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Meet the Sony XBA-1 in-ear headphones.

HATS-Front Image
HATS-Side Image

Pictured here is the speaker element, guarded by a small piece of foam in the nozzle to catch all the potential gunk you might send towards the driver.

Speaker Image

The buds of the are made of a hard plastic with chrome accents, bearing the Sony logo and marks to identify the left and right channels.

Side Image

The s have a 3.94 foot asymmetric Y type cable, ensconced in a flat rubber casing. There are no remotes or weak points in the cable to worry about, so that's a plus.

At the end of that cable is the plug, a standard 1/8th inch termination.

Plug Image

The cord guards at the ear buds are virtually non-existent, so be careful when tugging the s out of your ears.

In addition to the sleeves that come placed on the nozzles themselves, the s come with additional sizes of their normal sleeves, and "noise canceling" sleeves, which have a ring of soft foam underneath the silicone sleeve material, but add a little bit of pressure to your ear canal.

Additional Features 1 Image

The packaging to the includes your headphones, cable management piece, additional sleeves in regular and "noise canceling" variety, a carrying pouch, and assorted documentation.

In the Box Image

We recommend that you treat your in-ear headphones with care, but for these in particular, we advise that tugging the buds out of your ear canal not only will cause you damage, but the solder points on the backs of the headphones as well. In-ears are typically not very durable, and neither are these.

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These in-ears are reasonably attractive, but they're not too flashy, which is a good thing. They pretty much stick in your ears and don't try to grab everyone's attention.

Aesthetics Image

We'll hand it to the s, they stay within our ideal limits very well, with a few points of emphasis where the attack of common instruments reside. Unfortunately, the s do fall off quite precipitously after 10kHz, meaning a lot of resonant frequencies and the very highest notes on a pipe organ (if you listen to that sort of thing) will be muffled in comparison to the rest of your music.

Frequency Response Graph

Click here for more information on our frequency response test.

While this chart indicates a near 1% general level of distortion, the total harmonic distortion was quite high, which accounts for the low score here.

Distortion Graph

Click here for more information on our frequency response test.

You shouldn't notice any audible shifts in channel preference, as the tracking response is mostly flat with few flaws that are largely academic.

Tracking Graph

Click here for more information on our frequency response test.

If you're looking for a set of headphones to reduce the level of outside noise from 1 to 4 orders of magnitude, the s are your headphones. While in-ear headphones typically isolate extremely well, the s at worst block out 10dB (a 90% reduction in sound pressure level) and at best 40dB. These are great isolators.

Isolation Graph

Click here for more information on our isolation test.

In-ear headphones typically don't leak out much noise either, and the s corral their own sound very well. You will not disturb those around you with your tunes. Feel free to rock out.

Click here for more information on our leakage test.

Despite the 's ability to pump out tunes at a level of 116.64dB before hitting a 3% THD mark, we advise you not to listen to your tunes this loud. Seriously. You could damage your hearing, and no audiophile wants that.

Click here for more on our maximum usable volume test

We'll be up-front with you, in-ear headphones aren't typically very comfortable, as they rely on their sleeves to put pressure on your ear canal to stay in your ears. The s are very much the same, although you do have the option of distributing some of the weight onto your pinna if you loop the cable over the ear.

Over time, the fit doesn't change, so identical marks here.

Along with 4 different sizes of sleeve, the has another type of sleeve that you can use on their earbuds, if you like the added foam to block out more sound. If you'd like, there is also the option of using the cord wrap to manage your cable in the pouch.

The 's 3.94 foot long asymmetric Y cable ends in a standard 1.8th inch plug that does not come with any adapters, but for users on the go, this should be fine enough. There are no in-line accessories, so using this as a headset will not work all that well.

As the s are in-ear headphones, they are very light and ultra portable. The included cable management system and the pouch work very well too, allowing you to take the just about anywhere.

Aside from occasionally removing the nozzle guards for a quick clean, there really isn't a whole heck of a lot to do to maintain your headphones. Be careful with them.

While both sets of headphones are in-ears with a somewhat simple design, the tips on each are very different. Neither is very durable, and both cost about the same.

While the mc5s have a flatter response, the s stay within our ideal limits a little better. If you like bass, we'd stick with the s, even though neither is super-strong in that area.

The mc5s have virtually no distortion, and a very miniscule THD measure, unlike the 's.

Both headphones are good, and have very few if any audible blemishes here, though the mc5s are academically better.

Both sets of headphones will essentially make you dead to the world, and actually be good for your hearing if you listen at a respectably low volume, as they block out a stupendous amount of sound.

Because in-ears typically do not feel all that great when you put them in, neither is very comfortable, but the tips on the have different sizes to match to your ear canal, whereas the mc5s just have different styles of tips.

This one's up to you, but the s seem to have the performance and customizability to survive in the modern market, while the mc5s fall a little behind. That's not to say that they aren't absolutely incredible for the price point, but they hold appeal more for people who like the analytical sound of a flat response, while casual listeners will probably enjoy the s a little more; if they can handle the distortion.

While both are in-ears, it's obvious from the form of each that they are at two different price points. For starters, not only can you use the MM80is with your smartphone as a headset, but you can also remove the remote if you'd like, which is a durability plus. If you're looking to save some money, the Sennheisers probably aren't the way to go.

For bass lovers, and those with slight audiological impairment in the 4-7kHz range, the MM80is are a good bet, while the s are better for those who like a flatter response.

The MM80is have less distortion.

Neither set of headphones has any major issues here, so you really can't go wrong with either.

While both are decent isolators, the s blow the MM80is out of the water in this regard, blocking out low-end noise over an order of magnitude greater in some frequencies.

We'll give this one to the MM80is, as they do a little more to lessen the load on your ear canals than do the s, but your mileage may vary. Try them both on if you can before you buy.

This one comes down to a few decisions: namely, how much are you willing to spend, and what type of frequency response do you like? If you like overemphasized bass, and the ability to use your headphones as a headset, the MM80is are the better bet. If you like a flatter response, and better isolation, stick with the s.

While the MIE2s have a more radical design with the helix-fin, the s seem to be a little more durable and light. Also, the ability to change sleeve types is a huge plus, and on top of that the s are cheaper. The MIE2s can be used as a headset, while the s cannot.

The Bose MIE2s have hilariously over-emphasized bass frequencies, crushed mids, and terrible highs. They have a bad frequency response.

On the other hand, the MIE2s have less distortion than do the s.

You will hear a shift in channel preference in the MIE2s the lower the frequency is, while the s do not suffer the same tracking problems.

The s block out much more sound than do the Bose in-ears, in many cases, they block out a level of sound pressure that's several orders of magnitude greater.

Both the s and the MIE2s are somewhat uncomfortable for different reasons. While the MIE2s don't put much pressure on your ear canal, they do jam into your helix, which is a drag. The s on the other hand put a decent amount of pressure on your ear canal.

There is almost no reason to buy the Bose MIE2s over the s unless you absolutely have to have a headset. Even at that, you can find better for cheaper. If you narrow your purchase down to these two headphones, pick these unless they are uncomfortable to you when you try them on.

If you don't mind the lack of a remote, and you're looking for entry-level headphones that punch a bit above their weight class, the s are surprisingly good for the money you'd shell out for them. By maintaining a decent frequency response and even tracking, you aren't very likely to hear any issues outside of a weird presentation of distortion.

It is obvious these aren't high-end in-ears, but that's a little unfair, as these are definitely intended to be entry level headphones. They do have struggles with a high THD power sum, but they fill the role of basic in-ears superbly. You will also notice that they block out a lot of ambient noise, much like some of the best isolators on the market.

If you're looking for a set of in-ears to take with you with a decent array of options like sleeve types and cable management, the s go just about anywhere, and aren't a bad bet for listeners on the go. If you can live with the fact that they do not work as a headset, give the s a spin at your local brick and mortar store if you can.

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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