Sony MDR-X10 On-ear Headphone Review
Good construction, not so good audio.
The phenomenon of celebrity-endorsed headphones only seems to be gaining steam, and Sony is now in on the mix. Released in late 2012, the made its debut, complete with endorsement from Simon Cowell of TV fame. While they certainly don't scrimp on style (or isolation), they leave a bit to be desired in the audio department.
Comfort, Design & Features
I can see why Mr. Cowell enjoys these headphones, aesthetically speaking. Not only are they very shiny, but they offer a somewhat unique design that distances itself enough from the ubiquitous, but not so much that they make you look like the Great Gazoo or an extra in a 1980s cyberpunk movie. It's a tough balance to strike with large headphones, and the grooved metal aesthetic certainly has its appeal.
On-ears are typically fairly uncomfortable, but these actually feel pretty good. Because the band allows more room for your head, much of the contact between the headphones and you is the foam, which conforms to your head and ear fairly well, although not immediately. Over long periods of time, the foam fits to the shape of your ear, and accommodates you very well. Some may not like the sensation of something touching your pinna, but it's the nature of on-ear headphones.
Honestly, there doesn't seem to be much that I'd consider fragile or deficient about the MDR-X10's design. They have a solid housing, the cables can easily be replaced, and they seem like they have decent build quality. We're not about to go trying to break this set of headphones, but we feel confident that they'll be able to withstand the abuse commonplace in most handbags and backpacks.
If these headphones were to perform on one of Mr. Cowell's many shows, his reception of these cans would not be as favorable as his impressions of Susan Boyle. If they were able to cry, he probably would be able to jerk a few tears out of the X10s.
Really, the biggest thing we have to complain about in this review is the frequency response. For the price you're paying, it's a bit difficult to justify this kind of audio quality, especially when you can get extremely similar performance out of the $30 Monoprice MHP-839.
In addition to most vocal harmonics coming in well quieter than they should, the highest notes of a piano, harp, and piccolo will all sound anywhere from 1/2 to 1/3rd as loud as they should. Cymbals suffer at the hands of the underemphasis too, as they also fall within a large range of underemphasis. Because the mids are so underemphasized, the bass sounds extremely loud in comparison.
After that, the s don't have any major, glaring flaws, but a collection of minor imperfections. For example, they have tiny shifts in channel volume and a high sum of distortion, even if the level never really exceeds 3%.
If you read this far to see a Cowell-style evisceration of a pair of headphones, I'm afraid I have to disappoint you. While it is true that some of the performance points are a far short of good, they are fashionable headphones, and that matters to many people. Given the price range, it's a tough sell to bargain-hunters.
In terms of audio performance, these cans isolate sound better than they pump it out. Really, the most important issue to highlight is the frequency response, as it quiets the higher notes of many classical instruments. Consequently, it can make bass sound overemphasized, and it can make vocals sound weird, as it deadens some of the more prominent harmonics of the human voice.
Overall, though, what you get with these headphones is a set of stylish metal-looking cans that are comfortable, and do well blocking out the din of a noisy street. Their pricetag is somewhat high at $299USD, which is a tough pill to swallow for audiophiles.
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