Sony MDR XB-250 Review: Flashy Design, Boomy Bass

This seems to be the year for headphone companies to embark on a refresh cycle. Soon after Audio-Technica announced an upgrade to the ATH-M series, Sony also pulled the wraps off its new MDR-XB range. These headphones are aimed at bass-heads. We have with us the Sony MDR-XB250, an upgrade to the MDR-XB200. The technical specifications are not too different but the new iteration has an upgraded design and is also available in a funky colour option. Let's find out how it performs.

Design and specifications
The Sony MDR-XB250, an upgrade to the Sony MDR-XB200, has a changed design that is immediately apparent but not glaringly different. The new iteration is curvier and is now in line with the designs of other high-end models in the MDR-XB range. The design language is still the same - the headband is connected to adjustment sliders which are in turn connected by huge plastic screws that hold the earpads. These plastic screws allow the earcups to swivel 90 degrees and lay flat, which helps them fit in a bag. Still, we would have ideally liked a foldable design to make it truly portable.

The MDR-XB250 is available in black and white/purple. We got the latter variant for review and found that it got dirty really quickly, especially the earpads. The earpads are soft and comfortable but the padding is not enough, and feels as though it might wear out soon. Also, the adjustment slider is iffy to use and we had to battle with it to get the right fit. Weighing 140g, these headphones are some of the lightest we've ever used. They are super comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The 1.2m tangle-free serrated cord has an L-shaped gold-plated 3.5mm plug at the end. We are fans of this type of cable thanks to the fact that it did not develop any kinks whatsoever during our testing period.

Internally, the Sony MDR-XB250 has 30mm drivers and can reproduce sounds in the frequency range of 5Hz to 22,000KHz. The impedance rating of 24ohms is just about right for many portable players, including smartphones, to power it without any issue. The technical specifications are mostly unchanged from the MDR-XB200.

Sound quality
The XB in the moniker of these headphones stands for 'Extra Bass' and Sony delivers on that front with increased emphasis on low-frequency sounds. The passive noise isolation is great once you crank the volume up beyond 80 percent. Otherwise, ambient sounds seep in easily.

We played David Guetta's Shot Me Down to test the bass and the MDR-XB250 doesn't disappoint.The problem is that most of this bass is boomy and lacks punch. The loose, almost wayward low frequency performance also commits another cardinal sin - it eats up the other frequencies at every opportunity. The mids and highs sound like they are coming from far away. We don't think these headphones are suited for genres of music other than pop and electronic.

In fact, on their own, the mids do sound somewhat tight. We had some fun while watching television shows with lots of dialogue. Unfortunately the moment any sort of drama or action presented itself on screen, the dialogue would drown out under the influence of the powerful bass.

Verdict
We handed these headphones and our reference headphones to at least three different people from different age groups and asked them which ones sounded better. All three preferred the sound of the Sony MDR-XB250. This just reinforces our belief that people, at least in India, prefer bass-heavy sound reproduction. We think that Sony is paying good fan service here.

At Rs, 1,490, the MDR-XB250 isn't expensive either. The icing on the cake is that it looks good too. If you already own the Sony MDR-XB200 we don't see any reason you should upgrade but if you want to buy a pair of headphones with bass that assaults your ears then the MDR-XB250 is a decent option.

Price: Rs. 1,490

Pros

  • Great bass
  • Funky design

Cons

  • Bass drowns out other sounds
  • Build quality is not reassuring

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 3.5
  • Performance: 3
  • Value For money: 3.5
  • Overall: 3.5

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