About a year or so ago, I bought a pair of UE700s and I love those tiny sound beans to bits! A couple of weeks back, the wiring on the right side got ripped (right after the warranty expired) and I’m left with a mono UE700. Listening to Led Zeppelin in forced mono is like being force-fucked – feels good but oh so wrong.
Enter the Sony XBA-3. Sony’s latest offering and the new kid on the balanced armature IEM block. Sony actually has a full range of these BA earpieces, from the single BA model to quad BA, noise cancelling and wireless. I chose the triple driver XBA-3 and at RM899, it’s the cheapest triple armature IEM in Malaysia. In comparison, I purchased the UE700 for RM999 which has seen a price reduction to RM689 while the Q-jays are still going strong at RM999 in some retail stores. Would other manufactures start lowering their prices to compete? I certainly hope so! Would Sony pose threat as a solid competitor in terms of sound quality? Maybe. Alright. In the box (for Malaysia), you’ll get the earphones, obviously, a bunch of tips in various sizes, a cable tidy and a leather case. I personally don’t like the provided tips. I find them too soft and I can’t seem to get the right seal so I replaced them with Comply foamies – feels much better and sounds better too. The build quality looks solid though the cables are a little thin but they have sleeves connecting them to the earphones. Sony claims that the cables are designed to help you avoid tangles, so far I’ve no complains. The earphones themselves look pretty. It’s slightly bigger and heavier than the UE700s but has that same metallic paint on plastic which doesn’t look like it will peel or scratch out but totally does.
Since my purchase, I’ve been listening to jazz, metal and alternative with some trance thrown in for good measure. Sound quality right off the bat with no amplification or EQ and no burn-in is pretty decent. The bass is solid – strong and tight. The highs reveal a lot of detail, but prone to some noticeably tiring sibilance in some recording – not a deal breaker. The mids sits nicely to balance the lows and highs. I’m guessing the units have a ‘V’ shaped EQ tuning, whatever. In my opinion, they sound really good with instrumental jazz and classical but overall, these not-that-little earphones are pretty versatile with most genres of music.
Overall I feel that this is a decent upgrade at a reasonable price. I’ll probably go back to the UE700 in the future, but for now, I’m enjoying the XBA-3. If you have some extra cash lying about, you could give them to me or go get a pair.