Being decades in the audio business, Sony is attuned to the wide audio tastes of all walks of life, from the casual consumers to the demanding audiophiles. The WH-XB910N is not for the purists or casual listeners looking for clarity and details. They are tuned with club-like bass to satisfy the bass heads. With the XB910N, you get some and you lose some.
Design and Operations
In many ways, the WH-XB910N is the bass-friendly young sibling of the WH-1000XM4. The overall design and operations follow the latter premium model, including the 4-way touch-swipe panel on the right earcup as well as the Quick Attention trick of placing your hand over the earcup to enable Ambient Sound in an instant. Also on the left earcup are the 2 buttons, albeit in a different shape compared to the 1000XM4, but I prefer the design improvement of larger buttons and in different shape, allowing me to instantly distinguish the function.
Also similar to the 1000X series is the enclosed hard casing and the ability to fold flat for ease of storage. There is compartment to store the 2 important cable accessories – USB charging cable and the 3.5mm analog audio cable. The WH-XB910N offers up to 30 hours playtime, but you can also choose to listen without powering up via the 3.5mm cable.
In fact, other than offering the basic digital noise cancelling engine and excluding the wear detection, the WH-XB910N comes with the rest of the bells and whistles, like LDAC codec, multipoint connection (LDAC will be disabled), Google Fast Pair, Windows Swift Pair, 360 Reality Audio, smartphone app to adjust EQ, 20 levels of Ambient Sound adjustments, Adaptive Sound Control (detects your actions and locations and automatically enabled ANC or Ambient Sound), DSEE, Voice Assistant. For ANC, there are also 2 mode options, Standard and Wind Noise Reduction.
Comfort and Noise Cancelling
The WH-XB910N is generally comfortable to wear. The synthetic leather ear pads fit snugly over my ears and offers good passive noise isolation, dulling the upper frequencies but not so for the lower frequencies. I tested wearing them for my 10-minute walks trips to pack family meals and the heat build-up is minimal. When removed, there is a thin layer of moist and skin oil which I would make sure to wipe and keep the earpads clean.
When Noise Cancelling (ANC) is activated, general noises are reduced effectively. Running through the airplane simulation, I can only hear the higher pitches of the engine fan and a bit of the lower frequency rumbles. No doubt it is not as outstanding as WH-1000XM4, but once you play music over it, the noise cancelling is good enough to enjoy music without the need to turn up the volume excessively to mask the ambient noise.
The Ambient Sound mode is also tuned nicely to be balanced with the actual environment without any excessively amplified hiss. This appears to be the benchmark for many audio makers while there is the other school where the ambient sound is amplified for heightened listening.
There is no doubt that the WH-XB910N is designed for the bass lovers with no regards for any treble transparency. The consolation is that the bass response is very satisfying to listen to, with all the massive reverberation and deep sonic responses pumping out from the drivers. Thankfully for built-in EQ, owners can boost the treble to bring up the brightness, but the transience will not be as good as balanced headphones like Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2, although I have to say that the details remain approachable just that the bass section is given the limelight. The sound staging is also coherent with close wide imaging.
On the other hand, I have been auditioning with the flat setting and I actually enjoy listening to the XB910N. If your repertoire is neutral EQ tracks, then the sound may be warm. If you play R&B, Pop, Rock, Trance, EDM, and basically all other treble-harsh genres, it sounds very immersive without listening fatigue.
Audiophiles often regard “good” headphones as one with audio clarity, definition, airiness and transience, all related to the higher frequencies. But there was little appreciation on the lows. The WH-XB910N offers quite a satisfying bass feel not often experienced on other headphones. I’m not suggesting the XB910N have “audio-accurate” bass. On the contrary, the purpose of bass mostly is to vibrate the sound waves hard to deliver physical impact. Three characteristics of the bass region are observed: first, the lowest registers producing the seismic rumble; second, the musical notes produced; third, the timbre and air. On the WH-XB910N, the sub-bass reverberates with ease, the bass guitar and kick bass are fat and firm, not too forcefully punchy.
Interestingly, the deliberate emphasis of the bass and midrange also contributes to giving the XB910N some musical breath, being able to hear the air movement from the acoustic instruments. Even when listening to vinyl records, the groove floor noise are noticeably louder, yet the ability to literally hear the groove floor can be therapeutic.
If you absolutely love bass, then you should find the XB910N very listenable. Even for me, I thought it didn’t sound too unbearable. While the treble is not as detailed and clear, my ears adapt quite fast and I feel there is still some treble details that come out from the listening session which allows me to engage with the tracks. Having said that, my playlist would be somewhat limited to the more upbeat songs, and will avoid tracks that are not bright enough in the first place, for instance, Classical instrumental genre.
- Bass: 8.5/10. Loads of fun deep vibes.
- Midrange: 7/10. Warm but not clinical.
- Treble: 6/10. Hidden details that are adequate.
The call quality on the WH-XB910N is good. There are two mics on the left earcup to capture the voice loud and clear as if the mic is near the mouth.
Retailing at S$269, the WH-XB910N is the bass-friendly wallet-friendly version of the WH-1000XM4. For almost half the price, it is an enticing headphones to own and to groove heavily with the beats. I find myself having fun listening to WH-XB910N more than the 1000XM4, while the weak treble can be overcome by applying EQ if you are desperate for their brilliance.