The Sony MDR-XB950N1 is a noise cancelling variant of the Sony 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 a bit weak and not worth the price difference.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 are average for mixed usage. They have an overpowering and bass-heavy sound quality, and even with their noise cancellation feature, they don't isolate well enough for all environments. On the upside, they have a sturdy, durable wireless design and don't leak much. This means they won't be the best headphones for critical listening or commuting, but with their active features, they're decent enough for most uses. Also, you can somewhat reduce the bass effect with the app so they can sound a bit better balanced.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 are mediocre-at-best for neutral listening. They have the same sound quality as the Sony MDR-XB950B1, which is too bass-heavy, even without the Bass Effect turned on. They have a recessed treble range, making them sound even darker and lacking in detail with instruments and vocals. Unfortunately, they can't create a spacious soundstage due to their closed-back design, meaning they won't be the best headphones for neutral listeners. On the upside, you can further reduce the Bass Effect via the Headphones Connect app, meaning you may find some redeeming qualities in their sound profile.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 are average for commuting. They perform a bit better in noisy conditions than the Sony MDR-XB950B1, but they won't be ideal for very noisy commutes. They're well-padded, wireless, and have a good battery life, but may still let some of the noise of your daily commute seep into your audio.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 are average for sports. They're not sports-oriented headphones, so they're a bit too bulky and unstable for exercising with. However, they have a wireless design and efficient controls, which are helpful if you decide to use them while jogging.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 are average for office use. They don't leak much, even at higher volumes, meaning you won't distract your colleagues. Unfortunately, they don't cancel enough noise for a lively office environment, and they have a bit too much self-noise, which can be a bit distracting if you're not listening to any audio.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 are sub-par for gaming. They have a mediocre mic that isn't compatible with consoles and quite a bit of latency which isn't 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-XB950N1 is the noise cancelling variant of the Sony MDR-XB950B1. These headphones are pretty much identical in terms of performance and look but with slightly better battery life. They also have a decent latency performance, although there will still be some syncing issues when gaming or watching 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 don't fit as well on all listeners. See our recommendations for the best wireless headphones and the best noise cancelling headphones.
The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC are better headphones than the Sony MDR-XB950N1 Wireless. The Sonys have a very dark sound profile and their ANC feature is quite disappointing. On the upside, they have slightly longer battery life, but they take twice as much time to charge as the HD 4.50. The HD 4.50 can also connect to two devices simultaneously.
The Sony WH-CH700N Wireless are better headphones than the Sony MDR-XN950N1 Wireless. They are more comfortable and have noticeably better sound quality. The XB950N1 have a very dark sound profile that's better-suited for very bass-heavy genres like dubstep. Unfortunately, both headphones’ ANC feature is disappointing and barely block ambient noise, but the MDR-XB950N1 are slightly better in that regard. On the other hand, you’ll get more battery life on the CH700N, although they take a very long time to charge. Also, their app offers more controls and a good 5-band EQ, while you can only play with the bass levels of the XB950N1.
The Sony XB950N1 look identical to the Sony 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 Sony WH-1000XM2. They have a premium look and feel but are not as sleek as other Sony models. Also, the relatively dense ear cups stick out once on your head and look a little awkward. Overall, they're decently well-made headphones, and their understated design will work for some.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 are decently comfortable headphones but don't have the best fit on larger ears. They're slightly heavier than the non-noise cancelling variant, but the ear cups and headband are 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 good feedback, making them easy to use. The power, noise cancelling, and 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 don't seal the ear quite as well as some other over-ear models, so they don't get as hot. However, since they're 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 Sony MDR-XB950B1. They have additional joints in their hinges, allowing 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're in your bag, unlike the Sony MDR-XB950B1. However, since it is only a cloth pouch, it won't 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 Sony 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's frequency response consistency 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 and is prone to inconsistencies around 3KHz, depending on positioning and head shape/size.
The bass is sub-par. The 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, drowning out the mid and treble ranges. High-bass is also overemphasized by about 6dB, making the sound boomy and muddy. 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.
Also, their bass delivery varies significantly across users and is sensitive to the quality of fit, seal, and whether you wear glasses. The response here represents the average bass response, and your experience may vary. If you like the extra bass lineup from Sony, consider the Sony WH-XB900N instead.
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. It means that the body of vocals and lead instruments will be 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 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.
Also, their treble delivery varies noticeably across users. The response here represents the average response, and your experience may vary.
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.
Update 02/25/2022: These headphones are compatible with Sony's 360 Reality Audio feature, which can offer better sound quality. 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 Sony XB950N1's soundstage is poor. The PRTF response is rather uneven and doesn't follow our 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 open-back headphones, either. If you're looking for a more immersive sound, these headphones are compatible with Sony's 360 Reality feature. However, this feature only works when you're subscribed to a media service like Tidal that offers compatible files.
The isolation performance is sub-par. Compared to the Sony MDR-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 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. A significant portion of the leakage is between 1.5KHz and 6KHz, a relatively narrow range. This means the leakage will mostly consist of vocals, lead 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, noticeably muffled, and lacking in detail. However, it will still be relatively easy to understand. In noisy environments, they'll struggle to separate speech from background noise, even in moderately loud places like a busy street.
The Sony XB950N1's microphone's recording quality 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. It won't affect its comprehensibility dramatically since speech intelligibility is mostly dependent on the 500Hz-4KHz range.
The integrated mic is sub-par at noise handling. In our SpNR test, they achieved a speech-to-noise ratio of 8dB, indicating they're best suited for quiet environments and will struggle to separate speech from ambient noise even in moderately loud places.
The Sony MDR-XB950N1 have 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, you can use them even when the battery is completely depleted as long as you have the audio cable with you.
The Sony 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 presets like Arena and Club. While this does give you some customization options, it feels slightly limiting, and a full equalizer would have been preferable.
These headphones don't have simultaneous multi-device pairing like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018. But on the upside, they 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 XB950N1 don't have a base/dock. If you want a versatile headset with a base that you can also use wired, check out the SteelSeries Arctis 7 Wireless 2017.