AudioRumble rating 86/100
What We like
A sleeker design than many competing products at this price-point.
Precision fit earbuds which add to the listening experience.
The cable/pouch combination makes for great, tangle-free portability.
What We don't like
Some may be turned-off by the lack of volume controls.
The sound quality could be a little more balanced.
It’s hard to go too wrong with Sony, but as with any premium manufacturer you can expect to pay extra for the brand name recognition. Let’s take a look at whether or not that’s the best use of your money.
For the most part, Sony isn’t a brand name which is synonymous with pushing the design envelope. Unlike, say, Apple who have a well known (and, of course, pretty divisive) commitment to aesthetic identity, Sony—with the possible exception of their PlayStation range—doesn’t often stray into big, bold, and memorable design spaces.
Well, it looks like that’s set to change. The MDR-XB50AP earbuds are nothing if not eye-catching, and an attention to detail is evidence across every square inch of this sleek, modern design. Available in three colour variants—a classic black, a modern blue, and a statement red—, this pair of earbuds manages to straddle the line between fashion and function.
The buds themselves are formed from a silicone hybrid material which allows for a close, comfortable, and secure fit that has the added bonus of minimising and isolating a good deal of background noise allowing you the time and audio space to focus on your tunes. Sony has also opted for a long, 1.2m cord which is both durable and resists becoming tangled too often.
Ever since the days of the gone-but-not-forgotten Walkman, Sony has crafted a niche for itself in the audiosphere as a purveyor of gentle innovation. And these earbuds are no exception. Custom-made, specially designed drivers power each bud with what Sony describes as “high energy” neodymium magnets.
The combination of the long, tangle-free cord and the four size variants of the hybrid silicone earbuds themselves means that the sheer comfort of these earbuds is a feature of its own, but the addition of a carrying pouch just adds to the portability and durability that Sony has to offer.
A feature which we always like to see is the integrated microphone/inline remote control combination, and these earbuds, thankfully, have provided. It is, however, a one button remote meaning that you’ll have to live without an easily accessible volume control option if you take the plunge. Android users can make use of the Smart Key app for additional control of their phones which is a pretty unique offering.
A combination of the custom drivers and the precision fit of the silicone hybrid earbuds themselves means that the addition of ‘Extra Bass’ to the full title of this product is more than warranted. The effect is one of creating a kind of sealed acoustic chamber within the ear, so the earbuds don’t have to concentrate on pumping out sheer power and can, instead, deliver a delicate, richer listening experience.
The bass is dynamic but never overwhelming; the mids are noticeably clear and avoid distortion in even the muddiest of mixes; and the highs are distinct without ever becoming piercing. All in all, it’s a very comfortable listening experience with which it is difficult to find much to fault.
Sony has knocked it out of the park with the MDR-XB50 series. A gently stylish—never garish—design with the audio quality to back it up to the finish line. Some may consider the inline remote feature-bloat, but we like the control.
AudioRumble rating 86/100