The Sony MDR-XB950B1 are decent mixed usage headphones geared towards fans of bass. They're wireless and have a sturdy, premium-looking design that's decently comfortable. Their audio reproduction can be overly bass-heavy out-of-the-box but thanks to the Headphones Connect app you can EQ them for more critical listeners. Unfortunately, even with a good EQ, their sound won't be for everyone and the oddly sized ear cups, do not create the best seal around your ears which lets ambient noise seep into your music.
- Sturdy and durable build.
- Easy-to-use and efficient controls.
- Below-average noise isolation.
- Overly bass-heavy sound quality.
Update 9/28/2017: The microphone has been tested with our new methodology, as explained here
Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.
The Sony 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 under physical activity, so even with their wireless design, they're not the best headphones for sports use.
The Sony 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 Sony MDRXB950B1 are decently comfortable headphones but don't have the best fit on larger ears. The ear cups and headband are 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.
These headphones 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.
The Sony XB950B1 are over-ear headphones with faux leather pads that somewhat restrict airflow to the outer ear. They do not have the best seal so they won't get as hot as some of the other over-ear models, like the QuietComfort 25 or the Oppo PM-3. However, they still cover most of your ears, which will make you sweat more than average. They won't be the best headphones for sports and working out.
The Sony MDR-XB950B1-B 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 make 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 Sony XB950B1 feel premium and decently durable. The padding on both the 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.
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 Sony MDR-XB950 are a sub-par sounding pair of closed-back over-ear headphones. They have way too much bass and not enough treble, even with the Extra Bass option set to Off. This makes their overall profile bass-heavy, boomy and dark, while lacking detail and presence on vocals and lead instruments. Counterintuitively, this will be a bigger issue on bass-heavy genres such as EDM and Hip-hop, since they already have a lot of bass and less of an issue on bass-light tracks such as old jazz and 70's rock, since they can use a bit of bass boost. Additionally, they have a pretty good imaging performance, but like most other headphones, their soundstage is not speaker-like and out-of-head.
The Sony MDR-XB950B1 have a sub-par bass. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 10Hz, which is great for producing deep thump and rumbles. But, low-bass, mid-bass, and high-bass are all overemphasized by 8dB. This makes the bass of the Sonys quite overpowering, unclear, and boomy sounding. 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. Reducing the bass using the app didn't give very satisfactory results either.
The mid-range of the Sony XB950B1 is very good. The dip in low-mid usually makes the vocals a bit thin and gives more emphasis to kick and bass instruments. But, because of the already overpowering bass, it won't have a noticeable effect here. The only other remark here is the overall 5dB tilt of the mid-range, favoring the lower frequencies. This gives a bit more emphasis to the bass range, at the expense of vocals and lead instruments.
These headphones have a poor treble performance. The response is rather uneven, but consistently underemphasized. Low-treble is under our target by 7dB, and mid-treble by 9dB. This will have a noticeable negative effect on their clarity, detail, and brightness, especially on vocals, lead instruments, cymbals.
The frequency response consistency of the Sony XB950B1 is mediocre. The maximum deviation in the bass range across our human subjects is about 9dB, which is not good. If you wear glasses or have long hair breaking the air-tight seal between the headphones and your ear, there will most likely be a drop in bass. Their treble delivery, however, is decently consistent(up to 10KHz).
The imaging of the Sony MDR-XB950B1 is very good. Their weighted group delay is 0.27, which is good. The graph also shows that group delay never crosses the audibility threshold, which indicates a tight bass and transparent treble reproduction. This is quite impressive considering the amount of bass these headphones produce. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were quite well-matched, which is important for proper localization and placement of objects (vocals, instruments, footsteps) in the stereo image.
The soundstage of the Sony XB950B1 is sub-par. Their PRTF response doesn't follow the shape of our reference speaker's PRTF, indicating that the soundstage won't feel quite speaker-like. However, they do activate the pinna (outer ear) to some extent, suggesting that their soundstage will be perceived to be larger than that of in-ears and most on-ears. Also, because of their closed-back design, they won't sound as open as open-back design headphones would.
The Sony XB950B1 have an average harmonic distortion performance. The overall amount of harmonic distortion in the bass and lower mid ranges is elevated both at 90 and 100dB SPL, probably because of the amount of bass these headphones try to produce. There are also a couple of bumps in THD at 300Hz and 4KHz, This will have a small negative effect in the clarity and transparency in those regions.
The MDR-XB950B1 have a subpar isolation performance. They isolate passively and let a lot of ambient noise seep into your audio, so they won't be the best headphones for your daily commute or to use in loud, noisy environments. On the upside, they do not leak much, so you won't distract anyone around you at moderate-to-high volumes so you can turn up the volume to mask some of the ambient noise.
Poor Isolation. The Sony XB950B1 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.
The Sony XB950B1 have a 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. So although their leakage sounds a bit fuller than that of in-ears and earbuds, the level is quiet enough to not be audible. Unless you are blasting your music in a very quiet environment, like an elevator.
The integrated microphone of the Sony XB950B1 is mediocre. In a quiet environment, speech recorded/transmitted with this mic will sound rather thin and noticeably muffled and lacking in detail. But, it will still be rather easily understandable. In noisy situations, however, it will struggle to separate speech from ambient noise, even in moderately loud environments, such as a busy street.
The mic has a mediocre recording quality. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 226Hz, making speech sound a little thin. Their HFE (high-frequency extension) of 3.3KHz means that recorded/transmitted speech will lack detail and sound rather muffled. This will have a small but noticeable negative effect on the intelligibility of speech.
- 100% SpNR
The noise handling of the Sony XB950B1's integrated microphone is mediocre. In our SpNR test, they achieved a speech-to-noise ratio of 12dB, suggesting this microphone is best suited for quiet environments.
The Sony 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 is slightly lacking in functionality. On the upside, they have an above average battery life but they take quite a bit of time to charge and don't have many power saving features.
The battery life of the Sony 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 make 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 MDRXB950B1 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.
- 10% Bluetooth
- 32% Wired
- 10% Base/Dock
- 22% Wireless Range
- 25% Latency
The Sony MDR-XB950B1 are Bluetooth headphones with NFC support and a regular audio cable with no inline remote. Unfortunately, they do not have multi-device pairing or a microphone that's compatible with consoles. You can always use them wired for audio with your Xbox or PS4 controllers, but the integrated mic will not work. Their latency performance is not as bad as some of the other Bluetooth headphone but may still be a bit too high for gaming.
- 79% Multi-Device Pairing
- 20% NFC
- 0% PS4 Compatible
- 0% Xbox One Compatible
The Sony MDR-XB950B1 headphones do not have simultaneous multi-device pairing like the Bose QuietComfort 35. But on the upside, they do support NFC which makes pairing with smartphones a bit easier.
- 13% Analog
- 9% USB
- 26% PS4 Compatible
- 26% Xbox One Compatible
- 26% PC Compatible
The Sony XB950B1 come with a regular audio cable that does not have an in-line remote/microphone or a USB adapter. They will only provide audio when used wired with consoles.
- 4% Optical Input
- 22% Line In
- 4% Line Out
- 22% USB Input
- 4% RCA Input
- 9% PS4 Compatible
- 9% Xbox One Compatible
- 9% PC Compatible
- 2% Power Supply
- 13% Dock Charging
The Sony XB950B1 do not have a base/dock. If you want a versatile headset with a base that you can also use wired, check out the Arctis 7 by SteelSeries.
The Sony XB950B1 have a good wireless range suitable for moderately sized offices. They rarely had any connection drops below 40ft when we left the Bluetooth source in another room. They also have a good line-of-sight range, which makes them a bit better than average if you have a fixed Bluetooth source like a PC or TV.
The Sony MDRXB950B1 perform better than most Bluetooth headphones for latency and also support aptX. Unfortunately, even with the better than average latency, they won't be the most suitable headphones for gaming or watching high frame rate videos.
In the box
- Sony MDR-XB950B1 Headphones
- Audio cable
- USB cable
Compared to other Headphones
The Sony MDR-XB950B1 are a well-built and premium looking headphones for bass-heads. They're wireless with a fairly long battery life and a great range. They even have a decent latency performance although there will still be some syncing issues when watching videos. Unfortunately, their bass-oriented sound can overpower instruments and vocals which won't be for everyone even when you EQ them. The earcups also do not fit as well on all listeners.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 are great noise canceling headphones that are versatile enough for most use cases. They're lightweight and have a decently well-built design but feel a bit plasticky for their price range. They also do not have an equalizer to customize their sound profile. If you're a big fan of bass-heavy music and are looking for a headphone that's not too expensive, then the Sony XB950B1 are a decent option. However, the QC35 are way better for most use cases even without an EQ. They're also better for commuting since they have one of the best ANC that we've measured.
The Sony MDR-1000X are an older model that's been replaced by the WH-1000xm2. They have the same design and a similar performance but do not benefit from the customization options offered by the Sony| Headphones Connect app like the XB950B1. On the upside, they sound better out-of-the-box and are more comfortable. They also have great noise canceling so they will be better suited for commuters and more uses cases than the MDR-XB950B1.
The Beats Studio Wireless have a better design than the Sony MDR-XB950B1 that's more suitable for sports but isn't as durable. They have a decent wireless range and battery life. You also can't EQ their sound profile like with the Sony's but they sound better out-of-the-box. If you want a slick looking headphone for everyday use, then the Beats will be more your vibe, but if you really like a lot of bass and a more durable design, then the Sony are a decent alternative.
The JBL E55BT are a cheaper alternative to the MDR-XB950B1. They're not as well built but deliver a more balanced sound and a more lightweight design that's more stable for sports and isn't as bulky as the Sony's. Unfortunately, they do not benefit from the customization options provided by the JBL Headphones app. This means if you're a fan of bass and want more customization options for your sound, then the MDR-XB950B1 are a decent choice but for most use cases, the E55BT perform slightly better.