Sony XBA-4iP review

The best Sony headphones we’ve heard in years Tested at £275

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The best Sony headphones we’ve heard in years


  • +

    Unique design produces superb audio

  • +

    crisp and taut but terrifically weighty delivery


  • -

    Can sound brash with poor recordings

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

As huge and successful as Sony might be, we’ve very rarely been particularly impressed with its headphones over the years. Of course, like everyone else the company has watched the inexorable rise in popularity of the sector, and has clearly re-doubled its efforts with a whole new range of in-ears.

What makes these Sony XBA-4iP earphones so interesting is that they all use balanced armatures, essentially a floating transducer that’s capable of greater efficiency and (theoretically) better sound.

It’s the ‘in’ thing in headphone design these days, and while Sony is far from the first or only company to utilize the technology, it’s the first that we’re aware of that’s managed to combine four such drivers into a single enclosure, as it has with the top-of-the-range XBA-4iP model you see here.

Sony XBA-4iP: Sound quality
So, in each earphone you have a tweeter, full-range driver and two woofers, and while that results in a rather chunky design, these are surprisingly comfortable and secure in the ears. On top of that, they sound absolutely fantastic.

Play the dance-tastic Ether Drift from Com Truise and you’re treated to supremely crisp, sparkly treble, clear, attacking mid-range and a rock-solid bottom-end, all delivered with exceptional verve and gusto.

The amount of directness makes it feel like a truly private, personal performance, and the amount of detail is at time truly stunning. If you’ve got the cash and are serious about portable audio you have to hear them – just avoid those low-res tracks: that treble can be baited to brightness by weak material.

MORE: Best in-ear headphones 2014

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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