Whenever we read about high-tech headphones, we always have to smile, especially with the in-ear versions. You can’t integrate high-tech in such small housings, can you? Sony wants to prove exactly the opposite with its XBA series. The Sony XBA-4 in-ear headphones cost a proud 299 Euros - a lot of money for a mobile headphone. But the product is not aimed at the average consumer, but at people who listen to and enjoy music with passion. Our test report shows whether the high-tech purchase is worthwhile.
The XBA series from Sony
The first member of the family, the XBA-1, is tuned for a clear vocal voice and a balanced sound that suits all styles of music. Its big brother, the XBA-2, has an additional driver unit that is specially designed for low frequencies and delivers powerful bass for dance music and the like. The XBA-3 headphones integrate a third driver unit, a tweeter, which reproduces high frequencies in detail. With the XBA-4, Sony delivers headphones for demanding music fans who do not want to miss the sound of a four-way hi-fi speaker on the move.
Balanced Armature Technology
The XBA headphone series uses the so-called Balanced Armature Technology. According to Sony, this new driver technology takes up only one the size of a conventional 13.5 mm driver. However, the small size should not affect the sound quality. According to the manufacturer, the sensitivity is an impressive 108dB/mW.
Compared to previously known dynamic full-range drivers, the new Balanced Armature drivers can be tuned to reproduce treble, midrange or bass. Thanks to its small size, the XBA-4 even makes use of all the optimizations in the headphones.
Sound: Hightech in everyday life
The buyer will not be interested in the inner workings of the Sony XBA-4 - in the end, he’s only interested in the sound. Given the technology described above, we were particularly curious about the sound.
We tested the woofer with “Kill The Noise - Jump Ya Body”. Even though the title starts off slightly, the big drop follows from second 26 on, which makes a big sound that goes deep into our ears. The XBA-4’s drivers perform very well and bring the dubstep title to the road, which otherwise can only be enjoyed with large speakers and decent hi-fi systems.
We tested the headphones’ treble with “From the Depths” by Andrea Bocelli. Even at high levels, the Sony headphones delivered sovereign performance. The sound is pure and doesn’t sound compressed at all.
Finally, of course, a hard metal title shouldn’t be missing - and what could be better than “The End Of The Line” by Metallica? Here the Sony XBA-4 proves that it doesn’t have to struggle with fast guitar riffs or hard drums. The spatial sound makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a Metallica concert even when you’re on the road.
Design & Processing
After the Sony XBA-4 convinced us with its successful sound, we took a closer look at it. The first thing that stands out is the high quality of workmanship that can be expected at this price. The cable of the in-ears, which is attached with strain relief, is practical. The 3.5 mm mini jack plug is gold-plated and the cable is made of oxygen-free copper. The scope of delivery includes various ear tips in the sizes XS, S, M and L as well as suitable noise insulation so that the Sony XBA-4 fits in every ear.
From an optical point of view there are no special features: Sony has opted for a simple design: the in-ear headphones come in a colour combination of black and metallic. On one side you can see the Sony logo, on the other the lettering of the model “XBA-4”. In our opinion, the “R”, which stands for “Registered”, is a bit unattractive. Nice is the red ring at the end of the in-ear head, where the cable starts, and the four orange squares on the back of the headphones. Both elements provide colour in an otherwise classic design.
The in-ear headphones of the luxury class Sony XBA-4 impress with the latest technology, which justifies the high price. From an acoustic point of view, the headphones are a masterpiece.