Sony MDR-XB500

The bass-head’s younger, more sensible brother.

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Sony MDR-XB500
  • Sony MDR-XB500
  • Sony MDR-XB500
  • Sony MDR-XB500
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Smooth bass, good mid-range and treble

Cons

  • Silly cord design

Bottom Line

Just like the MDR-XB700s, these headphones are bass-focused. They are a little more forgiving than their larger sibling though, so if you want more natural music reproduction these are a good choice.

Would you buy this?

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Sony’s MDR-XB500 headphones sit under the MDR-XB700s in the company's line-up, offering slightly inferior specifications but a lower price-tag.

Like the MDR-XB700s, they have love-it-or-hate-it styling: lots of black leatherette and brushed metal. There are subtle differences between the two models — the MDR-XB500s have brushed black metal instead of the aluminium found on the headband of their more expensive counterpart.

The ear-cups are designed to sit on the ears rather than over them, but they still manage to seal well and block out a significant amount of outside noise. The ear-pads are made of smooth black leatherette and are exceptionally well padded. We found that the padding allowed the headphones to exert a lot of clamping force without becoming uncomfortable.

The MDR-XB500 relies on 40mm driver units to produce sound (they are 20 per cent smaller than the ones used by the MDR-XB700s) and the end result is audio that is not as bass-heavy and has more overall definition and clarity.

While bass is still the main aural element of the headphones it is not as dominating and overpowering as we expected. Low notes are still hit smoothly and without distortion and have a long decay. We think Sony is again being a little optimistic with the headphones’ ratings — we doubt their lower frequency capabilities extend down to 4Hz.

The mid-range and treble are more balanced than with the MDR-XB700s, lending the headphones a brighter character. There’s no harshness or distortion either, even when listening to complex classical tunes.

The same Y-style flat cord makes an annoying appearance again. We wish Sony had followed other headphone manufacturers in running the cable from a single ear-cup.

If you can’t handle the excesses of the MDR-XB700s, this smaller version is a good choice. Don’t expect as much bass, but you may be more impressed with the sound overall.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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