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.
Decent for mixed usage. The Sony MDR-XB950B1 don't have the most balanced sound quality or don't isolate well enough for all environments, but they have a sturdy, durable wireless design and do not leak much. This means they won't be the best headphones for critical listening or commuting in noisy environments but with their active features, they're decent enough for most use cases and with the app you can better tune the bass to your liking.
Mediocre-at-best for neutral listening. They're too bass heavy, even without the Bass Effect turned on. That and the dull treble range make them sound dark and lacking in detail with instruments and vocals. They also have a relatively small soundstage due to their closed-back design. They won't be the best headphones for most neutral listeners but on the upside, the Bass Effect can be further reduced via the Headphones Connect app so you may find some redeeming qualities in their sound profile.
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.
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.
Decent for office use. The Sony MDR-XB950B1 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. They can passively block more noise if you can get a good fit with the ear cups.
Sub-par for gaming. The Sony XB950B1 have a mediocre mic that isn't compatible with consoles and quite a bit of latency which is not really suitable for gaming. They also tend to make your ears a little warm during long gaming sessions and are not the most comfortable headphones to wear for extended gaming sessions.
The Sony MDR-XB950B1 are a well-built and premium looking headphones for bass-heads (check our recommendations for the best headphones for bass). 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. See our recommendations for the best wireless headphones.
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. Unlike the Skullcandy Hesh 3, 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 Sony MDR-XB950B1 do not come with a case or pouch.
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 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 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 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.
Update 02/25/2022: These headphones are compatible with Sony's 360 Reality Audio feature, which can offer better sound quality. However, we don't have these headphones anymore and can't confirm their firmware version or what kind of features are available when using 360 Reality Audio. That said, like all Sony headphones compatible with this feature, you need to subscribe to services like Tidal or Nugs.net and use compatible files to use it. We have updated our review to reflect these changes.
The soundstage of the Sony XB950B1 is disappointing. 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. That said, they're compatible with Sony's 360 Reality Audio, a virtual soundstage feature that can offer a more immersive audio experience. However, you need to have a subscription to services like Tidal or Nugs.net and use compatible files.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.