Sony XBA-4IP in-ear headphone review
Sony knows a thing or two about producing decent audio products and they’ve utilised this heritage to create one of the finest in-ear headphones ever produced.
The Sony XBA series a delivers a complete audio experience and it is all achieved thanks to the Balanced Armature drivers inside each earphone.
These work to recreate the output of a 4-way speaker system in each ear.
Each tiny driver works together to provide full range, tweeter, subwoofer and even a super subwoofer output in each ear.
For Tech Guide’s review we listened to the XBA-4IP which feature four Balanced Armature driver’s in each ear along with an inline remote control and microphone to allow them to be used with the iPhone, iPad and iPod.
There are also models with a single Balanced Armature driver – the XBA-1 all the way up to the XBA-4 which has all four drivers.
Each earpiece of the XBA-4IP is about a centimetre thick with an angled tip that sits precisely in your ear and creates a noise-cancelling seal.
Each pair of XBA-41P in-ear headphones come with four different-sized silicone ear tips to allow users to find the most comfortable fit.
They are reasonably lightweight and can be worn for extended periods without discomfort.
They are connected with a flatter and thinner tangle-resistant cord with the inline remote and microphone on the left cord.
This remote allows easy navigation of the music as well as volume control.
And if users get a call while they are listening to their music, the XBA-4IP allows them to answer and end the call at the press of a button.
The thing we’ve found with other in-ear headphones is that they are really good at one thing and OK at the rest.
For example, it might have excellent clarity but sub-standard bass response or great bass but poor detail and mid range output.
With the Sony XBA-4IP each facet of the sound was excellent.
The precision of the audio was such that the tiniest cymbal and piano tinkle registered just as clearly and authoritatively as the thumping bass track.
As promised each of the small Balanced Armature were doing their jobs and worked together blissfully well like a team of star players.
We could hear all of the instruments being played and vocals being sung like we were in the same room with the artists.
And if you’re listening to music with good left and right stereo separation it’s even better.
Another test of the XBA-4IP’s abilities was handling high volume playback without wavering or distortion. It handles this type of use in the same way a Ferrari can handle driving fast.
It’s like having a high quality stereo speaker system in each ear.
We must have looked strange while we were listening to the XBA-4IP because we had a constant smile on our face – so pleasing was the result.
Our favourite music which we know so well has never sounded as good through a pair of in-ear headphones.
The noise-cancelling seal of the silicon ear tips work very well – sometimes too well.
This allows listeners to block out any extraneous noise and focus purely on the music.
But don’t expect to hear anything that’s going on around you. You won’t be able to hear people talking to you or any other kind of noise near you.
We even tried listening to the Sony XBA-4IP next to a TV that was turned up to a reasonable volume and it hardly registered as background noise.
Which is why it would not be a good idea to wear these while you are out exercising – either running or walking – in busy areas. It would seriously impair your ability to hear cars in your vicinity.
The inline remote control worked well with excellent quality when we were listening and speaking during phone calls.
Single, double and triple clicks to pause, advance and repeat our music could be delivered precisely thanks to the responsive control button.
If there is a better in-ear headphone on the market than the Sony XBA-4IP then we haven’t heard them.
It is hard to believe that such an amazing sound could come out of such a small device.
Now being priced at $499.95 they are not exactly cheap but anyone who has a deep respect and appreciation of great sound quality will gladly hand over that kind of money. Yes, they are that good.
There are also cheaper versions of the Sony XBA series if this top-of-the-line version doesn’t fit into your budget.
Five stars (out of five)