Sony MDR-XB700 Headband Headphones - Silver/Black Reviews
Click to see larger image

Sony MDR-XB700 Headband Headphones - Silver/Black

12 ratings (3 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating: Excellent
5 stars
4 stars
3
3 stars
2 stars
1 star
Share This!
  Ask friends for feedback

Where Can I Buy It?

$379.95
Free Shipping eBay

Big headphones, good performance, tidy price

Oct 28, 2009 (Updated Oct 30, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great comfort; good (though not great), balanced sound; affordable.

Cons:'Extra bass' claim somewhat disingenious. Questionable aethetics. Sound leaks.

The Bottom Line: Not perfect by any means, but for under $100, it's hard to go wrong with the Sony MDR-XB700...as long as you can stand its looks.


In truth I had never been much of a fan of Sony's earlier stand-alone headphone offerings, mostly because I haven't had much luck with their sonic capabilities or found that their comfort was less than satisfactory or--worse yet--both aspects were problematic in a single design. While others have raved over one or another design's audio performance, I've consistently found displeasure and angst in some aspect of their sound quality with almost every unit I'd previously tried to live with. Then there were those designs that sounded decent but broke quickly. And then of course there were the one or two who sadistically loved to rip my hair out right down to the root. With that sort of track record I more or less swore off of Sony headphones and was glad for it. But then along the way I managed to fall for the audio performance of their Walkman MP3 devices and discovered just how good many of the included earbuds and in-ear monitors were, and I admit the interest in other Sony offerings was rekindled.

It was with this mindset that I first encountered the Sony MDR-XB700, the top of the heap of Sony's 'Extra Bass' line of full-sized headphones. Rather ungainly looking, I was and still am rather pleasantly surprised at how well this full-sized cans actually work. The MDR-XB700's main claim to fame (at least according to Sony) is its big bass performance, but frankly my relatively diminutive Sennheiser IE8 IEMs does bass deeper, more precise and overall genuinely better than these relative behemoths. Instead, the XB700's low end performance is a smoother and more consistent form of low-end sonics without the boominess that I had been expecting from a set of headphones being marketed as having 'extra bass'. The low-end performance of the XB700 sounds quite balanced and complementary to the rest of the frequency range, and in the end that's very much a good thing to these ears.

Sony claims that the XB700 is a closed-back design; the overall sound performance and characteristics does seem to support that. However unlike other closed cans I own there's actually a fair amount of sound leakage from the XB700; library listening should NOT be encouraged with this set, not unless you wish to unleash the ire of others. The imaging and soundstage of the Sony is indicative of a closed-back unit, not particularly airy but still reasonable in its ability to convey a convincing 3D perception to the music. Though I normally prefer open-air designs, the Sony acquits itself pretty well, with solid mid and upper range performance, though the amount of precision in details wasn't as honed as I usually like from my headphones. Generally I suppose I could describe the overall tone of the XB700's sound as being 'warm', with only a hint of murkiness to the character (whereas to call it 'muddy' is too harsh a description, in my view). Indeed, the XB700 works quite well for casual listening, when I tone down my usual audio tantrums and nerve-irritating nitpicks.

From a packaging standpoint there's really not much too it. Sony ships the XB700 in a simple blister pack (albeit a LARGE blister pack), loaded up with all sorts of eco-unfriendly plastic. Yes, in my region it can be sent to the recycler, but that may not be the case for all. The rest of the packaging is cardboard and not much else. Typical of cheap headset packaging, the detail instructions are printed on the back cardboard of the packaging, so if you want to keep a copy of it you'll have to be fairly careful as to how violently you'll rip said cardboard from the plastic blister. Within the packaging there's only the XB700, a sizable storage pouch, a warranty notice card (90 days), a basic product pamphlet and bits of cardboard 'prettywork'. From a green standpoint it's not very, though in fairness it's probably about avarage for this segment of the market.

No review of the XB700 can honestly avoid discussing the physical appearance of the design; it's BIG and there's simply no means to sidestep that. The synthetic leather pads are perhaps the chief culprit; they're big in thickness and in diameter, and would make the typical doughnut from Krispy Kreme look anemic in a side-by-side comparison. Even the headband is huge in its width, which only goes to reinforce the XB700's massive proportions. From a build-quality standpoint, to me the XB700 seems about average for this price range; no part of it stands out, but no part really feels deficient, either. The cable is a flat section design which also imparts a fair amount of visual impact and bulk on its own that very much seems in keeping with all of the other XB700 bits, but its rubberized covering seems stout and quite pliable, and should provide good protection to the underlying wire. Its length (approximately one meter) is more portable device friendly than for use with a home stereo, unless you like sitting up close and personal to your equipment. While I would've preferred an in-line 3.5mm plug over the L-shaped configuration actually supplied at the end of the cable, it's at least gold-plated so in theory future tarnishing should not be a problem.

But for all that I've said about the XB700's apparent bulk, it is in fact relatively light as full-sized cans go, and incredibly comfortable to wear in a way that one's first visual impressions very well would not have hinted at. It's easy to use the XB700 for hours on end without fatigue or discomfort; it's as if these cans are the headphone equivalent to someone's soft fuzzy slippers, or that visually-challenged 1980s Bill Cosby sweater that you swear that you'd never wear out of the house ever again but damn, it feels great wearing in front of the lit fireplace on a cold winter's day. The cushy pleather earpads are enticingly soft and supple, and the XB700's relative lack of heft go a long way in promoting that warm and fuzzy feeling. That said, personally I think the puffy XB700 looks rather ridiculous on my head (or anyone else's, for that matter--imagine Princess Leia's hairdo from the first Star Wars movie with perhaps a little added pump-up from a connected 1HP air compressor and you won't be far off the mark), so for the sake of vanity I doubt that they'll ever find their way outside my front door.

But that's not to say that these couldn't be used out in public. With a rated impedance of only 24 ohms, the XB700 is efficient enough that any portable device could drive this set. I've used my XB700 on both my Zune HD and Sony Walkman X1061 without any undue sonic histrionics; the resultant output sound is decently driven and quite satisfactory even without adequate burn-in. But it's not to say that the XB700 wouldn't benefit from a boost in power from a good headphone amplifier, only that it's not absolutely necessary.

The XB700 in my view is a more than decent set of cans for not-large money. No, sonically they won't make me forget my Sennheiser HD-800, but they also don't cost $1400 US either. In my opinion they could sorely use some help in the aesthetics department, but for where these headphones will most likely be used they offer themselves up as a relatively affordable solution with good sound and great comfort. A bit of guilty pleasure perhaps, but a satisfying one nonetheless. A solid 3 1/2 stars, and a reminder that it's time to start up that cozy fireplace and dig out that old sweater.


Recommend this product? Yes


Share this product review with your friends   
Share This!


1 best deal

SONY Extra Bass Headphones - 50mm Driver: MDR-XB700 Step up to Sony's long-awaited, high-end MDR-XB700 Extra Bass headphones. Engineered with an oxyge...
eBay
Store Rating: 4.0
Free Shipping
1 best deal     Why are these stores listed?