Damaged Gears

Evolve your Gears

Splash Damage: MDR-EX85

with 2 comments

The younger and cheaper brother of the MDR-EX90.  With such great heritage (they are DG’s favorite earbuds for last two years running), the EX90s has a lot to live upto. 

Let me refresh the heritage of the EX90s.  The EX90s are the bastard stepchild of the now fabled (and well heeled, abused, and let’s face it, overexposed) MDR-EX70 series.  However, the bastard stepchild doesn’t really make any sense for the EX90s.  If anything else, the EX70 series are rendered as the red headed stepchild of the family.  Taking what they have learned from the innovative, but ultimately futile, Qualia line, the MDR-EX90s strikes a balance that outdoes many IEMs at 2x~2.5x its price.  It has a balance of bass and treble, intimacy and space, style and sensibility that few headphones have yet to match.  Call me fanboy, if you must, but the Shure E4s go unused for the most of the time while the EX90s are missed even if they aren’t in the same room.  Yes, enough love for the EX90s.

The EX family itself has quite a heritage as well.  After all, if it weren’t for the success of the FONTOPIA/NUDE line of the headphones, then we wouldn’t have the JVC Marshmallows, the V-Modas, or the dime a dozen, Chinese OEM knockoffs that you and your cousin seems to wear these days.  The EX line of earbuds, legendary as it is misaligned (both of which are deserved) has come a long way.  And in a way, it’s come a full circle with EX85s.  A well performing midrange earbuds that’s ready to put a hurting on the rest of the semi-canal earbuds, but there are few shortcomings when compared to its elder brother.

For one, it’s entirely too bass happy.  Where as the EX90s’ bass is controlled and bold, the 85s are more rebellious and sloppy.  Perfect for the deep bass thumpin’ hip hop tracks, but not suitable for orchestral, soundtracks, nor less bass heavy tracks (though it may help to a degree).  The trebles are bright and sharp, but that’ll eventually fade with the requisite “burn-in,” whether you get used to the trebles that the EX-series offers, or vice versa. There is generally less detail with the EX85s as well, the whole overall being of fidelity that’s present in the EX90s,

If there are couple of things the EX85 outdoes the venerable EX90s, it’s probably soundstage (it’s slightly wider, less claustrophobic, comparable to lower end on-earphones, a feat for earbuds, no doubt).  And looks.  It looks much sharper and sleeker.  If style is your main concern, then you can’t do better than EX85s.  For critical listening, the EX90 triumphs.   However, for general, everyday listening, the EX85s should be akin to its predecessors, the EX70s and EX71s. 

Too bad the price is a tad bit too high to start a true revolution.  At $70, it misses the mark by about $20 ($20 more and you can get the EX90s, for $20 less, you can get others, and the Marshmallows are a true contender at $20, which may make the whole thing moot later down the line.  More on that later on however).

Yes Virginal, Damaged Gears is Back!


Written by Damage

01/14/08 at 11:54 pm

Posted in Soapbox

Tagged with , , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Just got myself the EX85 for $90-compared to Sony’s RRP of $130.

    Were $150 in Australia originally.

    Comes wth a nice fabric draw-string pouch and earphone holder (larger than the holder supplied with the EX32LP).

    SQ-amazingly clear and distortion free, has nicely perfected sound across various frequencies.

    I listened to pop music on my iPod with the EX85’s-very rich sound.

    Much better than Apple earbuds.

    The design is unusual, but after a while it is extremely comfortable to wear. For my ears, I put on the large size tips included.

    Tips-replacements are EP-EX1 and may also fit other EX series headphones.

    In conclusion, I enjoyed listening to music with these headphones greatly.

    A.A. Fussy

    04/8/08 at 3:27 am

  2. the ex85 can be found for about 50 dollars actually.


    05/31/08 at 5:51 pm

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