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on 13 January 2014
I have ordered my Sony XBA-4iP after a really deep research and I had a very high expectations.

When they arrived, at first I was very disappointed with the sound quality. It was very sharp, without any energy and the bass was barely there at all. And then I have read a very useful reviews, saying that these headphones need some 'warm-up'. And this is totally true. After roughly 10 hours, they started to sound better and better. The bass appeared and then became deep and vibrant. The bass/mid/treble levels stabilised. They sound absolutely astonishing!

They are worth every penny! Be patient, don't judge them right after you get them out of the box. Wait, give them some time to 'warm-up'.

All the above was true, as long as I kept them connected to my stereo system with the equaliser set-up properly. Today though, I connected them to my iPhone to listen to the music on my way to the office... they sounded awful :(

No bass, the treble so loud and sharp that they were painful to listen to. I tried all the available iPhone equaliser settings and nothing. The sound was terrible. I'm taking away two stars for what I've heard today. I'll give them a few more days to 'run-in' before I decide what to do.

Ok, I kept them playing non-stop for more than a week. They improved, but not drastically. They can sound very, very good, when equalised properly, but connect them directly to your iPhone or iPod and you may be disappointed.

It's obviously a matter of preference, but for me they lack bass and have too much treble. The high tones can be so intense, they are sometimes painful. I'd prefer 30% more bass and 15-20% less treble (but as I said it's my personal preference).

They are by no mean a bad headphones, the sound is incredibly clear and very detailed (which for me makes them sound a bit unnatural). I would say the kind of music matters here. I mostly listen to the electronic music and I don't think they are a good choice in this area. Rock sounds much, much better.

Here is a quick summary from me:

+ extremely well built
+ quite big in size, but very lightweight
+ very comfortable
+ brilliant isolation from the outside world
+ the remote works well with Apple devices
+ the sound quality can be very good, when properly corrected with the equaliser

- not enough bass (as for me)
- too much treble (as for me)
- need a proper 'run-in' (leave them playing 24/7 for a week or so)
- not good for all types of music

I hope that helps.
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on 17 May 2013
Normally, when you spend extra cash on premium earbuds, you get a "professional" Neutral-sounding tone, which you'll probably end-up EQ-ing before you've got the sound you want (extra bass perhaps, maybe sweeten-up the top end).

However, these buds are aimed at the consumer, and sound great, straight out of the box. Tight, deep bass, lots of detail, and a smooth top end.

I've owned Shure 535s, and Kiplsch X10s, plus one-or-two other higher-end 'buds, and these provide a far more pleasing tone.
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on 8 April 2014
I wasn't sure about this product when reading the description online. I have been spoilt with Bose sound in the car, a high-end separates system at home and THX sound on the telly. I needed some earphones as the Apple ones weren't cutting it, and having tried a friend's Bose in-ear headphones I was pleasantly surprised to actually logged into Amazon to buy those.

However before clicking away my cash I decided to do the sensible thing and check some magazine reviews and comparisons, each one of which put these headphones top. I was a little unsure about the Sony name, as I had previously had a set of cheap Sony in-ears which were great with low end bassy stuff but not so brilliant with anything else, but having read all the reviews on this page and those on the pages for the different versions of this product (i.e. the ones without the Mic and the ones for Android, etc.) I decided to take the plunge.

Like any other high-end audio equipment, they took a little while to break in. Don't get me wrong they were impressive out of the box, the separation on live guitar solos from live 60's recordings were out of this world, but they struggled a little with DnB or anything with lots of low end notes. Over time the same guitar solos have only got better and listening to DnB is like being beaten up, just as it should be. They cope with jazz and classical incredibly well, in fact Beethoven sounds better on these than the over-ears I usually listen to him on. However if you're thinking of buying these to listen to over-compressed MP3 files of commercial drivel, seriously don't bother as all these will do is highlight the compression of the track and the imperfections in production.

The only criticism is that there's only three sizes of earbuds. If I'm paying £250 for some in-ears they really should cater for more than three sizes of ear. That said, you can get a pack of lots of different sizes on eBay for 99p so it's no biggie, but that's not really the point.

Overall I'm not aware of any better in-ears on the market, and if you're an audiophile you won't be disappointed.
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on 22 November 2013
No doubt the sound is very good. The fit could be better - am using the large buds. Not sure if I can tell the difference with the sound-insulating ones - they are less squishy so can become uncomfortable over a period. I used these earphones for 35hrs each way long-haul from UK to Brisbane. Nice, open, neutral and detailed sound - could do with more bass which is surprising considering they have a sub-woofer. My last pair of Atomic Floyd Hi-Def Drums were great but one cable wire must have frayed inside control housing (gutted) and the only reason I found myself purchasing another pair - I did my extensive homework and these came out tops almost every time. They are NOT worth £320 as per Sony website but at about half-price I can justify these - great deal on here. They were bassy but heavy to wear in the ear - excellent feel, look and quality. The Sony's could do with a better looking design, a bigger pouch too as if you have the cable tidy AND the clothes clip it's a real squeeze to get them in the case. However as for sounds they are very good at dealing with all manner of music but make sure you feed them with high quality music signal or they will rip that music apart and make it sound awful. Extreme quality Spotify and the like comes through crystal clear and with very detailed nuances that help justify the earphones price - worth a go - again only at half the price of Sony's RRP.
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on 13 April 2014
These are a fabulous buy if you get them for under £200, but read to the end.
Having read all of the reviews, I was a bit nervous about getting them but all I can say no is that I don't understand some of the negative reviews. I have been using Klipsch x10's for that past couple of years so I have come from a very high standard.
I thought people were joking when they referred to breaking them in, but it is absolutely true - I tried them when new, then left them running for about 24 hours continuous and tried them again and there was a marked improvement.
The tonal quality is great with very little colouration or harmonic distortion. I particularly like the wide sound stage they produce - probably due to the number of internal units in each headphone.
Clearly some people either have the wrong shaped ears or they haven't had the correct earbuds fitted and so the lack of bass for them.
The final sting in the tale, the supplied earbuds are useless - I cannot recommend strongly enough that you spend £20 and get the comply tx-200 isolation PLUS tips. It was these that raised my review from a 4* good review to a 5* superb rating.
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on 6 April 2013
Many years ago Sony made the MDR-E484, legendary earphones - a few years later the MDR-E888 was born, using biocellulose drivers, again - impressive at the time... (to give you an idea, check what these go for on eBay!!)

Then they had a dry patch, MDR-EX70, EX71, EX700 - all 'okay' but not fantastic, then came the Sony MDREX1000 Monitor Headphones with Noise Isolation Earbuds...

Fantastic as the EX1000 are (as you can imagine from the cost on the link above!), the treble can be described as brittle, splashy or bright - the XBA-4 corrects what Sony (in my opinion) did wrong! - solid bass, rich mids, crisp, nicely extended treble and an insanely wide soundstage, for the first time in many years, these IEMs made me jump, the sound was so left field in this case, wasn't expecting it at all! - these are what Sony is all about, top quality items!

I will confess that I needed to have the Comply Tx-200 Isolation PLUS Earphone Tips With Wax Guard Medium Black 3 pairs eartips to get these to sound their best, but - what is another £20 investment when you're spending this much anyway??

Oh, and the specs on mine (made 11/2012) are different to those shown in the guide above, so - could be a revision...

XBA-4ip :
Type : Quad-balanced armature type sealed
Sensitivity : 102dB
Playback frequency band : 3-28,000 Hz
Impedance : 16Ohms
Maximum input : 100mW
Mass : About 8g
Open circuit voltage level: -42db (0db=1 V/Pa)

Anyway, if you're in the market for a balanced armature IEM, but cannot afford to go custom, give these a try, you may just find that it is worth having some faith in Sony after all!!
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on 30 January 2015
A little bit of context first.
What I use these with:
Cowon X7 160GB
Fiio E11 Amplifier
(I do sometimes use these with my PC which has a dedicated Asus Phoebus Solo sound card)

IEM's previously owned:
Sennheiser IE80
Shure SE215
Sony EX500
Phonak Audéo PFE112

With that out of the way, I like these IEM's a lot and they're probably the best I've owned on an 'overall spectrum' judgement factor. I found myself very disappointed in the Sennheiser IE80's so these were a great replacement, despite the imperfections that the Sonys have here and there.

I'm yet to find any music this doesn't do admirably however so I'll talk more about the sound signature, which is without a doubt distinctly Sony - arguably slightly on the clinical side with a V-shaped sound signature (prominent lows and highs, slightly recessed mids). If you want really articulate mids and less bass presence (aka if you're a strictly classical listener), I think you'd be better off looking into something else as these are far more suited to rock, pop, electronic, metal etc.

The highs are a slight contention point. There is plenty of sparkle but with poorer recordings this can sometimes lead to brash sibilance. Conversely, the highs sound excellent on good recordings and really add life to tracks you might have overlooked before. The mids sound detailed and weighty but lack a tiny bit of clarity, though this is rarely a problem as they are still very detailed. The bass is reasonable on a flat EQ, not obtrusive but weighty and deep without being out of control. Pump these up, however, and you're in for something thunderous. These guys can deliver a lot of bass - perhaps not as much as the IE80's could but if you need any more than that you're utterly missing the point of a headphone like this if you choose to muddy up the sound. Isolation is very good, too, if you use the tips that insert foam behind the silicone. Soundstage is decent overall.

These IEMs use a balanced armature driver, meaning that it has 4 separate drivers in each ear that all serve a different purpose instead of just one that does it all. Think of how speaker sets have a subwoofer, a woofer and a tweeter and that's essentially what these pack into a tiny housing. Does it work? Heck yeah. There is a lot of detail to unravel and if you focus on a track with well recorded drums it really comes to life. I've never heard an IEM that can render drums as spaciously as these can, and thanks to the balanced armature drivers there so much weight to each hit and each one sounds distinctly spacious and different to one another.

The XBA4's are a very good 'all rounder' at this price range - where it excels at very little, it performs in every category and has no clear weaknesses. The Phonaks had great mids but lacked bass, the Sennheisers had weight and bass but very brash highs etc. This has no 'excelling' factor past the power of the balanced armature but it performs in every situation admirably. I think they're a really good bet for anyone who isn't sold on any particular sound signature and wants something that performs in each area to a great standard at the price range.

It does, however, lose one star for these reasons (which you could consider niggles if you want, I still love these IEMs):
1. It insists on a good source otherwise it risks sounding brash, moreso than other IEMs in the price range. If you make an investment on these, make sure you've made an investment on whatever you'll be using them with or you'll be disappointed.
2. The mids certainly aren't -bad-, far from it - but I previously owned the Phonak Audéo PFE112's which had such amazing mids so these felt like a slight step down in this area.
3. Where the build quality is fine, and still looks as good as the day I bought it (nearly a year going strong!), they honestly don't feel like a £200 product when you hold them and sometimes I fear the cable won't stand the test of time. I hope I'm wrong.
4. The tips with the foam inside sound great, but the foam inside the tips comes apart after a few months of use and you can't seem to get these tips anywhere (let me know if you can, I'd love more!).

Thanks for reading, and I hope I helped.

edit: Oh, and since this was mentioned in other reviews I feel I should also mention it - yes, they sounded horrible out of the box and required a long burn-in. I never believed in burn-in until I tried these headphones. I kept music playing through them for about 100 hours, checking on them every 10 hours or so to see the difference and after the 7th or 8th time I checked was when I really started to fall in love with them and the difference was immense. Could it be brain burn-in? Perhaps, but if you're not pleased with them out of the box, really stick with them and you'll likely get a much better outcome.
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on 12 April 2013
they are a bit pricey.

but once you get over that initial shock the quality of the product is very good.

i was original going to by Dr Beats in ear but due to bad reviews i got these bad boys instead.

great iPhone control , on off, next song , start same song again , volume up and down

handy clip and case included.

if you have got the cash and want to treat your senses ........ you will not go far wrong with these !

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on 17 May 2013
I don't normally spend this kind of cash on headphones. My last set were more like £90 and were very fine sounding Sennheisers. Sadly they lacked a bit of bass attack and also in terms of robustness. I used them a lot at work and was very happy until some fraying then ultimately a driver failed. Anyway, I got some birthday cash and decided it was time to get some serious 'phones. Read loads of reviews and no one had much bad to say at all, but there were loads of fantastic reviews.

I'm so pleased with them, the soundstage is enormous, the detail is fantastic, they're nice and neutral so I can listen to a bit of Dizzee one minute, flip to some classical, then to some Foo Fighters - they simply don't miss a beat. The big difference for me over my previous 'phones is the detail on things like cymbals and drums. Now I can hear when the drummer is thinking of using the kick or if a brush lingers a little longer, guitars are crisp and vocals are strong but never shouty. So tight, no flab. Simply sensational. If you have the cash, do it, you won't regret it. If you're unsure, try and demo some somewhere with your favourite tracks and hear bits youve never heard before. Be warned, you will have to buy them!

There's also a multitude of buds to try for the "non-standard" ear owner. Get it right and all but the loudest external noise is practically eliminated. Perfect if you're trying to concentrate in a busy office. They make my iPhone really sing.
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on 3 March 2014
Bought these as my current in ears are on the way out and needed a new pair to take on holiday, in case the others gave up the ghost whilst away.

Tried these out and I think they are really superb for what I listen to. These days it's mainly acoustic music or audiobooks and these earphones do a superb job. I listened to some rock and African and Latin music whilst away too and they coped with those genres well. The bass is good (Don't understand others saying it isn't) but you do have to get the earphones in well and no air gaps or, as all in ears, they don't do the job well.

They are quite big, so tend to fall out easily when moving about, even when a tight fit. Not a major problem, just need to have hands free to fiddle them back in.

I now no longer use my other ones as the sound on these is SO much better.

If you want good sound, and don't want to walk around looking like a cyberman, which seems to be the trend these days, then I recommend these.
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