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Sony XBA-N3AP and XBA-N1AP — Impressions thread

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  1. WhatToChoose
    After using/evaluating the N3APs for about 5-8 hours per day for the past couple weeks, I am beyond impressed by their tonality and musical presentation (with the metal eartip mod and silver cables). I think I mentioned this above as well, but after listening to these at moderately high volume, I experience no post-listening session ringing in my ears, which is a great sign.

    Interestingly enough, I was highly skeptical about cables being able to change sound perception (I have studied RF engineering, and the frequencies at which cable capacitance/inductance/resistance begin to cause cutoff are at much higher frequencies than audio frequencies. Nonetheless, I didn't want to be a book-donkey who thinks something doesn't exist simply because it cannot be measured with current technology).

    I got the silver cables purely out of experimental curiousity, and was completely ready to stuff them in a drawer if I didn't notice any change. Well, low and behold, even with a skeptical mind during the listening, the midbass cloud actually was removed. Multiple 5-8 hour listening sessions with a skeptical mind and no post-session fatigue confirmed this...impressive stuff.

    The N3AP presentation is quite interesting, because it combines a grand soundstage with rich notes. Typically IEMs I have listened to have a small soundstage with rich notes, or large soundstage with thin notes. My ER4XRs have a wide and flat soundstage with thin notes, but with that comes excellent detail, and a moderately enjoyable experience (As well as very fast tight bass...musicality and timbre could be better). The N3APs have rich notes, 3D soundstage, less detail than the ER4XRs (about 90-95% of the ER4XR's), but a much richer and musical experience (although slower bass on fast and detailed metal tracks, such as those by Stratovarius.).

    Everything has room for improvement though. If I could, I would improve the N3APs in a few ways:

    1) Bass: Some other reviewer described the N3AP bass as subterranean....that about sums it up. Clear but cavernous. This kind of goes for all IEMs, but I would love to encounter an IEM with the speed of an electrostatic transducer, but the timbre of a wooden diaphragm. That would be equivalent to discovering ice cream cake that also is as healthy as a plate of vegetables. It is an unfortunate tradeoff that I consistently see in all IEM reviews, at any price level: timbre for speed. The N3APs have about a 60/40 timbre/speed split (timbre 9.2/10, speed 8/10). ER4XRs have about a 20/80 timbre/speed split (timbre 6.5/10, speed 9.8/10). I want a 50/50 timbre/speed split, with 10/10 for both.

    2) Mids: Regarding the mids (female voices to be exact): the N3APs present female vocals as a warm scarf surrounding your head, and they sound beautiful. Smooth, 3D, but not as intimate as I would like. As I said, everything has room for improvement. I would love an IEM that could retain fast and rich bass, with ascendant highs, but also be able to simulate a womans whispering in your ear when the track calls for it. Like, you can literally feel her lips tickling your concha type of intimate.

    3) Highs: These do highs so well, I would probably have to listen to flagship IEMs to understand how to improve the highs. These N3APs are essentially impossible to get to be sibilant. Try any track you want. The highs are like drinking purified, filtered, distilled water.

    I purposely waited a little over a month to give impressions, to avoid any potential hype clouding judgment. Hopefully this analysis and impressions help everyone out there looking for information for personal and comparison purposes. I know I enjoy reading about headphone impressions of IEMs I have, because it helps form a picture of IEMs that people compare it to.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
  2. udesign48
    I agree N3AP sounds as good as HD650, HD6XX.
    It has a very wide sound stage and incredible details. I'm surprised these small IEMs can sound this good!

    I'm curious which IEMs can sound better than N3AP?
    I have MEE Audio P1. MEE Audio P1 has a unique sound signature... but it's not as detailed and analytical as N3AP.
    1More Quad is much behind P1.
    Sennheiser IE60 is even worse than 1More Quad.. I don't think IE60 is a pro IEM.
    Both Audio Technica LS50, E40 are worse than P1.

    I'll be getting XBA A2 and A3. and i know Z5 is better than both.

    Have you guys compared iSine 10, 20 to N3AP? or Yamaha EPH 200?
    Are there any other IEM that is significantly better than N3AP?
    WhatToChoose likes this.
  3. cfc7
    It depends...what do you mean by 'better'? What exactly would you like to improve on N3?
  4. obsidyen
    Alan Walker's Lost Control sounds so good with N3s... It's like Berghain's speaker system inside my ears.

    Ps: Berghain is a club in Berlin with the best sounding speaker system I have heard.
  5. udesign48
    I'm just curious about the ones I haven't heard... like iSine 10, iSine 20, Xelento, etc.
    Which ones have wider sound stage and more details than N3?

    I had HD800... and so far nothing beats HD800. It has the most 3D sound I've heard.

    I'm surprised N3 can sound close to SRH1840, HD650.
    Lohb likes this.
  6. Lohb
    N3 sounds a bit similar to LCD2-CB (closed back) and I read iSine 20 was similar to LCD2-C if I remember.
  7. udesign48
    Interesting... and I want to know how N3 will compare with Yamaha's new EPH 200.
    Some people said EPH 200 sounds like IE800.
  8. Lohb
    Actuallly iSine was closer to 2F if I remember. I just never 'got' the open design for iSine IEMs out-and-about....blend of street white noise and music...!?
    monsieurfromag3 and WhatToChoose like this.
  9. cfc7
    I haven't heard any of the iSine, I was curious about some Skullcandy smokin buds 2 which seems to have an almost identically signature as the Xelento but I didn't like those mids.
    IE800 is said to be an upgrade from N3 but I still prefer the N3.
    Instead, I like the new IE800s more than the originaI but while the midbass, midrange and resolution are better than N3 and it is more balanced, it lacks dynamics and could be quite boring compared to N3 which has a better value for the money for me.
    mredmond likes this.
  10. kova4a
    Honestly, I can't think of anything that is a straight upgrade. The sony xba z5 is not an upgrade to it but rather a bassier sidegrade. The ie800 is also in no way an upgrade to the n3. The ie800s is a bit better but the price difference is not justified - maybe if the ie800s was $400. The same goes for the shure se846.

    Personally, I wouldn't call the n3 analytical or super detailed but it is hard to find something that is such a jack of all trades with so little to fault at an even remotely close price point. Yeah, it could have had a bit tighter and snappier low end. Yeah, it could have had a bit crisper note edges, but overall it's not lacking much.

    "Better" is quite a subjective notion. there are iems with better low end than the n3, there are iems that sound more detailed and crisper, there are iems that sound more spacious, but they'll be lacking in other departments unless you go all out and by a $1000+ flagship but then the diminishing returns will be hitting super hard.

    Maybe Sony will release a new xba flagship this fall but who knows. Also with their most recent pricing history of the ier series they might go overboard with the MSRP of such potential new model. The n3 seems to be the most reasonably priced performer they've had in quite a while, especially with the random sales popping every now and then with prices close to $200. I'm waiting to see what sennheiser has done with the new ie400 and ie500 as they are way better priced and one can appreciate them going for a more ergonomic design. And maybe the fearless s8pro which seems to measure quite well, if one is to believe the manufacturer's graphs.
  11. Nostoi
  12. udesign48
    I see some used SE846 are now selling for $450.. maybe I'll check that out later. I think $749+ is too pricey.

    and I'm interested in IE400 and IE500. I don't understand their pricing... IE400 is $439, IE500 is $749 but they look identical.

    For $700, you can buy used IE800s...
  13. Vladimir_F1
    Hi all :)

    I'm using them for two years already. Happy with the purchase.

    However! Maybe someone can help me to find interchangeable cable that has iOS remote and it will fit N3AP?
  14. udesign48
    I got XBA A3. It has wider sound stage... yes. However it has more artificial bass and drums. Bass and drums are overly pronounced in XBA A3. It reminds me of home theater speaker sound.
    XBA A3 is enjoyable but N3AP is closer to reference.
    WhatToChoose likes this.
  15. udesign48
    So, here's my verdict:

    XBA N3AP still sounds superior to XBA A3 and A2.

    XBA A3 has wider sound, very boomy kick and bass. Obviously they intend to exaggerate kick and bass using internal EQ. Some pop music fans may like this but this is far from reference sound. A3 sound signature reminds me of 1More Quad.. A3 is still better than 1More Quad though. If Sony XBA Z5 sounds like A3, I think Z5 will be total waste of money.

    XBA A2 sounds slightly close to N3AP but it lacks details... and sound somewhat fake.

    N3AP is closer to HD6XX. N3AP sounds neutral and detailed.
    I think I'll stop buying IEMs at this point. Maybe I'll wait for Sony N5AP.

    I made this comparison using Sony's dual 3.5mm balanced cable and Pono player.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2019
    WhatToChoose and monsieurfromag3 like this.
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