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Damage Reviews: MDR-XB40

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Damage has a new review for MDR-XB40

Damage had a pair of MDR-XB40

Sorry, no new pithy posts about new year resolutions (way too late for that), or HOPE about change.  I’m getting back to what I do best.  Reviewing the heck out of interesting low to mid-range headphones and DAPs. This time, Damage focuses his laser vision on the MDR-XB40 Earbuds, recently released by Sony in some random fashion to appease the bass head audience.

All 10 of you (I kid, for the 11th self-professed basshead).

Wait, do I still have an audience?

Now that I’ve got you all hot and bothered, should you blow your hard earned $60 for these guys?  Read on.

The XB apparently stands for eXtra Bass.  To be fair, the current line of EX buds does lack bass.  Well, to be fair, it doesn’t lack bass.  It lacks impact.  The MDR-EX90/85 has bass that’s more defined but lacks body, depth, and warmth.  Instead, it shines more in definition and clarity, which suits it for a broad range of genres, including rock and pop.

The MDR-XB40 (and it’s younger brother XB20), takes that concept upside down.  Rather than the generally harsh and bright Sony sound that you’re used to, the MDR-XB40 certainly lives up to the eXtra Bass billing.  However, that comes at a cost, as anything outside of low-end just generally sounds overwhelmed-it can’t keep up with the extra bass that eXtra Bass offers.  At least that’s the case right out of the box and unequalized.

There is bass, plenty of it, most of it dark and warm, bordering on sloppy and muddy.  The Midbass seems to be at its best here, the drum kicks strong and bass guitars overwhelming everything like a dark blanket.  It is eXtra Bass to be sure.  And where there is plenty of it, these guys will shine (think Electronica, Hip-Hop, Dance).  Heck, even as a gaming earbud, they will do in a pinch.

Properly equalized to bring up the trebles and suddenly, the weakened trebles and his partner for life, the mid range, show up to the party; 10 minutes late, underdressed, and overwhelmed by everything else.  But nonetheless, the trebles and the mids make their presence felt.  They are there and they will almost reach the level of other Sony EX Buds.  But they are still overwhelmed by the Bass.  Which, I guess, is the point.

Of course, not all DAPs are equipped with Equalizer to begin with…  Or a functional EQ for that matter.  Simply put, they play well with sources that has EQ.  Otherwise, it’s all bass and not much else.  Well, that not much else is well defined, but not to the level of the EX85/90s.

Ultimately, they represent more of one step forward, two step back. They inherit the new MDR-EX3/5/700 style fashion and housing along with the new hybrid eartips (which are incompatible with the current line of eartips used by the EX line… though I have a feeling that all future EXs will use the hybrids).  One would think that these buds with its heritage would show better performance.  After all, with proper EQ Fiddling, you can almost see the true potential shining through.  It’s one of those oh so close, and yet, oh so far. Especially for $20 more, you can upgrade to the MDR-EX300

(Damage has a pair of MDR-EX300500.  Damage likes them well enough, but there are better.)

For the most part, these focuses more on Bass than anything else.  If your tastes in music demand bass above all else, then you have a great buy with these.  Otherwise, it’s too messy with bass.

The Good: Looks good, with plenty of Bass to kick your eardrums with.  Very EQ Happy.
The Bad: Too much bass overwhelms what little is left in Mids and Treble Range.
The Ugly: Wasted Potential.

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Written by Damage

03/7/09 at 10:36 pm

Posted in Headphones

Tagged with , , ,

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