Sony MDR-XB950AP : When extra bass becomes too much bass

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to try a pair of MDR-XB950AP headphones by Sony and thought of sharing my experience with my fellow readers.

Design

Figure : Sony MDR-XB950AP headphones
Figure : Sony MDR-XB950AP headphones [1]
The MDR-XB950AP is a pair of over-ear (circumaural) headphones, which belongs to the extra bass family. The headband has been manufactured using metal, which gives a premium look but has cushion, so that a comfortable fit is achieved. The ear-cups have a swivel folding design, so that the headphones become quite portable during travelling. The driver size is 40 mm, so you will not feel as if two big cans are fitted to your ears (like the XB500 or XB700).

Sound Quality 

These headphones have a frequency response of 3 Hz to 28 kHz, which makes them ideal for dance and hip-hop tracks but I felt that the bass has been overpowered (as in Beats Mixr) and the equaliser setting in my phone was set to Normal. The vocals were clear but the mid-frequencies were a bit muddy. I think the XB500’s have better sound quality when compared with XB950’s.

Price

MDR-XB950AP headphones cost around £84.00, so they are affordable when compared to headphones manufactured by Beats by Dre but I think these should actually cost around £60.00.

References

[1] Extra Bass Headphones with Microphone | MDR-XB950AP | Sony UK. 2015. Extra Bass Headphones with Microphone | MDR-XB950AP | Sony UK. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/headband-headphones/mdr-xb950ap. [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Beats Studio 2.0 : Ideal Pair of Headphones for the Sporty

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to check out the new Beats Studio, known as Beats Studio 2.0, at the Apple Store and would like to share my experience with my fellow readers.

Figure 1 : Beats Studio headphones and accessories
Figure 1 : Beats Studio headphones and accessories [1]
Beats Studio features active noise cancellation which can be activated by pressing on the small button found on the right ear-cup (However, I was not able to experience this at the store maybe because the battery charge was low). This battery lasts for about 20 hours and can be recharged using the USB cable shown in Figure 1. There is a battery level indicator consisting of five LED’s under the noise cancellation activation button as shown in Figure 2. Active noise cancelling feature can be very handy when taking public transport.

Figure 2 ; Beats Studio Wireless with the battery level indicator [2]
Figure 2 : Beats Studio Wireless with the battery level indicator [2]

Design

As shown in the figure above, the headphones have a plastic exterior. However, there is a variation with the metallic exterior (titanium) as well for the premium look as shown in the figure given below.

Figure 2 : Beats Studio 2.0 with metallic exterior [2]
Figure 3 : Beats Studio 2.0 with metallic exterior [3]
These headphones are circumaural (over ear).  The ear-cups can be folded, making the headset more portable while traveling. The inner layer of the headband is made of rubber, so that the headphones will not slide if the user is running on a treadmill, for example. The ear-cups are more comfortable than those found in the Beats Mixr.

Sound Quality

The bass produced by the Studio 2.0 is punchy but not muddy as that produced in Mixr. The vocals are clear enough. I listened to some electronic and hip-hop tracks and they sounded amazing. If you’re an audiophile, you might find that the upper mid frequencies sound a bit harsh.

Price

The retail price of the Beats Studio 2.0 is £269.95 while Beats Studio 2.0 wireless costs £329.95. As every Beats product, these headphones have high price tags. These headphones should actually cost in the £100.00 – £150.00 range, considering the advanced digital signal processing (DSP) techniques involved, even though the materials used for manufacture is cheap.

References

[1] Beats Studio 2.0 headphones and accessories. 2015. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.chip.de/ii/2/5/1/2/5/8/9/2/beats3-e0c37dcf2c77372a.jpg. [Accessed 29 March 2015].

[2] . 2015. . [ONLINE] Available at: http://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2014/03/18/f8d065a6-b0bd-11e3-a24e-d4ae52e62bcc/thumbnail/770×433/db9bb5457098136b7d5312bd2e7af02d/Beats_Studio_Wireless_35834962-06.jpg. [Accessed 29 March 2015].

[3] Beats Studio 2.0 headphones with metallic exterior. 2015. [ONLINE] Available at: http://i.imgur.com/45e3TP8.png. [Accessed 29 March 2015].

Sennheiser Urbanite : A Competitor for Beats

If you’re searching for a set of headphones that are ideal for hip-hop and dance tracks, there is a new player in town : Sennheiser joins the trend with Urbanite. I tried these today at Curry’s and thought of sharing my views.

Figure : Sennheiser Urbanite headphones
Figure : Sennheiser Urbanite headphones [1]
Design

The headband in Urbanite is made of comfortable but durable material, unlike Beats headphones, which have plastic headbands in most of their models. This pair of headphones can be considered as on-ear (Supra-aural) and a felt a bit painful after wearing it for a few minutes. The ear-cups can be folded, so it is quite portable.

Sound Quality

I tried listening to some hip-hop tracks and I was quite impressed with the bass these headphones can produce. The vocals were not muddy. Urbanite sounds better than Beats Solo2 but not as good as Beats Studio.

Price

Urbanite costs around £150.00, which is a bit expensive but not as expensive as Beats headphones.

I would definitely recommend this pair of headphones if you like urban genres of music such as hip-hop and progressive house.

References

[1] Sennheiser Urbanite headphones. 2015. . [ONLINE] Available at: http://cdn.head-fi.org/0/09/09ec814f_urbanitenationred.jpeg. [Accessed 23 January 2015].

Beats Mixr : “I’m all about that bass”

Christmas is almost here and you might be wondering what to shop for, so today I thought of sharing my views on the Beats Mixr headphones. This review might come handy if you are an audiophile.

FIgure : Beats Mixr [1]
Figure : Beats Mixr [1]

Design

Beats Mixr is a pair of on-ear headphones. By looking closely on one ear cup, you will notice that it is circular and hence does not fit inside your ear. I got a pain in my ear after wearing these headphones for about a minute. I have no idea how David Guetta manages to wear these during gigs for hours ! Good news is that the Mixr headset is not heavy.

Sound Quality

You read the title right. The bass produced in this headset is too punchy. I listened to a few songs (mainly of dance, electronic and hip-hop genres) with the equaliser in my music player set to Normal. The vocals and high frequencies were not clear enough. I would recommend not to change the equaliser settings as the vocals become muddy.

Price

For this level of sound quality and design, I think the Beats Mixr headset is overpriced. These should cost no more than 50 quid.

In conclusion, the Beats Mixr should need a remake, both in design and sound quality (sorry Doc). Hopefully, Apple will come up something new in the coming years.

References:

[1] Beats Mixr headphones. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/611EmU3782L._SL1500_.jpg. [Accessed 13 December 2014].

Beats Pro : The name says it all

Last Friday was Black Friday, which means Christmas shopping kick-started officially. I went to Apple Store to check out some headphones and the Beats Pro was eye-candy. I tested it on a few songs and thought of sharing my view on this headset before you buy it or thought of giving it to a loved one as a Christmas present.

Figure : Beats Pro [1]
Figure : Beats Pro [1]
You must have noticed the title stating “The name says it all” and I really meant it. Beats Pro are catered for people “who take sound seriously” [2], in other words “for professionals”. If you’re just a school kid who has no idea of what sound really is, these are not for you, bro. Let me get to the serious stuff now.

Design

Even though these are circumaural (over-ear) headphones, the ear cups are circular, making it difficult for the entire ears to fit into them. Noise cancelling has been achieved by using these ear cups without the necessity for batteries. The structure is quite rigid and metallic, so no cheap plastic is involved, which means that the headset is a bit heavy but seems to last for a longer time than Beats Solo2. The headband is well-padded.

Sound quality

Beats Pro have a good balance in all frequencies : The bass is not very punchy but still powerful which makes vocals less muddled, so you can enjoy music with various genres. Good job, Doc !

Price

This pair of headphones costs around £350.00. Now that’s quite expensive, don’t you think? However, I have seen people wearing these on the bus, so I thought that they must be rich blokes. Oh well…

Bottom line is that if you’re a die-hard Beats fan, who needs to listen to music in great detail and who has a lot of money (or willing to sacrifice your bread and butter), these headphones won’t disappoint you.

References :

[1] Beats Pro. 2014.  [ONLINE] Available at: http://brain-images.cdn.dixons.com/7/5/08519357/l_08519357.jpg. [Accessed 05 December 2014].

[2] Noise Reduction Headphones | Beats Pro | Beats by Dre UK. 2014. Noise Reduction Headphones | Beats Pro | Beats by Dre UK. [ONLINE] Available at: http://uk.beatsbydre.com/headphones/pro/beats-pro-uk.html. [Accessed 05 December 2014].

2 in 1 Headphones : Boomphones Phantom

Last week, I was doing some window shopping and came across an awesome set of headphones named “Boomphones Phantom” [1]. It seems that Beats Audio has a new competitor. 

Boomphones Phantom

Figure : Boombox Phantom

By pressing on the button with an image of a bomb on the ear cup, the headphones can be turned in to a boombox, which means that there are two internal drivers and two external drivers. The glow of the LED lights is white when the headphones are internally amplified and the colour changes to white when in Boombox Mode.

The headset is powered by an in-built lithium battery, which has enough juice to operate for 10 hours when using as a headset (internal) and 5 hours in Boombox Mode (external) and is rechargeable using the mini-USB provided. 

When I tried these out, I noticed that the internal ones sounded amazing but in the Boombox Mode, the sound quality was not that great, probably because the driver size is small or the power produced is insufficient to pump out the low frequencies (in other words, the bass).

Check these headphones out when you can. Like I said earlier, they are amazing if you’re planning to purchase a new set of headphones and use them as headphones and not using as a boombox.

 

References

[1] Phantom | Boomphones. 2014. Phantom | Boomphones. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.boomphones.com/product/phantom. [Accessed 22 July 2014].

Beats Solo2 : Review

So, Apple acquired Beats Electronics for $3 billion? (I never saw this coming). A day after the announcement of the acquisition was made, Beats released a new version of Solo, named Solo2. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to try these headphones out and thought of sharing my experience with my readers.

Beats Solo2

Figure : Beats Solo2 headset [1]

Clarity

Beats Solo2 comprises of improved clarity, when compared to its predecessor, Solo HD. The vocals do not sound muffled. The reason for this might be because the bass has been reduced (which I did not like, to be honest).

Comfort

The structure (design) of this headset is a little similar to the new Beats Studio (as shown in the figure given above) and hence the headset is more comfortable than the predecessor. The ear cans are smaller than the ones in Beats Studio though.

Price

Beats Solo2 has a high price tag. I think these worth a maximum of £60.00, nothing more, considering both sound and build quality. I mean, it’s alright to spend around £170 on a pair of headphones if you are a celebrity as the new ad shows. Just try to spot an ordinary guy or girl in this ad, who is not a celebrity.

The ControlTalk is still not compatible with Android devices. Hopefully, Beats Electronics (or Apple) will make their headsets compatible with Android devices in the future.

In my opinion, if you’re a fan of hip-hop and electronic dance music, where bass has a great involvement, I would not recommend these headphones.

References :

[1] Beats Solo2 2014. [ONLINE] Available at:http://i0.wp.com/hypebeast.com/image/2014/05/beats-solo2-headphones-1.jpg?w=1410. [Accessed 05 June 2014].

“Let me HEAR you make some noise”

If you are a fan of DJs such as Vicetone, Nicky Romero and David Guetta, I am sure you must have heard them saying the phrase in the topic of this post so many times in live shows but notice the word in uppercase.

Hearing properly is the most important thing when it comes to producing music, listening to the radio or even when having day to day conversations. Like all other important things in life, hearing also must be protected. Prolonged exposure to loud noise could lead to Sensorineural hearing loss, which is caused by damage to the inner ear and/or auditory nerve [1].

Human ear anatomy

Figure : Anatomy of the human ear [2]

Now, do not panic ! Here are some tips suggested by NHS to protect your hearing [3] :

  • Do not listen to your personal music player at very high volumes and never to get rid of background noise.
  • Listen to your music at 60% of the maximum volume of the audio player for no more than 60 minutes a day (also known as 60:60 rule). Most MP3 players and mobile phones have the “smart volume” feature, which helps to regulate the volume output.
  • Try to use noise-cancelling or muff-type headphones when listening to your personal music player. These will block the background noise, so that you can listen to your music at a low volume level, but take regular breaks even when using these (There is a post on my blog on how noise-cancelling headphones work, if you are interested). In-ear headphones are less effective at filtering out background noise.
  • Use ear plugs when you are listening to live music (No, I’m not crazy). You can still enjoy music while wearing these and are widely available at many live music venues.
  • If you are in a vehicle, do not listen to loud music for too long because listening to music in a confined space increases the risk of hearing damage.

 

References :

[1] Effects of Hearing Loss – How It Affects Quality of Life | HearUSA . [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.hearusa.com/HearingHealth/HearingandQualityofLife.aspx. [Accessed 27 April 2014].

[2] Human ear anatomy. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.myvmc.com/uploads/VMC/TreatmentImages/2191_ear_anatomy_450.jpg. [Accessed 27 April 2014].

[3] Tips to protect your hearing – Live Well – NHS Choices. 2014. Tips to protect your hearing – Live Well – NHS Choices. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/hearing-problems/Pages/tips-to-protect-hearing.aspx. [Accessed 27 April 2014].

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

You must have noticed from my first blog post that I am a huge fan of music and hence I like to enjoy my music to the fullest. Unfortunately, background noise is heard when I listen to music on the go. For example, when I am travelling in a bus, I hear phone conversations and sometimes loud crying of babies, which is very disturbing. There is a solution to this, which is noise-cancelling headphones but unfortunately I do not own one because they are very expensive. But I will tell you how they work.

There are two types of noise-cancelling headphones, namely active and passive. The latter are manufactured to maximise filtering of noise of about 15 to 20 dB by using material such as layers of high-density foam or other material that absorb sound. Due to this reason, these headphones tend to be heavier than ordinary headphones. Active noise-cancelling headphones perform the same task as passive ones but they have some extra features. Sound waves with high frequencies can be blocked because of the structure of these headphones. The incoming noise is in anti-phase with the sound waves produced by the speakers in the headphones. In other words, destructive interference takes place, which is shown in the figure given below.

Inside noise-canceling headphones

Figure : Cross-section of a set of noise-cancelling headphones

Let’s look at the components found inside these headphones.

  • Microphone – The embedded microphone receives external sound waves, which cannot be blocked passively.
  • Noise-cancelling circuitry – The electronics fitted inside the ear cup sense and generate a model of the incoming sound wave and stores information such as the frequency and the amplitude. An anti-phase wave is then created to cancel the noise.
  • Speaker – The anti-phase wave of sound produced by the circuitry is fed into the speakers along with the audio produced by music; destructive interference takes place erasing the noise and the desired sound is produced in return.
  • Battery – This provides the energy required for the noise-cancellation process. The battery found in modern active noise-cancelling headphones (eg. new Beats Studio) can be recharged by plugging the headphones to the computer using the USB cable provided with the headphones.

 

References :

HowStuffWorks “Noise-canceling Headphones”. 2014. HowStuffWorks “Noise-canceling Headphones”. [ONLINE] Available at: http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/audio-music/noise-canceling-headphone3.htm. [Accessed 24 March 2014].