Released alongside its brother MDR-XB920, Sony’s MDR-XB610 of the Extra Bass range is one of the latest additions to the crowded headphones market. Big and shiny, it’s 98% identical to MDR-XB920 but cost slightly less. How it fares will be discussed in this review.
Design and Comfort
Compared to its brother, the Sony MDR-XB610 has a less futuristic look. The hinges connecting the ear cups to the headband have no cutouts on the handles, making the headphone appear more sleek and streamlined. At 225 g, it is also lighter than the said brother. Although available only in orange and off-white, the colors really do stand out when set against the sheen of the silver. The beautifully-constructed ear cups are padded with urethane foam, a material that is unmatched in terms of comfort. It’s soft yet firm, giving way to the contour of your ears when slipped on.
However, the synthetic leather that the foam is covered with presents a less than stellar performance in keeping your ears cool, at least compared to real leather. The ear cups became warm once usage has reached the 20-minute mark. After 30 minutes, perspiration from the temperature increase made the ear cups slippery and harder to keep in place. That, coupled with the fact that the cups can swivel up to 360 degrees, makes for a frustrating battle.
Despite that, their adjustability allows them to be tucked close to the headband, which is Sony’s usual compact folding design. This decreases the headphone’s mass, which is commendable for portability. A carrying case or pouch was not included in the set though. A slight issue with the MDR-XB610 is that the ear cups move a little too freely. While a well-oiled pair deserves some appreciation, too much swiveling can be annoying.
Like its sibling, MDR-XB610 comes with a tangle-free, serrated cord which is detachable for easy storage. Nonetheless, there are key differences between the two pairs. Firstly, you will only be provided with one cord, as opposed to MDR-XB920’s two. Secondly, that one and only cord does not have an in-line remote and microphone, which is a huge inconvenience. The absence of the remote causes listening to music to be a fumbling affair. Thirdly, the cord is Y-shaped, which means that it branches out and plugs into both the ear cups. As a result, there’s an unwelcome sensation of the Y-shaped cord swinging underneath your neck.
Despite of those differences, the cord does not tangle easily. The twist lock mechanism also ensures that even if you accidentally slip a hand into the loop underneath your neck, the cord will not be pulled off easily. Hopefully, the tug will not cause the cord to snap. All in all, there isn’t much to comment on MDR-XB’s features. The whole set is rather bare as the headphone is accompanied by only the operating instructions and the warranty card.
Performance-wise, MDR-XB610 has been touted to be on par with Sony MDR-X05. While in a different range entirely, the former delivers a powerful bass thump that would make Simon Cowell (who collaborated with Sony to produce, among others, MDR-X05) proud. It’s solid and clean, but at times something extra. The generosity with the bass, although could be appreciated in thump-heavy music, becomes unnecessary when it comes to acoustic tracks. Nonetheless, there’s ample clarity for the mids and highs, even if the latter sounds a little harsh.
The headphone is able to project a good soundstage, making you feel as if you really are in the recording studio with the musicians, picking up the richness of the music. Apart from that, gaming is taken to a whole new world when explosions and shots play so realistically into your ears. That extra sensory experience makes being immersed in a game much more enjoyable. The noise-isolation feature also does a decent job of tuning the outside world. The Direct Vibe structure located in the ear cups is responsible for this feat, but it’s not a miracle by any means.
With a price tag of $145, the Sony MDR-XB610 cost about $50 less than MDR-XB920. The disparity in price is too petty to make the MDR-XB610 a clear-cut choice. When you factor in the construction of the headphone as well as availability of the in-line remote and microphone on the cord, the MDR-XB920 seems to be the more comprehensive option. Nevertheless, when all’s said and done, Sony has done a noteworthy job of providing affordable, yet respectable headphones.