The Sony MDR-XB300, MDR-XB500, and MDR-XB700 Extra Bass HeadphonesPage 2

Sound Quality
All three of these headphones provide strong bass response. In a headphone of this type I look for bass that's clean and tight sounding. I hate accentuated bass that's also loose and flabby, which will tend to overshadow all else with its moaning. I'm glad to say that the XB500 and XB700 deliver tight, well extended (goes very low) bass response. The XB300 tends to be somewhat looser than the other two and isn't as well extended.

All three of these cans have a withdrawn mid-range, and vocals can sound a bit distant. And all three of these headphones have somewhat uneven frequency response, lending some confusion to the sound.

The XB700 has a slightly brighter treble than the other two headphones, and as a result sounds a bit more detailed. Unfortunately, that also means that the mids seem more distant then the other two, and for me was less satisfying as a result. I also feel that the quality of urban music especially in the high frequencies is often poor and overly harsh, and the XB700 coloration would not hide the problem well.

The XB300 has the most uneven response of the three, and sounded the most ... honky. I really didn't like the sound of these cans.

The XB500 suffered least from unevenness, though they were significantly colored. These were the tightest and most dynamic sounding of the bunch: a slightly rolled off treble allowed the volume to rise without being harsh, the low-mids and bass were delivered with eyeblinking impact.

Measurements

Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

In the frequency response graphs above you can see that the XB700 has significant spiky peaks in the treble at 4kHz and above, and a significant dip centered at 800Hz. I heard these as being slightly too harsh and having an overly withdrawn mid-range. The XB300 has a similarly bumpy response and poorer bass extension. The XB500 is certainly not even, but it is better than the other two cans. I heard the XB500 as a fairly warm sounding headphone, and uneveness was heard, but it's smooth but articulate highs and bass extension were good.

30Hz square wave shows the XB700 having the best bass extension, but the 300Hz square wave shows both the XB700 and XB300 as having significantly more overshoot than the XB500. To me this is echoed by the perception of smoother highs on the XB500 than the other two.

Impulse response shows the XB70 as a quick headphone, but it takes a significant time to settle down. The XB300 impulse response initial peak appears a bit hampered, with a fairly long period ring subsequently, though it does settle down more quickly than the XB700. The XB500 impulse is fairly quick and clean, and settles well.

THD+noise measurements sjow the XB300 as having some power handling problems and bass distortion, which is fairly common for ear-pad headphones. XB700 show there may be some slight problem with one of the drivers, but ignoring that shows some elevation at 800Hz. Likewise the XB500 has a similar but broader hump at 900Hz, but handles the low frequencies better than the XB700, a possible indication of the tighter and punchier sound heard in listening tests.

The XB500 and XB700 Isolated fairly well at -10dBSPL and -12dBSPL broadband respectively; the XB300 is a supra-aural can and had 2dB less isolation as might be expected.

All three headphones are efficient enough to be driven to fairly loud levels by potable players, but the XB500 will play modestly louder than the other two.

Summary
I heard the XB300 as far too colored and uneven for anyone. Not recommended.

I heard the XB700 as having a strong and well extended bass, but a somewhat strident treble and significantly withdrawn mid-range turned me off. It was also too big to hang around my neck comfortably. Not recommended.

The Sony MDR-XB500 punched like a champ. Hip-hop through these cans had me grooving hard and bass notes wobbled my Adam's apple. Though a little uneven, the XB500 delivered a satifying mid-range and relaxed treble. Urban music listeners will dig these cans both on their head surrounded by their tunes, and around their neck hanging in the hood. Yup, I'll recommend these for bass lovers ... heck I'll even recommend them for audiophiles who can manage to let their hair down and chill for the guilty pleasures of big bass.

Resources after the video! Big thanks to HeadRoom for the loan of the cans!

Resources
Head-Fi XB500 threads here, here, here, and here.
What, no love for the XB700 thread here.

COMPANY INFO
Sony Electronics Inc.
(201) 930-1000
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