the plastic film and removing the outside cardboard layer, the inner cardboard black box opens up to reveal the IEM set on a black velvet surface. Kind of, since it's not velvet but cheap synthetic stuff. And I'm pretty sure that the IEM[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)] were pushed hard into the back plastic plate to shape the indent were they are lodged, but hey, it looks nice. Removing the plastic plate will uncover two small cardboard boxes which contain the carrying case and other accessories. Up to here, everything is pretty fine, but let's go back a minute to the start: first of all, there is no way to see the phones without tearing up the box. That means that if your local shop does not have a pair on show, you're out of luck, especially considering that these things are kind of big and might not be to everyone's tastes. Fortunately, the packaging has quite a bit of info on it, including a detail of the (excellent) strain relief on the plug and other details about the cable and in-line mic. It also has some really weird stuff on it - what the heck is "Beat Response Control", Sony? Why are the standard silicone tips "hybrid tips", and the hybrid silicone+foam ones "foam tips"? And why in the world would the design and specs be "subject to changewithout notice" (no, it's not a typo the missing space is actually missing)? Should I be worried that these will change color or driver tomorrow? I might just keep them in the safe at night just to be sure.. [/color]
 
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]One final note: the packaging says to "Keep the warranty slip and invoice to be able to enjoy the warranty service", but there is no warranty slip inside. Instead, you can use the serial number on the back of the box. I found this out after a few internet searches and a call to Sony's hotline.[/color]
 


[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Accessories - 7 out of 10[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]The headphones come with: 4 pairs of standard silicone tips (SS, S, M, L), 3 pairs of silicone tips with added foam inside (S, M, L), a soft carrying case, a shirt clip, and a cable shortener. There is a mic with 1 button (compatible with Android and Apple) a little lower than mouth's height on the left cable, before the cable cinch. I appreciate the addition of the shirt clip and cable shortener, but there are a couple issues with the rest. First, the carrying case is in my opinion quite horrible. Being soft, it won't protect your phones from much else than scratches; it also has a weird overlapping flap design, which makes it quite hard to insert and remove the phones, so much that I immediately switched to my other circular semi-hard case. Secondly, the silicone+foam tips are a really good idea (best of both worlds), but unfortunately in practice they tend to slip out of the ear quite often (more about this in Comfort).[/color]
 
 
 

[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Build Quality - 8.5 out of 10[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Build is great. This is the main thing that swayed me in favor of these phones. The serrated cable feels robust, strain reliefs are good both at plug (L-shaped, which I prefer) and at the unit, the units themselves feel solid and the mic with remote is small, light and solid as well. It's also quite easy to discern the R and L units, as apart from the writing on the body and from the small relief dot on the L unit, you also have a different color accent on the R (red) and L (silver) bodies. If I wanted to nitpick (of course I do), there are a few minor issues here and there: the strain relief on the units is a tad too good, so that it kinds of creates a second strain point at the end of it (although I don't think this should be a problem); The cable cinch works up to the mic (obviously), but there is no way to slide it up to my neck and so microphonics remain quite annoying; the remote has a weird push feedback, in that you don't actually feel that you have pushed it, but you definitely feel when you're releasing it; and the plug is a bit too tall, although that makes it actually easier to remove since you have a better grip on it (useful on stubborn laptop plugs). All in all, these are very minor gripes, and I think the overall build quality is just very, very good.[/color]
 
 
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Comfort and isolation - 6 out of 10[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]First of all, these IEM are quite big (not XBA-A2 or A3 big, but hey, those are HUGE). As such, I naturally assumed they would stick out of my ear, but they don't. They kind of go in at a weird angle, so that the strain relief is parallel to my cheek, and barely out of the ear. They do touch the inner part of my ear a bit, and it does cause a bit of discomfort after approx. 45mins of usage, so that I have to remove them for a couple of minutes before plugging them back in. The standard tips are quite soft and comfortable, while the silicone+foam are great in theory (moar sound isolation yarr) but horrible in practice as they are too smoth and the foam will eventually push them out of your ear trying to expand (this happened no matter the size. Trust me, I've really tried). As I mentioned, the cable cinch does not go up to one's chin, which means cable noise cannot be stopped entirely (the shirt clip helps, and if you're really serious about it, you could use the cable shortener to fasten the L and R cables together under your chin, I suppose). That's an issue because there is quite a bit of it, and I have not yet found a way to use the cable over-and-behind the ear that also manages to get a good fit inside. If you're using a shirt or jacket with high collar, be prepared. Other than that, isolation is quite good, being that they are sealed and can be inserted quite deep in the ear canal.[/color]
 
 
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Sound - 7 out of 10[/color]
Inside these IEMs Sony put a side-firing 9mm dynamic driver and a T-shaped (go figure what that means) BA driver. Through a passive crossover these handle, respectively, the bass and the mids and highs. If you upgrade to the A2 or A3, you will get a dedicated second BA driver just for the highs. As a separate note, these BA drivers are manufactured in-house, which is quite peculiar considering most of the competition just used Knowles'.
On to the sound impressions:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Treble: the treble is quite clear and has good extension, although it rolls off a bit at the top. This is good for me since I tend to get a bit of listener's fatigue otherwise.[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Mids: the mids are full and clear, but sometimes, especially on female vocals, I feel they might have been better if dialed down just one small notch.[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Bass: the bass is way more controlled than you might expect from an IEM named "XB" (it stands for eXtra Bass EDIT: it has been pointed out to me that in these models it actually stands for Balanced Armature, so ther you have it), so that it does not subtract from the rest. It is quite tight and does not bleed into the mids.[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Soundstage and separation: [/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]as expected for an IEM, the soundstage is not very big. Separation, on the other hand, is quite good (probably due to the dual driver setup) and it is quite easy to discern the various instruments and their position relative to each other.[/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Overall: [/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]I am very satisfied with the very balanced sound signature (other than a slight emphasis on the bass and the rolled off treble, the sound is quite even), and I think in this price range (100-150 USD) it doesn't have much competition. The reason why I'm giving it only a 7 out of 10 is because of my relative inexperience.[/color]
 
 
 
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Overall and Performance/Price ratio: 8/10[/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]I am very happy with this purchase, and I feel that the mix of solid build quality (it survived being chewed by a dog), in-line mic, nice accessories and balanced sound makes it a winner in this price range (around 150 USD, although you might find them for much less in some markets. I paid them 140 in China, but they have now dropped to around 100). My only issues with them are the cable noise and the fact that they can't be worn around the ear.[/color]
 
 
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]EDITED on 5/21 to correct a couple of small mistakes (AP and XBA explanation)[/color]
 
May 17, 2015 at 6:52 AM Post #2 of 71

jant71

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Thanks for the review! Very nice. One thing though here in NY I can locally buy AP version Sony's cause AP means Android phone version
biggrin.gif
.
 
May 19, 2015 at 11:06 AM Post #3 of 71

cuiter23

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Good review! Not too much attention to the new XBA-AX's around here on head-fi.
 
May 19, 2015 at 12:35 PM Post #5 of 71

zerogorgor

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Of all the new in-ear products Sony most recently launched, I like the A1(AP) best. Comfort is great. Price is great. It is a solid performer and is easily driven.
 
Its higher end (pricier) counterparts are not bad but I think they are far less easily driven and far less comfortable than the A1.
 
May 19, 2015 at 3:11 PM Post #6 of 71

cuiter23

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Just picked these up from my mailbox. 3 day shipping from Japan is outstanding! Can't wait to give these a listen :)
 
May 19, 2015 at 7:08 PM Post #7 of 71

Fidelity King

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  Note: the "AP" at the end of the name denotes the Asia Pacific version, which as far as I know is entirely identical to the A1, save for the packaging.
 
Note II: in the last couple of pictures you will notice some scratches and marks on the body of the IEM. That's because my pal's dog had a go at them and apparently decided they were tasty. They still work fine.
 
I've had these IEMs for around 6 months now and I finally decided to write a little review. These are the heirs to the old XBA-H1 and they are hybid IEM, in that they have both a dynamic (bass) and a BA (mids and treble) driver. I am kind of a novice to the audiophile world, having only started to get into serious headphones and equipment a little over a year ago, so I am afraid that the "Sound Quality" part of this review is going to be the least meaty for now. Please keep in mind this relative inexperience of mine also when checking the scores. Below a list of the equipment that I owned/have owned for reference:
 
Players: Note 2, Fiio X3
Headphones: Sony MDR-XB500, Sony MH1C, Klipsch S4a, Sennheiser Amperior
 
I used the Sony XBA-A1 mostly with my Note 2 and with a Sony A17. I listened to a variety of music, including (in no specific order) rock, country, metal, rap, church, classical, electronic, indie, and pop.
 
 
 

 


[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Packaging: 6.5 out of 10[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]I'm sure you're all going to skip this part, but I'm going to nitpick at the packaging anyways.[/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]At a first glance, the packaging is quite nice. It has a modern look, and after tearing the plastic film and removing the outside cardboard layer, the inner cardboard black box opens up to reveal the IEM set on a black velvet surface. Kind of, since it's not velvet but cheap synthetic stuff. And I'm pretty sure that the IEM[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)] were pushed hard into the back plastic plate to shape the indent were they are lodged, but hey, it looks nice. Removing the plastic plate will uncover two small cardboard boxes which contain the carrying case and other accessories. Up to here, everything is pretty fine, but let's go back a minute to the start: first of all, there is no way to see the phones without tearing up the box. That means that if your local shop does not have a pair on show, you're out of luck, especially considering that these things are kind of big and might not be to everyone's tastes. Fortunately, the packaging has quite a bit of info on it, including a detail of the (excellent) strain relief on the plug and other details about the cable and in-line mic. It also has some really weird stuff on it - what the heck is "Beat Response Control", Sony? Why are the standard silicone tips "hybrid tips", and the hybrid silicone+foam ones "foam tips"? And why in the world would the design and specs be "subject to changewithout notice" (no, it's not a typo the missing space is actually missing)? Should I be worried that these will change color or driver tomorrow? I might just keep them in the safe at night just to be sure.. [/color]
 
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]One final note: the packaging says to "Keep the warranty slip and invoice to be able to enjoy the warranty service", but there is no warranty slip inside. Instead, you can use the serial number on the back of the box. I found this out after a few internet searches and a call to Sony's hotline.[/color]
 


[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Accessories - 7 out of 10[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]The headphones come with: 4 pairs of standard silicone tips (SS, S, M, L), 3 pairs of silicone tips with added foam inside (S, M, L), a soft carrying case, a shirt clip, and a cable shortener. There is a mic with 1 button (compatible with Android and Apple) a little lower than mouth's height on the left cable, before the cable cinch. I appreciate the addition of the shirt clip and cable shortener, but there are a couple issues with the rest. First, the carrying case is in my opinion quite horrible. Being soft, it won't protect your phones from much else than scratches; it also has a weird overlapping flap design, which makes it quite hard to insert and remove the phones, so much that I immediately switched to my other circular semi-hard case. Secondly, the silicone+foam tips are a really good idea (best of both worlds), but unfortunately in practice they tend to slip out of the ear quite often (more about this in Comfort).[/color]
 
 
 

[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Build Quality - 8.5 out of 10[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Build is great. This is the main thing that swayed me in favor of these phones. The serrated cable feels robust, strain reliefs are good both at plug (L-shaped, which I prefer) and at the unit, the units themselves feel solid and the mic with remote is small, light and solid as well. It's also quite easy to discern the R and L units, as apart from the writing on the body and from the small relief dot on the L unit, you also have a different color accent on the R (red) and L (silver) bodies. If I wanted to nitpick (of course I do), there are a few minor issues here and there: the strain relief on the units is a tad too good, so that it kinds of creates a second strain point at the end of it (although I don't think this should be a problem); The cable cinch works up to the mic (obviously), but there is no way to slide it up to my neck and so microphonics remain quite annoying; the remote has a weird push feedback, in that you don't actually feel that you have pushed it, but you definitely feel when you're releasing it; and the plug is a bit too tall, although that makes it actually easier to remove since you have a better grip on it (useful on stubborn laptop plugs). All in all, these are very minor gripes, and I think the overall build quality is just very, very good.[/color]
 
 
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Comfort and isolation - 6 out of 10[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]First of all, these IEM are quite big (not XBA-A2 or A3 big, but hey, those are HUGE). As such, I naturally assumed they would stick out of my ear, but they don't. They kind of go in at a weird angle, so that the strain relief is parallel to my cheek, and barely out of the ear. They do touch the inner part of my ear a bit, and it does cause a bit of discomfort after approx. 45mins of usage, so that I have to remove them for a couple of minutes before plugging them back in. The standard tips are quite soft and comfortable, while the silicone+foam are great in theory (moar sound isolation yarr) but horrible in practice as they are too smoth and the foam will eventually push them out of your ear trying to expand (this happened no matter the size. Trust me, I've really tried). As I mentioned, the cable cinch does not go up to one's chin, which means cable noise cannot be stopped entirely (the shirt clip helps, and if you're really serious about it, you could use the cable shortener to fasten the L and R cables together under your chin, I suppose). That's an issue because there is quite a bit of it, and I have not yet found a way to use the cable over-and-behind the ear that also manages to get a good fit inside. If you're using a shirt or jacket with high collar, be prepared. Other than that, isolation is quite good, being that they are sealed and can be inserted quite deep in the ear canal.[/color]
 
 
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Sound - 7 out of 10[/color]
Inside these IEMs Sony put a side-firing 9mm dynamic driver and a T-shaped (go figure what that means) BA driver. Through a passive crossover these handle, respectively, the bass and the mids and highs. If you upgrade to the A2 or A3, you will get a dedicated second BA driver just for the highs. As a separate note, these BA drivers are manufactured in-house, which is quite peculiar considering most of the competition just used Knowles'.
On to the sound impressions:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Treble: the treble is quite clear and has good extension, although it rolls off a bit at the top. This is good for me since I tend to get a bit of listener's fatigue otherwise.[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Mids: the mids are full and clear, but sometimes, especially on female vocals, I feel they might have been better if dialed down just one small notch.[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Bass: the bass is way more controlled than you might expect from an IEM named "XB" (it stands for eXtra Bass), so that it does not subtract from the rest. It is quite tight and does not bleed into the mids.[/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)][/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Soundstage and separation: [/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]as expected for an IEM, the soundstage is not very big. Separation, on the other hand, is quite good (probably due to the dual driver setup) and it is quite easy to discern the various instruments and their position relative to each other.[/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Overall: [/color][color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]I am very satisfied with the very balanced sound signature (other than a slight emphasis on the bass and the rolled off treble, the sound is quite even), and I think in this price range (100-150 USD) it doesn't have much competition. The reason why I'm giving it only a 7 out of 10 is because of my relative inexperience.[/color]
 
 
 
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]Overall and Performance/Price ratio: 8/10[/color]
[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8)]I am very happy with this purchase, and I feel that the mix of solid build quality (it survived being chewed by a dog), in-line mic, nice accessories and balanced sound makes it a winner in this price range (around 150 USD, although you might find them for much less in some markets. I paid them 140 in China, but they have now dropped to around 100). My only issues with them are the cable noise and the fact that they can't be worn around the ear.[/color]

The xba in these earphones stands for balanced armature not extra bass 
 
May 19, 2015 at 9:12 PM Post #8 of 71

omastic

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Thanks for the review. I was very impressed with the XBA A1 personally and in my opinion it easily is the best value in the entire A series. A huge improvement over the H1.
 
May 19, 2015 at 10:09 PM Post #9 of 71

cuiter23

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  Thanks for the review. I was very impressed with the XBA A1 personally and in my opinion it easily is the best value in the entire A series. A huge improvement over the H1.

 
+1 oh yea I completely agree with you. IMO it dethrones the GR07 for the under $150 mark. 
 
May 19, 2015 at 10:20 PM Post #10 of 71

wahsmoh

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Has anyone here heard the cheaper Sony MDR-XB100ip or ap? I think they sound superb for a $20 IEM. I know they use the same 9MM driver but don't have the BA driver
 
May 19, 2015 at 11:14 PM Post #11 of 71

daydesiang

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This is one great IEM for the price..

Will simply get this instead of A3 for the price to performance ratio and personally I think not much different between them (and too much bass from A3) when jus use with phones
 
May 20, 2015 at 2:03 AM Post #14 of 71
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Great IEM!!
I tried them all side by side A1 A2 A3 Z5  and the A2 were good with hip hop and rock. Best price to performance in the whole shop.  My main compare was A2 to Z5 as I'm a basshead and the A2 gave me bass and clarity which with that setup and my tracks the A2 won out.
 
 

 
May 20, 2015 at 2:26 AM Post #15 of 71

daydesiang

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Great IEM!!
I tried them all side by side A1 A2 A3 Z5  and the A2 were good with hip hop and rock. Best price to performance in the whole shop.  My main compare was A2 to Z5 as I'm a basshead and the A2 gave me bass and clarity which with that setup and my tracks the A2 won out.
 
 
 

 
For basshead (loose bass), I strongly agree that A2 is the best choice among all.
 

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