The largest tiny earphones ever.
- Strong and resonant bass
- Large and uncomfortable
If you desperately want booming bass but do not want large headphones, the MDR-XB40EXs will serve admirably. The bass focus does come at the cost of overall musical fidelity though.
Price$ 99.00 (AUD)
Sony’s MDR-XB40EX in-ear canal-phones are designed for lovers of big bass beats, with great isolation and very low frequency extension. While this makes them well suited to hip hop or drum 'n' bass, they are not as suitable as some other headphones for overall fidelity and sound quality.
Usually canal-phones are miniature and disappear almost entirely into the ear canal when worn — Etymotic Research’s ER6is are a good example — but these in-ear monitors (IEMs) are a similar size to full ear-buds like the Sennheiser MX Series. This means they’re easy to position when wearing, but the downside is that they are quite bulky. This can lead to discomfort when the canal-phones move around.
They look stylish. A brushed metal fascia with the Sony logo is what the outside world will see if they examine your ears. This fascia is around four centimetres long — we think this is too long by at least a centimetre. This is another contributing factor to an overall uncomfortable experience.
The main reason for the excessive bulk of the earphones is the "direct vibe structure" — a long stroke diaphragm which allows for a comparatively large amount of air to be moved — the secret behind the bass notes.
Sony supplies the earphones with three different tip sizes to allow for some adjustment. We found the most appropriate tips to be the standard, medium-sized ones, which offered a good compromise between comfort and noise isolation.
The MDR-XB40EX earphones are rated at 4-24,000Hz. We’re sceptical of such claims — see our review of Sony’s MDR-XB700 for more on this. There’s no question that the MDR-XB40EX earphones are incredibly bass-focused but they are not as dynamic as Sony claims.
Bass extends decently low and has a slow decay, leading to reverberating notes with a very impressive sound. This is best suited to synthetic beats like drum ‘n’ bass music, so you may find complicated music — classical compositions, for example — muddied by excessively persistent bass.
A very rich mid-range gives music a warm timbre with vocals sounding very earthy and husky — think Ella Fitzgerald circa 1945 in a smoky jazz club. Treble is let down by the powerful bass, with higher piano and brass registers lacking clarity and fidelity.
If you want bass and convenience, these headphones are hard to pass up. For a more well-rounded musical experience you may want to consider different canal-phones, though.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- 2 Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- 3 Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- 4 LG G6 phone: full, in-depth review
- 5 Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 phone: Full, in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Apple's AirPods could deliver audio with multiple wireless protocols
- First look: Nuheara IQbuds smart Bluetooth ear buds do more than just music
- Convoy International restructures business focus
- Beats Solo2 headphones go wireless for $399
- Astro A38 review: A staggering price to pay for convenience
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTSolution Architect - SecurityVIC
- TPSenior Business Project ManagerNSW
- FTHelpdesk AnalystNSW
- CCLead SAP SRM DeveloperACT
- CCTest Capability LeadNSW
- CCOracle CCB DesignerVIC
- FTSystem AnalystsACT
- TPMaster Portfolio SchedulerVIC
- FTCapacity ManagerACT
- CCSenior Domain ArchitectVIC
- CCIntegration ArchitectACT
- CCA/V OfficerNSW
- FTBI BA Consultant l Microstrategy, Business ObjectsNSW
- TPProject Support AnalystNSW
- CCSAP ISU Technical ConsultantVIC
- FTBusiness AnalystNSW
- FTTechnical Business AnalystACT
- FTTechnical ConsultantACT
- FTSenior .NET DeveloperVIC
- CCTechnical Requirements Architect - NV1ACT
- FTFinance Analyst with Accounting | 8 Month ContractVIC
- CCSystems AdminNSW
- FTSolution ArchitectVIC
- FTWindows Dev Ops EngineerNSW
- FTFull Stack Web Developer .NET or JAVANSW