Technophile

Sony WH-XB900N:Put these on and brace for bass

Mala Bhargava | Updated on July 24, 2019 Published on July 24, 2019

Sony brings its active noise cancellation to a mid-range offering

Sony’s headphones have risen to the top of the food chain in the past two years because of their great combination of good sound quality and noise cancelling with a layer of interesting smart features on top. Leaving audiophiles aside, as they know their business all too well, as far as mass appeal is concerned, Sony’s WH-1000M3 have been everyone’s favourite headphones. But they’re still expensive — and Sony knows it. So they’ve been trying to bring some of the features they have to other products, cutting back a little here and there to offer a better price. The WH-XB900N is one such attempt, and it’s a good one at that.

There’s not one flashy thing about these over-the-ears wireless headphones. Our review set was in a matte-finish black and apart from looking solid and like they mean business, they are totally understated. No accents or glints anywhere on these and in fact, you’ll have to look close to notice the embossed Sony logo. But it’s there and that should tell you that this pair of headphones bring a lot to the table. If you take a look at the mathematical sounding name, you’ll see that WH is for wireless headphones, which they are, with Bluetooth 4.2, pairing more or less on their own when turned on and holding a connection very well, despite plenty of thick walls and a good distance. If you prefer, you can also listen using an aux cable. But of course, the average listener has become much more used to listening wirelessly.

What you get in the box other than the headphones is a soft fabric case — not the hard kind that comes with the more expensive headphones — a charging USB-C cable and an aux cable. These are all of pretty good quality.

The headphones themselves are also of good quality, with a sturdy build combining well with comfort. There’s adequate cushioning under the headband and in the ear-cans, which are of a nice in-between size with just the right space inside them. The cans articulate to fold up so they can fit better in smaller places. The headphones are neither too heavy nor particularly light so in a sense you don’t think about their weight. But this is a warm and humid country for many months of the year, so naturally you need to choose when you can listen to them without feeling even hotter inside. Regular air conditioning does the trick.

One thing to do is download the Sony Headphones Connect app from where you get more control over how the set behaves and get access to an equaliser to slightly adjust the sound to your liking. The regular controls are on the ear-cups, including on the outer surface, which are touch sensitive and very responsive. In fact, you can often trigger them by mistake if you lift your hand up to adjust the headset or your hair. On the other hand, the sensitivity of the surface makes it easy to get the headphones to quickly respond to commands. Other than the usual navigation, you can tap to communicate with your favourite voice assistant, including Alexa. Connected to Google means you’ll be able to get notifications and even your messages on Whatsapp read out to you.

The XB in the name is, of course, for extra bass, a tag Sony uses for a whole series of its audio products. Now it’s no secret that Indian listeners love their music to pack a punch and so the WH-XB900N fit right in here. The bass is instantly detectable and bass-heads should love it. Purists who listen to music that needs very fine detail — such as Western Classical, perhaps — may want to opt for something else or even rely on the little bit of adjustment they can do in the app. Supported audio formats include SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC.

The N in the name of these headphones stands squarely for active noise cancellation. You can set it from the app or the controls on the ear-cups. While not as powerful as the cancellation on Sony’s top-end models, it combines well with the closed-up ear-cups and the loud bass-rich music to shut off most sounds from the outside, making for quite a nice experience. When you take them off, the sound from everything around including ceiling fans and air conditioners and the street all come as a bit of a shock. If you need to attend to sounds around you, holding up a hand to the ear-cup takes you to its Quick Attention mode. If you give permission, the app can also help adjust the sound and noise level depending on where you are.

Price: ₹16,990

Pros: Enjoyable good sound, bass-oriented, sturdy build, great battery life with quick charge, includes smart features, good active and passive noise cancellation

Cons: Accidental touches on touch surface frequent, long-ish time for full charge

Published on July 24, 2019
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