Sony MDR-EX100 Quick Review
Thanks to SwimSonny for the loan.
Brief: Sony shows what it can do when its wants to.
Price: Circa £400
Specification: Driver Unit 16mm, Dome type (CCAW adopted), Sensitivity 108dB/mW, Power Handling Capacity 200mW, Impedance 32ohms at 1kHz, Frequency Response 3-30,000Hz, Magnet Neodymium, Cord 7N-OFC litz cord adopted Y-type / Detachable Cord Length 1.2m / 0.6m, Plug L-shaped stereo mini plug (Gold) (1.2m cord) / Stereo mini plug (Gold) (0.6m cord), Weight (Without Cord) Approx. 8g
Accessories: Hybrid silicone rubber earbuds (SSx2, Sx2, MSx2, Mx2, MLx2, Lx2, LLx2), Noise isolation earbuds (Sx2, Mx2, Lx2), Carrying case, 1.2m cord / 0.6m cord, Operating Instructions. You get more tips than you’ll know what to do with and the case, while lovely it’s not something to go in your pocket.
Isolation: A bit meh, they don’t isolate well at all. They are rather open then they sound it too so if you want something for blocking out noise these aren’t it. It’s barely passable for blocking out traffic noise and I wouldn’t bother with these for the Tube or a flight.
Comfort/Fit: Well these are a bit odd. Firstly they are massive, secondly they are a really weird shape. I had no bother with them but they sat so loosely on my ear they never seemed secure, not that they fell out or moved. Comfort was rather good, they weigh nothing and were very gentle on the ear.
Aesthetics: They make a visual statement. I can’t say I like that statement as they are massive, noticeable and they say I sure as hell am no freebie included set of buds.
Sound: So I’d seen lots of good things about these then they vanished from the radar. Sony is a massive company that essentially has the potential to outspend every headphone maker and are probably the best known consumer electronics brand in the world. They aren’t known however for rocking the earphone world, the old EX700 was regarded as good but a pain to use and never really stood out. The EX1000 is rather more expensive and there is a lot more competition now. Sony has come out with something really nice though. I still don’t love its shape and its sound quality isn’t earth shattering. You know that price tag is very high and I don’t think it quite commands it but acoustically Sony isn’t disappointing. The on paper low end claims 3Hz which is ungodly low. Likewise the highs on paper go well beyond human hearing so it should have no trouble with either. The low end though with that massive driver I expected more volume. Its very well behaved, smooth and a touch relaxed bass. It’s one of those beguiling basses that are so reserved and polite until you demand more and it comes to life but still seems so laid back. It is pretty fast yet has this relaxed gentility to it in the very Sony way. It never seems hurried or stressed. It’s a quite a beautiful presentation. Mids too have this every no nonchalant air to them. Sooooooo relaxed, so airy, so effortlessly offered up. “Painters Song” feels so softly, clearly, openly and languidly presented. It feels intimate but it’s not up close and personal. In something’s this is super lovely but it seems incapable of bringing those vocal up and in your face like something’s need. The highs, they do extend well but they in the lower high end have a bit of a spike. They do have a habit of being peaky and randomly leaping out at you (the EX700 did this too as have many other Sony’s) the detail otherwise is rather good if not the most explicit. This isn’t an analytical IEM, it’s about being beautiful. This spike detracts from that beauty but these are still very nice. The sound stage is rather big, above all they are a tremendous ability to sound distant and ever so open.
The balance on them is fairly natural with a bit of an emphasis on the highish spike that can jump out and turn to sibilance. Also I can’t help but feel these should have more bass, that driver is more than capable but I feel Sony steered away from big bass due to the recent trend of ridiculous bass levels in others.
N.B. It all works stupendously nicely with acoustic tracks.
Value: Hmm these are a prestige product and you pay for that Sony name and a fair premium. Still many of us grew up with the Sony “house sound” as they essentially owned the 80’s for consumer audio. This is that same sound but with rather impressive clarity.
Pro’s: Super open sounding, Beautifully relaxed, Sony “house sound” nostalgia.
Con’s: Its rather expensive, highs have a jumpy spike in them, isolate meh.