Sony XBA-H1 In Ear Headphones
The XBA-H1s have several favorable qualities. First of all, true to Sony’s style, they are sound neutral. This is beneficial because it makes them versatile. Every type of audio will sound both good and true to its original recording on these earbuds, so no matter what, they will sound good. They might not be as specialized as some other earbuds, but that just means they have a broader appeal
Best Earbuds for the Money
Many people are used to earbuds that come free with their cellphones and other electronics. That initial experience can really affect how you view earbuds, because there are a lot of great earbuds out there that will be much better than that free set if you are willing to invest the money. The idea of spending up to $200 on earbuds might seem strange, but the improvement in quality is enormous. Moreover, earbuds of that tier tend to be quite durable as well, so they will last much longer. In this post, we will review what we consider to be the best set of earbuds that cost less than $200. There are dozens of options in this category. We considered not just quality, but also value for money.
About the Sony XBA-H1 Earbuds
Our choice is the Sony XBA-H1 In Ear Headphones with Unique Hybrid Balanced Armature Driver System. The XBA-H1 costs around a hundred bucks but it has an equal or better sound quality to just about all of its competitors in this price range. The earbuds combine some useful characteristics with all-around value to ensure that you are getting a ton of bang for your buck. Not everyone is willing to invest $200 in a set of earbuds, but for those that do, these earbuds will blow you away in overall sound quality as compared to others in its price range.
Background and Important Characteristics
Sony is a well-known brand, but not everyone is aware that they have quite a few good earbuds in this budget to midrange price set. There are many brands that produce great headphones, like Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, and Grados, but Sony is a leader in the earbuds category.
Among earbuds, there are several stylistic choices you can make. The biggest one is whether you want the earbuds to be open or closed. Open earbuds tend to offer better sound quality, but they are “leaky”, meaning that people around you will be able to hear your music. In addition, some outside noise will be audible. This might be a good thing if, say, you want to hear traffic noises around you or are exercising indoors and need to hear other family members. Closed earbuds don’t sound quite as good, but they are more isolating. The Sony XBA-H1s are closed.
One of the more controversial aspects of all types of headphones is how much they change, or “color” the sound that passes through them. Neutral headphones and earbuds introduce as little distortion as possible. Sets with a lot of color deliberately alter audio. Sometimes this is bad, such as when low-end earbuds pump up the bass to sound more dramatic. Other times it works well, such as when Sennheiser sets emphasize the treble to sound better for classical music. Brands sometimes have a characteristic “house sound” that appears in most of their units. Sony is known for being a neutral brand.
Another critical feature is durability. Earbuds are more portable than headphones, so you need them to stand up to more drops, bumps, and other contact that can happen. This is especially true when you are spending real money on them, or if you are taking them out running. This includes not just the buds themselves, but the sheath for the wiring and the connector.
Next, the XBA-H1s also do well with clarity. They reproduce sound with great accuracy, and this combined with the neutral tone means that you’ll hear recorded music almost exactly the same way it would have sounded live. It’s difficult to approach this level of quality without a significantly higher investment. If you have not heard earbuds of this level before, then you will hear details in audio that you have never heard before.
Lastly, it’s impossible to overlook the value of these earbuds. The under-$200 category is a large one, and there are plenty of options up around the top end of the range that won’t sound as good as the XBA-H1s. In fact, there isn’t another big jump in quality until you reach the $400 mark, where earbuds start including multiple drivers. For well under $100 you can get more or less the best sound in the range. The runners-up are not exactly far behind, but they cost significantly more.
The XBA-H1s are not perfect. There are two big drawbacks that you should know about even if they don’t change your decision. First of all, the earbuds don’t come with any extra features. You can find some that have their own good-quality microphones included, or that are wireless. The XBA-H1s are more bare-bones. That does help keep the price down, but if a mic is a make or break feature for you, then you should look elsewhere.
Next, these earbuds are a little behind on a feature called soundstage. Soundstage is the characteristic that makes you feel like the sound is surrounding you. Headphones that have good soundstage put you in the middle of the band. The XBA-H1s are not remarkable for their soundstage. It’s hard for closed earbuds to have a good soundstage, but again, don’t expect it.
When you compare the XBA-H1s to the competition in this price range, there’s no question that they deliver the best value. To be fair, there are a lot of great earbuds to be had here, but most of them are more expensive by a good margin. You should still take a look at some other highly rated earbuds in case they have a specific characteristic that you want. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a better deal, though.
Other Top Selling Ear Buds