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Sony's New 2014 flagship IEM - XBA Z5

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  1. djvkool
    Are you planning to get one mate? let me know if you do, I'll can come over your place and have a listen...[​IMG]
     
  2. lomenhk

    Yes, the amount of bass is crazy, but it would be more accurate if you would have a chance to listen with your own setup, as result would vary with different setup/source.
     
  3. Kunlun

    This is very helpful. I hope people understand that this means the sony xba-z5 has LESS bass than the the IE8.
     
  4. nehcrow
    Oh it does? My bad
    Usually higher = more bass
     
  5. Kunlun

    You'll feel a little silly when you figure it out.

    I can help if it still doesn't make sense.
     
    Spadge likes this.
  6. lomenhk
    Photo captured from a local IT magazine:
     
    XBA-Z5withA15.jpg
     
  7. TheBoss
    Any current & former Ultimate Ears Triple fi 10 owners here?

    How does the bass compare to Ultimate Ears Triple fi 10? Is Z5 gonna be as tight and clean hitting as Z5?
     
  8. nehcrow
    Got it! Didn't know what CB meant until now, lol
     
  9. jant71
    Of course your new Z5 won't sound it's best unless it's balanced...
    http://www.sony-asia.com/product/muc-m20bl1
     
    or at least star quad upgraded...http://www.sony-asia.com/product/muc-m12sm1
     
  10. Kunlun
    The z5 already comes with "Silver-coated OFC Litz Wire", but the balanced cable will be nice with balanced amps like the new sony pha-3.
     
  11. BlinkST
    What's the difference between balanced and a regular 3.5mm jack?
     
  12. warrior1975
    independent ground wires for l & r channels. Supposed to decrease noise and from what I've heard I think is makes the volume a little higher than single ended inputs. IME of course.
     
  13. thatonenoob
    DISCLAIMER: I am neither an employee nor an affiliate of Sony.  All photos are taken and owned by me. 
     
    SONY'S FEEL THE AIR EVENT (XBA-Z5):
     
    image001.jpg
    A nifty invitation I got from Sony to attend Feel The Air!
     
     
    _D703410.jpg
    Holding the new XBA-Z5.  A powerful pocket rocket!
     
    INTRODUCTION (skip if you have already read my MDR-Z7 impressions):
     
    Last week, I was invited to attend Sony’s Feel The Air high-resolution audio event here in Singapore.  Before I go any further, I would like to offer a big thank you to Sony for giving me this opportunity to meet with many members of the Sony team, and allowing me to test the latest gear in Sony's audio lineup.  Here are my thoughts specifically regarding the XBA-Z5, Sony's new flagship IEM that I got to test drive at the event.
     
    LINK TO MDR-Z7 IMPRESSIONS HERE.

     
    GENERAL BACKGROUND (intended for those just jumping into the thread):
     
    The XBA-Z5 is the natural successor to the XBA-H3 hybrid flagship IEM.  Drawing on the same design philosophy that guided the previous generation of Sony hybrids, the XBA-Z5 represents the next step in the refinement of a line of highly innovative products.  Powered by a 16mm dynamic driver and 2 balanced armature drivers, the XBA-Z5 uses some of the MDR-Z7's technologies to achieve a sense of spacious sound.  For example, the aluminum-coated liquid crystal polymer diaphragm found on the massive 70mm drivers of the MDR-Z7 can also be found on the XBA-Z5.  While using the Z5's, one should expect to feel space in the sound signature, as this is a key theme in the latest lineup of Sony High-Res audio products.
     
    Currently, the XBA-Z5 is priced at 700 USD.  This is a competitive segment in the IEM market, where many products start getting really good.
     
    DESIGN PHILOSOPHY:
     
    SCROLL TO THE DESIGN PHILOSOPHY SECTION HERE.
     
    IMPRESSIONS:
     

    DISCLAIMER 2: These are impressions, and do not account for a comprehensive "review".  In addition, please take note of the fact that these impressions were taken in a live setting. As these are my personal impressions, they are not meant to discount or definitively prove anything.

     

    _D703406.jpg
    The display booth where the XBA-Z5 and (missing in this photo) MDR-Z7 were.
     
    Starting with the build quality (as always), the XBA-Z5 does pretty well.  The housing is made out of metal, specifically magnesium.  While it does look very nice, I wish the Z5's were a bit heavier, as they don't quite have the heft that one would traditionally associate with something made of magnesium (see Nikon's cameras...lead bricks tied to your neck).  As lomenhk said previously, the Z5's are not quite as detailed (design-wise) as the H3's.   Minimalists will praise the subtle design features on the Z5's, while those looking for a little bit more flair in a pair of flagship IEMs may be slightly disappointed.  
     
    During the review, I tested out the Z5's with the default Y-type cable (not balanced connection).  I'm not going to go into cable performance and how that affects sound quality (don't want to open the gates to hell [​IMG]), so I'll stick to purely fit and build quality based observations.   First, the memory portion of the cable is very comfortable.  In stark contrast to the rigid Audio Technica IM-series cables, the Z5's cables rarely remind you of their existence.  However, I do have to say that getting them on is a bit tricky, and I wish they had just a little more "memory" as that would greatly simplify the procedure of getting the Z5's on.
     
    _D703421.jpg The jack could have used some reinforcement/ stress relief.
     
    My main complaint with the included regular cable is the jack.  Quite simply, the Z5's cable should have a better jack than this. I'm not saying we need to bulletproof the cable like Shure did on all their models from the SE215s onwards, but this jack almost looks like an after thought.  Better stress relief and reinforcement should have been present.  Now, in the accessories section, a much better MUC-M12SM1 replacement cable is being sold.  However, I can't help but to feel that this should have come standard on the Z5!  

     
    Moving on to the sound quality, I was quite impressed by the tight and punchy bass. The bass hits where it needs to without overreaching to the point where it becomes a nuisance.  It adds a solid grounding to the sound without compromising the sense of spaciousness significantly.  The trebles were clear, and as with the MDR-Z7's, helped to provide the extra sparkle needed to expand the soundstage significantly.  However, this does not mean that the XBA-Z5 is a pair of bright IEMs (they aren't).  The mids have a good presence in the overall sound, and are not recessed.  However, I do think that they have been dialed back a slight bit due to the fact that having a forward mid section would probably have reduced the spacious sound that Sony engineers were going for. 
     
    Overall clarity was good.  As was the case with the MDR-Z7, the Z5 has a very comfortable sound that doesn't require much effort to enjoy.  It is slightly warmer, but that warmth goes to creating an overall richness that made for very pleasant listening.  I really enjoyed the sound signature on the Z5's, and I can easily see this as something that could sustain hours of smooth, easy, hi-fi listening.
     
    MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS:
     
    _D703416.jpg
    I liked the PCM-D100. Not subtle nor elegant.  But heck...it feels right with the Z5's.
     
    Thanks for sticking with me through this article!  Your support is truly a motivating factor behind my writing reviews on Head-Fi.  Once review units become available, I will get a pair to test for a longer period of time, and will post a comprehensive review on the XBA-Z5's then.
     
    Best Regards,
    Thatonenoob
     
  14. vlenbo
    Nice impressions thatoneoob. Still conflicted about the rice though....
     
  15. Kunlun
    Thanks, thatonenoob. Much appreciated. I'm glad to hear the magnesium earpieces are light, they should be very durable.

    Can you say more about the clarity of the z5? I know it's hard to talk about detail when listening in a noisy room. Was the isolation sufficient to block out the envirommental noise?

    Also, how did male and female voices sound? How was the timbre, did instruments sound true to life?
     
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