Sony does make some interesting audio products that stand up among all others because of how sophisticated they are. By appearance as well they look quite unique and they work very differently as compared to most other earphones on the market. Be warned that these not really the casual listening type earphones that you can just plug them in your ears and go around. It is like a ritual to wear these earphones and take in the wonderful experience listening to music with them. If these are not for you, the Focal Spark review showcases a pair of earphones that are more stylish.
Build Quality and Comfort
The earphones are quite big because of Sony wanted to put a lot of “meat” inside a tiny space, deal with it. The buds do not follow the average design and looks. Each ear bud consists of a curved rectangular cavity which contains all the hybrid drivers to produce amazing sound. The drivers themselves are not very large, but having 3 differently shaped drivers in each bud makes it a ‘little’ bigger than average. It is challenging to fit everything inside a tiny space and achieve superb quality sound at the same time without ending up like the car built for Homer.
Everything on the XBA-H3 is made from hard plastic which I doubt would break so easily. Even if the earphones are bigger than average, they are quite light in weight. I think that the entire plastic body helps the earphones to be light in weight. The magnesium alloy builds are slightly heavier but feel more solid and have a premium feel. I would have loved if Sony used magnesium construction for the earphones. Their EX1000 earphones, which also happen to be one of the best sounding earphones on the market come with metallic construction that adds in to the premium feel. The EX1000 are also slightly bigger in size, or rather bulgy in the place where drivers are located.
Both the ear pieces are connected with flat, anti-tangling cables that are coloured red on one side and black on the other. The cables are detachable from the ear pieces. You can also buy your own cable if you like and plug it in your ear pieces, but be warned Sony uses its custom connectors on the ear pieces. The reason for having custom connector might be that you cannot have a large 3.5mm or 2.5mm jack sitting there, it would just make things bigger. Therefore, a tinier custom jack has been used. One good thing with the connector is that it locks in one place and does not rotate inside the female jack on the ear pieces. This greatly helps to keep the cable working for a long time. Rotating jacks often result in dodgy connections after a few weeks of usage.
The ear pieces have long ear guides that feel like they can take a beating. In order to wear these earphones, you will definitely need the ear guides, without them the pieces would just fall off because of the weight. Whenever you want to wear these, you cannot just plug them in and go. It is almost, always necessary to adjust the ear guides to achieve maximum comfort.
Sony also makes sure to give you a pouch to store your cables and the ear pieces together. The carry case has two compartments inside, one has Velcro cable management and the other can be used to store your ear pieces. The case itself is black in colour has has a hard shell which can be zipped close.
Additionally, you get a few ear tips with foam filling for extra comfort, better isolation and good sound.
The XBA-H3 earphones are the bassy type. The sound is reproduced with three separate drivers that operate in different frequency bands across the audible spectrum. The reason for going so hardcore is the fact that one single driver cannot have a perfectly flat response throughout the spectrum. Hence, by using separate drivers operating in distinct bands will give a combined response that will be nearly flat.
The overall combined response ranges from 3Hz to 40kHz. That is an exceedingly large band for audio! Since, the bass itself starts at 3Hz, we are going to be able to hear punchy and tight bass on our favourite music. XBA-H3 bass driver has some sort of boosting at bass frequencies which make the bass sound even more tighter and punchier. Whenever you play a bass-heavy song, you will feel your ear thumping with the beats. Even if the driver is bass boosted, the boosting is not excessive and on the whole it feels quite well balanced. Since, there are no vents on this design, you can actually feel the thumping in your ears, as if you are wearing micro sub-woofers.
The bass boosting seems to die out at around 2 to 3kHz and that is when the flatness of the drivers start. It also happens that the mids are somewhere around this region, so lower end of the mids do get affected because of the bass boosting. Nevertheless, the mids are still pretty clear and sharp, but some vocals do get distorted because of the bass boost. This distortion happens very rarely on select few songs, and it is not even that bothering. Although, an audiophile worried about every detail can easily spot them and bash the earphones for that reason. So here is a warning for all those audiophiles, this set of earphones does not have natural response, so stay away.
You will feel that awesome depth in the music on the lower mids and it is something that I enjoy the most. For me, it is like a mix of vibrant colours with some amount of black. The mids continue to be smooth as we move up the frequency. There is distinct warmth in the sound coming from these tips and it feels great.
The highs are little rough in the beginning, but tend to get smoother after the 14kHz mark. We can as well see that roughness in the overall frequency response of the drivers. The roughness arises because of the different drivers operating in different regions of the frequency band. It is at this point when the bass driver and the armature mid frequency driver have their roll off, while the tweeter just starts its full operation at this point.
Since, the ear piece has 3 distinct drivers, each one performs differently. The mids driver and the bass driver operate nearly at the same frequency range, but both have a different speed of response. The bass responses a little slower to the input signal, whereas the mid bass armature coil based driver responses instantly because of its small size. Due to this variation in response times, some details in the audio get cancelled. This is why some details of the instruments are lost. Such a thing is easily noticeable when there is a lot going in the music, but otherwise it should be very much fine.
The overall driver impedance is rated to be 40 Ohms at 1kHz and come with a very high sensitivity of 107 dB/mW. That translates to having pretty high volume levels with these earphones, but in order to operate them at full capacity it is only possible with a proper amplifier. Nonetheless, you can achieve sufficiently higher volumes without an amplifier as it is. Anything higher will lead to deafness for sure.
The included ear tips are meant to offer better isolation, but that does not seem to be the case. When you are outside, you will easily find that the isolation is not up to the par.
Sony has made one outstanding pair of earphones that perform very well for the price they are available at. These bass heavy headphones can impress almost anyone with one negative point being that the ear pieces are big and distracting. If you have the money, if you can deal with minor imperfections in audio, go for it.
Closed Type Yes
Driver Unit HD Hybrid 3-way – 16 mm dynamic + 2x Balanced Armature
Frequency Response (Hz) 3–40,000Hz
Sensitivities (dB/mW) 107 dB/mW
Impedance (Ohm) 40 Ω (at 1kHz)
Cord Type OFC Litz cord, Y-type
Cord Length 1.2 m
Plug Gold-plated L-shaped stereo mini
Amazing pair of hybrid earphones that deliver excellent audio performance and feel very comfortable once you wear them properly.