I won a gift voucher nearly a year ago that I hadn't been able to decide what to use for, the subject of headphones came up in discussion a bit back and I thought, "Sure, why not." And so last night I returned the family's ten year old pair of Corbys that I had sort of possessed but not actually owned for the past few years because no one else ever used them. My primary considerations for the new pair were:

  • Comfort during extended use
  • Out-bound noise isolation
  • Performance from lower powered sources
I had seventy Aussie smackeroos to spend, and one place to spend them. The three contenders were Sony's MDR-XD100, TDK's ST-PR300, and Sennheiser's HD 201.

So I went into town to visit the local Sony centre. I've always had bad experiences with the staff there, but I didn't want to go out to the other Sony place mostly due to time constraints. They had a pair of the XD100s in stock and available for testing, so on they went. I wanted a good range of music to test my contenders with, so before I left I loaded a selection onto my handheld:

I was going to be doing all this testing from my handheld, which is only really good for 400 mW and that's the sort of input I was expecting to mostly give them.

First impressions:
The ear-cups are fantastic, no issues with leaving these on all day. The headband's not padded, and being split, the force it exerts on your skull is slightly accentuated. (Twenty hours later, this still doesn't seem to actually be a problem.) A tad heavier than the Corbys, noticeable when in your hand but not whilst being worn. The input cable is three metres, I can see that getting tangled once I take the twist-tie off. (Of course it'll get tangled, a velcro strap is doing an excellent job of keeping it tidy though.) The headband adjusts nicely, not too tight but not going to slip during removal. Hmm, I can't hear a thing. I think one of the sales guys just said something to me, but I couldn't lip read it fast enough. Ok, now for some soundness. Yes. Oh yes. Love them. I think the grin on my face makes pretty clear my feelings at this point in time. Bass muddies ever so slightly at <= 200 mW, but reproduction of everything else is as accurate as I expected.

What they aren't:
The XD100s aren't $150 headphones, they're not $300 headphones. If I wanted high-quality sound, I wouldn't be using headphones, I'd want to share it with the world. I'm not an audiophile, and these aren't audiophile's phones. They're not waterproof, and certainly not indestructible if you try hard enough. There's no way of folding these up, so they're not uber-portable. Do you really think these are going to be leaving my neck though?... They are also not chocolate, ponies, or a number of other things.

What they are:
They are $60 headphones, although I got mine on sale till the end of the month for $50. The construction is solid, they're plastic not metal like a pair of Beyers I've worn many years ago... They're Sony, this is good and bad. The noise isolation is suitable for playing 80dB of ABBA at 3am and not having the family complain. I believe they were well worth $60. Here's the official specs:

  • Type: Dynamic, Closed
  • Driver unit: 40mm
  • Sensitivity: 100dB/mW
  • Power Handling Capacity: 1.5W
  • Impedance: 70ohms
  • Frequency Response: 12-22,000Hz
  • Cord Length: 3.5m
  • Weight (without Cord): Approx. 175g
  • Supplied Accessories: Unimatch Plug

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