The Sony MDR ZX300 headphones were built with portability and performance in mind: from the powerful deep bass to their lightweight build. With an affordable price tag and solid functionality, it’s no wonder the headphones are a popular choice among casual listeners who want quality without burning a hole in their pockets.
Sony has made some improvements in the ZX300 as compared to the older ZX100. Clarity and performance is better, so it’s worth shelling out a few extra bucks. It’s obvious from the get-go that these are not monitoring headphones, so don’t expect a flat sound. Instead, the 300 dishes out warm, vibrant beats that provides a ‘live’ audio experience, like being at a concert rather than a closed-in recording studio. While response isn’t accurate, the ZX300 compensates with a spacious sound stage – which makes them useful for gaming and watching movies.
Like the company’s XB series, the ZX300 has a bass bias, although the frequency range is slightly lesser at 10 to 24,000Hz (the XB-600 goes down as low as 4Hz). Considering that most headphones in this category fall between 20 to 20,000Hz, the response is still wider than most models on the market, and you’ll definitely be feeling the powerful impact in the lower end. The ‘pulse’ is particularly felt on instruments such as drum and synths, although they fall short of a subwoofer effect.
Despite their depth, they are not muddy and there is a good separation between the different pitches, with minimal bleeding. Mids are clear and detailed, while highs are crisp and sparkly with barely any sibilance. The overall effect is pretty well-balanced, making the headphones an ideal choice for tracks with electronic sounds, such as pop, rock, hip hop and dance music. Backed by large and dynamic 30mm neodymium drivers, the headphones deliver with consistent and high quality audio performance. This is apparent when they are played with lossless formats like FLAC or APE.
With a low impedance of 24ohms, the headphones work best with portable audio devices such as tablets, smartphones and iPods. They have a medium sensitivity rating of 102dB, so users are advised to avoid using them with an amp to prevent damage. Not that there is much need for it, as the volume goes up very high, although there will be distortion the higher you go. For those who want to tone down the bass, an equalizer is recommended.
The ZX300 runs on a closed operating principle, and features closed-back ear cups for a better seal against environmental noise. Like many DJ-inspired headphones, the circumaural cups envelope the ears completely, and while not completely soundproof, they provide a decent amount of passive noise isolation. People in the library will still be able to hear your music at moderate volumes, but it should not pose a problem on the commute. Users can also rest easy as they block out ambient noises, relieving you of having to deal with crying babies or a loud, chattering crowd.
Most over-the-ear headphones are large and bulky, but the ZX300 wins points for being compact and lightweight. They are, in fact, one of the lightest over-ear designs by Sony, weighing just over 4 ounces. While obviously less portable than earbud-style headphones, they are light enough to be travel-friendly. Their smaller size is less likely to attract attention on the subway.
The band is of medium thickness and adjustable to fit different head shapes and sizes, while the cups are flexible enough to be rotated back and forth.
The headphones aren’t the sturdiest out there and can even feel a little flimsy. While they can probably take a few knocks here and there, care should be taken while handling the headphone’s plastic body. The compact size makes up for the lack of hinges to fold them down, which was a feature added to the newer ZX310.
Although light, comfort is so-so on the headphones, mostly due to the faux leather cushions. While soft, they have a crinkly plastic texture and seem thin and cheap – although users can probably wear them for a good few hours with no complaints. The headband is not padded so users will feel bare plastic at the point of contact, but they compensate for that by being very lightweight. The clamp is fairly tight, so they can even be used for activities such as jogging without fear of slippage.
They come in a choice of five colors for a personalized style, including black, white, red, blue and gold. The outer part of the cups have a metallic finish that makes the headphones look more expensive than they actually are, which is a nice touch.
Most of the newer headphone designs feature detachable, single-sided cables for convenience, but the ZX300 has taken the old-school route. The cord measures 1.2m in length and has a Y-shaped connection, but the cord’s thickness means that they are less prone to tangling. An in-built mic allows users to use the headphones as a hands-free, but there are no in-line controls – so users will still have to fiddle with their devices to adjust volume or settings. The mic’s quality is decent with clear voice recognition; good enough for making and answering calls. The cord terminates in a standard 3.5mm gold-plated audio jack which is compatible with most devices, including Android and Apple.
At such an affordable price, the pros outweigh the cons with the Sony XZ300. While they aren’t the most comfortable and the build isn’t robust, the sound quality makes up for it.