The Sony MDR-XB300, MDR-XB500, and MDR-XB700 Extra Bass Headphones

While perusing for new headphones to measure among HeadRoom's huge stock of sales team demo cans, my eyes fell upon the trio of Sony extra bass headphones. Having spent quite a bit of time lately with celebrity headphones that have exaggerated bass, I thought this might be a good time to hear Sony's take.

Nah, they don't need a celebrity endorsements, one of these cans thumps like mad.

Sony MDR-XB300 ($49), MDR-XB500 ($79), and MDR-XB700 ($139)
I can't tell you the number of times someone asks for slammin' bass headphone in comments on my YouTube channel. It seems that many in the broad consuming public consider big bass the measure of good audio.

I have tried to educate at times. I've asked people whether they really want more bass than the artist wanted to put on the track. "Yes," is all too often the answer. Oh well, I get it, people want to have their music grab them by the Adam's apple and force their head to bob up and down.

The demand is out there, and Sony simply wants to fill it with the XB (extra bass) series of headphones. I figured it was time for a serious listen, and I'm glad I did.

Styling and Build Quality
I know they don't have some rappers name emblazoned on the side, but I think these are really great looking cans. Yes, some might say they're a bit like having monster truck tires on your head, but I really like the look.

The headbands are simple and elegant arches which terminate with a hole through which part of the earpiece projects and is allowed to swivel. Earpads are large and luxurient pleather and well padded.

All share the same 4 foot Y-cord with flat cables and a slender 90 degree 1/8" headphone jack.

Ergonomics and Comfort
All three of these headphones are very, very comfortable. The earpieces swivel only in the up and down direction, which on some headphones can be troublesome. But the XB series cushions are so deep and soft that they easily conform to your head and provide a good seal and extraordinarily comfortable fit. I expect, however, they might get pretty warm on a hot and humid day.

The range of adjustment is good on these headphones, and I had no problem having them fit my somewhat large noggin and the much smaller head of my testing system. Today's urban bling being what it is, some will, no doubt, want to walk around with these cans on their neck. I found the earpads on the XB700 to be too large to accomplish this comfortably; the XB500 is borderline, and the XB300 is quite comfortable in this position. These headphones have no folding features for transportation and storage.

Isolation
All three of these cans provided fairly good isolation from outside noise, and with pretty good efficiency they will all work reasonably well as a headphone for walking around town and traveling. Isolation is better as you go up the line.

COMPANY INFO
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COMMENTS
donunus's picture

Great Article! I've always been curious about these. Now I know what to recommend to bassheads that wan't a decently priced headphone.

Armaegis's picture

My gauge of too much bass in headphones is when I feel like my set of eyeballs are rattling.

My gauge of too much bass in a speaker system is when I feel the rattling in the other set.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Sounds like you're having a ball to me!
Armaegis's picture

Those seat cushions on my subwoofer are simply there for posterity.

dalethorn's picture

Too much bass is when nearly everything sounds bassy when it shouldn't. If you're a lover of good music you would undoubtedly know pretty quick. I'm pretty certain that "basshead" listening mode is actually a background listen while doing something else, rather than paying direct attention to the music.

It looks like Sony designed one of these, then spun off the other two without additional design work, to save developer time and money.

DaveBSC's picture

Audio-Technica makes some of the most bass heavy cans out there. The ES10 has incredible bass for its tiny size, unfortunately there's so much that it stomps all over the midrange and turns it in to a muddy mess, and the highs basically don't exist. Other than that, it's great.

As I understand it, the Pro 700Mk2 goes even further - most bass on the market?

bfwiat's picture

Hi there,

I have enjoyed reading most articles and reviews on this site, so here is a first post.
I especially like how you mention and understand that different products have different markets, and factor that into your appraisal (ie on these, knowing that there is intentionally too much bass, so judging it on the quality of that and considering who might want to experience their sound that way. Having listened to all three of these Sony cans, I agree with you on every aspect of your review.

One technical question - is it possible for you to produce spectral decay waterfall plot charts of headphones (frequency over time) rather than just frequency response graphs?

Keep on with a wonderful site.

By the way, I love this review :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipZY0qGrA9Y&feature=player_embedded

Tyll Hertsens's picture
CSD is being looked at. Fingers crossed.
Kool Bubba Ice's picture

The 500 sounds great. Tyll really nailed this review.. I will get the 500 or 700 for gaming/hip hop/movies.

minty's picture

Great review. I'm admittedly a bass lover and I will remain so until I can afford some of those $500 head phones (alcohol is a more pressing need).

Went ahead and bought the XB 500. Reading some reviews online, others seem to prefer the XB 700 over the 500. Maybe I'll try them both out.

theOS_the_one's picture

I have a dilemma, what pair of headphones should i buy ( both are the same price 50€ / Spain )?
I will use them with a notebook (maybe ulterior with Sound Blaster X-Fi HD) and an iphone 4
I mainly listen to chillout , lounge , deephouse, underground music; (I love a deep, well defined bass)
Sorry for my bad english
Thank you in advance

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Personally, I'd go for the CAL! as it's got a more balanced and less confused sound. Bass isn't as big, but who drinks from a fire hose?
theOS_the_one's picture

i had the chance to listen the CAL! and the MDR-XB500. The CAL! have a better sound quality and they are more confortable, the bass is also good.

theOS_the_one's picture

what are your marks (from 1 to 10) for:
CAL! sound quality
CAL! Bass
and
Sony mdr-xb500 sound quality
Sony mdr-xb500 bass

edwr's picture

Firstly like to just say great article! I did have the Sony xb700 but changed it to the Sony xb500 as like you have said the bass punches harder in the 500 and also easier to wear around the neck.

I was also looking at the Sony v500/700 DJ headphones that are on the same section/listing of the extra bass (xb) headphones of the Sony website. I was wondering would these two Sony DJ headphones have the same similarities as the xb series e.g. Sony v500 sounds the same as the Sony xb500? Would it be possible for you to look into the Sony DJ range to give your opinions on if they are any good? Much appreciated!

tacobff's picture

Between xb500s and downtowns, which would be a better choice? I'm a complete basshead and for mids/highs I have a pair of HD 439's that I can use. In terms of bass which one is better?

dementor338's picture

Can you measure the frequency response of the new Sony Xb series: the XB400, XB600, XB800

Jawtek's picture

Great job! I wish more folks would write reviews like this one. Practical, useful, open-minded and non-judgmental.

I have WAY too many headphones, including the XB500s . . . various Grados, Audio-Technica ATH-M50, V Moda Crossfade M-100, Beats Studios (the ONLY Beats I actually like), Soul SE5BLKs (they were dirt cheap), Sennheiser Momentum (over the ear) . . . even some vintage Koss Pro 4AA and 4AAA , , , others - mostly of the over-the-ear variety which I prefer.

I think you described the XB500s perfectly. They might not be an audiophile's grail headphones, but they offer a lot of value for the money and for those times when you want some serious bass without totally sacrificing the rest of the listening experience, they really fill the bill.

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