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    Table of Contents
  1. Intro
  2. Design
    1. Style
    2. Comfort
    3. Controls
    4. Stability
    5. Portability
    6. Case
    7. Build Quality
    8. Breathability
    9. Cable
    10. Front
    11. Angled
    12. Side
    13. Rear
    14. Top
  3. Sound
    1. Bass
    2. Mid
    3. Treble
    4. Frequency Response Consistency
    5. Soundstage
    6. Imaging
    7. Total Harmonic Distortion
  4. Isolation
    1. Noise Isolation
    2. Leakage
  5. Active Features
    1. Wireless
    2. Battery
    3. App Support
  6. In the box
  7. Conclusion
  8. Q&A
Reviewed on May 16, 2017 , Marc Henney, Jean-Christophe Lamontagne

Sony MDR-XB950B1
HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings
6.3Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
5.8Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
6.4Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
6.4Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
6.7Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
Type : Over-ear
Enclosure : Closed
Wireless : Yes
Noise-Cancelling : No
Mic : Yes
Transducer : Dynamic

The Sony MDR-XB950B1 are sturdy and premium-looking headphones, geared towards fans of bass. They have an overly bass-heavy sound that thanks to the Headphones Connect app can be turned down for more critical listeners. Unfortunately, sound-wise they're not for everyone and their oddly sized ear cups, are well padded, but not as comfortable for all listeners.

Test Results
Design 6.6
Sound 5.7
Isolation 6.0
Active Features 7.3
Pros
  • Sturdy and durable build.
  • Easy-to-use and efficient controls.
Cons
  • Below-average noise isolation.
  • Overly bass-heavy sound quality.

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6.6

Design

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Score components:
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Design Picture

The MDR-XB950B1 have a premium feel to them but look a bit awkward once on your head. They're well-built headphones with ample padding and a sturdy metal and plastic frame reinforcing the headband. This gives them a high-end appeal and somewhat comfortable fit, but the size of the ear cups opening makes them sit awkwardly on the tips of your ears which can get fatiguing after a while. They're also a bit bulky, and the protruding ear cups sway a lot a lot under physical activity, so even with their wireless design, they're not the best headphones for sports use.

Style
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Design Picture 2

The MDR-XB950B1 have a premium look and feel but are not as sleek as some of the other Sony models. The circular ear cups are well padded, and the headband design is a mix of the old Sony MDR-ZX770BN and the newer MDR-1000X. They expose the metal frame with padding on the underside of the headband which looks somewhat stylish. They also come in 3 color variations to better suit your taste, but unfortunately, the relatively dense ear cups stick out once on your head and look a little awkward.

7.0 Comfort
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What it is: Adjustability and degrees of freedom, pressure, stiffness and weight.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used for long durations.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Comfort Picture
Weight : 0.61 lbs
Clamping Force
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What it is: The force that the headphones exert on your head, once you have them on. This is purely a measurement of the force applied, which does not take into account the earpad's surface area and the resulting pressure you will feel, on or around your ears.
When it matters: The tighter the headphones, the more force they put on your head. This can get uncomfortable or cause pain and soreness during long listening sessions.
:
0.95 lbs

The MDR-XB950B1 are decently comfortable headphones but don't have the best fit on larger ears. The ear cups and headband are well padded enough that they do not feel too tight on the head. However, the padding creates an awkward fit as they do not quite feel like over-ears. This means the fit won't be as comfortable for everyone as they may pinch the tip of your ears which can begin to hurt after a while.

8.0 Controls
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What it is: The control scheme of the headphones, the number of functions provided, button layout and ergonomics as well as the quality of tactile feedback.
When it matters: If you want to control volume, pause your music or make phone calls without directly interacting with your audio device.
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Controls Picture
Ease of use : Above-average
Feedback : Average
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : Yes
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through : N/A
Additional Buttons : Bass Effect

The MDR-XB950B1 have a good control scheme. Skipping tracks, play/pause and volume controls are all on the right ear cup and have a good feedback that makes them quite easy to use. Power on and the bass effect button are on the left ear cup but do not feel as responsive as the rest of the buttons. They're a bit flat and difficult to find by touch alone.

6.0 Stability
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What it is: How the headphones are designed to prevent them from slipping off your ears or falling off your head.
When it matters: If you plan on using the headphones while doing sports or other physical activities that requires a lot of movement.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Stability Picture

These headphones won't be ideal for exercising with. They are a bit too unstable to comfortably take jogging and the size and weight of the ear cups cause them to sway during physical activity. On the upside, they're wireless so during casual listening sessions they won't get yanked off your head because the audio cable got tangled or hooked on something.

6.0 Portability
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What it is: The volume of space occupied by the headphones when folded into their most compact format.
When it matters: If you're often on the move and need to carry your headphones in a bag, purse , or pocket.
Score components:
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Portability Picture
L : 7.4 "
W : 7.1 "
H : 1.9 "
Volume : 102 Cu. Inches

The XB950B1 are barely portable over-ear headphones. They lay flat to reduce their footprint but it doesn't save a significant amount of space since the ear cups are fairly large and dense. They also don't fold into a more compact format. That and the lack of a good case makes them a bit cumbersome to carry around on your person, especially, if you don't have a bag.

0 Case
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What it is: The provided carrying options to protect your headphones when transporting them.
When it matters: To prevent damaging your headphones, if you often carry them in your bag or pocket.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Type : No case

7.5 Build Quality
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What it is: Durability, material quality, cheap/expensive feel.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used by multiple users (classes/studios), by children, in tough conditions, on a daily basis, or for exercise.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Build Quality Picture

The materials used in the build of the XB950B1 feel premium and decently durable. The padding on the both headband and ear cups feels high-end. The headband is also reinforced with a sturdy enough metal and plastic frame so that the headphones won't get damaged if you stretch them a bit too far. Unfortunately, unlike the MDR-1A the ear cups a bit plasticky and less resistant to impacts and drops.

6.3 Breathability
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What it is: How hot the headphones get when you wear them for an extended period of time.
When it matters: If you often have long listening sessions or use your headphones while doing physical activities like running or working out.
Score components:
  • 100% Avg.Temp.Difference
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Breathability Before Picture Sony MDR-XB950B1 Breathability After Picture
Avg.Temp.Difference : 6 C

Cable
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Cable Picture
Detachable : Yes
Length : 4.1 ft
Connection : 1/8" TRS

Comes with two cables; a 1/8" to 1/8" TRS audio cable and a micro-USB charging cable.

Front
Angled
Side
Rear
Top
5.7

Sound

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What it is: How accurately the audio is reproduced. The tests are performed with the headphones' most commonly used features enabled (noise-cancelling, wireless, etc.)
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Frequency Response

The MDR-XB950 have a mediocre and poorly balanced sound. The have way too much Bass and not enough Treble, even with the Extra Bass option set to Off. This makes the overall sound bass-heavy, boomy and dark, which won't be suitable for most tracks, especially the already bass-heavy ones. They also have poor Soundstage due to their closed-back design, but average stereo imaging and distortion. However, you have the option of turning the Bass down using the app.

5.3 Bass
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What it is: Frequency Response from 20Hz-250Hz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on bass frequencies, such as those of kick drums and bass guitar.
Score components:
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Bass
Std. Err.
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What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in bass frequency response (20Hz-250Hz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) bass performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
6.94 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
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What it is: The lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: Shows how extended the bass is.
Good value: <40Hz
Noticeable difference: 5Hz
:
10 Hz
Low-Bass
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 20Hz-60Hz.
When it matters: Kick drums and low frequency effects get their 'thump' from this range. Mostly felt than heard.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
7.58 dB
Bass
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 60Hz-120Hz.
When it matters: Melodic bass instruments have most of their fundamental frequencies in this range. This is where the 'body' and 'punch' of the bass sits.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
8.08 dB
High-Bass
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 120Hz-250Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments get their warmth and full-ness from this range. When over-emphasized, mixes tend to get muddy and boomy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
7.43 dB

Poor Bass Range performance. The overall response is quite flat, but with a constant over-emphasis of 8dB. This makes the sound of these headphones overly bass heavy and boomy. It should be noted that the test was performed with the Extra Bass option Off. These headphones will be even more bass-heavy with Extra Bass set to On.

8.6 Mid
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What it is: Frequency Response from 250Hz-2KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on mid-range frequencies. This is the case for the majority of audio content.
Score components:
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Mid
Std. Err.
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What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in mid frequency response (250Hz-2.5KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) mid performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.89 dB
Low-Mid
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 250Hz-500Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments have their fundamentals or low harmonics in this range. Over-emphasis in this range sounds boxy. Under-emphasis, thins out the vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-0.74 dB
Mid
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 500Hz-1KHz.
When it matters: This range is occupied mostly by upper harmonics. Over-emphasis sounds forward and honky. Under-emphasis pushes instruments to the back of the mix.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.73 dB
High-Mid
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 1KHz-2KHz.
When it matters: Most instruments, especially vocals, get their intensity and clarity from this range. Over-emphasis sounds harsh, under-emphasis sounds weak and distant.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-0.58 dB

Very good Mid Range performance. Low-mid is slightly inconsistent, and mid is hyped by a little bit. However, the average response is within 2dB of our target which means that the inconsistencies in the Mid Range won't be very audible.

2.9 Treble
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What it is: Frequency Response from 2KHz-20KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on high-range frequencies, such as voice, cymbals, and any other material where brightness, brilliance and airiness is desired.
Score components:
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Treble
Std. Err.
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What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in treble frequency response (2.5KHz-20KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) treble performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
8.41 dB
Low-Treble
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 2KHz-5KHz.
When it matters: Almost all instruments rely on this range for their presence, detail, and articulation. Over-emphasis can sound harsh and painful. Under-emphasis hurts the comprehensibility of vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-7.28 dB
Treble
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What it is: The average amount of over/under emphasis in frequency response from 5KHz-10KHz.
When it matters: This is the sibilance range. Cymbals, vocals, and lead instruments rely on this range for brightness and presence. Over-emphasis sounds piercing and painful, under-emphasis sounds dull and lispy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-8.49 dB
High-Treble
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What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 10KHz-20KHz.
When it matters: This range gives brilliance and airiness to the sound. Over-emphasis sounds hissy, under-emphasis sounds closed-up and lifeless.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-10.19 dB

Poor Treble Range performance. Low-treble and Treble are significantly under-emphasized. This will have a noticeable negative effect on the clarity, detail and brightness of the sound of these headphones, especially on vocals/leads.

6.8 Frequency Response Consistency
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What it is: The amount of deviation of each frequency response pass, from the average frequency response.
When it matters: Shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them.
Score components:
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Consistency L Sony MDR-XB950B1 Consistency R
Avg. Std. Deviation
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What it is: The average amount of deviation in frequency response of 5 re-seats, from the average frequency response.
When it matters: Shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them.
Good value: <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.66 dB

Mediocre consistency. The Bass Range of our Over-Ear and On-Ear headphones are measured on 5 different human subjects, 5 times each. In the graphs, each line represents an individual's average Bass response. The variance in the Bass range is about 6dB which is significant and noticeable. In the Treble Range the variance is only about 3dB which is above average.

5.3 Soundstage
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What it is: Soundstage qualities are not inherent to the audio content, the headphones have to 'create' them rather than 'reproduce' them. They determine whether the sound is perceived to be coming from inside or in front of the head, how open and spacious the soundstage is, how much the headphones acoustically interact with the environment, and how strong the phantom center is.
When it matters: When an accurately produced, large and spacious soundstage, similar to that of a stereo loudspeaker setup is desired.
PRTF Error
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What it is: The average amount of deviation in Pinna-Related Transfer Function of the headphones, compared to that of a loudspeaker. Whether the soundstage is perceived to be unnatural, located inside or in front of the head, is dependent on this quality. The more the headphones activate the HRTF resonances of the ear (similar to what loudspeakers do), the more the soundstage will be pulled out from inside the listener's head. This quality affects both stereo and mono content.
When it matters: When a natural, in-the-front soundstage is desired, similar to that of a loudspeaker.
Good value: <5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
7.3 dB
Openness
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What it is: How open the headphones are, and how open and spacious they sound. This quality affects both stereo and mono content. This test differentiates between acoustically and electronically produced crosstalk and only takes the acoustically generated crosstalk into account. This value is the inverse of the Noise Isolation test score.
When it matters: When an open, wide and roomy sound is desired. A value of 10 indicates a fully open headphone, and a value of 0 indicates a fully closed headphone.
Good value: >7.5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
6.0
Acoustic Space Excitation
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What it is: How loud the headphones are, and how much they excite their environment acoustically. If the headphones are loud and open enough, the sound leaking from the headphones takes some of the characteristic of its environment (reflections/reverb) before reflecting back into the open headphones and to the listener's ears. This quality affects both stereo and mono content. This value is the inverse of the Leakage test score.
When it matters: When an open, wide and roomy sound is desired.
Good value: >7.5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
2.4
Correlated Crosstalk
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What it is: How strong and solid the phantom center is. This is mostly a stereo quality and its effects on mono content are minimal. This test is sensitive to the phase of the crosstalk and whether it is produced acoustically or electronically.
When it matters: When a true reproduction of the stereo image is desired. A value of 0 indicates no crosstalk, or that the existing crosstalk is not correlated enough to affect the phantom center. A negative score means the crosstalk is out of phase with the original signal, resulting in a slightly wider stereo image at the expense of creating a 'hole' at the center of the stereo field. A positive score means the crosstalk is in phase and positively affecting the phantom center.
Good value: >1dB
Noticeable difference: 0.3dB
:
0.0 dB

Poor Soundstage. Due to the closed-back design, these headphones sound a bit isolating and won't let the outside ambience be mixed with the music, like open headphones would. Also, due to the small ear cups, they don't interact with the pinna like loudspeakers do, which results in a Soundstage that is perceived inside the listener's head as opposed to in front.

7.0 Imaging
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What it is: Imaging qualities are inherent to the audio content, the headphones have to 'reproduce' them rather than 'create' them. They determine how accurately the objects are positioned in the stereo image, and how transparent the imaging is.
When it matters: When accurate positioning of the objects in the stereo image, and clear and transparent imaging is desired.
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Phase Response
Phase Error
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What it is: The average amount of deviation in the phase, from the ideal flat response.
When it matters: When an accurate and transparent imaging is desired.
Good value: <60°
Noticeable difference: 10°
:
39.15 °
Driver Mismatch (Amplitude)
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What it is: The Left/Right balance of our test unit, that is, the amount of amplitude difference between the left and right drivers. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When a properly balanced stereo image and low manufacturing tolerance is desired. A poor score indicates a noticeable difference in level between the left and right drivers.
Good value: <0.3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.09 dB
Driver Mismatch (Frequency)
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What it is: The amount of difference (Std. Err.) between the frequency response of the left and right drivers of our test unit. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When an even and stable stereo image, as well as a low manufacturing tolerance, is desired. A poor score indicates there may be 'holes' in the stereo image at certain frequencies.
Good value: <2dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.6 dB
Driver Mismatch (Phase)
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What it is: The amount of difference (Std. Err.) between the phase response of the left and right drivers of our test unit. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When an even and stable stereo image, as well as a low manufacturing tolerance, is desired. A poor score indicates there may be inaccuracies in the stereo image reproduction at certain frequencies.
Good value: <90°
Noticeable difference: 30°
:
61.5 °

Decent Imaging. The amount of phase shift happening below 8KHz is minimal and not sharp enough to be quite audible. The shift in high-treble however, will have a small negative effect on the stereo Image. We also measured about 1dB of mismatch between the L/R drivers of our test unit.

6.5 Total Harmonic Distortion
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What it is: The subtle, unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired, though its effect is not as noticable as frequency response.
Score components:
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
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What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 90dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at moderate listening levels.
Good value: <0.100
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
3.754
Weighted THD @ 100
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What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 100dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at loud listening levels.
Good value: <0.300
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
22.653

Average Distortion performance. The overall amount of distortion in the Bass and lower Mid Ranges is elevated both at 90 and 100dB SPL. There is also a bump in harmonic distortion at 4KHz, reaching 2% of the test signal. This will have a small negative effect in the clarity and transparency of the sound especially in the Treble Range.

6.0

Isolation

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Score components:

These headphones have a subpar isolation performance but do not leak much at higher volumes. They isolate passively and let a lot of ambient noise seep into your audio, so they're not ideal to use on your daily commute or in loud environments. On the upside, they do not leak much, so you won't distract anyone around you at moderate-to-high volumes so they're decent headphones to use in quieter settings. 

5.2 Noise Isolation
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What it is: How much outside noise is blocked out by putting the headphones on.
When it matters: If the headphones are going to be used in a noisy envinronment (airplane, subway, etc.)
Score components:
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Noise Isolation
Overall Attenuation
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What it is: The overall amount of environmental noise reduction in dB.
When it matters: In loud envinronments like planes, trains, offices, etc.
Good value: <-20dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-13.37 dB
Bass
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What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the bass range (20Hz-250Hz).
When it matters: When the outside noise is bass-heavy, like in airplanes.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
0.29 dB
Mid
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What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the mid-range (250Hz-2.5KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is mid-heavy, like in an office.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-8.22 dB
Treble
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What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the treble range (2.5KHz-20KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is treble-heavy. Although uncommon, areas with sharp sounds fall under this category.
Good value: <-30dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-32.77 dB
Self-Noise
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What it is: The amount of noise created by the active electronics of the headphones (if applicable), measured from 300Hz-20KHz. Applies mostly to wireless and noise-cancelling headphones.
When it matters: If too loud, it could become distracting when listening to quiet material like podcasts and audiobooks.
Good value: <16dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
17.26 dB

Poor Isolation. These headphones don't have active noise cancellation and only isolate passively using their ear cups. They achieve no isolation in the Bass Range, which is poor but typical of most passive over-ear headphones. In the Mid Range, they achieve 8dB of reduction which is average. In the Treble Range, they achieve more than 30dB of noise reduction, which is within good limits.

7.6 Leakage
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What it is: The amount of sound bleeding out of the headphones.
When it matters: When the listener doesn't want people around them (in office, recording studio, etc.) to hear what is being listened to.
Score components:
Sony MDR-XB950B1 Leakage
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
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What it is: The amount of sound leakage heard 1 foot away from the user, while the user is listening to a 100dB SPL signal.
When it matters: When you don't want people hear what you are listening to.
Good value: <35dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
36.59 dB

Good Leakage performance. The significant portion of the leakage sits between 400Hz and 2KHz, which is a relatively broad range. However, the overall level of leakage is quite low.

7.3

Active Features

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What it is: Headphones with active components that require a battery. This includes noise cancelling and wireless headphones that actively reduce noise or transmit audio via a wireless connection.
When it matters: How suitable the power and wireless specifications of an active headphone will be, depending on your listening habits. The range and/or discharge time of the active headphone you select will be important if you're often on the move or have long uninterrupted listening sessions.
Score components:

The MDR-XB950B1 have a decent set of active features, and they're the first headphones from Sony that we've reviewed that supports the Sony| Headphones Connect app. This gives them a bit more customization options although the app itself feels a bit lacking in functionality. On the upside, the XB950B1 have a good wireless range and an above average battery life. Unfortunately, they take quite a bit of time to charge and don't have many power saving features.

8.2 Wireless
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What it is: Headphones that offer a cable-free listening experience over a wireless network, typically via Bluetooth or radio frequency.
When it matters: If you don't want to be limited by the length of an audio cable. This means having the freedom to move around in your home or office with a much greater range than an audio cable could provide, especially, if the Bluetooth source is heavy or difficult to carry.
Type
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What it is: The type and version of the wireless network, the headphones use to connect to the audio source. This could either be Bluetooth or radio frequency.
When it matters: The Bluetooth version will determine how compatible the headphones are with your Bluetooth enabled devices. Typically, newer Bluetooth versions are backward compatible with older ones but may lack the additional features that more recent Bluetooth protocols provide.
:
Bluetooth 4.1
SBC Latency
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What it is: The latency for the default sub-band coding of most Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos a high latency can cause sync issues between the images you see and the audio you hear.
Good value: 170ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15ms
:
171 ms
aptX Latency
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What it is: An audio coding algorithm (Codec) that improves bit rate efficiency. It reduces latency and improves sound quality over Bluetooth.
When it matters: For better sound quality if your often streaming music over Bluetooth. Also it slightly improves latency when watching videos with wireless headphones.
Good value: 130ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15ms
:
110 ms
aptX(LL) Latency
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What it is: Low latency variation of aptX that significantly reduces sync issues between video and sound when using Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos or gaming latency is a lot more noticeable than just listening to music.
Good value: 50ms or less
Noticeable difference: 5ms
:
N/A
Obstructed Range
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What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when the Bluetooth source was placed in another room.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you, while listening to your audio in an indoor environment. Although, the obstructed wireless range will slightly depend on your home or office layout.
Good value: >35ft
Noticeable difference: 5ft
:
41 ft
Line of Sight Range
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What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when in direct line of sight of the Bluetooth device.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you, while listening to your audio in a large and open environment.
Good value: 170ft or more
Noticeable difference: 10ft
:
182 ft
NFC
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What it is: Near Field Communication technology that allows you to quickly, pair your headphones with your Bluetooth and NFC-enabled device.
When it matters: This makes pairing with an NFC-enabled device a lot easier than the typical and often tedious hold-to-pair procedure that most wireless headphones have.
:
Yes

These headphones have a reliable and relatively fast wireless connection. Their wireless range is suitable for indoor use as they rarely had any connection drops up to 40 ft when we left the Bluetooth source in another room. They also support NFC for easy pairing with mobile phones and the aptX codec which slightly lowers their latency with Bluetooth devices that support the codec.

6.6 Battery
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What it is: The power source of your headphones. All headphones with active features have a battery that will deplete over time.
When it matters: To continue using the active features of your headphones. Some models lose features or switch off completely when the battery is drained, which limits what you can do with them until the next charge.
Score components:
Battery Type
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What it is: The type of battery that the headphones use. Usually AAA or embedded, Li-ion rechargeable batteries.
When it matters: When your headphones run out of power. Rechargeable batteries usually charge via the headphones Micro-USB port whereas AAA batteries have to be replaced or charged with an external device.
:
Rechargable
Battery Life
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What it is: The amount of time it takes for a headphones' battery to be completely drained. Battery life will vary depending on the active features used and volume level.
When it matters: For active headphones that connect wirelessly, have noise cancellation or other audio-enhancing features, that cease to work once the battery is dead.
Good value: >10hrs
Noticeable difference: 0.5hrs
:
20 hrs
Charge Time
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What it is: The amount of time your active headphones have to be connected to a power source to charge from 0 to a 100%. However, charging time will vary depending on your power source.
When it matters: To be able to use the active features of your headphones. Especially, wireless ones that completely switch off and need to be recharged when the battery is dead.
Good value: 2h or less
Noticeable difference: 0.25h
:
3.1 hrs
Auto-off
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What it is: A feature that turns off the headphones, after a set time, when they're not in use.
When it matters: To prolong battery life when the headphones are not being used, or if you forget to manually turn off your headphones.
:
No
Audio while charging
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What it is: Some active headphones remain usable while charging. They continue to stream audio and do not disable other active features.
When it matters: This makes sure that your headphones's battery are not being drained when your relatively close to a power source. However, this means wireless headphones will need a wired connection to the power source during the charging process.
:
No
Passive Playback
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What it is: Active headphones that still work when all their active features are turned off or out of power.
When it matters: If you run out of power and do not have spare AA/AAA batteries or access to a power source to recharge your headphones.
:
Yes

The battery life of the MDR-XB950B1 is above average at 20 hours of continuous playback, but they take a long time to charge. That and the lack of good power saving features like an auto off timer when connected to your Bluetooth source or the ability to continue playing when charging, makes their battery performance a bit mediocre. On the upside, they can be used even when the battery is completely depleted as long as you have the audio cable with you.

7.0 App Support
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What it is: The additional app provided to enhance your listening experience. They typically deliver a set of practical features that give you more control over the sound, noise cancelling and effects that the headphones produce.
When it matters: An app with a lot of features allows you to customize your listening experience to suit your taste and preferences. For example, additions like an equalizer can give you more bass or treble and room effects can simulate a bigger Soundstage in closed back headphones.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sony MDR-XB950B1 App Picture
App Name : Sony| Headphones Connect
iOS : Yes
Android : Yes
Equalizer
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What it is: Parametric, graphic or preset sound profiles that slightly alter the frequency response.
When it matters: If you want to tailor, your listening experience. Depending on what you're listening to you may want more or less bass for some tracks or more mid-range for vocals-heavy audio.
:
No
ANC control
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What it is: Control over the Active noise canceling technology. This could be either a simple on/off button, and adjustable slider or even adaptive self-regulating noise cancellation.
When it matters: If you're in an environment where you need to monitor your surroundings or completely isolate yourself from ambient noise.
:
No
Room effects
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What it is: Room effects that enhance the audio quality to make it more immersive.
When it matters: If you want to further tweak your listening experience. Adding room effects, can simulate a more spacious Soundstage or deliver a surround sound-like feel.
:
Yes
Playback control
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What it is: An in-app player that gives you access to play/stop, track skipping or volume controls directly with the app.
When it matters: It's a shortcut that allows you to control your audio without leaving the application.
:
No

Unlike previous Sony headphones, the MDR-XB950B1 has the Headphones Connect app which let you slightly personalize their sound. The app offers control over the intensity of the 'Bass Effect' feature as well as various room effects that let you cycle through preset like Arena, Club, etc... While this does give you some customization options, it feels slightly limiting, and a full equalizer would have been preferable.

In the box

Sony MDR-XB950B1 In the box Picture

  • Sony MDR-XB950B1 Headphones
  • Audio cable
  • USB cable
  • Manuals

Conclusion

6.3Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
Decent for mixed usage. They don't have the best sound or isolate well enough for all environments, but they have a sturdy, durable build quality. Also, with the added app you can better tune the bass to your liking.
5.8Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
Subpar for critical listening. They're too bass heavy, even without the Bass Effect turned on. That and the dull Treble range makes them sound dark and lack a lot of detail with instruments and vocals. They also have a relatively small Soundstage due to their closed-back design, so they won't be the best headphones for most critical listeners. On the upside, the Bass Effect can be reduced via the Headphones Connect app so you may find some redeeming qualities in their sound profile.
6.4Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
Average for commuting. They're well padded, wireless and have a good battery life. However, their subpar isolation is not ideal for loud environments and may let some of the noise of your daily commute seep into your audio.
6.4Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
Average for sports. They're not sports-oriented headphones so they're a bit too bulky and unstable for exercising with. But they have a wireless design and efficient controls which are useful if you do decide to use them while jogging.
6.7Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
Okay for office use. They do not leak much even at higher volumes so you won't distract your colleagues. Unfortunately, they do not block a lot of noise so they won't be the best headphones for loud and noisy workspaces.
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Questions & Answers

1 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
2
Can I use the MDR-XB950B1 wirelessly with the Playstation 4 via Bluetooth?
Weren't able to pair it. Our PS4 says that it does not support Bluetooth Audio Devices.
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