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Sony MDR-XB950N1 review: Noise-cancelling headphones for bass lovers

Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Sony has released a new set of headphones designed for all the bass lovers in the world. They are called Sony MDR-XB950N1, they are wireless (through Bluetooth and NFC), have extra bass, noise canceling, and a pleasant design. We tested them for a while, and now we want to share our impressions with you. Whether they are a great choice for you, or not, you can find out in this review:

Sony MDR-XB950N1: Who is it good for?

The Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones are an excellent choice if:

  • You love bass and music with a lot of low-frequency sounds
  • You want a pair of headphones that offers noise cancelling
  • You want your headphones to have touch controls (buttons) on them

Pros and cons

The main pros for buying the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones are:

  • They are designed to deliver powerful bass
  • They can cut down ambient sounds, so that you can enjoy your music
  • They can connect to your devices wirelessly, using Bluetooth, and NFC
  • They have a good build quality and will probably last you for a couple of years
  • They are comfortable to use even for extended periods of time
  • You can fold and swivel the ear cups, to carry them more easily on your travels
  • Their battery lasts many hours

The Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones have the following weaknesses:

  • The extra bass is too strong for some people, and they might not like it
  • You can use the app that lets you customize the bass only on Android and iOS devices, but not on PCs with Windows or OS X
  • It takes a long time to charge them
Product Rated
4/5

Verdict

The Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones are an excellent choice for anyone who loves bass and intends to use them mainly with an Android smartphone or with an iPhone. What we like most about these headphones is how comfortable they are and the fact that they do a good job at cutting down ambient noise. They look good, and they are sturdy. If low-frequency sounds are your thing, the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones are worth buying. However, if you want a pair of headphones that deliver well balanced sound, you should try other models that do not emphasize the bass as much as these do.

Unboxing the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless noise-canceling headphones

The Sony MDR-XB950N1 headphones are packaged in a premium looking box. Almost everything on it is printed in black and dark gray colors, and the emphasis falls on the "Extra Bass" features.

Compared to its front side, the back side of the box is filled with much more information. Among other details, there we find that the headphones feature an Electro Bass Booster that enhances the low-frequency sound, that they can digitally cancel ambient noise, and that Sony created an app for controlling some features of the headphones, available for Android and iOS.

When you open the box, you find out that there is another box inside. This one is made from thick black cardboard, and inside it, the headphones are sitting on top of a molded plastic support. Our first impression is that these headphones look premium but also a bit bulky. Bundled with them, you find a carrying pouch made from soft textile, an audio cable with 3.5mm stereo mini plugs on its ends, and the usual paperwork: the user manual, the quick start guide, and the warranty.

On Sony's website, we learned that these headphones are also supplied with a USB cable for charging them. We did not find it in the box, but the sample we tested was not meant for retail stores, but for marketing purposes.

The unboxing experience we had with the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones was pleasant. Sony paid attention to details when packaging these headphones.

Hardware specifications

Sony MDR-XB950N1 is a pair of wireless headphones that use Bluetooth version 4.1 (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile A2DP, Audio/Video Remote Control Profile AVRCP, Hands-Free Profile HFP, Headset Profile HSP) to connect to your devices, and which also supports one-touch pairing via NFC. They can also be used as wired, via a standard 3.5mm audio cable.

The Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones are circumaural, meaning that they cover your entire ear, and use sizeable 1.57inch driver units. Theoretically, the larger the drivers, the better the sound.

They also come with an Extra Bass feature that can enhance low-end sound frequencies to a higher level, with a simple touch of a button. Also just by pressing a button, the headphones can activate another cool feature: Digital Noise Cancelling. That means that they can "delete" unwanted ambient noise so that you can enjoy the music you listen to without being bothered by traffic or people, for example.

Being wireless means that the headphones need a battery to run. Fortunately, the autonomy on a full charge is generous, about 22 hours, even with the noise canceling feature turned on. Charging the headphones entirely takes approximately 7 hours. Unfortunately, that is a long time.

The Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones are available in two color variations: black and green. The ones that we tested were the black version.

If you want to read more about the hardware specs and all the features of these wireless headphones, visit this webpage: Sony MDR-XB950N1 - Full Specifications and Features.

Using the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless noise-canceling headphones

The Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones look premium but, as we mentioned a bit earlier, feel a bit bulky. That is not to say that they are not good looking. The ear cups are large and are covered in soft plush that makes them comfortable, even if you keep them on your head for many hours.

The headband is made of metal that is rigid but does not squeeze your head, just as it should be, and it is also covered with soft plush. The sliders on the headphones are long enough to let you adjust them comfortably even if your head is large or if you dreadlock your hair. :)

If you are a traveler and you want to take these headphones with you, a good thing about them that you should know is that their ear cups are foldable and can swivel. Although they are still large, they are relatively easy to take away with you.

One thing that we like about the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones is the fact that Sony has put a lot of distinct buttons on the ear cups. After an hour or two of listening to music on these headphones, you learn where each button is found and what it does. They have different shapes and sizes, so it is easy to identify them all using only touch, and not having to get them off of your head or reach your smartphone.

On the right ear cup, there is the power button, the bass effect button, the micro USB port, the 3.5mm audio jack, and the noise canceling button.

On the left ear cup, you get the volume rocker and a switch for play/pause/phone, forward and back.

Listening to music on the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones is a pleasure, especially if you like bass rich tracks. We loved how music from genres such as hip-hop, trip-hop, electronic or reggae sounds. However, the bass frequencies feel a bit too powerful when you listen to other types of music such as rock, heavy metal or classical music. Even if we disabled the Extra Bass on the headphones, the low-frequency sounds were still a bit too powerful.

Fortunately, Sony also offers an app that you can use to adjust the bass a little. We tried it on an iPhone SE, and we got some mixed results with it. It does manage to cut down the lows, but when you cut them too much, it feels like the mids are overemphasized, and the highs are not as clear as they should be. So, maybe Sony should try to adjust its equalizer algorithms a bit. Also, it is rather unfortunate that the app is available only for Android and iOS devices - it cannot be used on Windows or macOS computers.

The noise canceling works well, and we felt its results in a good way: when you turn it on, it halves the ambient noise. We tested these headphones during a week in a city with lots of traffic, and the apartment in which we were was right next to a main street. Traffic was intense, and you could hear cars, trams, and ambulances rushing through the lanes. With the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones on your head, those noises are sent to the background and, even if you can still hear them, they are not as disturbing as when the noise canceling is off.

The Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones can also work as a headset, meaning that they also have a built-in microphone. We tried it in a few phone calls, and we can say that it does a good job. The people to whom we have spoken over the phone said that they could hear us well and clear.

As a final test, we also used the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones in a few games that we like to play, such as League of Legends, Assassin's Creed Black Flag, and Metro 2033. They are not designed for gaming, but they do a good job in this area. Thanks to the powerful bass, firing guns sound especially satisfying. :)

The Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones are an excellent choice for bass lovers. We like their design, the fact that they are comfortable to use for extended periods, their noise-canceling feature, and how they sound when listening to electronic or trip-hop music. However, we feel that the bass is overemphasized and the mids and highs could be better calibrated.

What is your opinion about the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless noise-canceling headphones?

After reading our review, what do you think about the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones? Do you want such headphones with noise canceling features and powerful bass? Have you already bought a pair? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts or experiences about the Sony MDR-XB950N1 wireless headphones.