These Sony cans look so comfortable—but they're not.
In the short term, the Sony MDR-XB700s are actually quite comfortable. It’s no surprise, really, as those giant foam ear pads are quite soft to the touch, and handle your ears well. In the long term, however, is where these headphones fall flat, as the band has almost no padding, and digs into your scalp due to the sheer heft of these cans. This problem was reported by several (mostly willing) test subjects.
There really isn’t much of anything at all you can do to customize these puppies, but that’s pretty much standard for entry-level headphones. The cables don’t come out, there aren’t any replacement ear pads, and that’s really okay. Dropping out of both sides of the Sony MDR-XB700s is the flat cable, running about 4 feet long, and terminating in a 1/8th plug. There really isn’t a whole bunch that’s too interesting about this cable, but it works well with most mobile devices.
Despite having a carrying pouch, these headphones are really not all that portable due in large part to their heft and bulk. Not only are the Sony MDR-XB700s too big to be stowed in a small bag, but they are also quite heavy to carry around when not on your head. Should something happen to your MDR-XB700s, there’s really nothing you can do to repair them. Additionally, there isn’t much preventative maintenance you can perform on these either, so be sure to baby them if you can. To their credit, they don’t really have any weak solder points, so the cable in unlikely to break.
The XB means "Xtra Bass," and these Sony cans do just that.
Given that the branding for the Sony MDR-XB700s boasts a ton of bass, it’s no surprise that the low end of frequencies are hilariously overemphasized. Beyond that though, the Sony MDR-XB700s actually do a fair job of staying within our ideal limits, though their response is quite erratic. You may notice that higher-pitched male voices and some cymbal sounds get a little lost in the shuffle, but otherwise these are decent cans by this measure.
The Sony MDR-XB700s have a somewhat low level of general distortion, but nothing that will ruin your day or anything. In all likelihood, you’ll never hear it in your listening experience. Their tracking isn't perfect, not even close, but the errors in channel preference found on the Sony MDR-XB700s really aren’t much to worry about. You may notice a swing to the right speaker in higher frequencies, but it’s relatively minor.
If there’s a bunch of high-end noise where you typically listen, the Sony MDR-XB700s will block out quite a bit of it. Their attenuation is about par for the course when discussing over-ears, but they do a decent job nonetheless. For whatever reason, the Sony MDR-XB700s leak sound at volume, annoying all around you. It’s a bit of a mystery as to why, but if you like to crank your tunes, just know that these headphones will telegraph exactly what you’re listening to for all around you to hear.
For the price, we could see these as a sound investment.
Issues with the metal band aside, the price you’d pay to nab the Sony MDR-XB700 off the shelf earns you a fun set of headphones if you are a bass lover. While they’re flashy, and certainly look like they set you back a couple hundred bucks, they are at the sub $100 price point.
They aren’t for everyone, though, as they certainly have their issues. Chief among these proverbial wet blankets is the fact that while the padding on the ear cups are very thick and plush, the band is almost unprotected, leaving the metal to dig into your scalp. In addition to their comfort issues, they have a frequency response that certainly isn’t for everyone, and those who like to equalize their music might want to steer clear.
All that being said, the Sony MDR-XB700s really aren’t all that bad for under $100. Comfort is largely subjective, and there’s a definite audience that Sony is targeting with these cans. If you’ve got about $100 to shell out, and you’re not worried about grabbing whatever headphones score the best—say you just want a bass heavy listening experience—the Sony MDR-XB700 could be for you.
The Sony MDR-XB700s are advertised as possessing a bass-heavy frequency response, and true to form, they do just that. We found no major issues with tracking or distortion, but these fat-padded cans leak sound like you wouldn't believe and do just the bare minimum to isolate it. If you love bass, expect to have your skull rattled around—and you might just rattle everyone else's while you're at it. The science page is here to tell you why.
Bass frequencies are the lowest, but they're a high priority for the XB700s.
Frequency response is a measure of how a speaker reproduces levels of frequencies it is expected to reproduce. Audiophiles (and studio mixers) tend to prize a flat frequency response, giving equal reproduction of all notes. However, many headphones like to more closely represent an equal loudness curve and favor bass tones, which the XB700s do to a crazy degree. Bass frequencies are hugely emphasized, and everything else is a little more erratic than we would like, boosting and dropping emphasis between 2k and 10kHz, but for the most part everything's going to sound equally lower in volume than any bass pitches.
Want to disguise a stereo as a pair of headphones? These are a good choice.
Overall, the XB700s do block out a good amount of high-end noise, but they do little to nothing in the way of preventing bass sounds from getting in. They also have a tough time keeping their own noises in.
Leakage is not a common problem for 90% of the 'phones we test, but the big plush pads on the XB700s go out of their way to leak whatever music or audio you're playing out into the world around you. Due to the way that bass tones tend to carry with more emphasis than higher-pitched tones (think of that sub-woofer driving by at 3AM), the XB700s act in much the same way, only they're riding on your head.
Meet the tester
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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