Introduction to the Sony MDR-XB550
The XB line of headphones is Sony's lineup of extended bass headphones designed specifically for bassheads. There are quite a few headphones in this line and whatever your budget it seems they offer an XB headphone for you. Today we are reviewing the Sony MDR-XB550 which sits right in the middle of the lineup. So what did we think of them during our testing? How did they stand up to the competition? and finally, should you buy them? Well, of course, you are going to have to keep reading to find out.
Styling - Innofensive but far classier than previous models
I don't know if you remember seeing a set of Sony XB headphones in shops in the past but suffice to say things have definitely changed for the better. Back in the day, they had this weird boomerang with giant marshmallows look to them that looked great in the hand but way too awkward on the head to be caught wearing them in public. Now the XB line is far more streamlined and refined and we would actually go as far as to say good looking. You can get them in a few different colors but we really like our review units metallic moss green color.
They sit a lot closer to the head than previous generations and that makes them a much more discrete headphone when wearing them out and about. The branding is tastefully minimal and not at all shouty like beats and the
Build Quality - Key refinements improve durability
Build quality surprised us because in the pictures we had seen they did look like they might be somewhat flimsy. Thankfully the MDR-XB550 has been reinforced in all the right places and that certainly inspires confidence in these headphones being able to stand up to abuse in the long run. If you look closely at the picture to the right you will notice that the metal sheet which runs over the top of the headphone also runs right through the center of the headband after the adjustment point. We found that this was the biggest factor in adding a more premium feel to the headphone. The earcups pivot point at the headband, which allows the earcups a 90-degree rotation, is also reinforced as in the point where the driver housing swivels on the headband arch.
Reasonably comfortable for an on-ear headphone
Being on-ear headphones means that they can never compete with the likes of the Bose QC35 and other comfortable over the ear style headphones. However, there is ample padding on both the earpads and the headband which helps to ensure long-term comfort. Clamping pressure is quite firm and people with bigger heads might feel more of an ill effect but at the same time, this also helps make them good at isolating external noise.
Good for commuting and travel
As mentioned above the Sony MDR-XB550 are fairly good at blocking out unwanted noise. The combination of the clamping force, internal dampening (often found in bass ready headphones) and the closed back design means that a significant amount of unwanted decibels from your surrounding environment will be removed. Whilst not close to the level of isolation you see on noise canceling headphones they still rank quite highly as a non ANC headphone.
Sound Quality - It really is all about the bass...some treble
As if XB wasn't enough for you to know what the 550 are all about. These headphones are aimed squarely to satisfy the cravings of demented bassheads who enjoy having their skulls crushed but delicious and demented sub bass. No matter what genre you throw at the XB550 the bass show that is there and certainly enhanced.
We knew what we were going to be getting when going into this review and we weren't in the least bit surprised. Sub bass is rather large in quantity and there also exists a mid-bass hump. They aren't the most articulate or refined lows but in terms of quantity, they are right up there. Only slight bleed into the midrange was seen and given the levels on offer here we were ok with it. The mids take a step back from the bass and the highs and are smooth and warm but just not as prominent thus leaving a slight Vshaped curve to the sound that goes well with EDM.
Treble is actually pretty good, no painful spikes or sibilance and there is enough juice to give you those peaky highs before you get slammed in the head with those massive low drops.
Conclusion - The sweet spot in the XB headphone lineup?
A lot of audiophile shame these sort of headphones but the truth is if you are listening to a lot of electronic music or even rap and hip hop then the Sony XB-550 are incredibly fun to listen to. I really like the improvements thatSony has made to the line over the years and we are starting to see the benifits of these refinements. Build quality is good, sound is great if you are listening to the right types of music and they also score solid points in terms of isolation. For the money its really hard to complain about them and i think lots of people will be very happy using them.