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Customer Review

40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great IEM and a close shoot at other established audiophile 3+ driver IEMs, March 9, 2012
This review is from: Sony XBA4IP iPhone/iPod 4-Driver Balanced Armature In-Ear Headphones (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
I'll start off with the conclusion for those who don't want to read the full review.

"These are great in-ear-monitor (IEM) with a VERY strong bass presents, with clear and fine detailed mids and treble (highs)!"

The XBA 4 means there are 4 balanced - armature drivers each responsible or the different frequency of music (high, mids, low, ultra low). These are supposed to be compete with well established multi-driver IEMs like Shure SE535(3 driver) and Weston 3/4s(3/4 driver). I personally own a pair of Shure SE535 and have also listened to the Weston 4S. Sony presented a really interesting product at slightly lower price of the SE535 and Weston 4s while providing the 4th driver that the SE535 misses.

BUILD QUALITY///////
Sony is one of the best at making well crafted and polished products at any price point compare to the competitors just like Apple, and the XBA4 is no exception. However the chrome you see in the pics are not actually metal but polished chrome plastic! It feels light in the hand. The wire connectors are all gold plated, while the wire themselves feels a bit thinner than I'd hoped at this price point! BTW Sony claim the drivers are made in Japan while the box say the whole thing is made in Thailand which I've noticed a lot of Sony products are instead of what you'd expect, China! The cable says made in China!

DESIGN & FEATURES//////
I think the XBA4 are greatly designed. As pointed out in Amazon the kit includes:

Hybrid Earbuds (SS, S, M, L x2)
Noise Isolation Earbuds (S, M, L x2)
Cord Adjuster

I couldn't tell if the demoed unit I was using was the Hybrid or the Noise Isolation buds or what size. They fitted in my ear fine while I would of opted for a larger size on both ears. In this regard the Shure SE535 comes on top by providing more variety of earbuds for and more tailored fit and occasion. On my SE535 I choose the cone shaped foam buds not available from Sony which in my opinion provided a better seal than rubber or silicon buds.

At this price point the Sony includes a iPhone control and mic which is something SE535 owners can only envy about as that's a $50 outside option for us.

On the note of the cable, the XBA4's cables are not user replace/upgradeable while the Shure SE535 and Weston 4S are.

SOUND QUALITY///////
Yesterday I spent an hour at the local SonyStyle store comparing the XBA4 and my own SE535LE (the red ones). I listen to a couple of my current favorite songs: 1 Japanese Rock, 1 Electronic Rock, 1 Nora Jones Jazz, and 1 Adele song.

The first impression of the XBA4 on both Rock songs is that the 4th sub-woofer driver really make its present felt in both songs pumping out the biggest bass I've ever heard from a IEM including my SE535LE and Weston 4S! However the big thumping bass turns out to be a double-edged sword with farther comparing to my SE535LE.

In the 1st song which is a Japanese Rock song that emphasis on mid to hi vocal and symphony instruments, the XBA4's bass provided a full sound with great sound stage (the feel of music being played on stage) and great instrument separation . However compared to my SE535LE the mids and highs are more recessed. The SE535 while didn't have the bass to compete with the XB4 its mids and highs means a more forward vocal and enjoyable symphony portion of the song. Compare to the SE535, the XBA4 had just a bit too much bass, which over shadowed the vocal and the great instruments separation in the song.

In the 2nd song, which is very fast pace and bassy electronic song, the XBA4 really shined through the SE535LE. The extra driver as the sub woofer really played well with this song and provided a much more engaging experience compare to the SE535. However again when the vocals came in the SE535LE just did a better job on presenting a person's voice! For this song I've to say the XBA4 was slightly the better choice. While the XBA4 wasn't as far behind as I'd thought.

In the 3rd song by Nora Jones, I was expecting the audiophile reputable SE535LE to walk all over the XBA4 because bass isn't so present in her songs and from the experience of 2 previous songs. I was actually wrong! In Nora Jone's jazz the XBA4's 4th sub woofer simply didn't engage and I was listening to the 3 remaining driver handling the low-mid-his. Surprisingly Jone's voice sounded crystal clear and great separation of instruments and sound stage. So its shows even though the XBA4 really emphasis on bass the other drivers are not bad also. So in this song the XBA4 didn't trail the SE535 by as much as I'd had thought. The XBA4 had really clear sound but the SE535LE just sounded more warm and musical.

In the final famous song from Adele, I have the say the XBA4 was a tie with the SE535LE. With more bass Adele's strong vocal sounded much fuller than the SE535, while the SE535 had the upper hand in the mids and highs. In this song its down to the personal preference to the listener, both sounded really good with Adele, its really your personal preference on a bassy fuller sound or a more forward and engaging mids and highs. This is why I always demo earphone/headphones before buying because at the same price range the same music can sound very different between brands.

CONCLUSION////////
The XBA4 is a fine product thats a very close shoot at the audiophile grade SE535 and Weston 4S but with a very different sound, emphasizing on the bass. So if bass is very important for you, this earphone is not to be missed! However if you listen to a wide genera of music, you might still want to stay with the old guard of Shure and Weston. REALLY DEMO these before you buy!

UPDATE//////
Looks like someone reading my hard written review and consider me a "Sony Rep." I like you to read carefully of my review and you'll see I've not given a hands down pro review. And I will admit, I DO NOT OWN A PAIR OF THESE! I'm a headphone fan and my comments are of my own experience testing them for 1 hour at a SonyStyle store! I am a happy owner of a pair of Shure 535.
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Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 15, 2012 4:47:09 PM PDT
H. Moreno says:
great review. thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 15, 2012 11:53:26 PM PDT
Thank you Moreno,

I'm still new at this audiophile hobby, I do my best!

Posted on Apr 5, 2012 11:32:09 PM PDT
Jam Man says:
Awesome review and very helpful. The only thing that made me cringe a little was the pretentious and trite phrase "price point". All you need to say is "price" to get your "point" across.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 5, 2012 11:49:54 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 5, 2012 11:50:34 PM PDT
Thanks Jam Man!

On the "point" regarding price. I first came across these at the Narita airprot transferring from Taiwan to SFO in Feb. I noticed it was at 26xxx yen which I considered very cheap for a 4 driver IEM.

A month later these shows up in stores in TW and on Amazon US for a lot more! I checked Amazon Japan and wow!! Take a look at it for yourself!

Posted on Apr 29, 2013 7:58:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 29, 2013 7:59:50 AM PDT
Harish says:
Sir,

That was one fabulous review which strikes me to own the XBA4. I would be happy if you could clear of a little mist for me,

I am using the EX700LP ear buds for the past 3 yrs (everyday) and they are still in great shape, do you suggest me this XBA-4 as a proper upgrade? (Is it worth the $$$?)

On Sony website, The XBA-4 is listed $350, while the XBA-4IP model is $299? (It doesnt make sense when the same product with an additional microphone & controls should cost more?)

This one is quite silly., will the microphone & controls on XBA-4IP work on my Xperia SL?
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