• Balanced Armature Technology
• Clear sound reproduction
• No power supply to charge – USB only
• Long run time – up to 20 hours
• Numerous accessories included as standard
• Built-in microphone
• Almost no soundstage
• Noise cancelling seems to make very little difference overall
• Virtually no bass
• Too expensive – for this price you can get German-designed Sennheiser with dynamic driver.
• Very bad cord noise issues which distracts from the good points
The headphones feature digital noise cancellation via an internal Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. The battery takes four hours to charge fully via USB, with 20 hours of battery life. Power handling capacity stands at 50mw, the sensitivity is 106db and frequency response is 5Hz – 20,000Hz
The Sony XBA-NC85D is part of the XBA (short for eXperience Balance Armature) range of earphones which use a balanced armature driver instead of conventional dynamic drivers which use air and make the earphones larger physically. This is primarily done for size reasons, but also less power drain due to the way it functions.
As with all headphones designed for portable media players, these have a standard gold-plated (not silver plated) 3.5mm headphone jack. Included is a USB charge adapter, in-flight plug adapter for air travel, three sizes of ear buds, cord adjuster, carrying case and clip.
The design of the Sony XBA-NC85D is similar to the previous MDR range of earphones, but these have had big changes visually in the area of design and engineering. Combining, the colour combinations of black and red which makes these really stand out. Their matte finish prevents fingermarks from appearing on the headphones themselves, and they are very solidly built. These do sit in your ears horizontally opposed; the microphones for noise cancelling stay external to operate efficiently. These do protrude out of your ears as well unless you have very deep ear canals.
The build quality of the Malaysian-made Sony XBA-NC85D is very high. The construction is mostly of high quality plastic, and the main body is of a matt black finish with the “Sony” name in white lettering to stand out. The wiring if flexible, but firm. There is also a red LED on the right earpiece to show you if these are on or off.
I tested the Sony XBA-NC85D with 320kpbs audio quality MP3 files. This higher bitrate will also mean lower Overall the sound of these is average and has quite poor bass and almost non-existent soundstage, even with noise cancellation turned on. Unfortunately, these do have pretty severe cord noise when using these on the move, which is a real disappointment.
Audio reproduction is not very good with these headphones which really detract from their design. Additionally, these cost $549 RRP. I compared these to my Sennheiser IE80’s which retail for around $540, and Sennheiser sound better in all aspects.
Although, the Sony XBA-NC85Ds looks and feature set are fantastic, unfortunately when it comes to performance they don’t perform much better than a pair of $60 headphones. The main reason is that they are only single armature, not dual or quad drivers. The price of these is way too high compared to other headphones on the market that are cheaper and sound a lot better.