Damaged Gears

Evolve your Gears

Splash Damage: MDR-EX90

with 9 comments

So, what does Damage think about the MDR-EX90?

In a word: mixed.

In more than a word: I'm torn. On one hand, they drastically improve upon their predecessor, the MDR-EX71. For one, it's quite useful out of the box. Unlike the EX71s, there are no harsh highs in the treble; rather, it's quite smooth and extended (but not quite to the point of the Grados and the SA1000s) while keeping most of the details intact. The bass is much more tighter and controlled vs. the EX71s. In fact, the EX90s more or less out outperforms similar IEMs below its $99 MSRP.

Having said that, how does it rack up against more superior set of IEMs? Against the Shure E3s, much better than expected. Off of memory, the extended bass on the EX90s outdoes the Shure E3s lack of bass (though this can be fixed with EQ dabbling if so desired). However, compared to the much more expensive Super-Fi 5s? Surprisingly well. On the bass, the Super-Fi's perform tad better than the EX90s, so I'm not quite sure what to make of that. On the mids, you start to notice that the EX90s still has that recessed vocal/mids that doomed its predecessor, whereas the Super-Fi's are much better pronounced in this area. And the highs? Well, I think the Super-Fi's also outperforms the EX90s, though it's a rather close call here. Given the memory wiring and other niceties on the Super-Fi's, such as the detachable drivers, I would lean towards the Super-Fis if I had the extra $150 to spend. Otherwise, the $99 Sony MDR-EX90s are the right steps for the EX series.

Rumor has it that these are more or less nozzled MDR-E888s. If so, then I have to question Sony as to why they're not releasing the MDR-E888s here along with EX90s. For few hours I had the E888s, they were probably the best earbuds I've had the pleasure of using. Too bad I don't have one to compare with the EX90s, as they decided to commit seppuku as soon as they saw fit… Bastards.

Oh, comments are open again, but don't be surprised if non-topical posts dissappear outright.


Written by Damage

04/23/06 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Headphones, Soapbox

9 Responses

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  1. Nice, did you get these from Japan? They sound like a pretty nice improvement over the EX71, and my E3 really are pretty bass shy (EQ only fixes that to a degree on Sony players. With iPods I’m still pretty much SOL, I hate mp3 gaining everything, I shouldn’t have to.)


    04/24/06 at 1:36 pm

  2. No, I was able to score those at a local Circuit City. Not sure if these are out in the UK, best bet is to check your local large retail chains first.


    04/24/06 at 3:08 pm

  3. Nicely done, as usual.

    Interesting how they can go on par against the E3.


    04/24/06 at 8:12 pm

  4. wow, nice. For some reason I didn’t think they’d be available just yet.

    So what’s your feeling– are they more “fragile” than the EX70/71? Do you think you could run / do cardio exercise with them in your ears?


    04/25/06 at 8:39 am

  5. I just picked up a pair last night at my local Circuit City. I didn’t know anything about them(hadn’t heard or read about them) so I was skeptical. They only had one pair on the shelf and it didn’t have a price on it. I went to customer service to get them to scan them for the price and they came up for $99. I thought about it for a minute because that is on the high end for earbuds. After much deliberation I decided to get them, and then come home and look for reviews on the internet, before I opened the package. When I checked out at the main registers they rung up for $31.99. I was happy as hell(?). I didn’t say a word and walked out. If you don’t believe me I still have the receipt to prove it. Some one messed up with pricing and it appears a couple of people profited from it. I am going to check back to see if they have more on the floor and if so I will buy (3) more and sell them on Ebay. Anyway, they sound pretty decent and are a perfect compliment to my PSP. I also recently bought MDR-XD400 and are still burning them in. They are nice too.

    Sony fanmail

    04/26/06 at 1:02 pm

  6. Thanks for the review, Damage. I just got the EX90’s from Circuit City today, and have been listening to them for the last few hours.

    My observations track well with your findings. The word which comes immediately to my mind upon first listening to the EX90’s is CLARITY. In comparison, the EX90’s almost make the EX71’s sound muffled. As you mentioned, the bass from the EX90’s is very different as compared to the EX71’s; the larger drivers appear to be moving more air which gives the bass a NATURAL feel, leaving the bass on the 71’s sounding rather synthetic by comparison.

    The other thing I noticed was the EX90’s cord; it’s much thicker compared to the 71’s which I imagine translates into being more durable. Although I’ve not had a problem with durability with the 71’s, there have been problems reported resulting from the small diameter wire/insulation used with the 71’s.

    Finally, I agree, absolutely, the EX90’s are a significant improvement over the EX71; simply, the EX90’s produce a sound which is markedly closer to hearing the music ‘in-person’ (as in being there).

    Thumbs up on the EX90’s! I think we have a new unofficial T-Board Earphone (the MDR-EX90LP).

    Jean Luc

    Jean Luc

    04/28/06 at 11:16 pm

  7. Hi Damage ,
    Nice Review 😀
    How will you compare these with CX300(Acc to me Cx300 lacks in Bass department )in bass ..Are EX90 good for listening Pop OR Disco???


    05/11/06 at 10:20 pm

  8. will the ex90 be better than the discontinued MDR-e484, the MDR-E888 is nothing against the E484.



    09/3/06 at 2:08 pm

  9. How well do they deal with ambient noise? (i.e. : buses, trains etc.)


    04/4/07 at 8:14 am

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