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Meet the Sony MDR-EX600 in-ears.

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The speaker element of the is guarded by a somewhat porous mesh gate, which may or may not accumulate biological waste after extended use. Because there is no included cleaning kit with the s, you may want to be careful with this.

The cable of the s is a standard 3.93 feet long, ending in a rather boring plug. The cable itself is a rather thin gauge wire, with thin insulation.

The 's plug is a fairly standard 1/8th inch jack, protected by a somewhat small amount of plastic.

The cord guards to the s are rather interesting, as they not only significantly beef up the cable strength over the ear loop part, but also protect the wire as it leaves the ear loop apparatus. Both are made from a thick plasticine rubber.

The comes packaged with a carrying case (with cable management system), assorted documentation, and a large number of extra sleeves in several different sizes.

In-ears are typically not that durable, and although the s seem to be a little less fragile than most, what's really great about them is the ability to easily replace broken cables should anything happen. Simply unscrew the guard where the cable meets the ear bud and the cable pops right out.

They may not be the ugliest things we've seen, but these earbuds are certainly not lookers by any stretch of the imagination. Sony probably was more worried about functionality and comfort here, so we'll give them a pass on their rather odd appearance.

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The s have a fairly dynamic response, with some odd areas of underemphasis. On the whole though, the bass frequencies aren't boosted to an unreasonable level, and the s stay roughly within our ideal limits. Unfortunately they do seem to severely downplay frequencies in the 4-7kHz range, where you'll find some shine of cymbals, sibilance and the middle treble frequencies will be somewhat muted in comparison to the rest of your music. Some people like this, but it's something to be aware of.

Frequency Response Graph
[Click here for more information on our frequency response test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Frequency_Response) The s didn't have much distortion to speak of, and you're certainly not going to hear it.
Distortion Graph
[Click here for more information on our frequency response test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Distortion) The s have a somewhat bizarre tracking response, as the favor the right channel for most of the range of audible frequencies. Because it's only a 2dB shift, you probably won't hear this, but it is there.
Tracking Graph
[Click here for more information on our frequency response test.](/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Tracking) The s do an average job of attenuating noise, but they're nothing special: they don't seem to block out any of the lower-pitched sounds, nor do they do a great job with mid-tones. Included with the s are a set of "noise canceling" sleeves, which were used to collect the data that became the first graph pictured. Somehow, they seem to do a worse job than the regular sleeves at blocking out sound.

Isolation Graph

Click here for more information on our isolation test.

In-ears typically corral and contain their own sound very well, as they're pumping it directly into your ear canal, but the s for some reason seemed to leak a bit more sound than we expected. You're not likely to disturb people sitting next to you in a car or train, but if you're listening to them at night, you may pester your partner a bit.

Click here for more information on our leakage test.

The s blast your music at 119.89 dB before hitting the magic distortion level that becomes annoying (3%). Like we iterate ad nauseam, please don't listen to your s at or even near this level. We would really hate to hear that one of our readers had damaged their hearing unintentionally. It's nice to know that these in-ears have that capability in theory, but it's not something you should be testing on your own.

Click here for more on our maximum usable volume test

The s are in-ears, yes, but they seem to be fine sitting at the very outside of the ear canal, rather than dig in deep. The re-enforced cabling at the top of the bud makes the wire able to withstand a bit more friction on your ear, and it definitely redistributes weight to your pinna (outer ear) well. Not exactly comfortable, but not painful either.

Over time, the comfort level didn't really change, so the s get the same marks here.

As previously mentioned, there is an insane amount of optional sleeves included with the , with seven different sizes of the regular sleeves to fit a vast array of possible ear canal sizes. On top of that, there's also 3 "noise cancelling" sleeves, but they don't seem to do much of anything, despite repeated tests on all sizes. Beyond that, there really isn't much you can do to customize your s, but isn't that enough for a set of in-ears?

There aren't any included adapters for the s, but it's not like they have a bizarre or uncommon plug size. If necessary, you could always pick one up at a local electronics store.

Conveniently enough, the s come packaged with a carrying case that has a decent cable management system, so you don't cause a bunch of internal wear and tear on your (admittedly replaceable) cables. The case is rigid and seems durable enough, so feel free to jam it into your bag on the morning commute or a long car or plane ride.

When you buy a set of in-ears, one of the first things you'll notice is the fact that the cables are probably going to be the first thing to break. One of the nicer features we see on higher-end in-ears is the ability to replace broken cables when they do bite the dust, not only protecting your investment in good headphones, but also your sanity should something break before a long trip. Notice the odd-looking coupling where the cable meets the earbud? It's actually a screw apparatus that allows you to easily detach the cable.

Aesthetics aside, the is better designed, if only for the fact that you can replace the cables should they break. Aside from this, both in-ears have thin cables and no outstanding issues. If you're looking for an in-line remote, the Pearls have them, whereas the s do not.

Were it not for the fact that both in-ears emphasize bass, they would almost be perfect mirror-images of each other in terms of frequency response. Where the Turbine Pearls emphasize the 5-6.5kHz range and downplay the 4-5kHz and 8-10kHz ranges, the s emphasize the frequencies downplayed by its competitor, and severely cuts back on the volume for the 5-6.5kHz range.

Neither set of in-ears has much distortion, so you shouldn't be disappointed with either. Still, the Turbine Pearls have a little more than the s, so discerning audiophiles may pick the Sonys in the end.

Both pairs of headphones have fairly even tracking overall, but the s have a slight general shift to the right channel. It's not too annoying, but it is definitely there.

If you're going to be listening to your headphones in public, we strongly recommend you take a look at the Turbine Pearls over the s, as the difference in noise attenuation is huge. Not only will you be less likely to need to futz with your volume settings to hear your music, but good attenuation helps prevent hearing loss.

In-ears typically aren't that comfortable, but we'll give the edge to the s, as most of their weight is distributed over the pinna and not solely on the ear canal. Though the Turbine Pearls have an added accessory to help with this, it's a little on the flimsy side, and not as effective.

Overall, if you're looking for audio performance and a feminine touch, the Monster Turbine Pearls are a great buy, and probably a little more desirable than the s. If you would rather have a more comfortable fit and marginally less distortion, consider picking up the s.

Both of these in-ears have their advantages, but design is a clear advantage for the s, as they have easier re-cabling capabilities, and a little less pressure on your ear canal. That isn't to say that the Sennheisers are bad in this regard, they're just not as good as the s.

This one's a clear victory for the IE 8is, as not only do they stay within our ideal limits more consistently than the s, but they also do a great job avoiding the unreasonable underemphasis problems plaguing the s.

Neither set of in-ears has any trouble with distortion.

The Sennheiser IE 8is have an issue with a wild shift in tracking in the highest end of frequencies. While it's so localized you probably won't notice it, it's definitely there. The s, on the other hand, don't have this shift, but they do seem to generally favor the right channel.

Neither set of in-ears is exceptional in the amount of sound they block out, but they're not too bad either.

Both in-ears are very comfortable, and both seem to respect the ear canal they're shoved into while listening. Neither gets the edge here.

Really, we'd say that the verdict depends quite a bit on your budget. If you are willing to shell out the extra cash for better audio performance, or want to use your headphones with your iPhone, by all means pick up the Sennheiser IE 8is. If you're looking to save a few bucks, get decent performance, and don't care so much about using your in-ears with a phone, the s aren't a bad bet either.

Here we examine how different types of headphones stack up against the in performance so you can get a better idea what you're looking at when you pick up a pair of at the store. Aside from the obvious design differences, the PF-M5Is are a mid-range set of headphones that, like the s, can be easily maintained and re-cabled should something happen to them. Neither have much to note in design minus how snazzy the PF-M5Is look.

The PF-M5Is blow the s away here, not only staying within our ideal limits, but showing no problems in maintaining a respectably even level throughout the range of frequencies tested. Though both headphones show a more or less dynamic response, the PF-M5Is don't suffer from the same problems shown by the s.

Both sets of headphones have only minor issues with distortion at best, but the s technically have less.

The s have more even tracking technically, while the PF-M5Is have a more erratic tracking response.

Based on the differences in design, you usually don't expect a pair of on-ears to isolate well, and the PF-M5Is are no different. The s block out more sound here.

While it's somewhat of an unfair comparison, the PF-M5Is are far more comfortable than the s, as they don't sit inside your ear canal. We find that on-ears and over-ears typically are much more comfortable than in-ears.

If you're looking for high-quality audio, comfort and style, we recommend picking up the Bowers & WIlkins PF-M5Is. If you're more concerned about isolation and price, the s aren't a bad bet either.

Despite the obvious design differences between over-ear and in-ear headphones, there are a few things that set the s apart from the ATH-M50s. Namely, the 's ability to replace cables is huge, along with the portability of the unit can make any consumer who wants headphones for the outside world think twice before picking up a pair of clunky over-ears. Still, if you're looking for cans for home use, this may not be an issue for you.

While both the ATH-M50s and the s have dynamic responses, we prefer the ATH-M50s if only because they manage to stay closer to our ideal limits and avoid wild overemphasis of any frequency range, unlike the s.

The ATH-M50s had less distortion, but neither set of headphones had troubles here.

The ATH-M50s' tracking response was a little more erratic than that of the s, but they seem to stay within limits that would be audible. You probably won't notice a huge difference between the two here.

Due to the very nature of their designs, the s are better insulators. Depending upon the listening environment though, you may not find this to be a huge issue say, at home or at the office.

The ATH-M50s are by far more comfortable than the s, evenly distributing their weight over your skull and cradling your ears ever so softly. If comfort is a big concern for you, in-ears may not be the best choice.

This one is really up to what you want out of your headphones: if you want comfort, audio performance and a pair of cans for indoor use, you're absolutely going to want to pick up the ATH-M50s over the s. If you want to take your headphones out into the world, however, the s offer better isolation.

The s are nice. Not thrilling, but nice. They offer average audio performance, aren't really anything special in any category, and certainly aren't the best isolators or best buy for their cost. That being said, they are extremely durable as far as in-ears go, and really, there are so many factors going into an informed purchase that there are lots of reasons to pick these up over other headphones if you like what you see here. You're definitely getting what you pay for here, which is nice, but keep in mind that if there are specific things that you value more than others, there are some standout headphones on this site that perform far better than the s in certain areas for less, but you have to seek them out.

Meet the tester

Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Staff Writer, Imaging


A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.

See all of Chris Thomas's reviews

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