I received my XB950B1 headset through BestBuy's Tech Insider program on March 26, so I have used them for almost a month with the following audio sources before writing this review:
- Motorola Turbo (XT1254) cell phone (Bluetooth mode and using the supplied 3.5mm Audio cable)
- Motorola Turbo 2 (Bluetooth)
- Microsoft Surface Book (Bluetooth mode and Audio cable)
- Creative Zen Vision Media Player (Audio cable)
PROS: There is a lot to like about this headset.
1. Although the headband is just a bit tighter than I prefer, the ear cups remain comfortable even after extended wear (more than 2 to 3 hours).
2. Multimedia Audio quality is in the "very good" to "excellent" range, as I expect from Sony products.
3. Sound quality during phone calls is also Good. Occasionally a caller mentioned that I sounded "far away" at their end, but this was not consistent across calls with those individuals, so phone reception at either end could be the culprit.
4. Battery life is excellent, and recharging is simple using the supplied 19.75" micro USB cable. I did not specifically test for the maximum run time provided by a full charge, but I was able to finish several sessions of 2-3 hours before deciding to recharge.
5. I really like the ability to use these as "normal", wired headphones using the 48" long, 3.5mm stereo audio cable. Of course, this method only allows for incoming audio (no microphone out), but you can charge the headset while listening if you use both cables. Be aware that plugging the audio cable into the headset automatically disconnected the headset's active bluetooth connection. So in "wired mode" the Bass Boost, Volume control, and other headset hardware controls do not work.
6. Bass Boost can greatly improve the sound of incoming Bluetooth audio that needs it, but I found that the headset drivers have excellent bass response, and I rarely felt the need to use the Boost.
7. This headset paired easily with cell phones and my MS Surface Book, and it remembers pairing info for up to eight devices.
8. I like the simple, clean look of this headset. Sony kept things classy, rejecting the fads of ridiculous, blinding, RGB LEDs for no good reason, and pulsing LED logo lighting that seems to be everywhere the last few years. The 2 small, unobtrusive LED status indicators serve their intended purpose without over-kill, and there is a small, silver "SONY" logo on each ear-can.
CONS: Like any technology designed for use by actual human beings, there are some compromises made, and things I would have done differently:
1. The headset gives voice announcements for functions like Power on/off, Bass Boost on/off, Bluetooth connected/disconnected, etc. During these announcements all incoming audio is completely "blanked out" for a few seconds, which I find annoying. I would really like to be able to turn that off!
- This is my largest complaint, and the reason for the 4.5 star rating: Voice announcements are non-critical functions, yet they temporarily keep the headset from performing it's primary function of reproducing high-quality incoming audio.
2. I did have some hiccups using the headset's media controls with some mobile Media players. The play/pause and next/previous controls caused occasional lock-ups in the Android versions of VLC and BS Player. I can't say for certain whether the headset, the app, or the Android OS is at fault here. .
3. Sony's "Headphones" app for Android has VERY limited functionality at this point. It currently only allows you to enable/disable bass boost and adjust the Bass Boost level, select a sound environment (Club, Arena, Live Stage, etc), and check the battery charge level. When I learned that Sony had an app that worked with this headset, I was hoping for a more integrated media app that added a media player and playlist editor to those functions. I hope Sony adds those soon.
4. The 3.5mm audio input jack is recessed into the left ear "can" far enough that the plugs on most of my existing audio cables will not seat into the jack fully. The supplied cable is not long enough for some things I would like to do, so I have to use a stereo extension cable. This is a fairly minor gripe since this is designed and marketed as a wireless headset, so I don't fault Sony too much for this one.
TO SUM THINGS UP: I like the MDR-XB950B1 headset a lot. In fact, I find myself using them far more often than I would normally use a headset. There is more to like than dislike here, and in my opinion, a product that makes you actually want to use it more often than usual has certainly gotten the important things right.