- Table of Contents
- Active Features
In the box
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 is a noise canceling variant of the MDR-XB950B1. These are also decent mixed usage headphones geared towards fans of bass with a sturdy, wireless design. However, their audio reproduction can be overly bass-heavy even without the bass effect enabled. Unfortunately, even with a decent EQ, their sound won't be for everyone and their noise cancellation feature is bit weak and not worth the price difference.
See our recommendations for the best Over Ear Headphones.
- Sturdy and durable build.
- Easy-to-use and efficient controls.
- Weak noise cancellation.
- Overly bass-heavy sound quality.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 have the same design as the MDR-XB950B1. They look almost identical but are slightly heavier and have an additional button for enabling and disabling noise canceling. Everything else though is pretty much the same. They are still well-built headphones with ample padding and a sturdy metal and plastic frame. They also have the same efficient controls for skipping tracks and playing your music. Unfortunately, this also means that the slightly awkward fit of the ear cups can still get a bit fatiguing after a while. They're also bulky headphones with protruding ear cups that sway a lot under physical activity, so even with their wireless design, they're not the best headphones for sports.
The Sony XB950N1 look identical to the MDR-XB950B1. They have slightly different color schemes but the same headband and ear cups which are well padded and look decently high-end. The headband design is a mix of the old Sony MDR-ZX770BN and the newer WH-1000XM2. They have a premium look and feel but are not as sleek as some of the other Sony models. Also, the relatively dense ear cups stick out once on your head and look a little awkward. Overall though they are a decently well-made headphone and their understated design will work for some.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 like the MDR-XB950B1 are decently comfortable headphones but don't have the best fit on larger ears. They are slightly heavier than the non-noise-canceling variant but the the ear cups and headband are basically the same. They're decently well padded headphones but their fit won't be as comfortable for everyone as they sometimes pinch the tip of your ears, which hurts a bit after a while.
These headphones have the same efficient control scheme as the Sony MDR-XB950B1 but with an additional button to enable/disable noise cancellation. Skipping tracks, play/pause, and volume controls are all on the right ear cup and have a good feedback which makes them quite easy to use. The power, noise-canceling and the bass effect buttons are on the left ear cup but they're a bit flat and not as responsive as the rocker for controlling track skipping and play/pause.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 are not the most breathable headphones. They do not seal the ear quite as well as some of the other over-ear models so they do not get as hot. However, since they are over-ears with fairly thick padding, they will make you sweat more than average if used while exercising. They won't be the best headphones for sports and working out.
These headphones are a bit more portable than the MDR-XB950B1. They have additional joints in their hinges which allows them to fold into a more compact format. The ear cups also lay flat which could come in handy in some situations but doesn't save as much space. Unfortunately, even with the new folding mechanism, they're still a bit too cumbersome to carry around on your person, especially if you don't have a bag.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 come with a basic pouch to prevent scratches when they are in your bag, unlike the MDR-XB950B1. However, since it is only a cloth pouch, it will not shield your headphones from impacts, drops or water damage.
The Sony XB950N1 look and feel decently durable and well-made. The headband is reinforced with a sturdy metal and plastic frame and the ear cups are dense. They will easily withstand a couple of accidental falls and feel durable enough that the headphones won't get damaged if you stretch them a bit too far. Unfortunately, unlike the MDR-1A, the ear cups are a bit plasticky and less resistant to impacts and drops.
These headphones are a bit too unstable for jogging and exercising. The size and weight of the ear cups cause them to sway a lot during physical activity. They may accidentally fall off, if you tilt your head too far, which is not ideal for the gym or most sports. 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 XB950N1 are a sub-par sounding pair of closed-back over-ear headphones. They have a deep and extended bass, a nearly flawless mid-range, and very good imaging. However, not only their bass is prone to inconsistencies but is also very excessive, boomy and muddy to the point of completely drowning the mid-range. Their treble is also quite poor and dramatically lacking in detail and brightness on vocals and lead instruments. Overall, these headphones are not recommended for those who care about a well-balanced audio reproduction, even for bass-heavy genres like EDM and Hip-hop. It should be noted that these headphones were measured with the Extra Bass feature set to Off, and the response would be even more bass-heavy with it set to On.
The bass is sub-par. Low-frequency extension (LFE) is at 10Hz, which is excellent. However, low-bass and mid-bass are consistently over our neutral target by more than 7dB. This results in quite an excessive amount of thump and kick on bass guitars and kick drums, which drowns out the mid and treble ranges. High-bass is also overemphasized by about 6dB, making the sound boomy and muddy. It should be noted that these headphones were measured with the Extra Bass feature set to Off, and the response would be even more bass-heavy with it set to On.
The Sony XB950N1 has a great mid-range. The response is even, flat, and nearly flawless throughout the range. Low-mid, mid-mid, and high-mid are within 0.6dB of our neutral target, which is excellent. This means that the body of vocals and lead instruments will be quite well-balanced, however, this may go unnoticed due to the poorly balanced bass and treble ranges.
The treble performance is poor. The response is uneven and dramatically underemphasized. Low-treble, mid-treble and high-treble are under our target by about 8dB, making the sound of these headphones very dark and lacking in detail, especially considering the amount of bass they produce. On the upside, they seem to be well-balanced in the sibilance range (6KHz-10KHz), which is important for producing cymbals and S/T sounds in vocals.
The frequency response consistency of the XB950N1 is sub-par. In the bass range, the maximum deviation across our five human subjects is about 4dB, however, this deviation occurs over the entire bass range, making it quite noticeable. Also wearing glasses could break the seal on these headphones and cause a drop in bass. The treble delivery is not very consistent either, and is prone to inconsistencies around 3KHz, depending on positioning and head shape/size.
The imaging performance is great. Weighted group delay is at 0.24, which is quite good. The GD graph also shows that the group delay never crosses the audibility threshold, which is impressive considering how much bass these headphones produce. The result is a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were very well-matched, ensuring accurate placement and localization of objects (voice, instruments, video game effects) in the stereo image.
The soundstage of the XB950N1 is poor. The PRTF response is rather uneven, and doesn't follow and reference in terms of accuracy. There doesn't seem to be a "10KHz notch" present either, which means the soundstage will be perceived to be located inside the listener's head as opposed to in-front. Additionally, due to the closed-back design, their soundstage won't feel as open and spacious as that of open-back headphones either.
The harmonic distortion performance is decent. The overall amount of harmonic distortion is relatively low in the bass and mid ranges. This suggests that they could easily produce more bass without degrading the sound quality (hence the Extra Bass function). However, the treble range shows elevated amounts of THD, which could make the sound of those frequencies a bit harsh and brittle.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 have noise cancellation, unlike the MDR-XB950B1. This makes them a bit better to use in loud environments but unfortunately, their noise cancellation feature is weak and creates a lot of self-noise. It's not as audible when listening to music but if you often use noise canceling headphones just to isolate yourself from ambient noise then the high self-noise will become bothersome. On the upside, they do not leak much so you can play your music at higher volumes without being too distracting to the people around you.
The isolation performance is sub-par. Compared to the XB950B1, these headphones have active noise cancellation, but they produce a lot of self-noise which is quite distracting when no music is being played. In the bass range, occupied by the rumble of airplane and bus engines, they achieved about 5dB of isolation, which is sub-par. In mid-range, important for cancelling out speech, they achieved more than 13dB of isolation, which is above-average. In the treble range, where sharp sounds like S and Ts sit, they reduce noise by about 25dB which is above-average. The difference between the treble isolation of the XB950N1 and XB950B1 could be due to poor seal on our dummy head, which headphones with small and shallow ear cups are more prone to.
The leakage performance is good. The significant portion of the leakage is between 1.5KHz and 6KHz, which is a relatively narrow range. This means the leakage will mostly consist of vocals, leads instruments and cymbals. The overall level of the leakage is not very loud either. With the music at 100dB SPL, the leakage peaks at around 55dB SPL, which is about the same as the noise floor of most offices.
The Sony XB950N1 has a mediocre microphone. In quiet environments, speech recorded or transmitted with this mic will sound relatively thin, and noticeably muffled and lacking in detail. However, it will still be relatively easy to understand. In noisy environments, they will struggle to separate speech from background noise even in moderately loud places, like a busy street.
The recording quality of the Sony XB950N1's microphone is about average. The LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 71Hz, but the frequency response shows a big dip around 150Hz. This suggests that speech recorded or transmitted with this mic will have some low-end to it, but will be relatively thin overall. The HFE (high-frequency extension) of 3.2KHz means that speech will be noticeably muffled and lacking in detail. But it won't affect its comprehensibility dramatically, since speech intelligibility is mostly dependent on the 500Hz-4KHz range.
- 100% SpNR
The integrated mic is sub-par at noise handling. In our SpNR test, they achieved a speech-to-noise ratio of 8dB, indicating they are best suited for quiet environments and will struggle to separate speech from ambient noise even in moderately loud places.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 have a slightly better battery life than the MDR-XB950B1. They lasted on average about 3-4 hours more than the old model but also take a bit longer to charge. On the upside, 24hrs of battery life should be more than enough to last you the whole day even with heavy use but their battery performance could have been a bit better with a customizable auto-off timer. They also benefit from the Sony| headphones connect app which gives them a bit more customization options, although the app itself is slightly lacking in functionality.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 have a good battery life at 24 hours of continuous playback. However, they take quite a bit of time to charge and lack good power saving features like an auto off timer. They also can't play while charging which would have been convenient if you're near a power source like being at the office. On the upside, they can be used even when the battery is completely depleted as long as you have the audio cable with you.
The MDRXB950N1 also support the Sony| Headphones Connect app which lets you personalize their sound profile. 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-XB950N1 have almost the same performance as the XB950B1 in terms of connectivity. They are also Bluetooth headphones with NFC support and a regular audio cable but no multi-device pairing. Unfortunately, this also means they are not compatible with consoles since their audio cable does not have a microphone. On the upside, you can always use them wired for audio with your Xbox or PS4 controllers. Their latency performance is also not as bad as some of the other Bluetooth headphone but still a bit too high for gaming.
- 79% Multi-Device Pairing
- 20% NFC
- 0% PS4 Compatible
- 0% Xbox One Compatible
These headphones do not have simultaneous multi-device pairing like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. 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 XB950N1 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 XB950N1 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 of 175ft, 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-XB950N1 Headphones
- Audio cable
- USB cable
Compared to other Headphones
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 is the noise cancelling variant of the MDR-XB950B1. These headphones are pretty much identical in terms of performance and look but with a slightly better battery life. They also have a decent latency performance although there will still be some syncing issues when gaming or watching a lot of video content. Unfortunately, their bass-oriented sound can overpower instruments and vocals which won't be for everyone even when you EQ them. The ear cups also do not fit as well on all listeners.
The Sony MDR-XB950B1 is the non-noise canceling variant of the MDR-XB950N1. These headphones have the same design and an almost identical performance but are slightly better at isolating you from ambient noise. Unfortunately, this is offset by the high self-noise which can be distracting if you do not have any audio playing. On the upside, they have a sturdy, premium-looking design that's decently comfortable and you can somewhat EQ the headphones with the Sony| Headphones Connect app. Unfortunately, even with a good EQ, their sound won't be for everyone and the noise cancellation feature is not really worth the price difference.
The Sony MDR-1000X is an older model that's been replaced by the WH-1000XM2. These headphones 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 XB950N1. 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-XB950N1.
The Sennheiser HD4.50 is a better noise canceling option than the MDR-XB950N1. These headphones do not look as premium or as high-end but they have a sturdy build quality and great active features that make them versatile enough for most use cases. You can also better customize their sound profile since the Sennheiser Captune app comes with a fully parametric equalizer, unlike the Sonys. If you like the design and premium feel of the MDR-XB950N1 then they could be a decent alternative but the Sennheisers perform much better overall in almost all categories.
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 as pricey as the Bose, then the Sony XB950N1 are a decent option. However, the QC35 are way better for most use cases even without an EQ. They're also more suitable for commuting since they have one of the best ANC that we've measured.
Questions & Answers
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