Sony’s MDR XB950BT is a Bluetooth headphone from Sony in their XtraBass(XB) series. It was launched a long time ago, and after using it for over 4 months, let me give you a review of the device so that you can decide if this product is for you or not. I’ll begin with the basics(the design, features) and then move to the fun part about the music experience and bass boost.
Although the name for the headphones does not sound that interesting, the design of the device is pretty impressive and appealing. It has a swivel cup design so you can lay it flat on a table, or when carrying it in a bag. I personally really like this over the folding design in a lot of headphones. The earcups are highly cushioned and hence they are so comfortable to wear. When I say comfortable, trust me on that because I wore these headphones on a 10-hour bus ride and I didn’t even feel them on my ears the entire time.
The headband is expandable to fit any head size. I typically use it in the medium length only and I have a pretty big head I think. The headband is also cushioned on the top so that the part that touches your head does not feel metallic but feels comfortable with that padding.
Controls and Connectivity
If I talk about the controls and button placement on these headphones, I can say that I kind of like the button placement. On the left earcup, you will find the Microphone, the 3.5mm input port, the microUSB charging port, the Bass Boost button and the finally the power button.
On the right earcup, you’ll find 2 rockers, one for the track control and one for the volume control. The track control rocker is a moving button that you can move to go to the previous or next track or press it to play/pause a song or accept a call. The volume rocker is just a volume up and volume down control with these two operations being on the opposite end of that rocker.
After a few days of use, you kind of get used to the button placement and orientation and I could practically control these without even looking at them or trying to find them with my hand.
Coming down to the Bluetooth connectivity experience, it’s really easy to connect to the headphones if your phone has NFC. These headphones have an NFC easy pair function just on the right earcup. Just place your phone on the right earcup and it will pair the headphones with your phone in just a few seconds. If you don’t have NFC, then you can just go into the Bluetooth settings on your device and pair like you would pair any other Bluetooth device.
With Bluetooth connectivity on headphones, I can not talk about the microphone quality because at least once you will end up taking calls on your headphones. The microphone quality is pretty good on these headphones and it also provides some noise cancellation when talking on a call using them. I have used these headphones for talking on a lot of calls and no one has ever complained about a bad call quality.
Let’s finally come down to the audio experience on the device. The audio experience on these headphones is great, be it in the wireless mode or in the wired mode. There are two different cases when I use wired or wireless audio. When I’m listening to music on my phone, I use the wireless mode to listen to music from Spotify Premium and Saavn Pro, guaranteeing the best possible quality for the music.
When I’m working on my laptop and listening to music at the same time, I like to use it in a wired mode since I’m pretty much close to the laptop all the time and there’s no need to use up my headphone’s battery. The best part about these headphones is that the audio connection (wired) can be made using any 3.5mm cable, not necessarily the one provided. This makes it really easy to replace your cable in case you lose it. The volume coming out from these headphones is pretty damn high I’d say. I generally keep it between 40-50% and that also seems a bit high to me at times.
Talking about the sound leak, i.e. the problem when you listen to music on your headphones and everyone around you can also listen to what you are listening is almost non-prevalent in these headphones. If I crank up the volume to above 75%, others can hear the music that I’m listening to but that is really loud and I would avoid anyone using that.
At nominal volumes, there is no sound leak whatsoever. As far as the noise cancellation goes, although they don’t have active noise cancellation, they provide passive noise cancellation because of their over the ear design. It blocks most of the sound coming from outside when you’re listening to your favorite music.
Since the MDR XB950BTs are a part of the XB family, it would be rude to not talk about the XtraBass in these headphones. By default, you just get the usual bass that is in the song but when you press that Bass Boost button on the left earcup, the amount of bass in any particular song increases drastically.
It feels like some great bass music is playing in your ears. I typically listen to Hindi, English and Punjabi music and the best experience I’ve ever had was with Punjabi music as most of the songs are really bass-full, so to say. The only downside to this bass boost feature is that it can not be activated when using your headphones in a wired mode, even if your headphones have battery left in them.
Speaking of battery, the battery life on the XB950BTs is just as advertised. Sony advertises about 20 hours of battery life and in my usage in the last 4 months or so, I can say that I get about 20 hours of listening on these headphones. I typically charge them once in 2 weeks or maybe 3 weeks sometimes depending on my usage.
If I’m using them more on my laptop, I’d have to charge them less but still, when commuting to my college and back, I do listen to music via Bluetooth. Charging time on these headphones is also not that bad. It takes about 4 hours for the battery to go from 0% to 100%.
Although there is a new version of these headphones, called the XB950N1, which features active noise cancellation, are the XB950BT headphones still worth it? In my opinion, these headphones are perfect for the price at which they are available in the USA. At the time of writing this article, they are available for 99USD on Amazon USA and at Rs. 12,999 on Amazon India.
This huge price difference is because of the recent price drop here in the USA for these headphones. The only downside that I found with these headphones was that I can not use Bass Boost with wired connectivity. Other than that, there is nothing that I don’t like about these headphones.