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Reviewed on May 22, 2018

Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass
HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
6.4
Mixed Usage
6.4
Critical Listening
6.6
Commute/Travel
7.1
Sports/Fitness
6.3
Office
5.7
TV
6.2
Gaming
Type : In-ear
Enclosure : Closed-Back
Wireless : No
Noise-Cancelling : No
Mic : Yes
Transducer : Dynamic

The Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass are average mixed usage in-ears with an emphasis on bass. They're portable, stable and block an above-average amount of noise which makes them a decent choice for commuting. Unfortunately, they aren't the most balanced-sounding headphones. They should be okay for casual listening but the excess bass won't be ideal for more critical listeners. They're also not as stable as some of the other in-ears and have a limited control scheme.

Test Results
Design 7.1
Sound 6.2
Isolation 7.7
Microphone 6.5
Active Features 0
Connectivity 5.5
Pros
  • Above-average build quality.
  • Minimal leakage.
Cons
  • Mediocre-at-best control scheme.
  • Bass-heavy sound, not for everyone.
Update 2/16/2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
Update 10/2/2017: The microphone has been tested with our new methodology, as explained here

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7.1

Design

The Sony MDR-XB50AP are simple and portable, wired in-ear headphones. They will fit into most pockets and are easy to carry around with you at all times. They have a fairly typical in-ear fit which may not be as comfortable for all listeners. However, they do not offer as many tip options as some of the other in-ear headphones we've reviewed. This means they won't be the most stable in-ears to run with. They also have a fairly limited control scheme control scheme, which is a little disappointing.

Style

The MDR-XB50AP are simple and straightforward in-ear headphones. They have a unique and stylish earbud design but the same fit as most in-ears. The cable is decently rubberized which gives a slightly more premium appeal to the headphones. They also come in a couple of flashier color schemes that will stand out more than the all-black variation we've reviewed.

6.5 Comfort
Weight : 0.04 lbs
Clamping Force
:
0 lbs

The Sony XB50AP have a typical in-ear fit. They're angled, so they don't enter as deeply into the ear canal, but since the buds are rather large, they're still quite noticeable once in your ears. Unfortunately, they do not have any foam tips which some users prefer.

5.2 Controls
Ease of use : Okay
Feedback : Okay
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : No
Microphone Control : No
Channel Mixing
:
N/A
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through
:
N/A
Additional Buttons : No

The MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass have a one-button design that doesn't give you as much control. They only provide track skipping and call/play/pause functionality via the multi-purpose button. Unfortunately, the slightly limited layout does not give you any volume controls, and the one button is not as responsive as some of the other headphones that we've reviewed.

9.2 Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference : 0.8 C

The XB50AP, like most in-ear/earbud designs, are very breathable headphones. They trap a bit of heat within your ear canal but won't make you sweat more than usual since they do not cover your outer ear. It's a negligible temperature difference even during more intense exercises, which makes them a decent option for sports (see our recommendations for the best sports headphones).

9.3 Portability
L : 1.6 "
W : 1.6 "
H : 0.9 "
Volume : 2.3 Cu. Inches
Transmitter required : N/A

The Sony XB50AP, like most in-ears, are ultra-portable headphones. They will easily fit into most pockets and they're super easy to carry around on your person. Unfortunately, they do not come with a good case.

5.5 Case
Type : Pouch
L : N/A
W : N/A
H : N/A
Volume : N/A

These headphones come with a small pouch that will prevent the headphones from getting tangled with anything else in your bag and pockets but it won't protect them from drops and impacts.

7.0 Build Quality

The MDR-XB50 have an above-average build quality. They have decently rubberized audio cables, and the earbuds feel dense enough that they won't break if you accidentally drop them once or twice. However, the cable is not replaceable, and upon closer inspection, the plastic used for the inline remote and the earbuds look a bit cheap. Also, although the cables are rubberized, they're not very thick.

6.5 Stability

These headphones do not have any stability tips and aren't particularly stable for running or working out. They have a typical in-ear fit and they're lightweight, so they won't easily fall out of your ears in most casual situations. However, they don't enter the ear canal as deeply as some of the other in-ears so if the audio cabled is tugged or hooked on something, the ear buds will easily slip out of your ears.

Cable
Detachable : No
Length : 4 ft
Connection : 1/8" TRS

These headphones do not come with any additional cables.

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Headshots 1
Headshots 2
6.2

Sound

The Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass is a mediocre-sounding pair of closed-back in-ears. These earbuds have a consistent and extended bass, a well-balanced mid-range and low distortion even under heavy loads. However, their bass is noticeably boomy and muddy, their mid-range could sound cluttered and muddy especially on vocals, and their treble lacks a bit of presence and detail. Also, like most other in-ears, they don't have a large and speaker-like soundstage.

7.0 Bass
Std. Err.
:
4.42 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
:
12.97 Hz
Low-Bass
:
1.12 dB
Mid-Bass
:
3.93 dB
High-Bass
:
7.09 dB

The Sony MDR-XB50AP have a decent bass. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 13Hz, which is excellent. Low-bass, responsible for the thump and rumble common to bass-heavy genres, is within 1dB of our target, which is great. Mid-bass, responsible for the body of bass guitars and punch of the kick drums is over our neutral target by about 4dB. High-bass, responsible for warmth is overemphasized by more than 7dB. This results in a deep and extended bass that sounds excessively boomy and muddy.

7.8 Mid
Std. Err.
:
2.94 dB
Low-Mid
:
2.53 dB
Mid-Mid
:
-1.78 dB
High-Mid
:
2.18 dB

The mid-range performance of the XB50AP is good. Low-mid shows a bit of bump, which is the continuation of the high-bass overemphasis. This thickens vocals a bit and makes mixes sound muddy and cluttered. Mid-mid and high-mid are relatively consistent and within 2dB of our target.

6.6 Treble
Std. Err.
:
4.6 dB
Low-Treble
:
-3.62 dB
Mid-Treble
:
-0.85 dB
High-Treble
:
-10.38 dB

These in-ears have an average treble performance. Low-treble is underemphasized by more than 3dB, negatively affecting the detail and presence of vocals and lead instruments. Mid-treble is relatively consistent and balanced but could sound a bit sibilant (sharp on S and Ts) to those with overly sensitive ears.

9.7 Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
:
0.07 dB

The frequency response consistency of the MDR-XB50AP is excellent. If the user is able to achieve a proper fit and an air-tight seal using the assortment of tips that come with the headphones, then they should be able to get consistent bass and treble delivery every time they use the headphones.

7.2 Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
:
0.19
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
:
3.56
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
:
2.68
Weighted Phase Mismatch
:
2.68

The imaging performance of the XB50AP is above-average. The weighted group delay is at 0.19, which is very low. The GD graph also shows that the entire group delay response is below the audibility threshold. This ensures a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were very well-matched in frequency and phase response, but we measured more than 3dB of amplitude mismatch. This could noticeably skew the stereo image to one side, which is not ideal for the proper localization of objects (voices, instruments, video game effects), in the stereo field.

It should be noted that this mismatch could be unique to our test unit and then one you buy may or may not have this issue.

1.2 Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
:
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
:
N/A
PRTF Distance
:
N/A
Openness
:
3.2
Acoustic Space Excitation
:
0.6
Correlated Crosstalk
:
0.0 dB

The soundstage is poor. This is because creating an out-of-head and speaker-like soundstage is largely dependent on activating the resonances of the pinna (outer ear). The design of in-ears and earbuds is in such a way that fully bypasses the pinna and doesn't interact with it. Also, because these headphones have a closed-back enclosure, their soundstage won't be perceived to be as open as that of open-back earbuds like the Apple AirPods, Google Pixel Buds, or the Bose SoundSport Free.

8.7 Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
:
0.282
Weighted THD @ 100
:
0.295

The Sony MDR-XB50AP have a very good harmonic distortion performance. The overall amount of harmonic distortion at 90dB is very low, throughout the range. At 100dB SPL, there is a small rise in THD in the bass and mid ranges, while remaining within very good limits. The treble range THD though remains mostly unchanged.

7.7

Isolation

The Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass block a decent amount of noise and barely leak. They create a decent seal within your ears that should be suitable for commuting, especially if you're listening to music at moderate-to-high volumes. However, they won't perform as well as some of the noise-canceling headphones we've tested. On the upside, since they barely leak, you can mask most of the ambient noise by playing at higher volumes. They will rarely distract the people around you.

6.8 Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
:
Overall Attenuation
:
-16.92 dB
Bass
:
-1.81 dB
Mid
:
-15.28 dB
Treble
:
-34.91 dB
Self-Noise
:
0 dB

The MDR-XB50AP has a decent isolation. In the bass range, where the rumble of airplane and bus engines sits, they don't achieve any isolation. In the mid-range, important for blocking out speech, they isolate by more than 15dB, which is good. In the treble range, occupied by sharp sounds like S and Ts, they achieve 35dB of isolation, which is very good.

9.5 Leakage
Leakage Audio
:
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
:
24.37 dB

The leakage performance of these headphones, like most in-ears, is excellent. The significant portion of their leakage is between 3KHz and 6KHz, which is a very narrow range. The overall level of the leakage is very quiet too. With the music at 100dB SPL, the leakage at 1 foot away averages at 24dB SPL and peaks at 44dB SPL, which is below the noise floor of most offices.

6.5

Microphone

Integrated
:
No
In-line
:
Yes
Boom
:
No
Detachable Boom
:
N/A

The Sony MDR-XB50AP have an average microphone. In quiet environments, speech recorded or transmitted with this in-line mic sound slightly thin, and relatively lacking in detail and presence. However, it'll still be decently easy to understand. In noisy situations, they struggle to fully separate speech from background noise even in moderately loud environments, like a busy street.

6.6 Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
:
LFE
:
486.43 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
:
1.43 dB
HFE
:
4695.06 Hz
Weighted THD
:
0.398
Gain
:
25.06 dB

The recording quality of the MDR-XB50AP's in-line microphone is about average. The dip between 100Hz and 500Hz makes recorded or transmitted speech relatively thin sounding. The bump around 20Hz means that this mic may be prone to pops and rumbling noises. The HFE (high-frequency extension) is at 4.7KHz, resulting in a speech that lacks a bit of detail and presence. However, it'll still be decently understandable since speech intelligibility is mostly dependent on the 500Hz-4KHz range.

6.5 Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise :
Speech + Subway Noise :
SpNR
:
16.94 dB

The in-line microphone of the MDR-XB50AP is average at noise handling. It achieved a speech-to-noise ratio of 17dB in our SpNR test. This suggests that it's best suited for quiet environments since they will struggle to fully separate speech from background noise in loud and moderately loud places.

0

Active Features

The Sony MDR-XB50AP have no active components and therefore do not require a battery. They also have no app support for added customization options.

N/A Battery
Battery Type
:
N/A
Battery Life
:
N/A
Charge Time
:
N/A
Power Saving Feature
:
N/A
Audio while charging
:
N/A
Passive Playback
:
N/A

These are passive earbuds with no active components that need power so they do not have a battery.

0 App Support
App Name : N/A
iOS : N/A
Android : N/A
Mac OS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
:
N/A
ANC control
:
N/A
Mic Control : N/A
Room effects
:
N/A
Playback control
:
N/A
Button Mapping : N/A
Surround Sound : N/A

These headphones do not support the bose connect app.

5.5

Connectivity

The Sony MDR-XB50AP are passive, wired headphones, that only connect to other devices via their 1/8" TRRS audio cable. On the upside,  the non-detachable cable has no latency and is not OS specific so the inline mic is compatible with consoles and PCs. Unfortunately, this also means that they have a  limited range, which isn't as convenient as the range of wireless headphones.

0 Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
:
N/A
Multi-Device Pairing
:
N/A
NFC Pairing
:
N/A

The in-ears are wired and do not have a Bluetooth connection. See our recommendations for the best sounding wireless earbuds.

9.1 Wired
OS Compatibility
:
Not OS specific
Analog Audio
:
Yes
USB Audio
:
No
PS4 Compatible
:
Audio + Microphone
Xbox One Compatible
:
Audio + Microphone
PC Compatible
:
Audio + Microphone

These headphones have a 1/8' TRRS audio cable with an inline remote microphone that's compatible with the PS4 and Xbox one controllers. It will also be microphone and audio compatible with PCs if you have a headset adapter or a 3-pin audio jack like on most tablets, laptops and phones.

0 Base/Dock
Type
:
N/A
Optical Input
:
N/A
Line In
:
N/A
Line Out
:
N/A
USB Input
:
N/A
RCA Input
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
:
N/A
PC Compatible
:
N/A
Power Supply
:
N/A
Dock Charging
:
N/A

The MDR-XB50AP do not have a dock. If you need a headset with a dock that also has a wired connection for gaming or watching movies, then consider the SteelSeries Arctis 7.

0 Wireless Range
Obstructed Range
:
N/A
Line of Sight Range
:
N/A

These headphones are wired and do not have a wireless range.

10 Latency
Default Latency
:
0 ms
aptX Latency
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
:
N/A

The MDR-XB50, like most wired headsets, have negligible latency (see our recommendations for the best wired headphones). They are a suitable option for gaming and watching movies, but they are limited by the relatively short range of their audio cable.

In the box

  • Sony MDR-XB50AP Headphones
  • Earbud tips (x4 sizes)
  • Carrying pouch
  • Manual

Compared to other Headphones

The Sony MDR-XB50AP are a decently versatile wired in-ear. They do not have the best sound quality and may a bit too bass-heavy for critical listening. But on the upside, they block enough noise to be suitable for commuting and they will easily fit into your pockets so you can have them on you at all times. They're also sufficiently stable for sports and working out although they won't be as good as some of the competing in-ear models below. See our recommendations for the best earbuds and in-ears, the best earbuds under $50, and the best cheap earbuds.

Apple EarPods

The Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass are more versatile headphones than the Apple EarPods due to their closed-back design that isolates more ambient noise, which makes them more suitable for commuting. As their name suggests, the XB50AP Extra Bass have a very bass-heavy sound profile, while the Apple EarPods' open-design lacks sub-bass but don’t lack detail in the treble range like the Sonys do. Also, the EarPods are more comfortable if you can find a good fit. They have a decent in-line remote with volume control, which the Sony don’t have, disappointingly. The EarPods have a decent microphone for calls, while the Sony MDR-XB50AP are a more stable option for sports.

1More Piston Fit

The Sony MDR-XB50AP are better headphones than the 1More Piston Fit. They have a more balanced sound, isolate more ambient noise, and barely leak. They also feel more durable than the Piston Fit. On the other hand, the 1More feel more comfortable thanks to their very small and lightweight earbuds, and they have a better microphone for calls.

Conclusion
SEE PRICE
B&H

6.4 Mixed Usage
The Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass are average mixed usage headphones. They do decently well in loud environments and they're easy-to-carry around on your person which makes them a decent choice for commuting. They're not the most stable in-ear but they won't fall out of your ears easily and thanks to their compact size, they're also a decent option for sports. Unfortunately, their poorly balanced, bass-heavy sound won't be ideal for all listeners and their 1 button control scheme feels a little lacking.
6.4 Critical Listening
Mediocre for critical listening. The small and closed-back in-ear design means they won't have the most spacious soundstage. That combined with their poorly balanced sound that favors bass over instruments and vocals make them sound cluttered, muddy and a bit boxy which may be somewhat okay for casual listening but won't be ideal for more critical listeners.
6.6 Commute/Travel
Decent for commuting. The Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass are lightweight, ultra-portable headphones that passively block a lot of noise. They won't be the best in very loud environments, but they can handle the level of most commutes, especially if you're listening to music at moderately high volumes.
7.1 Sports/Fitness
Above-average for sports use. Although they're not as stable as some of the other in-ears, they're compact lightweight and decently comfortable. However, they do not have the best control scheme, and since they're wired, they might get yanked out of your ears relatively easily if the cable gets hooked by something.
6.3 Office
Average for office use. They prevent a fair bit of noise from entering your audio. They also barely leak so they won't distract your colleagues in quieter environments.
5.7 TV
Below average for home theater use. If you watch movies on a PC or tablet, then the relatively short cable and low latency of a wired connection should be good enough. However, the lack of range makes them poorly suited to watch TV from your couch, unless you have an audio cable extension cord.
6.2 Gaming
Average for gaming. They have a wired connection, so they have negligible latency which is suitable for gaming. They also have a decent microphone that's compatible with consoles and PCs. Unfortunately, they sound overly bass-heavy and lack a good app to customize their sound profile like most gaming headsets. Their in-ear fit also won't be as comfortable for all listeners, especially during long gaming sessions.

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