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Sony MDR-XB950N1 Wireless Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.3.1
Updated Apr 10, 2018 at 06:35 pm
Sony MDR-XB950N1 Wireless Picture
Test Methodology v1.3.1
6.3
Mixed Usage
5.8
Neutral Sound
6.7
Commute/Travel
6.6
Sports/Fitness
6.4
Office
5.1
Wireless Gaming
6.8
Wired Gaming
6.0
Phone Call
Type Over-ear
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless Yes
Noise Cancelling Yes
Mic Yes
Transducer Dynamic

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.

Our Verdict

6.3 Mixed Usage

Average for mixed usage. The Sony MDR-XB950N1 have an overpowering and bass-heavy sound quality and even with their noise cancellation feature they do not isolate well enough for all environments. On the upside, 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 but with their active features, they're decent enough for most use cases. Also you can somewhat reduce the bass effect with the app so they can sound a bit better balanced.

5.8 Neutral Sound

Mediocre-at-best for neutral listening. They have the same sound quality and as the XB950B1 which is too bass heavy, even without the Bass Effect turned on. They also have a recessed treble range which makes them sound even darker and lacking in detail with instruments and vocals. Unfortunately, they also cannot create a spacious soundstage due to their closed-back design so they won't be the best headphones for neutral listeners. 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.

See our Neutral Sound recommendations
6.7 Commute/Travel

Average for commuting. They perform a bit better in noisy conditions than the 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.

See our Commute/Travel recommendations
6.6 Sports/Fitness

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 useful if you do decide to use them while jogging.

See our Sports/Fitness recommendations
6.4 Office

Average for office use. They do not leak much even at higher volumes so you won't distract your colleagues. Unfortunately, they do not 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.

See our Office recommendations
5.1 Wireless Gaming

Sub-par for gaming. The Sony XB950N1 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.

See our Wireless Gaming recommendations
6.8 Wired Gaming
6.0 Phone Call
  • 6.3 Mixed Usage
  • 5.8 Neutral Sound
  • 6.7 Commute/Travel
  • 6.6 Sports/Fitness
  • 6.4 Office
  • 5.1 Wireless Gaming
  • 6.8 Wired Gaming
  • 6.0 Phone Call
Pros
  • Sturdy and durable build.
  • Easy-to-use and efficient controls.
Cons
  • Weak noise cancellation.
  • Overly bass-heavy sound quality.
  • Bass and treble delivery varies significantly across users. Sensitive to glasses.
  1. Update 11/21/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.1.
  2. Update 11/6/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.

Test Results

Design
Design
Style

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.

7.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.65 lbs
Clamping Force
1 lbs

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.

7.0
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
Not OS specific
Ease Of Use Decent
Feedback Okay
Call/Music Control Yes
Volume Control Yes
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
N/A
Noise Cancelling Control Yes
Talk-Through
No
Additional Buttons N/A

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.

6.4
Design
Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference 6.1 C

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.

6.0
Design
Portability
L 7.4 "
W 7.1 "
H 1.9 "
Volume 102 Cu. Inches
Transmitter Required N/A

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.

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

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.

7.5
Design
Build Quality

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.

6.0
Design
Stability

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.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Sony MDR-XB950N1 Headphones
  • Audio cable
  • USB cable
  • Manuals

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
5.39 db
Treble Amount
-6.59 db
5.9
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.96 dB

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.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
5.5
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
6.27 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
10 Hz
Low-Bass
7.78 dB
Mid-Bass
7.36 dB
High-Bass
5.64 dB

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. 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 line up from Sony then consider the WH-XB900N instead.

9.4
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
0.75 dB
Low-Mid
-0.19 dB
Mid-Mid
0.59 dB
High-Mid
0.36 dB

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.

2.7
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
8.62 dB
Low-Treble
-8.14 dB
Mid-Treble
-8.51 dB
High-Treble
-7.13 dB

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. Also, their treble delivery varies noticeably across users. The response here represents the average response and your experience may vary.

6.5
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
2.03 db
Dips
2.71 db
8.3
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.24
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.38
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
2.31
Weighted Phase Mismatch
8.71

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.

4.1
Sound
Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
4.21 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
1.24 dB
PRTF Distance
7.81 dB
Openness
3.9
Acoustic Space Excitation
3.1

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.

6.8
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.686
WHD @ 100
0.239
Isolation
5.9
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-14.15 dB
Bass
-4.97 dB
Mid
-13.42 dB
Treble
-24.84 dB

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.

7.5
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
36.57 dB

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.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
Yes
In-line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
N/A

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.

6.6
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
LFE
71.27 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
5.45 dB
HFE
3225.4 Hz
Weighted THD
6.395
Gain
42.95 dB

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.

5.7
Microphone
Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise
Speech + Subway Noise
SpNR
8.14 dB

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.

Active Features
7.3
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
24 hrs
Additional Charges
0
Total Battery Life
24 hrs
Charge Time
3.9 hrs
Power Saving Feature
No
Audio While Charging
No
Passive Playback
Yes
Charging Port micro-USB

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.

7.0
Active Features
App Support
App Name Sony| Headphones Connect
iOS Yes
Android Yes
macOS N/A
Windows N/A
Equalizer
Presets
ANC Control
Yes
Mic Control No
Room effects
Yes
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping N/A
Surround Sound N/A

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.

Connectivity
7.6
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
4.1
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
Yes
Line of Sight Range
175 ft
Default Latency
173 ms
aptX Latency
151 ms
aptX(LL) Latency
N/A

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.

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.

0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
9.5
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
Yes
USB Audio
No
Detachable Yes
Length 4.1 ft
Connection 1/8" TRS
Wired Latency
0 ms

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.

Connectivity
PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC / PS4 Analog
Audio Only
PC / PS4 Wired USB
No
PC / PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
Audio Only
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Wireless
No
0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
N/A
USB Input
N/A
Line In
N/A
Line Out
N/A
Optical Input
N/A
RCA Input
N/A
Dock Charging
N/A
Power Supply
N/A

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.

Compared to other headphones

Comparison picture

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. See our recommendations for the best wireless headphones and the best noise canceling headphones.

Sony WH-CH700N Wireless
SEE PRICE
B&H

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.

Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC
SEE PRICE
B&H

The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC are better headphones than the Sony MDR-XB950N1 Wireless. The Sonys have a very dark sound profile and can’t be EQ’ed via their companion app. Their ANC feature is also quite disappointing, and the HD 4.50 BTNC will block out more ambient noise. On the upside, the MDR-XB950N1 have slightly longer battery life, but they take twice as much time to charge as the HD 4.50. The Sennheisers can also connect to two devices simultaneously, and have a good app with a great parametric EQ.

Sony MDR-XB950N1 Wireless Price

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