The Sony ZX100 Closed-Back On-Ear are a bang for the buck pair headphones that perform quite well based on their price range. They can easily be found for $15 at Amazon.com and sometimes less when they go on sale. As such, they are a good choice to throw in your bag or backpack or keep at the office or the car, or hand over to guests or people who frequently lose or break their gadgets.
|Weight||4.8oz (4.1oz w/out cables on scale)|
|Cable||both sides, Y, not detachable|
|Cable Length||48 inches|
|Mic & Remote||No|
|Plug||3.5mm (1/8″), 90-degree, 2 rings|
|Headband Extension||up to 4.3cm per side|
|Earcups||Fold Flat; Face Down a few degrees|
|1/4″ Adapter Included||I don’t recall|
If you have a big head like moi, one of the first things you worry about when it comes to on-ear and portable headphones is whether your space-eating melon can fit inside. Thankfully these are big head friendly, I have them on at about 1-2 clicks below the maximum extension which is a generous 4.3cm (independently adjustable on each side). These are actually better at this than the frequently-recommended Monoprice 8323 where my melon just barely fits in at full extension (even though the 8323 are bigger full-size headphones). Having said all that, keep in mind, big heads are of different shapes, sizes and sensitivities, so the only way to know for sure is to use them on your own for an extended period of time.
I’ve had them for nearly two years, and I did not take notes when they arrived, so I can’t recall whether there was any pressure on the sides before they settled in. Right now (nearly two years later), I can have them on for hours at a time without issue. The earpads look wrinkled and not very fashionable, but they are comfortable, and that’s fine with me. Of course this may be an issue for more fashionable people. Up top, there is no padding on the underside of the headband where it meets the top of your head. Still, I don’t have any comfort issues, even though the plastic is touching my head. They are fairly lightweight headphones, so I don’t really feel any pressure from the headband.
Telling Right from Left is a very practical thing that often gets ignored. In this case however, it’s fairly easy to tell right from left – they have a very visible red marking on the right side. They also have very faint L and R on the inside of the headband, above the earcups (barely visible without adequate light). But you can also tell L from R by touch: just above the left earcup (on the outside), there is a single dot on the left side. There is no dot on the right side. This can be helpful to visually impaired listeners who will be able to tell by touch.
The cable is long enough for most uses, and its not skinny but not too thick either. Considering the ZX100s are on the portable side of things, it seems to be a good compromise of length and thickness. Cables go inside on both sides, and they are not removable. The cables split at a Y as they go to your ears. These are straight up headphones, there is no in-line remote and no mic for smartphones and tablets. Of course you can use them with any device that has a 3.5mm (1/8″) headphone out, but you won’t be able to use them as headsets.
The two earcups rotate 90 degrees to fold flat, but that’s all the folding you get with these. These headphones don’t fold to a smaller size, so keep that in mind if you don’t have a lot of space in your bag.
They don’t come with a carrying pouch, but for around $7 you can get this nice soft carrying pouch from Shure (just fold the ZX100s flat, and drop them in). The pouch is made for bigger studio headphones, so it’s a nice roomy feel. Plus you can use the pouch for many other headphones as well. This won’t protect from impact, only from scratches and dust and coming in contact with other things in your bag.
Sound and Music
Considering the $15-ish price range, these definitely fall into the bang for the buck category. While they won’t win any audiophile awards, they perform quite well for what they are. Their biggest achievement is that they don’t distract you from the music listening experience by not being bad at anything in particular.
The one area that I would consider their weakest point in terms of sound is that they are not able to reproduce some lower bass frequencies at the same volume as the rest of the sound. This is not to say that bass is non-existent, but if you are of the bass-head persuasion, you may want to try them out first. Having said that (I’m not a basshead), I did not find listening to bass-friendly music offensive. Albums like The Roots “Things Fall Apart” or Sharon Jones’ “I learned the hard way” were listenable and enjoyable.
Their lower bass frequency issue became clear during the group listening session that was part of the AmazonBasics On-Ears review (towards the bottom of the page). The 50Hz track in one of the Chesky headphone test CDs was not very audible. This got me testing some more – on a 61-key Casio keyboard, the first half a dozen or so white keys (they start at around 65 Hz – see Piano Key frequencies) were lower/weaker. This was particularly pronounced with the Acoustic Bass sound, and to a lesser extent with the default Piano sound. The difference was quite noticeable when switching between these and the Sony MDR-V6 studio headphones.
In terms of practical impact to the enjoyment of actual music, this was an issue with The Swans two hour long “To Be Kind” double album. There is a lot of intensity and build-up of tension in that album, and it doesn’t come out as much with the ZX100s. I also felt that New Order’s Blue Monday lost some of its “club feel” with these.
Most of the musical genres I listened to (rock, alternative, indie, R&B, punk, etc) were very acceptable – again, considering their price. Perhaps they are at their best when it comes to live music. I did not find anything to distract me from the listening experience with live music such as various Dave Matthews with Band and/or Tim Reynolds albums, or Bowie’s “Live in Santa Monica ’72” or a couple of The Walkmen’s Live Sessions (iTunes and Best Buy’s Napster sessions). Note: I did not listen to classical music (or operas, EDM, Broadway, etc) with these.
Having said all that above about sound, keep in mind, everyone’s ears and biology is slightly different, musical preferences and taste varies, ability to accept trade-offs and imperfections varies, so there’s a big YMMV (as always).
Given their smaller earcup size (they are on-ears), they perform well in terms of isolation (lowering the volume of outside sounds) and leakage (others able to hear your own music). While they won’t block all the outside world sounds, they reduce them enough that (in my case) I am able to get work done. This with moderate sounds like an average coffee shop. I have not used them during flights or on trains.
About This Review
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