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on February 11, 2007
The one critical difference between this headphone and the others in the MDR-EX series from Sony is the width of the drivers. This headphone uses 13.5 mm drivers, whereas the MDR-EX81, MDR-EX71 and MDR-EX51 all use 9 mm drivers.

The larger driver yields two distinct improvements: (1) better clarity, and (2) greater efficiency. The efficiency is important if you want to use this headphone with an MP3 player since most MP3 players have very little power. This headphone is rated at 106 dB/mW whereas all the ones with the 9 mm drivers are rated at 100 dB/mW. This is a difference of 6 dB and the rule of thumb is that it takes about 3dB for us to hear a clear difference in the volume level.

Note that the greater efficiency is not just important for playing music loudly, it is critcally important for a proper delivery of dynamic range at low levels of volume. It should therefore not be surprising that these headphones are a significant improvement over the ones with the 9 mm drivers.

There are still some caveats: (1) you must make sure that you place the buds properly in your ears to hear the improvement that the wider drivers give, and (2) just don't expect these headphones to give you the same kind of sound that you get from a top of the line over-the-ear headphone hooked to an amplifier. There is no such thing as a headphone for an MP3 player that can give you a Sennheiser HD600 type of sound. That said though, these are very good phones for an MP3 player. Certainly they offer a noticable improvement over the ones with 9 mm drivers.
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on November 24, 2006
An update after 3 months of usage:

I uphold my original opinion. EX90 is worth the price. Indeed, it is value for money when compared to any of the headphones that Shure has to offer. The bass in your well-coded MP3s will no longer sound like somebody's beating a broker drum under water...

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I have previously owned Shure E2C, Sony MDR-EX 51/71/81, Ipod buds, a pair of AIWA earphone comes with a top of the range walkman. I have also tested Boss QC3 and Boss Tripod.

The Sound: very rich bass, crystal clear treble and medium frequency sounds full and realistic. It is definitely better than all the headphones listed above. The Ipod buds are a disaster.

E2C has good bass, when you fit it in your ear correctly. But the other frequency ranges are much lass well defined. Consequently, its sound is not as clear. EX71/81 has similar problem, but at less than half the price of the E2C. The Boss Tripod's marketing is more impressive than the product itself. QC3's noise cancelling ability is better than its sound.

The make: EX90 has a much sturdier feel than its predecessors. Its rubber cord cover feels more substantial and much tougher than its predecessor.

The EX71/81 use very soft rubber cord to lessen the rustling noises created when the cords are in contact with other things (i.e. your cloth). It has not succeeded in this regard and also makes the cords filmsy and easy to break. For example, my EX81 has stretched marks on the cords in less than 6 months and now its wires are exposed.

The Fit: EX90 has a round shape that uses the inside of your ear to secure itself in your ears. I did not have to wiggle it to put it on, unlike the EX 71/81. Also it does not fall out easily like its predecessors. I also did not have to push it all the way into my ears to make the bass come out. The bass from the EX71/81 and the E2C depends on where they are in your ear. If you do not fit them properly, there will be no bass.

The look: good, but not that much better or worse than its predecessors and the E2C.

The down side: There is one down side though. Because of the way the EX90 sits in your ear, you will notice the outside noises are not blocked out. As the ambient noises tend to be low frequency and will hence blend with the bass from the headphone, it makes the music a little difficult to enjoy during commute and the bass ineffective. EX 71/81 sits deep in your ear and then to block out some of the noises. So does the E2C.

Also the high fidelity of the headphone could make some poorly encoded mp3 sound terrible, but it is not the headphone's fault.

One last thing: why doesn't Sony give us extra pairs of the rubber rings? Instead, it chooses to spend the money giving us a leather carrying pouch. Who would actually use it?

The bottom line: The EX90 produces excellent sound at all frequencies. It is a notale advancement from its predecessors and sounds better than its competitors' more expensive products. It is also very easy to put on. However, if you intend to use it mostly during commuting or in very noisy environment, you are better off with the EX 71/81 that are cheaper but probably won't last, sound great but much harder to put on and sit much deeper in your ears. I would not recommend E2C/Tripod - it is too expensive for what it has to offer.
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on September 26, 2006
I own over 20 pairs of earhpones and headphones and this is the second best pair just next to my full size Sennheiser HD600. I have compared it to its Sony Fontopia siblings such as the EX-71SL and EX-81LP and found that this EX-90LP definitely sounds superior to them. The EX-71SL and EX-81LP actually sound alike with only one major difference of the ear-hook on the EX-81LP; otherwise the materials and technologies are the same. While both the EX-71SL and EX-81LP use a 9mm driver, this one uses a 13.5mm driver which gives far better dynamic range and signifcantly better bass besides delivering more natural sounds. Using this EX-90LP on an ordinary MP3, I immediately heard more details in the recordings which I did not realize they ever existed. The human voice came out more naturally (the other two had some voices a bit exaggerated) and I could hear deeper bass and clearer cymbals with more overtones and longer resonances. For those who failed to appreciate the sound of this EX-90LP, I believe they have not properly tested out the enclosed earpads. For some in-ear earphones including the EX-71SL and EX-81LP, which earpads to use may not matter much; but I found the EX-90LP's sound quality depended much on the earpads used, and different people may fit different earpads. It takes a little while to try out all the different earpads, but once confirmed the suitable pair, the sound it delivers should satisfy all practical audiophiles.

Last but not least, I agree that it's not as comfortable as the EX-71SL but it should be more comfortable than the EX-81LP. However, everything takes time to get used to, and it took me about 2 days to get used to wearing the EX-90LP. Now I can wearing it for long hours and start to discover what I have missed.
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on July 27, 2006
I bought the Shure E4c headphones (retail for $300) from here a few weeks ago. I expected them to be one of the best canalphones available as they (a) were $300 and (b) were rated #1 by CNET Reviews, who said the "Shure's E4c earbuds are simply the best in-ear headphones we've ever heard." Unfortunately that wasn't the case, and I should have listened to the countless reviews that said otherwise on here. The Shure E4c's had almost no base. I made sure to wear them the right way (they weren't my first canalphones) and I still couldn't get any positive bass response. I do not exaggerate when I say that my Sony MDR-EX71 headphones (which cost $40) had more bass. I'm happy to say I no longer have those Shure headphones, and will not buy from them again. With the fact in mind that my EX71's sounded better I decided to go the Sony route again and give the EX90's a try. Boy was it a pleasant change. I could not recommend these headphones more. The clarity is honestly comparable to the E4c's (which was the only good thing they had going for them), with even stronger and clearer bass than the EX71's (which, remember, had more bass than the E4c's). For the sake of not dragging on I'll just say that if you are considering these headphones then take the next step and buy them! I am more than certain that you will not be disappointed. If you don't end up liking them then just return them and get your money back, but I would not tell people to buy them if I was not sure everyone would like them. I imagine the Shure E5c's are better (though I can't be completely sure from my experience with their other model, but they do claim to have better bass), but they're $400, so unless you want to spend that much do yourself a favor and go with the next best option and buy these. The headphones market is quite dodgey, with some less expensive models being more fulfilling than their expensive counterparts, so it's good that you have an opportunity to read these reviews to tell you what the people actually think. As one of them I say you can't go wrong with the Sony MDR-EX90LP headphones.
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on July 3, 2006
All audiophiles know that the best sound system in the world is a waste of money if the speakers aren't up to par. The same is true for personal listening equipment.

Like many, I went though countless pairs of headphones for my portable music equipment. They all "seemed" to do the job, but after a while, the fit was never right with most of them, and some even painful to wear for extended periods of time. As a result, my MP3 player became more of a distraction to drown out obnoxiously loud and inconsiderate "conversationalists" when commuting to and from work.

I never considered using my MP3 player for serious listening until I purchased the Sony MDREX90LP.

This is my first set of "high-end" mini-phones. At first glance, it is difficult to justify spending close to 100 USD for a pair of headphones designed for portable music equipment, which will wear out in a shorter time than full sized headphones. That is until you realize how much a good pair of phones can enhance your listening pleasure and overall comfort. Almost makes me think I got a whole new player. I am able to hear sounds never heard before! My listening range varies from solo piano to louder types of Jazz, (Yes, I've been a musician most of my life). All my music sounds great now. Even with classical, where the dynamic range can be anywhere from very soft to very loud, all well represented.

I wish I had these phones earlier and not wasted my time with inferior music reproduction. I feel as if I have been robbed of quality listening. All leading manufacturers of MP3 players should offer an option to package high-end phones with their equipment as to not misrepresent the quality of their units.

I don't own the other comparably priced headphones, but I can say the Sonys are well worth the money. The comfort level is amazing, and after swapping out the ear buds for the larger size, the fit is absolutely perfect. The aluminum casing makes them light, and not apt to fall out during movement. The silver color and sleek styling puts them on the stylish side, though for me, sound matters most. The unit is slightly difficult to stow away, but the dedicated case fits perfectly, so the cord won't become tangled.

I now find myself totally emersed in my music, which can be dangerous if not paying attention with the type of activity you are engaging in; fortunately for me, it's only commuting on the train or bus.
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on May 15, 2006
I tried out the Sony Fontopia earbuds,which are excellent, but the 9mm driver just didn't reach the level of bass I was hoping for. The EX90LP's 13.5mm driver does just that. I instantly recognized the improvement in bass. Like the Fontopia, this earbud gives you a great sealing effect, and the ergonomic angle allows the bud to go directly in your ear while the driver remains barely outside, and once they're in, they're in. But, nlike the Fontopia, this earbud's constructed of aluminum, for a very durable and high quality product- very solid. These headphones, while not over the ear studio type, are probably the closest you can get in frequency response (5-25000hz) and in the depth and clarity of sound. And, something even better than over the ear types: These are super comfortable! Especially when in use for lengthy periods. The only downside is they cost considerably more than the Fontopia. But I'd say they're worth it because of the increase in bass, sound clarity, and quality of construction.
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on July 25, 2006
I picked up these on a Japan trip last month. I actually demoed them at BIC camera before buying. I paid less than $100 and they are in my opinion, a better buy than my previous 2 sets: Etymotic ER6 and SenheiserPXC 250. The sony's have more output and more bass and they still cancel enough noise to make the subway go away when riding it. They look like luxury items too, very well built. The rubber is softer and more comfortable than the Etymotics wich always end up irritating my ear canal in spite of periodic replacement of the outer rubber.

The Sennheisers might have overall higher fidelity, but their output is low and the external noise cancelling unit is an annoyance; you can't really take them to the gym (I only use the Sennheisers for flying) The Sony's are an exellent choice for commuting and jogging. Exellent product, I can't recommend it enough.
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on July 13, 2006
I have been through many pairs of Sony closed type silicon earbuds over the years. I've owned the 51's, the 71's, and two other versions Sony doesn't make anymore. The 90's blow Sony's older models away.

The Sony in-ear line has always produced warmer, more pleasant sounds then Sure or Eytomotic earbuds, and the EX90's certainly continue that tradition.

Currently, there is no earbud I'd rather own or listen to.

Because of the price and the thin cord, I wouldn't wear these buds jogging or to the gym. Otherwise, if you have the money, buy these. You won't be disappointed.
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on December 17, 2007
So, no... I haven't tried the more famous Bose Earbuds, and no, I haven't tried the V-MODA Vibe Earbuds either, (The 2 biggest competitors for the Sony's EX90s). When it came time for me to purchase my new pair of in-ear headphones, I decided on the EX90s. Why, you might ask? Simple... The 13.5 mm drivers on the EX90s have a serious advantage over the 9mm drivers from its competitors.

Bigger drivers means bigger sound. We all know this. Tower speakers sound better than satellite speakers. It's not a debate, it's a fact. So I just figured, why wouldn't it be the same for earbuds?

Like I said before, I didn't get a chance to try the other leading earbuds, but I can say this... The Sony MDR-EX90's sound amazing and they are very comfortable. That's all I wanted in my new Earbuds... Great sound and comfort. I read a ton of reviews on just about every make and model for earbuds and found that no matter which pair I was looking to buy, someone would complain about the sound and the that the earbuds didn't fit right, or they were uncomfortable, or they would always fall out of their ears. Check it out, unless you have mutated ear canals, the EX90's WILL fit in your ears. You'll have 3 different sizes to choose from, so if you can't make this things fit, you probably have really weird shaped ear canals. I don't know of a nicer way to say this!

I'm a fitness junkie. I work out 2 hours a day, 6 days a week and not once have these headphones caused any discomfort to my ears. Also, the right earpiece on the EX90's has a longer cord so that it swings around the back of your neck. This is a nice feature because it keeps the cord out of the way when doing pushups, or any other exercise that requires you to lean forward. Another plus of the wrap around the neck style is that you can take them out and rest the earbuds on your shoulders while you talk to someone. Sounds lame, but trust me, it comes in handy! They also stay in for when you're jogging. Not once have they fallen out during a morning run!

You have the Sony name, the larger 13.5 mm driver, the wrap around the neck cord style, and last I checked these were $30 cheaper then the competitors I mention above. Great low frequency response, punchy mids and crystal clear highs make the Sony EX90's a perfect purchase for anyone looking for high quality in-ear headphones.
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on June 28, 2006
Owning MDR-EX 71 and 51's, I found that I prefer the 51's most of all. EX-51's are more comfortable to wear. I can sleep with them on. The EX-90's are not that comfortable and can not wear them over a period of a couple hours. I can wear the EX-51's all day.

The sound: While the EX-90's sound is more open and spacious. The Midrange is more articulate and pronounced; the bass seams a bit bloated and muddy. Yes, the bass is deeper but not $75 to $50 better.

I currently own over 20 pairs of headphones from low end portable to High-end reference Cans. With that I will not replace these when they go bad. There are those who will say I not placing or putting them on right or I need to change the silcone pieces. I will say not out of arrogance but experience; I know what I talking about here. You might find them comfortable, I didn't. I would recomend the EX-71's or the EX-51's.

Update: I have a pair of EX-85's they are very much the same as the EX-90's w/o the metal casing and a much more comfortable phone I would recommend EX-85 in a heartbeat.
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