There are some of us who like an accurate, flat response – and others who prefer something with a bit more oomph in the bass. The Sony MDR-XB600 is made for the latter group. XB stands for ‘Xtra Bass’, so users should have an inkling of what to expect with these headphones.
The XB600 delivers with plenty of punch at the lower end, thanks to large and dynamic 40mm drivers. They are great for modern music genres such as pop, hip hop, rap and electronic dance. While human ears can only detect a range from 20Hz to 20,000 Hz, the XB600 has an exceptionally wide frequency response of 4Hz to 24,000Hz – wider than most headphones on the market. So even if you can’t hear the notes, you’ll definitely feel them on your ears.
Bass can be hard to pull off, as there needs to be sufficient control and separation to avoid lower frequencies from overwhelming the other ranges. This is evidenced by headphones like the Beats, which, despite their commercial success, are well known to have a muddy low-end, as if music is being played through a thick wall. The XB600 suffers from this problem, although the sound is not as harsh or as boomy as the Beats.
While audio is warm and lively rather than flat and accurate, there just isn’t enough bass control on some tracks, and the lower frequencies end up dominating the rest of the sound. They also bleed into the mids, creating a muggy, veiled effect. The effect isn’t too pronounced, so they should still be good for casual listening. The good news is that the headphones offer improved clarity over their predecessor, the XB500, and the highs are surprisingly well done – clear, crisp and sweet-sounding, with just a slight hint of sibilance at high levels.
The headphones have a wide sound stage, designed to create a spacious, impactful sound that seems to come from all around the user. This makes them useful for a variety of applications beyond listening to music, such as for watching movies or gaming. The deep rumble adds an extra layer of depth to action scenes.
With a relatively low impedance of 40ohms, they are suitable to be plugged into portable audio devices such as smartphones and MP3 players. They have a medium sensitivity rating of 104dB, so no amp is required. While volume goes up pretty loud, audio sounds like it’s on the verge of distortion on high volumes so users should go for a moderate listening level for the best experience.
Design and Build
The XB600 has some upgraded features from the older XB500, which makes them much more portable. Although still large and bulky, they weigh just over 7 ounces and are suitable for long hours of wear. The ergonomic shape can even be worn by people with glasses, without pressing too hard on the temples. Measuring 8.8inches by 6.8 inches by 4.1 inches, the headphonessport a wide, padded headband that helps to distribute weight evenly over the head.
Some on-ear headphones have flat ear pads, but the XB600’s are thick enough to be mistaken for an over-ear style at first glance. The cups are actually supra aural, so they rest on the ears instead of enveloping them completely. Usually, noise isolation is poor in supra aural types, but the XB600 comes with a unique direct vibe structure – which means that the music is played directly into your ears. Not only do they offer a superior bass response, they also provide a private listening experience, without having to worry about bothering others on the commute. They do a fair job at reducing environmental noise.
The XB600’s body is made from plastic, with ‘faux’ metal parts spray painted to look like aluminium or steel. While they can probably hold up to a few drops, the material feels flimsy for their price and the hinges creak after repeated use.
The cups swivel both vertically and horizontally for a customized fit. They are also padded with light memory foam and synthetic leather coverlets. Since they are on-ear headphones, they offer better circulation compared to over-ear types. The cups fold down for convenient storage. The headphones come in a simple black or tan color scheme. The latter has a vintage look and feel.
Most headphones today come with detachable cords for added convenience. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with the XB600, as it still has the old-school Y-shaped connection on a 1.2m cord, which is flat with a serrated finish to minimize tangles. The cable does not come with an inline mic or controls, so users will still have to fiddle with their devices to adjust volume or skip tracks. The cord terminates in a standard gold-plated 3.5mm audio jack.
Pros and Cons
The XB-600 may not be the best in their category, but they offer good value for their price and are a solid choice for those who can get over their bass-heavy sound. Comfy and versatile, they are suitable for both music and audio on the go or at home, without burning a hole in your pocket.