Sony may not be a household name for headphones, but that hasn’t stopped them from delivering their produce to the market. Hot off the press is the Sony MDR-XB920. Sixth in line in the XB Extra Bass range, the headphone unapologetically promises heart-thumping bass and nothing else. How much of that is sufficient will be delved into.
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Design and Comfort
Sony MDR-XB920 is undeniably a sleek and shiny toy. It’s almost identical to its forerunner in the range, Sony MDR-XB900, but with a little more color and flair. Available in silver/red and silver/black, it has managed a futuristic look without being ostentatious. There is a little concern on whether or not the metal-rimmed ear cups and headband are prone to scratches, but most likely than not the scratches will not show against the shiny material.
The closed back, circumaural design that Sony favors for the range requires the ear cups to be both comfortable and light. For that purpose, urethane foam was utilized to pad them, with the added value of being noise-isolating. Quality-wise, the ear cups were beautifully constructed, with no unsightly bulges that usually come with being seamless. Despite that, they may be slightly hard at first. But with frequent use, the foam will soften and contour to your ears. They can also swivel up to 360 degrees for a more personalized fit.
Weighing 305 g, walking around with the headphone around your neck may not be particularly feasible, especially considering that it is rather bulky. Hence, its multi-folding design is a welcome attribute, but it would have been much sweeter if Sony had included a pouch or a hard-shell carrying case in the set to store the MDR-XB920 in.
Tangled cords are the bane of any music listener’s existence. Thankfully, Sony MDR-XB920 comes with two tangle-free, serrated and detachable cords, one with an in-line remote and the other without. The cords, when reviewed, resisted attempts at tangling them. With the twist lock as an added element, the cord will not be dislodged easily (and hopefully, will not break as easily).
The in-line remote and microphone provides for volume and track controls, as well as for answering and rejecting calls. Android users can further configure the remote by downloading a Sony app called Smart Key, which allows the single, double and triple clicking actions to be customized. You can even launch the music player from the remote. Most surprisingly, this option is beyond the reach of Apple users, thereby limiting the full compatibility only to Android phones.
Sony MDR-XB920 make no apologies for being bass-heavy. Its dynamic 50mm driver units relentlessly dish out the thumping frequencies that are prevalent in today’s popular genres. The full force of the bass can be felt even when the volume is at 40%. At 70%, the sensation quickly became fatiguing. Using them for extended periods will cause minor headaches, something you need to factor in when considering this purchase.
Other than that, the headphone provides passable transparency and separation between the mid and high tones. The bass, however, will occasionally drown the mid tones, causing vocals to fade into the background instead of standing out. Using this headphone for gaming, though, may well be a rewarding experience. Explosions, shots and ambient music sound incredibly realistic, giving you that extra sensory experience when immersed in a game.
Sound leakage does occur at 80%, but only negligibly so. At a distance of 1 meter from the headphone, only indistinct tones made it through. Judiciously, Song MDR-XB920 employs only passive noise-isolation via the Direct Vibe structure of its ear cups. The waves from an active noise-cancellation technology would have made marathon listening sessions almost impossible to bear. However, it’s interesting to note that they are fairly decent at tuning out external noise, while loud speech remain displeasingly comprehensible.
With a $199 price tag, Sony MDR-XB920 has done a respectable job in catering to bass-loving listeners and gamers. Whilst not the best in its price range, you will partly be paying for the headphone’s good looks. But if you’re planning to use it for long periods of time or for travelling, the overwhelming bass will most likely make your travels worse, rather than soothe your jetlag. Audiophiles may give Sony the time of the day, but that day is not today.