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 Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review: Is the world ready for a 4K phone?
- 2 D-Link Taipan AC3200 Ultra tri-band modem-router review
- 3 Dell XPS 13 (2016) review: Making the very best Ultrabook
- 4 Microsoft Surface Book review: The verdict on Microsoft's first notebook
- 5 Telstra Wi-Fi 4GX Advanced III review: Testing the world's first 600Mbps wireless hotspot
Best Deals on PC World
Latest News Articles
- 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
- Parrot's Zik 2.0 headphones include an accelerometer and plenty of noise cancelling
- Kogan opens online shop in New Zealand
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- CCPHP / Magento E-Commerce DeveloperNSW
- CCSenior Business Analyst, Contributions TaxNSW
- CCMultiple Oracle Fusion SOA/BPEL Developer OpportunitiesVIC
- CCContract Analyst Programmer (IT Application/.Net) 160523/AP/254Asia
- CCNetwork Architect VoiceNSW
- CCSystem Engineer - Server Migration experienceNSW
- CCService Desk ConsultantACT
- FTBusiness AnalystVIC
- FTWeb DeveloperSA
- FTAX Lead Functional ConsultantNSW
- CCService Provider Manager - DesktopVIC
- FTAgile CoachNSW
- CCIT Assistant (Lotus Notes/LAN/Anti-Virus) 160524/ITA/074Asia
- FTTechnical Team Lead - .Net / SharePointACT
- FTImplementation / Deployment Specialist- Web Sphere, ESB, IIBNSW
- CCiOS Developer x 2NSW
- FTIT Support - Level 1NSW
- FTAgile Implementation LeadNSW
- CCOpen Source Specialist / Senior ConsultantQLD
- FTSenior Team Leader Applications SupportACT
- CCContract Analyst Programmer (.NET C#/MS ASP .NET) 160526/AP/263Asia
- CCSenior Programmer (Data Engineering)NSW
- FTNV2 Defence Project Manager | Canberra | Major exciting White Paper projectsNSW
- CCContract Analyst Programmer (JAVA/SQL) 160606/AP/251Asia
- CCDevOps Software Configuration ManagerACT