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Customer Review

51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Edited: Best running and workout headphones, April 24, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Sony XBA-S65 - Balanced Armature Sports Headphones (Electronics)
Update: I'm sadly taking this way down to a 2 from a 5 and not recommending a purchase. While these headphones are the most intelligent design I've tried, they do slip out even still and they do break easily. I'm on my 4th pair (all free replacements) and I've had many problems. On two pairs, one driver developed a crackle. On the other two the housing broke as you've seen in many other reviews. Sony did come out with a better designed and cheaper version that doesn't use the XBA-series balanced armature. I'm tempted to try those but in the mean time my hunt for a solid workout/running in-ear set continues... (Denon Exercise Freak, Etymotic Research, Klipsch Image, other Sony sports, Sennheisser, Bose, B&W C5, and the cheap ones - all of them have failed me)

Original Review:

My background:
Techie, not-quite-audiophile, runner, frequently at the gym, own dozens of headphones from Etymotic's to Sennheiser to Sony to Apple, listen daily, read gadget news.

Bottom line:
If you're looking for a great headphone for working out or running and you know what natural sound is like (i.e. a flat response curve), then stop reading. These are underpriced for their quality and they are by far the best fit for working out. Get them now and be happy.

These headphones mark the end of my years-long search to find a great workout headphone. I've gone through many headphones trying to find something that was a great fit and had at least reasonable audio quality. These turn out to have superb quality and the fit is better than any other for workout purposes.


No-tangle cord - It does what it should. I've bunched them up and shoved them in pockets/bags and pulled them in and out - days later unraveling them takes just a couple seconds.

Ear loops and fit - There are better fits to be had for every day listening but for working out and especially running, these are amazing. The loops fit such that cord noise is diminished (but present still) and if you tug on the cord, it doesn't move the driver much. And if the seal comes undone a little (rare) then all you have to do is gently push the driver to seat it again - because the loops hold it right over your ear canal. It doesn't drift around and twist or force you to play with the fit. The loops themselves are comfortable so long as you don't try to cinch your ear off. The rubber coating is durable and soft.

Audio quality - It's comparable to similarly priced high-end IEMs. It can drive really clearly at high volume which is great for running (I always crank it up when I'm running up a hill). You'll find higher quality options for every day listening but I haven't heard anything nearly as good in a sports headphone. For those of you tuned to Sony's bass-filled low-end, these will sound flat and lifeless. You'll adjust. The bass is there and it's actually quite amazing especially after a good long burn-in. However, for some people's purposes, a thick, incorrect, pronounced bass response from cheaper headphones is what you want for working out. For me, these are so comfortable and sound so great that I've actually switched to using these nearly all of the time. I'm planning on getting a multi-driver XBA for non-workout listening but in the mean time these are my favorite.

Water seal - I sweat worse than anyone I've seen at the gym and I haven't had a problem. I've killed several ipod shuffles but these are going strong after about a month of use. I've also run in the rain with them. The only thing is that if your ears get full of sweat or water, you'll have a little bit of slipping on the seal. See above about fit - it's easy to re-seat them.

Sound isolation - I give it decent rating here. It's not meant to block all noise and for running outside I wouldn't want it to. But you will definitely hear a little outside noise. Overall though, it's a good amount of isolation.


Cord length - It's long and although I hate a bulky in-line adapter, I kind of wish I could split it in half sometimes. The little cord adjustment kit and clip it come with are the typical sony sports pieces that are good but just plain annoying to get on and off - so I never bother.

Pressure in seal - Any fit of this style is going to have a certain amount of air-tightness to it. In the case of etymotics, the seal is completely air-tight. That means when you run, the pressure of your body jolting causes your ear to jump up and down in pressure - making running uncomfortable, not to mention unstable (inner ear balances us after all). These headphones are much better than Etymotics, but the seal is just slightly aggressive. This is good when lifting weight but for running if you try to adjust the fit and accidentally push it a little too hard, you'll squeeze out air and create a really tight low-pressure seal. It's not a deal-breaker. It's just a little tricky at times. I've gotten used to it without a problem really. It doesn't cause me any pressure issues while running.

RMA'd first unit - The original that I got from J&R through amazon had a defect where something (likely the water seal material) was loose in the left driver. At various frequencies the loose material would rattle. RMA'ing wasn't a big deal and the second unit has been fine.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 1, 2013 6:54:30 AM PDT
Thanks for the update. I'd be interested to know whether you've found the perfect pair yet?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2013 9:38:40 AM PDT
b says:
Accidentally, yes.

Despite owning dozens of the damn things, I forgot a pair of headphones for a last-minute work trip and didn't want to be on the plane for hours without music. One of those store-in-a-vending-machine boxes was at the terminal and I settled on YurBuds Ironman Inspire Pro. I'll save the details for a real review on that item in another week or two, but it's enough to say this: I hated them at first but kept at it (as I always do) for a few weeks. They are now the only thing I use when I run or workout. The sound is not ideal but they have never come close to falling out.
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