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XD-400: one of the better $100 headphones.

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The XD-400s, Read about them here:

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Big thumbs up here, post 24 hour burn-in:

Procedurals

For the burn-ins, I run a various high-bitrate MP3s on a random CD, connect the cans of choice to either D-NE1 or D-NE900 (I find the two sound fairly interchangable), and chuck the entire setup for couple of days or so in a drawer. About couple of days later, you have a well burned in phone.

For this quickie, the equipment are as follows:

D-NE1 -> RM-MC33EL -> MDR-XD400 (Remotes are necessary to control this unit more or less).

MZ-NH1 -> MDR-XD300 (for some hours, no more than 5 to 10 hours burn in)

No Digital Megabass applied.

MP3s include:

Outrun2 soundtrack (Jazz vocals, Easy Rock instrumental)

Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, vols 1-3 (Jazz vocals, jazz tracks, world tracks)

FLCL OST 1 (J-Rock)

Random assortments of JPOP, Hard Rock instrumentals, and Electronica.

Bass

They can drive a quite a bit of bass if necessary. Even with the Digital MegaBass setting at 2, i tpumps out all the bass and retains quite a bit of bass details without being flabby or messy. At these high bass boost levels, it becomes almost as if you're strapping a very small subwoofer on your ears, and I can almost feel the bass through my body. Amazing.

Not to say that these are total bass-head set of cans, the bass isn't overwhelming at default (no EQ) settings under MUSIC mode, it might be infact somewhat muted for bass lovers. MOVIE mode adds a bit of mid-bass to the sound, somewhat similar to the CD580s, but nothing too overpowering.

I left mine on at MUSIC setting.

Vocals

Other than its staging slightly towards behind (maybe recessed is a better word?) and initial nasalness, there's nothing to really complain about. The nasalness that I really didn't like with XD300 is still somewhat present with the XD400, but I'm uncertain at this point whether it's truly nasal or just bright at the female vocal tracks.

As for XD300, the vocals (male and female) suffers from a bout of sinal infection, or Barbara Streisanditis. Perhaps my unit was a dud, but even with a bit of burn-in (about 5-6 odd hours or so) didn't clear it up, not one bit. I didn't like it. You might, however.

Trebles

XD300 sounds like there's a veil over the entire treble range, and be it sibilance, brightness, or detail, but quite a bit of that brightness is lost. It makes everything sound a bit dull.

XD400, on the other hand, lifts the vail right out, and rounds out the entire package. It could be contrived as bright, almost sibilant to some, but I find the touch of that brightness adds to the overall SQ of the XD400. The final sound of the 400s sounds energetic and overall complete vs. the XD300s.

Ergonomics

Very light and comfortable, but traps heat much like some other closed cans. The Pleather pad also picks up sweat and oil like there's no business though (the CD580's cloth padding was very comfy vs. the pleathers). It's essentially designed for extended listening for Music or Movie, though if you're on the sweaty side, something to consider.

So far

Great cans, but the nasal vocals I need to investigate more, i.e. more burn-in time. I wonder if the mids' are far brighter than I first thought (thus the nasalness of the vocals in the 300 and perhaps in the 400)? I'll listen to more sources in the next few upcoming days to round out my opinion, but chances are, they won't change much, I think.

Having said that, I'd totally avoid the XD300s, considering that the XD200s are half the price, and the 400s can be had for $20-40 extra vs. the XD300s depending on the retailer.

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Afterwards, I noted this in the same thread:

I've yet to hear the XD200s (I did see them near by, or so I thought), but I'll get my hands on those and do a full comparison with the 200s and the 400s. But I would hesistate to recommend XD300s, maybe I just had a bum unit, maybe its something else entirely different, but given the choice, I'd stick with 400s.

Did I mention how insane the bass can be pumped through these cans? I'd say they are perfect for watching action movies while keeping the room quiet and vibrationless (from all the explosions and such).

The bass on these cans are amazing!!

You can set the XD400 to give you what is probably a great listening experience no matter the device or the situation (as well as a $100 set of can give). Considering the audience, I'd suspect a lot of us would be happy with these as a final set of headphones.

My later impressions on these, including the huge bass these can offer:

They can drive quite a bit of bass, but depending on the source, the MUSIC mode's bass is neither boomy nor bloated. Given the proper equalization and source, however, and they can get boomy, bloated, thumping, and any various combination that you want or hate.

I will note that with my D-NE1 at Digital MegaMEGABass (setting 2) and in Movie mode, the bass becomes boomy and bloated and to a point where you can feel the bass in your body. That's perfect for late night solitary movie watching.

On a slightly more interesting note, I did manage to recreate somewhat the sound that I found with the XD300 by fiddling around with the Parametric Equalizer on the D-NE900, primairly by recessing the high-mids quite a bit. Doing that makes the vocals more nasal, and veils the trebles likewise. That might suit some listeners who may not prefer a bright sound. To me, though, it sort of flattens out the overall sound into something not quite... whole, I suppose.

And yes, these are honking huge. Be prepared to be stared at if you go out in public with these.

Very Equalizable.

Finally:

Some 50 hours in, my impression remains unchanged from before, except the MOVIE mode isn't all that great for Music listening. For example the bass line in Van Halen's "Right Now" gets muddied up nicely.

Nasalness is very much reduced, much more than before. Natalie Merchant no longer sounds like Babs, but more like herself. I'm currently listening to 10,000 Maniacs Unplugged through my NH1, and while the general bass is stronger than what I can recall, it still sounds mighty fine to my tonedeaf ears.

Initially, I was underwhelmed with these as a Gaming phone, but that I'd suspect is more due to the onboard sound vs. anything else (Nforce2 SoundStorm for the curious). There was a lot of clipping and noise, but at the same time, the environmental effects and the spacial abilites of these phones were quite satisfactory. On console gaming, set at MOVIE mode, it works fairly well and is rather enjoyable. As for TV and Movie/DVD watching? I still need to work on these, as I got these primairly for music purposes. They are very versatile however in anything you throw at it.

I'll no doubt have more to write on this, the initial nasalness of the vocals will turn off some people. Size is rather too big for portable use, and the upper-mids/vocals seems brighter than most phones, though not harsh. Trebles will probably seem harsh to some people who prefer more mellow, darker sounds, but I have no problems with it. Finally, all plastic construction makes this fragile feeling, though the two steel bars will help with its durability.

As it stands, this seems like a $100 set of phones that could be easily charged more and still be satisfactory to most listeners. The MOVIE mode is somewhat of a gimmick (and a dud to me), but the option is nice for those who like bigger bass.

Finally, because the XD400s are so easily driven and equalizable, I'm retracting my harsh stance on the XD300s for the moment. Properly equalized, I think the XD300s could very well be perfect for those of us who can't shell out the $100 MSRP but still have a quality set of headphones.

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I have to say that the XD200s are not cheaper version of XD400s. Read on!

Vocals are not as sinus nor nasal as the XD300s, but as much as XD400s before burn-in. Out of the blisterpack, the mid-range sounds slightly more balanced than 400s, but that's out of the blisterpack. The vocals did resolve much nicely for the most part after about 50 odd hours of burn in for the XD400, so I'd expect the same for XD200s.

These cans are much harder to drive than the XD400s. These may perform admirably with a stronger source than a Walkman or an amp. I don't have one in my collection, so I can't say for certain.

XD200s have a bit of a smaller soundstage vs. XD400s, but I've noticed that the XD400s has a strange presentation in their soundstaging, especially with regards to cymbols and the like (they sound as if they're being played right over my head!). Overall, not too bad in this regard.

I'd say they sound softer and maybe darker than XD400s, with a touch of sibilience for the time being (guitars, cymbols, the like). I hope with a bit of burning in, that gets taken care of.

Movie-Music mode has more impact with these vs. the XD400s. They also share the same visceral, head-shaking bass impact(!!!), but I think they are more flabbier and sloppier with extra super duper bass applied. On that note, they are easily equalized to whatever flavor you like.

Well worth the $30, but at the moment, I wish I still had the XD300s to do a bit of testing with those. These will serve as a backup unit, computer unit, or wherever where critical listening isn't required. Much like the XD400s, I say these performs best of Jazz, Classical, and Acoustic sets vs. Rock or Hip Hop.

XD200 vs. Philips SBC HS900

Both retail for about $30 in many a brick and mortar, these are more portable and smaller than the XD200.

HS900 has less bass, but is sibilant with its trebles. Not detailed mind you, but the hissy, shrilly sibilant. Mids sounds really recessed on the HS900, but XD200s sounds nasal, especially with female tracks, so it's a give and take. XD200s has more controlled bass vs. HS900 with super duper mega ultra bass applied. With no bass, it's about same I'd wager. XD200s has more visceral impact with its bass. By visceral, I mean head shaking, feel it through your body type.

Comfort, it's a give and take. Both the HS900 and the XD200's plastic headband end up touching my crown, so you're aware that you've got headphones on. The HS900, with its narrower padding, feels like a pair of vice though. XD200 may lack padding on the front (rather, the sloped driver makes it feel as if it has less padding on the front), but it's more comfortable other than the earmuff effect.

XD200 is probably better in most aspects over HS900 save size, maybe trebles, maybe comfort, and lack of nasal vocals.

(Testing was done with D-NE520->iSpitter->XD200/400 and XD200/HS900. Spiderman just killed the Hobgoblin on my TV.)

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More comparisons with similarly priced products from Sony, notably the CD580s and the venerable V6.

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These are bare basics of my impressions of putting the two side by side. I've been using until recently, the CD580s as my main home-lounging cans. They serve that purpose well, but compared to XD400s, I think the 580s are outclassed by the 400s. In certain areas, the 580s does a better job (most notably the vocals, where the XD400s butcher things I think).

Unless otherwise noted, my samples are tested in the following config:

MZ-RH910 (both MP3 and ATRAC3plus Files) -> Monster Cable iSplitter -> XD400 & CD580 or V6. For the testing purposes (quick and dirty), XD400s remain in MUSIC mode.

XD400 vs. CD580

Having a splitter means that I can go back and forth and come to a conclusion on phones rather quickly, spot differences and such. I'll note the usual, with SQ being the last:

Comfort: Both are rather comfortable, each having its own way of auto-adjusting the headband. While both are light and comfortable, the XD400s are noticably lighter. The CD580 takes the cake here because of its cloth/faux-velour padding vs. XD400s odd angled drivers and pleather padding.

Should be noted that both 580s and 400s have angled drivers, but the CD580's padding makes the whole affair much more comfortable than 400.

Handling: XD400s are by far easier to drive and will not require any sort of amp for even the wimpiest portables. CD580s on the other hand, are noticably hard to drive, and may require an amp for best results.

SQ:

Overall: I think I like the overall presentation from XD400s, though the CD580s are a good set, with better vocals on the CD580s over the XD400s. On the other hand, the XD400s does pretty much everything else better, and does more to envelop users in a more musical experience vs. the CD580s.

Bass: The bass impact on the XD400s are much more cleaner and tighter on the XD400s vs the CD580s. CD580s bass is less impactful, less detailed, less controlled, and possibly flabbier... Hard to put it in words, but XD400s does a better job, I think.

Vocals/midrange: Vocals do suffer greatly vs. the CD580s. I did get used to the nasalness of the XD400s vocals, but switching one from another, I noticed that it's still there. Instrument details are better presented in the XD400s, whereas I think the CD580s are fudging things just a little bit...

Trebles: Again, the XD400s present more detail here, to a point where some may consider them overly bright. Feels like there's more detail to the 400s, whereas the 580s are presenting things on a bit of a darker (maybe colder is better word for it) basis, with some of the "details" masked.

Soundstaging: XD400s sounds much more wide open, but there's some problems with certain instruments. Cymbols and such present themselves right above my head, which becomes at times, very disconcerting. Vocals are slightly more forward on the CD580s vs. the XD400s, where it's presented slightly behind the head of the listener.

Despite these odd soundstaging, XD400s does a better job enveloping the listener in the overall music presentation.

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So, here's part two of the cage match, the XD400 has thus far performed very well vs. the CD580s in most areas.

To recap, the CD580s has more natural, less nasal vocals whereas the XD400 has that twinge or touch of the nasal vocals. However, the XD400s has better bass impact, mroe detailed (brighter) trebles, and wider soundstage. That said, the XD400s has some trouble presenting certain instruments in odd places. Overall, I thought that the CD580s has been supplanted by the XD400s in teh same price range.

Couple of notes and pieces. The XD200s reminds me a lot of CD580s. I wonder if the drivers used in the XD200s are similar to those of CD580s in a cheaper packaging? If so, you got a great bargain on your hands, or Sony's got a stockpile of those CD580 drivers. Either way, the XD200s are a great sub $30.

Now, then, here's the venerable V6s, some people like (me to a point a while back) swore by these as one of the best sub $100. Quite a few professional places uses these as monitors during vocal recording (see my avatar). And they do double duty as a pretty decent set of home cans. Now, let's see how these two match up.

Since you know what I think of XD400s by now, I'll focus on V6s and their major differences vs. the V6s. The setup remains the same as the last time:

MZ-RH910->Monster iSplitter->V6/XD400. I know the splitter changes things ultimately, but for these kinds of compare and contrast, they are very handy. No Equalizer applied, XD400 remains in MUSIC mode. Various MP3s have been used, ranging from Japanese Pop to Movie Soundtracks. Like last time, SQ comparison comes last, after we cover the basics, such as Comfort, seal and isolation. Unamped, so the V6s are probably at a disadvantage here.

Ah, regarding isolation, both XD400 and CD580s don't provide a great deal of isolation. However, the V6s offer a great deal more. The cups do clamp against your ears, so a quite a bit of noise gets blocked out. However, I can still hear my keyboard clicking and clacking. TV background noise, PC fan noise, etc are blocked out well enough. V6s work well when you need some moment of silence, but they're no IEMs or NC phones. By Contrast, the XD400s uses more of a "nuclear option" to noise blocking with volume. At a loud volume, most noises will be blocked by the sound from the drivers. At same volume levels, the XD400s do worse job in letting in noise from the background, somuch so that it almost sounds like a set of open cans... Which they're not. V6 wins in isolation.

Comfort

Both uses the same pleather padding, so it attracts sweat, oil, dirt like a magnet. V6s has a bit of a grip or clamping action against your ears, and will probably hurt those of us with larger lobes. Thankfully, mine fits inside perfectly. The biggest things about V6s though, you're aware that they are there all the time, the headband does force down on your scalp more so than the XD400s or even the cheaper XD200s.

V6s are much heavier than XD400s, from the cord to the cans itself. And the twisted cords on the V6s can not be easily managed vs. straight cord on the XD400s. Both trap heat, so they're not good for summer usage or those of us with hot ears. Overall, the XD400s are much better on comfort.

Handling

Like a broken record, the XD400s win on this level.

Sound Quality

Bass: Both represent bass in the recording well. Having said that, the V6's bass does lack the visceral impact on the XD400s, but may represent bass more tighter and cleaner vs. the XD400s. In fact, I think the XD400s has less control on the bass here compared to the V6. Looser and more impactful vs. Controlled and tighter, but lacking quite a bit of the impact. Fun vs. Techinical if you want me to boil it down. It's a push here.

Vocals: V6s are much more forward on the vocals, more proper, and correct on its representation. Much less nasal, but grainier in some places, and as some have noted, easy to pick out poor recording or recording errors. Again, I think it boils down to Fun vs. Techinical. Vocals are much more forward soundstage and presentation wise. However, the XD's are at their weakest in vocal presentation (nasaly, odd placement). I can live with that, but I do prefer the V6s or CD580s' vocal abilities.

Trebles: V6s has been accused of being bassy, boomy, one-note wonder, and bright and shrilly. The first three accusations may have some leg to stand on, but my V6s (well into several hundreds of hours of use now) are not bright. The XD400s are brighter than my V6s, that much I'm sure of. That said, there's less separation of instrumentation, and slight less detail, but now that I've had the chance to sample different cans vs. the XD400s, I think it boils down to something entirely different. I'll repeat the theme here, the V6s are your workman phones compared to the XD400. I think it's a push, but XD400 sounds lush and detailed vs. the matter of fact like presentation of the V6.

Soundstaging: Again, like the last time, XD400s are much more open in its presentation than the two dimensional V6. I think that has more to do with XD400s being more enjoyable to listen to vs. the other cans. V6s sound fairly linear (like Techincs RP-DJ1200, it sounds like everything is presented on a 2D plane or a line right thorough your ear whereas the XD400s sounds wide open as if on a stage. Not sure if I'd consider that natural, but it's closer to what you'd expect on a actual performance.

XD400s are very sublime on live performances pieces, especially classical or instrumental pieces. V6s loses out terribly here, and makes everything sound flat and dull.

Overall, the V6s are the workman, matter-of-fact phones vs. the more open and laid back XD400s. Both has their place, and are worthy of your time. However, I think most would prefer the open and detailed presentation of XD400s--especially on classical, instrumental, and live pieces.

Sony's definitely headed in the right direction. The next obvious comparison are the SA1000s vs. XD400. I'd be interested in how the two sounds against one another.

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