Sony WH-XB900N review: Headphones that scales a spectacular new low in bass

Topics Sony | headphones | Music

The XB900N are best used with a smartphone, Apple or Android, because of the customisations that the Sony Connect app allows
Sony’s WH-XB900N is not for the faint-hearted. Expect shockwaves the first time you put them on, especially if you are not careful with the content you play. Start with something mellow like Old Town Road by Lil Nas X and you’ll know what I am talking about. It’s the best bass from Sony’s line-up, and arguably the meanest, bass-first over-ear headphones in the market.

Design (4/5)

If I hadn’t been tried the likes of Bose QuietComfort 35 and Sony WH-1000XM3 (Mark 3), the WH-XB900N would have been my top pick in design and comfort. The oval earcups surround the ears comfortably, leaving enough space for the sound to resonate. The result is a great sounding pair that causes less ear fatigue even when you crank up the volume to over 70 per cent. The Mark 3, however, leaves a little more space, which improves the comfort by some margin, but then, it can’t match XB900N’s bass.

The leatherite inner lining of the earcups are soft and comforting. You can’t help the sweat though. Unfortunately, there isn’t an over-ear pair on earth that can help you with that.

The earcups cuff the ears to provide good passive noise-cancellation. It blocks about 40 per cent of the ambient sound as soon as you put them on. Power them on and the active noise-cancelation kicks in to block another 30 per cent. Customise your music and volume to isolate yourself completely. It’s easily achievable.

The experience is great, but it's not quite like the Mark 3, which is, by far, the best noise-cancellation pair I have tested. Sony already had the marquee design and dimensions and it should have stuck to it for the XB900N. The new pair, however, has a unique way of compensating.

The XB900N is a powerhouse. It covers a full spectrum of sound that a human can hear, from 40Hz to 2,000Hz
Features (5/5)

The XB900N has all the familiar comforts of a top-of-the-line pair. A quick press and hold to power on, tap to connect via NFC and, most importantly, touch sensitive right earcup. The gestures are identical to the Mark 3 -- swipe up and down on the right earcup for volume control, right and left to change tracks, and double tap to pause and play as well as answer and end calls. The best feature, however, remains the “quick attention mode”. Just cover the right earcup with your palm to muzzle the sound and get a quick word in from your mates, colleagues and strangers around. Remove your hand and you are back to business.

The left ear cup houses the power button and another to summon voice assistants – Google Assistant or Alexa – and both the buttons are easily reachable with the left thumb.

The cups have a premium plastic build. The headband is nicely cushioned and its size can be adjusted in neat clicks. The headband does not over slide easily, which is a recurring problem with a lot of pairs.

The headphones are quite sturdy, too, and the earcups fold nicely to fit in the small bag that is shipped with them. Sturdy, yes, but the pair could have used the impact-resistant, zip box that comes with the Mark 3. But hey, the good people at Sony had to cut costs somewhere. And I am not complaining.

This Sony WH-XB900N comes highly-recommended for everyday use -- music, movies or otherwise -- especially for its 30-hour battery life and a price tag of Rs 16,990
Performance (4/5)

The XB900N are best used with a smartphone, Apple or Android, because of the customisations that the Sony Connect app -- available on iOS and Google app stores -- allows. I had a great time playing Call of Duty Black Ops 3 on a computer, but a Microsoft app to equalise the sound as per the game’s intensity would have been a real bonus. Especially because the default sound settings can get overwhelming at times. But there’s a good reason behind it.

The XB900N is a powerhouse. It covers a full spectrum of sound that a human can hear, from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. But it’s when the frequency drops below 100Hz that the pair comes into its own.

The sub-bass levels, that you feel as much as you hear, are spectacular. And it’s by design. The matte-finish pair in dark blue that I tried on (the other colour option is black) came with bright blue vents, placed where the headband meets the earcups. The vents allow the air to pass, which gives the pair the extra thump that makes them so desirable. Basshead or not, it’s a great experience to have and an innovate design addition that Sony should be proud of.

Although I expected the bass to subdue the midrange a bit, I was pleasantly surprised that it almost doesn’t.The vocals in upper midrange (2,000 to 4,000 Hz) are crystal clear and the treble-heavy highs come out well.

The guitar riffs were comfortably layered over the heavy percussion in AC/DC’s Revolution that I like. I have experienced some headphones really take the sting out of the lead guitar riffs in rock classics, but none with such a spectacular bass. This pair just evoked a lot of nostalgia and happiness.

At times, which weren’t many in my case, you might want to use the Sony Connect app and reduce the bass a bit. I felt the need while playing Equalizer 2 in which a lot of people die of gunshot wounds. Like a said, the bass can get overwhelming. Good or bad is your call, but there is a provision to tweak it as per your taste and tolerance.

The bass can get overwhelming. Good or bad is your call, but there is a provision to tweak it as per your taste and tolerance
Verdict (4.5/5)

This Sony WH-XB900N comes highly-recommended for everyday use -- music, movies or otherwise -- especially for its 30-hour battery life and a price tag of Rs 16,990. It’s wonderful that the pair has a USB-C port for charging but frustrating that is takes a little over seven hours to fully charge. Despite its limitations, it’s still the best on-the-ear headphone pair in the price range. Unless, of course, you can do without the thumping bass and would like to spend some extra to buy the Mark 3 -- selling at a discounted price of Rs 23,490 on Amazon Prime Day Sale – for its superior comfort and noise cancellation. Whatever your preferences may be, I am sure you’ll make an excellent choice. 


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