Sony's XB series of headphones has been a high street mainstay for years, and now the PS3 and KDL-40HX853 manufacturer back with a range of new models including the Sony MDR-XB600. When they sell for well under Beats by Dre money, and the "XB" of their name stands for "Xtra Bass", they're an obvious fit for the HMVs of this world. Sony has tried to class-up the XB range with these new sets, but has it worked?
Sony MDR-XB600 Design
The previous signature of the Xtra Bass Sony headphones of old was gigantic oversized earpads that tended to make all but the coolest people look like plonkers. Sony has sensibly changed its approach. The padding of the Sony MDR-XB600 has slimmed down, and the slightly over-the-top silver trim has been reduced. Now, each earcup is finished in a disc of flat glossy black plastic ringed with a 4mm silver outline.
They're less distinctive than the last-generation of Xtra Bass Sony headphones, but they're also more normal-looking too. There are a few elements that mark them out as street "fashion" cans, though.
A volume knob-like nugget of silver sits at the join between the earcup and the headband, and the design of the headband is informed by conspicuous styling too, with a consistent thick band all the way across. There are some curiously missing bits here, mind. Image-conscious headphones often use a single point of entry for the cable, but here it jams into both earcups. The headphone cable is non-removable too, where the current trend is to use the removable type whenever possible.
As a relatively inexpensive set of headphones, the Sony MDR-XB600 are constructed out of non-premium materials. The frame is plastic, the parts that are coloured to look like metal are plastic and all the "leather" is synthetic. They're well-constructed, though, with minimal creak and a handy - plus discreet - folding design that makes them easy to dump into a bag.
Sony MDR-XB600 Comfort and Isolation
The padding of the Sony MDR-XB600 is generous among on-ear heapdhones, if not within the XB series. Up top, the headband foam is quite light, but it's not an issue because there's little weight to these plastic headphones.
Earcup foam is much more generous, making these among the more comfortable sub-£100 on-ear pairs. However, they could be better. The innards of the pads make for effective cushions, but the synthetic leather on the outside isn't all that soft, with a recognisably plastic feel. Next to the rival Philips CitiScape Downtown on-ears, they don't seem all that luxurious.
Getting a good fit with the Sony MDR-XB600 is reassuringly easy, as the ear cups swivel freely both horizontally and vertically, letting them fit the shape of your head instantly. The style of padding affords the Sony MDR-XB600 decent noise isolation, as there's just a small netted gap in the centre of each pad where the sound escapes through. They'll have little trouble competing with the sound of bus and train engines.