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All three of these cans have a withdrawn mid-range, and vocals can sound a bit distant.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 I heard these as being slightly too harsh and having an overly withdrawn mid-range.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
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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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