On-ears are typically fairly uncomfortable, but these actually feel pretty good. Because the band allows more room for your head, much of the contact between the headphones and you is the foam, which conforms to your head and ear fairly well, although not immediately. Over long periods of time, the foam fits to the shape of your ear, and accommodates you very well. Some may not like the sensation of something touching your pinna, but it's the nature of on-ear headphones.
Honestly, there doesn't seem to be much that I'd consider fragile or deficient about the MDR-X10's design. They have a solid housing, the cables can easily be replaced, and they seem like they have decent build quality. We're not about to go trying to break this set of headphones, but we feel confident that they'll be able to withstand the abuse commonplace in most handbags and backpacks.
If these headphones were to perform on one of Mr. Cowell's many shows, his reception of these cans would not be as favorable as his impressions of Susan Boyle. If they were able to cry, he probably would be able to jerk a few tears out of the X10s.
Really, the biggest thing we have to complain about in this review is the frequency response. For the price you're paying, it's a bit difficult to justify this kind of audio quality, especially when you can get extremely similar performance out of the $30 Monoprice MHP-839.
In addition to most vocal harmonics coming in well quieter than they should, the highest notes of a piano, harp, and piccolo will all sound anywhere from 1/2 to 1/3rd as loud as they should. Cymbals suffer at the hands of the underemphasis too, as they also fall within a large range of underemphasis. Because the mids are so underemphasized, the bass sounds extremely loud in comparison.
After that, the s don't have any major, glaring flaws, but a collection of minor imperfections. For example, they have tiny shifts in channel volume and a high sum of distortion, even if the level never really exceeds 3%.
If you read this far to see a Cowell-style evisceration of a pair of headphones, I'm afraid I have to disappoint you. While it is true that some of the performance points are a far short of good, they are fashionable headphones, and that matters to many people. Given the price range, it's a tough sell to bargain-hunters.
In terms of audio performance, these cans isolate sound better than they pump it out. Really, the most important issue to highlight is the frequency response, as it quiets the higher notes of many classical instruments. Consequently, it can make bass sound overemphasized, and it can make vocals sound weird, as it deadens some of the more prominent harmonics of the human voice.
Overall, though, what you get with these headphones is a set of stylish metal-looking cans that are comfortable, and do well blocking out the din of a noisy street. Their pricetag is somewhat high at $299USD, which is a tough pill to swallow for audiophiles.
The performance of these headphones may not be up to snuff, but that's not to say that they don't have their selling points. They isolate sound really well, and they won't bother anyone around you. However, there are a few instruments that will sound weird.
In addition to most vocal harmonics coming in well quieter than they should, the highest two octaves of a piano, harp, cymbals, and piccolo will all sound anywhere from 1/2 to 1/3 as loud as they should. Though it's very obvious that what Sony is shooting for is close to an equal loudness contour (all frequencies sounding equally loud to a human, which differs from an academically ideal frequency response), the underemphasis in the 2-9kHz range is far more severe than what you'd expect to see in this case.
Perhaps due to their unorthodox ear pad design, the s block out an impressively large amount of high-end sound. In particular, any high-pitched noise will come in anywhere from 1/2 to 1/8th as loud as they would if you weren't wearing headphones, and that's significant for a set of non-noise-canceling headphones. Additionally, not only do these headphones keep out unwanted sound, but they keep their own noise managed pretty well. You won't be annoying others around you with your music, something that most contestants on Mr. Cowell's talent shows cannot claim.
For fans of volume, the s can belt out your music at 121.554dB before hitting the annoyingly-high level of distortion of 3%. Seriously though, don't hurt yourself listening to music at this level, as it could quiet the world around you forever.
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Imaging@cthomas8888
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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