Best Sony MDR-XB950N1 Headphone Cyber Monday 2020 Deals

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It’s about that bass, right? So we’ve heard, therefore has many a headphone manufacturer. From Beats to Skullcandy, the designers of the cans we put over our ears have grown to be obsessed with discovering that perfect bass-heavy sound. And, at least using its MDR-XB950N1 pair, Sony is no different.

Sony will please two camps using its headphone range – the real audiophile, and the beat-hunting bass fiend. The Sony MDR-XB950N1 is obviously looking to tempt that latter group, and in the event that you tell you the spec sheet the cans appear to be successful: For $250 (£230, about AU$335) you get active noise cancellation, 22 hour battery life and a comfortable over-ear design.

However, after having had the headphones booming into our ears for some weeks, we were left conflicted. As the bass tuning can be an interesting effort, the headphones certainly are a one trick pony that only really make a few specific genres shine.

Design


The Sony MDR-XB950N1 are large headphones with an over-ear design that helps isolate listeners from outside noise. The earcups and headband are padded in plush leather which will make them extremely comfortable to wear for extended periods. Styling is subtle however the headphones do look large and bulky.

In conditions of durability, the headphone is manufactured mostly of black plastic but have black metal adjustment sliders that produce them feel sturdier. Travelers will be pleased to understand that the MDR-XB950N1 can fold flat or up for transport and have a simple cloth pouch.

Although some headphone companies make an effort to minimize the quantity of buttons on the headphones, Sony crammed as much buttons and controls onto the headphone as possible.

On the left earcup you’ll find buttons for power, toggling the Bass Effect equalizer, a microUSB charging port, 3.5mm jack for wired use and a button to toggle active noise cancellation. On the proper earcup you have a slider and button combo for controlling music playback and a dedicated volume along rocker. Having so many buttons includes a downside, however: you’ll have to spend the first few days learning where each button is by touch.

Performance


If what you’re seeking is skull-rattling bass, the Sony MDR-XB950N1 perhaps you have covered. Even without the bass effect EQ fired up, the Sonys have a bass-heavy sound which makes hearing rap, electronic and trap music fun.

You’ll want to download Sony’s companion Android and iOS iphone app when you get these headphones as that’s the only method to modify the bass effect EQ and virtual soundstage options. If you don’t have an Android or iOS phone, you’re out of luck – sorry, Windows, Blackberry or Linux phone users.

Sony made the bass effect EQ super easy to use using its slider that goes from -10 to +10. Those that don’t want overbearing bass can change it down while those that want more can crank it way up. Additionally, there are options for virtual soundstage to create music appear to be it’s being played in a concert hall or stadium arena but do not require sound particularly good.

Hearing the Sony MDR-XB950N1 with the bass effect switched off, we’re able to immediately hear the mid-bass emphasis which has the unfortunate aftereffect of drowning out a few of the mids. Highs are rolled off and instruments just like the violin lose their sparkle and resolution. Turning down the bass contributed to revealing a lttle bit more of the mids however the rolled off highs stayed.

With the bass effect cranked completely up, we felt bass in a visceral way but was fatigued by the sound after several minutes. When the bass effect is defined to max, bass sounds energetic but uncontrolled and flabby, such as a stereo you’d hear at your neighborhood night time car meet that rattles everything within the vicinity.

Active noise cancellation from the MDR-XB950N1 performs well but nonetheless lags behind the class-leading Bose Quiet Comfort 35. The headphones did an excellent job drowning out the sound of the train nonetheless it couldn’t block out just as much as Bose. There’s also a persistent hiss when noise cancellation is active nevertheless, you won’t notice it when music plays.

After spending a week or two with the MDR-XB950N1, we were left conflicted. The headphones are excellent with specific genres of music but we couldn’t overcome the actual fact that the headphone was a one trick pony. Jazz, classical and rock sounded dull because of its rolled off highs and overly emphasized bass.

It didn’t help that the Sonys also lacked multipoint Bluetooth pairing which appears such as a glaring omission at the same time where we’ve more devices than ever before that may use wireless audio. The headphones also lack auto play/pause when removing the headphones, an attribute the cheaper Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 has. Your money can buy, the Plantronics are an improved value as it includes more features, longer battery life (a day vs Sony’s 22 hours), good noise cancellation and a sound signature that works together with all sorts of music.

Final verdict


If you really like bass, you’ll love the Sony MDR-XB950N1. The adjustable bass means you can dial in the headphone’s bass response just how you like. We’d have liked to visit a multi-band EQ but Sony kept it simple with simply a bass slider.

Your money can buy, Sony’s MDR-XB950N1 disappoints by omitting multipoint Bluetooth pairing and auto play/pause when removing the headphones. The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 offer more features and balanced sound for $50 less.

If Sony makes another bass-heavy headphone, we’d like additional features in addition to a solution to the problem of bass bleeding in to the mids and rolling off the highs. For at this time, however, the Sony MDR-XB950N1 certainly are a one trick pony that o

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