Sony XBA-H1 review

At this price, good design and high build quality aren’t enough Tested at £99

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

At this price, good design and high build quality aren’t enough


  • +

    Good-looking, robust design

  • +

    Good dynamic range


  • -

    Ill-defined sound

  • -

    Lots of competition at this price

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.

We’re always a little wary when the official blurb to a product tells us to ‘bump up the bass’. It makes us worry about the rest of the frequency range.


Thankfully the low-end doesn’t drown everything out here. It’s weighty, and tonal balance is decent enough.

Dynamic reach is impressive, as shown by the drums-and-clapping intro of The xx’s Heart Skipped A Beat.

The problem here is the clarity and control of the sound. The low-end is a little soft, and everything above that needs more refinement.

If the timing were better, the lack of refinement might even be exciting, but as it is the presentation feels a touch messy.


When it comes to the design, we’re impressed. These in-ears are very well made. The flat red-and-black cable looks smart (if not entirely unique), and the plug looks rugged enough to withstand a lot of use.

The buds are easy to fit, thanks to their chunky stature. Don’t expect a slim profile, however – they stick out a little.


At this price, good design and high build quality aren’t enough. When it comes to sound quality, there are plenty of more refined rivals under the £100 mark.

MORE: Best in-ear headphones to buy in 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.

Read more about how we test