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Customer Review

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Open and neutral sound provided you fit them correctly, 1 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Sony XBA2 Premium Quality In-Ear Headphones (Electronics)
I will compare these to the other IEM's I own (Sennheiser IE6 - which are Dynamic Drivers not Balanced Armatures like these). To summarise, I will then score them on a scale of -5 through 0 to +5 (with -5 being "an absence of...", 0 being "neither too much nor too little" and +5 being "lots and lots of....")

Accessories & Fitment:
Firstly, in order to get the best out of these earphones, you really need to experiment with correct fitment. Simply sticking them in your lugholes and hoping for the best won't work. If you do that, you'll probably end up with no bass, poor sound leakage, imaging and treble.
These come with lots of different sizes of silicon tips to help you size correctly for your ears so all you need is time and patience in order to fit them correctly.
First thing I did, however, was to pack those away and get out my comply foam eartips (never leave home without them) and use them instead (so my review is done with those inserted).
You also get a nice smart "semi-hardened" case to keep them in.
However, the accessories I got with the IE6's was far better, including double flange tips and a metal case to keep them in plus a cleaning tool (remember, the IE6 retailed at around £140 rrp but the XBA2 is £40 more at an rrp of £180 so I was a bit disappointed with what was included for a "nearly £200" set of IEM's to be honest).

Fit 'n' Finish:
I think these look lovely, definitely better than the IE6's which appear cheap and plasticky in comparison.
You're meant to be able to wear these either looped over the ear or dangling down classic style. However, unlike the IE6's these have an asymetrical y-cord so I found a better fit to be straight down with the right wire looped around your neck.

The cord itself is oval in cross section and meant to be one of those "tangle free" jobbies but overall it feels flimsier than the more robust IE6 cord.

Overall I'd give the metallic finish of these a big thumbs up - they look understated but classy as hell

BA vs DD?
These contain a single full range Balanced Armature driver along with an extra bass driver for added depth.
Otherwise the frequency response should be fairly flat across the board up to about 10kHz
The IE6 Dynamic Driver OTOH is a single full-range diaphragm.

Treble:
Sound is remarkable open and "clean" sounding. Definitely not recessed and not lacking either. However, if driven loud and hard with, say, dance or drum'n'bass, I detected a bit of splashiness thrown in. This was only "cured" by turning the volume down a tad.
After a lot of experimenting, I figured out that it was merely my source music...320kbps MP3. Switching to 192kbps AAC only showed a slight improvement.
Switching to FLAC showed a MASSIVE improvement. Everything smoothed out and sounded much better.
Basically, it appears these IEM's will reveal any discrepancies in the source - bad compression in, nasty sound out. If you want to listen to the majority of iTunes downloaded music I'd probably give these a miss. Anything converted at a significantly higher bitrate sounds MUCH better.
The IE6's treble in comparison tend to sound a little dark so I would give the XBA2=0 (nice and smooth) and the IE6=-1 (slightly veiled)

Midrange:
Nice clear vocals but I think the IE6's have more weight to the midrange than these do, again at the expense of making voices sound a little more veiled than the Sony's.
XBA2=0 (fairly neutral as shown in freq plots), IE6=-0.5 (slightly veiled but better depth to voices)

Bass:
If you listen to these after immediately having tried the IE6's, they sound thin and anaemic....but after a few minutes, you really can hear nice deep bass.
It appears missing at first because it's not at all flabby and bloated and doesn't overwhelm the other frequencies. Nice and tight (to coin a phrase) is what these are.
So for instance, listening to Dubstep on the IE6's you get an abundance of head-shaking bass in comparison but on those (IE6) it can tend to overwhelm the mids and the treble which then gets recessed (see above).
The bass on these OTOH is fast and tuneful and DOESN'T overwhelm the upper frequencies, it's there and you can feel it, although it's not as abundant as what you get with the IE6's.
XBA2=0 (neither emphasised like many IEM's nor absent - "the neutral amount"), IE6=+4 (this is where dynamic drivers shine and the Senny's are typically good here).

If you really want to hear what the XBA2's can do at their best, try the "Light Up (The World) (Benny Page Extended Edit)" track by Yasmin - nice and deep "enough" and FAST (provided they're fitted correctly).

Overall:
Would I get these again? Well, at the price I paid (about £100), I think they're good headphones and I agree with other reviews that have commented on their neutrality and open sound. Having said that, they'll ruthlessly reveal poorly compressed source music and I found listening to the actual CD or a lossless digital version really improved things so YMMV.
I also think they're stereotypical Balanced Armatures that sound clearer with good imaging at the sacrifice of less bass impact than Dynamic Drivers.
If you like deep bass, go for dynamic drivers from the likes of Sennheiser...
If you like an open and more neutral sound with smooth highs then you'll like BA's, I think these are a decent entry level pair to buy...

...overall for around the current £100ish price, I'd give them 4.5/5 (aka 9/10) for their neutrality and excellent build quality (can't give half a star here so I rounded up to 5 as I was feeling generous ;-).
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