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Sony MDR XB920 review: Headphones with booming bass

Sony MDR XB920 review: Headphones with booming bass
Read this review to know where Sony’s new MDR XB920 headphones excel and fall flat…
It is impossible to find a pair of headphones that are “perfect.” There are too many variables. First there is the sound quality, a very difficult element to quantify. Everyone has a different set of ears and a different sense of what is good sound.
Then, there is the question of what kind of music you like. Some headphones that excel at hip-hop are likely to sound flat and boring when used for listening classical music.
Once you have an idea of sound quality and you know what kind of music you like, you will have to factor in the comfort, noise cancellation, build quality, impedance and sensitivity before you can pick a pair of headphones. This is bare minimum. There can be other factors as well.
This is all very complex, even for geeks. This is also the reason why veteran audiophiles say that there are no perfect headphones. At best what you can get is a pair of headphones that is good at the stuff that matters to you. Sony MDR XB920 is one such pair of headphones, in general good at one thing. Read on to know where XB920 excels and where it falls flat..
Build quality and comfort XB920 comes in two colours – black and red. Both look nice but red is funkier. We reviewed the red unit.
Unlike the drab design of most headphones, XB920 looks and feels every bit a product made by Sony, a company that has a habit of setting new design standards in the electronics industry.
XB920 has a personality.
It is made using metal and plastic. The headphone units are made of plastic with faux aluminum finish. These are closed headphones. This means the covers on the left and right units don’t have any holes or opening. This has its advantages as well as disadvantages but that is a topic for some other article. The covers on the headphone units are made of metal, which has a shiny steel finish. The earcups, which are very fluffy, are covered with faux leather and soft cloth.
The headband is made of metal. On the sides, it is covered with plastic while in the centre, the area that rests on the head, it is wrapped in soft leather. The headband can be adjusted and the headphone units have a swivel mechanism to make them more comfortable.
The build quality and finishing of XB920 is very good. They feel durable. The cord is removable and is flat, which is more durable. Sony also bundles an extra cord with the headphones, which has a microphone and volume control.
The unique design touches make XB920 stylish and good-looking headphones. If you are wearing it in your office, it will definitely draw attention.
In terms of comfort, it is a mixed bag. The headphones are very light and the headband feels great. It is neither loose nor clamps down on the head. You can wear XB920 for hours without getting bothered by the weight of the cans or force of the headband. The quality of passive noise cancellation is also good. While using XB920 we did not hear ambient noises.
Unfortunately, Sony missed a beat with the earpads. They feel soft and great against ears but only for 15-odd minutes. If you are using XB920 in a moderately warm room, read around 25 to 30 degrees ambient temperature, you will start sweating under your ears soon. And unlike velour pads used on some headphones, the leather pads on XB920 don’t absorb sweat.
The size and design of earpads is also an issue, especially for people who may have large ears. The pads don’t engulf the ears. Instead they sit over the ears. If you tend to use headphones for hours at a stretch, you may find this uncomfortable.
Sound and performance The XB in the name of the headphones stands for eXtra Bass. These are the headphones designed to go boom boom! And they excel at their job. But XB920 takes its time before it starts showing what it can do. In our use, on the first and second day it sounded flat with rather muddied up bass, which felt closer to growling instead of booming.
But after a while it picked up the pace and bass became tighter. The headphone units in XB920 can pick the low frequencies very well. For example Dark Knight Rises soundtrack feels totally epic on XB920! Similarly, pair these headphones with the Gangnam boom boom Style and you will find yourself tapping your foot and bobbing your head.
If you are a fan of hip hop and trance (funky electronic beats), XB920 will be great companion for you.
The good thing about XB920 is that even though it is meant for people who love the extra bass in their music, Sony has not completely ignored the mids and highs. Unlike many other bass-heavy headphones, XB920 don’t sound too muddy. These headphones may not have the expansive soundstage of open headphones, which can produce every little beat and tone clearly, but they handle pop, vocals and Bollywood music with grace.
XB920 also works very well with soundtracks in newer movies and video games.
But rock music is where XB920 falls flat. With Rolling Stones and Queen, for example, XB920 sounds uninspiring and utterly boring. Unlike many other high-end headphones, it is easy to drive XB920. If you use a headphone AMP, you will definitely get better performance from XB920 but even if you are going to pair it with a laptop, PC, or smartphone, you will find it incredibly loud and clear
Should you buy it? The answer to this question depends on how much you value booming, and yet tight, bass in your music. If you are someone who listens primarily to hip-hop and trans and loves the thumping that ears get when bass hits them, XB920 is for you.
But then the price is an issue. XB920 has an MRP of Rs 12,990. This is too high. Yes, XB920 looks really great, has a durable and tasteful build quality, and will sound fantastic to anyone who likes bass-heavy stuff. But its price makes it poor value for money. In fact, if you don’t care much for the looks, Sony MDR XB900 offers similar bass-heavy performance at a much cheaper price.
Pros: Great design, good build quality, funky looks, lots of booming bass, excel at hip-hop, electronics and pop music, work well with smartphones
Cons: Pricey, can’t handle
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