*Special thanks to Sony for the H.ear Wireless Headphones. These were loaned out for a few weeks, and were missed immediately.
Let me begin by stating that Sony has a special place in my heart. One of my most prized possessions growing up was my Sony Walkman CD player. The green and black CD player never left my side, always switching between Rock CDs and Rap music. It worked flawlessly, and played despite many moments testing its durability.
Now, we come to the advancement of technology. Sony has been relatively quiet in the headphone market, producing some headphones here and there, but nothing truly groundbreaking. The h.ear wireless headphones are that LARGE step into that market. How is their attempt? Will it rival top competitors?
Dressed To Impress
Buying a Lamborghini, Ferrari or a Porsche is about buying the car, and buying something else: the aesthetics. A few things come into play here when I define aesthetics. Wow factor. The look and finish. Design. Box. Casing. Packaging. So much of this can be imperative to a product, it sells the product, even before you try it.
In this case, the Sony h.ear wireless headphones are packaged perfectly. The box is large, matching that of something you would get from Bose, Monster or Beats. Inside is a large case that unveils an amazing, soft touch carrying case, with of course the headphones, charger and an AUX cord.
Before even trying on the headphones, an immense sense of quality came over me. The Cinnabar Red headphones we were loaned brightly glistened out of the box, ready to be used. Immediately, they feel sturdy, durable beyond most headphones in the market and feel, dare I say— luxurious. The around the head band is high quality plastic, more durable than Beats’ Studio headphones (which match the price). The inner headphone material is made of a chushy, leatherette that is comfy and never allows your ears to fault to fatigue. The head band made for a tight grip, never slipping from my head, and never over stepping their welcome. Comfortable and surprisingly lightweight.
Out of the numerous brands reviewed in this mid tier category (Yes, $350 dollar headphones are considered mid-tier) initial impressions have Sony’s h.ear headphones at the top. Excellent build quality and aesthetics make it undeniably pleasing.
Walking The Talk
Through the years of listening to audio through different headphones, whether they be in ear, over the ear, or some form of Bluetooth, I’ve never established a ‘favorite’. For consistency sake, the Beats Studio headphones work well. Durable. Sound quality works well. They look pretty great and they’ve lasted. That being said, for the money, you can find much better headphones. Klipsch, Bose and even SOL Republic has churned out quality headphones at cheaper price points. Sony, despite packing the h.ear to perfection, was going to have to impress me where it counts.
Balance is not the issue with these headphones. The mix here is pretty accurate, even if it deploys a bit too much bass. How much bass are we speaking of here? I’d go on a limb and say, expect first generation Beats headphones bass. Yes, this is definitely a bit too bass heavy at times, sometimes drowning out the mids.
If mids are your game, you might be a tad disappointed. They aren’t washed out, but they aren’t nearly as defined as other headphones at this price. You definitely notice it in a lot of songs, a lot of vocal heavy songs. When you really want to hear that pounding, driving lyric, it seems to fall a bit short, forcing you to want a bit more from it.
Sony’s hard sell on the MDR 100ABN (the distinction between the h.ear headphones) is the Noise Cancelling properties. Noise cancelling can be a double edged sword of techno-wizardy. While noise cancelling can isolate music, it can also cause a distracting buzz. Sometimes it can even make the music feel too modulate. Thankfully, Sony is careful with their usage of Noise Cancelling technology, even featuring a button to ‘activate’ it.
Sony also has an array of technology, buffered by some fantastic hardware. The HD driver unit/plug in is quite large (1.57 inches) and really pushes over the quality when using an auxiliary cord. Of course, the big sell with WIRELESS headphones is the bluetooth capabilities. Sony gives you two wireless options, one, the natural bluetooth way and the other, NFC. The one touch NFC allows you to send audio data almost three times more efficiently than bluetooth. What this means is better audio transferring.
Does it work? Yes.
Wireless capabilities work pretty well, with no hiccups ever in connecting. The audio transitions are smooth, and audio quality matches that of a direct plug in, without the hassle of a wire. Wireless (Bluetooth/NFC) range is impressive. During a workout, I could easily go from one side of the gym, with my phone being on the other, and receive smooth, crisp audio. The wireless range never buckled, and that was going at a range of around 40-50 feet. Impressive. Still, those expecting dynamic ranges with these headphones might be disappointed. Does this mean that the audio presentation experienced from the Sony h.ear headphones are bad? Absolutely not. The $300 and up price range begs maximum competition, especially when it comes to audio quality.
Value differs from person to person. Obviously, this is hard to gauge as this is a perspective category entirely. That being said, the Sony h.ear wireless headphones are $349.99. As to most wanting to buy a quality headphone, this number is daunting. As it should be. That being said, Audenze, Beats, Klipsch, Bose and others have made a home in this expensive price bracket. You more or less buy a Ferrari, you get the performance, and what you pay for.
Is that the case here? For all intensive purposes, yes. The fit and finish is master-class at this price point. The build quality is phenomenal. A big plus to me is if headphones can endure a workout. Impressively, even using a cord half the time, the headphones held up. Never showing an ounce of wear and tear, or getting in the way. So, those wanting a quality headphone for workouts, might get it with these.
Sony has been crafting, designing and technology for generations. That being said, it feels like they’ve fallen behind the times when it comes to audio/headphone performance. Sony’s latest release, the h.ear wireless headphones, put them back on the map. Sure, they lack a dynamic range that really makes vocals pop. The mids can get a bit lost in transition, and some headphones at this price range (and a bit cheaper) sound better. That being said, the fit and finish is absolutely fantastic. The different wireless connections work flawlessly. This is a pretty damn good pair of headphones, and one I recommend.