Posts Tagged ‘Review’
I have with me the low end of the lot, the MDR-ZX100 and MDR-ZX300. In my previous review, I said that the MDR-ZX700 was pretty darn good. And I still stand by that remark.
Now then, for $20 and $30 (respectively), the ZX100 and ZX300 represent the entry level cans, replacing the “venerable” V150 and V300s, which could be best described as garbage and fodder, irrespectively. The ZX100 and ZX300s are a bit more stylized versions of the low end V series cans. From a distance, one could almost think that the users were rocking a set of Beats for instance. And with the low end ZXs, you can indeed to single ear monitoring! Imagine that.
As for the sound? It might be my imagination but the ZX300s sounds noticeably worse than the entry ZX100s. The ZX100s are helped by its low price of a Jackson, and sounds as most $20 cans, with exaggerated bass, almost but not quite piercing trebles, and a rather decent mid-range presence. No, this isn’t some pair of JVC earbuds that outdoes the competition, but then again, you’re not going to regret blowing $20 for these vs. Skullcandies that costs 2x as much.
The ZX300s? Same bass and trebles with more detail towards the treble end of things. The midrange is much more recessed, though. It doesn’t help that it takes a lot of equalization to get it sound semi decent. Yes, there are more detail in the ZX300s vs. the ZX100s. The ZX100s, on the other hand, has a bit of warmth to it (not much) that sounds somewhat more inviting than the 300s, which are bit more clinical. Well, as much as a bassy $30 cans go anyways.
Compared to the Beats that costs 10 times as much, yes, they are quite good. But frankly, I think the money’s better spent on a set of Superlux HD668B. Or better yet, save some dough and get the ZX700s instead.
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 JVC Marshmallows.
Or the best $20 investment you can make for your DAP. If you need or want a professional level IEMS, these ain’t it. You need to invest at least $100 for those, and SHURE or Super-Fi would gladly assist in making your wallet that much lighter.
But, for replacing that sad, pack in buds from Timbuktu (which cost Sony or Sandisk about $0.03, adjusted for inflation), these will to the job. Take the EX90s, add a bit more isolation and bass, take away about 25% of the soundstage and make the sound duller, especially in trebles. And you got the Marshmallows.
Wait, wouldn’t it make the sound very ugly? Not really. These have synergy up the wazoo, though not necessarily with iPods and iPod Shuffles. It rather disappoints with Apple gears a bit. However, mate these with more bright and flavored DAPS, say the Sony Walkmens in your life, and the synergy between the two will make you glad you’ve invest a bit extra in these.
These are also your gateway drugs into the world of IEMS. Using the foamies (reminiscent of Shure’s Black Olives) you get the experience of what wearing IEMs are like. From there, well, if you follow the road of wallet lightening… Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
These are not professional IEMs, they are fun pack in replacement buds meant to be used as a daily war unit (aka beaters). For that purpose, they more than fill the role. Just not so well with Apple Gears.
Grade: A-/B (iPod gears)
And it’s grown on me. Quite nicely in fact, that I find myself wanting either the 32GB version, or the iPhone.
That’s mostly, however, due to ZiPhone’s Jailbreaking. Out of the box experience is much more lacking. Despite 1.1.3’s and 1.1.4’s ability to save webapps, nothing can replace the goodness of actual applications living and breathing on the device. Even more for games and apps that does not require the constant internet connection they require for even functioning out of the box.
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!