Ashley Kramer wraps Sony’s new Extra Bass ‘phones round his noggin and finds that the bass is there in abundance
SONY’S EXTRA BASS (XB) series of headphones are unashamedly aimed at a very specific market – music fans that prioritise bass over accuracy but who also value clarity and who like a fair amount of style as well. Sony calls them “club music lovers”, and that’s probably as appropriate a description as any other.
I reviewed Sony’s MDR-XB900 ‘phones back in October last year (review here ) but the XB series has already been updated with new MDR-XB920 and MDR-XB610 models. Presented with a set of MDR-XB920’s, I decided to give them a listen even though they’re eerily similar to the MDR-XB900’s.
As it turns out, the MDR-XB920’s are very close to the MDR-XB900’s. The specifications are exactly the same and they look much alike, but they’ve been updated with a fetching new red and silver look, extra padding on the headband and a removable cable that has a twist-lock to keep it secure. The ‘phones are now supplied with both a 1.2m standard cord and a 1.2m cord with an inline remote and microphone. Bizarrely, the single button remote is bereft of volume controls for Apple device owners – perhaps Sony assumes that Apple-using “club music lovers” listen to their music with the volume set to 11, so they never need to adjust it but in practice, volume controls on the cable are a fabulous addition to general user friendliness.
However, in a somewhat unique, turnabout is fair play scenario, Android phone users have the option to download Sony’s Smart Key App, which allows them to configure that single button. The App allows users additional control functionality as follows:
Idle Mode (When between calls and playing music)
Launch Music Player
Launch FM Radio
Thanks to the additional padding and the soft, seamless earpads, the MDR-XB920’s are exceedingly comfortable once the headband has had a chance to stretch out a bit. The ‘phones fold down to a reasonably compact package but no carry bag or pouch is supplied.
Sonically, the MDR-XB920’s sound exactly the same as the MDR-XB900’s, although this set was tighter in the bass at the beginning of the review, needing less time to run-in. The bass is always huge though – it’s not even close to accurately recreating what’s on the recording and it can get fatiguing to have the low frequencies so relentlessly boosted when listening to music that doesn’t call for it, but the hefty bottom does make big-bass music from the likes of Massive Attack and AWOLNATION sound suitably larger than life, while offering a good amount of detail and transparency through the rest of the frequency range.
The MDR-XB920’s sound so close to the MDR-XB900’s; so much so that it’s safe to quote my conclusion to the earlier review verbatim and apply it to the new model: “Much like one of those chain store “mini-systems” with the flashing lights and the stickers proclaiming ‘2000 Watts’ and ‘MEGA BASS’, these ‘phones will put a smile on the face of any bass-head as surely as they’ll put a frown on an audiophile’s dial. Just do yourself a favour and give them some time to loosen up before you make a judgment call.”
However, the price of the new model has jumped from $199 to $299, and that’s a big leap considering that not much has changed. These ‘phones will rock the frontal lobe of anyone who dearly loves a lot of bass (a LOT!) but unless you really have to have the inline remote (this applies more to Android users for a change) and love the admittedly great looking red/white/silver styling, then the older version might just be the one to go for. Listen to them first if at all possible to make sure that you really, truly love all that bass. ASHLEY KRAMER