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.
- Sturdy and durable build.
- Easy-to-use and efficient controls.
- Below-average noise isolation.
- Overly bass-heavy sound quality.
Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 100% SpNR
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.
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.
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.
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 Headphones
- Audio cable
- USB cable