The Sony WH-XB910N can easily be confused with the top model WH-1000XM4 in appearance. If you do not choose them in blue, which big brother is not found in. Otherwise, they are the spitting image of the 1000XM4. The fit is really good with ear cushions that enclose the ears and sit comfortably on the head.
The biggest difference, apart from the price, is that the XB910N caters to those who love bass. The bass has been turned up several notches and it is fuller than usual. Hence the addition XB in the name – for eXtra Bass.
Noise reduction and ambient sound
Sony’s cheaper headphones cost approx. half and has both active noise reduction and ambient sound, which means that the headphones pick up sound from outside through the microphone and reproduce it through the drivers. The opposite of noise reduction, in other words, and something that is practical if you need to hear what someone is saying to you (or about you), or if you are out in the traffic and want to hear what is happening around you.
You can select noise reduction or sound transmission manually, or let the XB910N automatically select based on what they think you are doing. If you have switched on the learning function, they will also be able to learn how to normally set them up in given geographical locations. Then you have to share the phone’s GPS location with them, which we understand that not everyone will.
One feature that is missing is so-called Speak-to-Chat, where the headphones pause the music and automatically switch to audio transmission when they detect that you are talking to someone.
XB910N has Bluetooth version 5.2 and supports so-called multipoint connection. This means that they can be connected to e.g. mobile and PC at the same time, so you can use your PC for music and video conferencing and your phone for mobile calls, without having to disconnect along the way.
If you have an Android phone, it is easily paired with the XB910N by just having the headphones in the immediate vicinity. Apple users need to connect in the usual way.
Also the speech quality through Sony’s microphone is clearly approved. One’s voice will be perceived loud and clear by the interlocutor, especially in the midrange. The harmonics are always a challenge, and the treble range could probably have been even clearer. But here the XB910N does not lag behind the big brother 1000XM4.
The Sony WH-XB910N has better noise reduction than many others in this price range. They suppress background noise really well, also on planes, in car and in train. In addition, it works better outdoors than several others, including the cheaper Altec Lansing Excellence, although gusts of wind also whiz right through Sony.
Right out of the box, the sound is as expected very bass heavy. Hip hop and electronic pop are thundering into my ears and I think many will like this. The only thing missing is that the midrange range to follow suit.
The app has a five-band graphic equalizer (EQ). To be sure to make the headphones play loud enough even on weak recordings – e.g. classical music – I actually pull up all the frequencies four steps up before I pull up two steps more at 1 kHz and 16 kHz. The slightly harsh frequency 6.3 kHz I pull one step down again. A Clear Bass function that you can use to make up the bass even more, I leave at 0.
The result is that it retains the cool bass that Sony has aimed for, while at the same time sounding more balanced. The rhythms of Adele’s new Oh My God, which is far more electronic and optimistic than previous songs from that edge, are now breaking through really well. At the same time, her voice comes out well, where it drowned a little too much without tone settings.
Seeb’s Sweet Dreams and Dynamite with Nina Nesbitt as guest vocalist has a drive that makes me want to find a party. It will not be less cool with the club track Out of Sight, Never Out of Mind with Bendik HK accompanied by Ary’s fantastic voice. And Aurora has never sounded fatter than on the Sub Urban track Paramour.
This is bone-chilling, and I cacth myself listening to a lot of new hit list music that I otherwise rarely hear. In many ways I actually like the XB910N better than the more expensive 1000XM4!
What about more demanding acoustic music? Yes, how about some opera? Cecilia Bartoli’s latest release, Unreleased, features some elegant pieces, such as the opening track Ah Perfido! by Beethoven. She sings through in the usual way, and I have to say that the Sonys do it surprisingly well.
Admittedly, there is a little too much energy in the double basses and tubas, while the flutes could probably have shone even more. But the quality is overall fine, and where other cheap headphones often lack the best audio codecs and have to settle for standard SBC, the XB910N provides quite good quality through the AAC codec.
However, I think Sony could well have included their own LDAC codec, which provides almost uncompressed sound quality via Bluetooth. Maybe you, then, could have gotten a little more air at the top.
For the high range is not the XB910N’s greatest strength, even after I turned it up quite a bit. But it’s nice enough, and if you mostly listen to electronic rhythmic music, but also enjoy a bit of Kings of Convenience once in a while, Sony has hit the spot with the WH-XB910N.
Better than the competition
The sound from these headphones is the best I have heard for under GBP200. This includes the cheaper Altec Lansing Excellence, which are also really good for the price.
But at Altec Lansing you do not have the option to adjust the sound, nor to they provide heavy bass. As with Sony, they sound really good with a bit of EQ treatment. But also because the resolution of the treble is better. There is more air and sense of space with the Sonys.
Sony’s latest headphones in the “bass class”, WH-XB910N, are easy to hold. Right out of the box, the sound is admittedly just legally bass-rich and correspondingly midrange-poor, but that’s not a big problem – and there is not much to adjust in the app before it becomes top-notch.
The bass massages the ear canals and breathes fresh life into the rhythms, while at the same time there are qualities upwards in the tonal range, which also benefit acoustic instruments. Hitlist pop has rarely sounded as good as here, and the occasional classical orchestral piece works as well.
The noise reduction is good and so is the speech quality. Although the latter still lacks a bit in the treble.