Sony Earbud Review: Keeping the bass in your face

A week ago, I blathered on about earbuds and made a nonchalante remark that after purchasing a new pair, I would write a review. Well, I did purchase the aforementioned earbuds, so it’s time for a review.

SONY MDRAS41EX

SPECIFICATIONS  MDR-AS41EX_B
Type Sport Earbuds
Frequency Response 9-23,000 hz
Impedance 16Ω
Sensitivity 100 db/mW
Capacity 100 mW
Driver 9mm dome
Magnet Neodymium
Cord Length 0.6m
Extras Extension Cord (0.6m)
4 sizes of silicone cups
3 sizes ear hanger
Moisture guard (aka Sweatproof)
Carrying case
Gator clip


After purchasing these, I proceded to tear the packaging apart and test the different sizes for the hangers and cups. Right away, I found that the factory installed Mediums were what I needed. Because of their design being meant for a user that is likely to wear them with the MP3 player in an armband, they come with a very short cord, which can be mated to an extension. Alone, the Y-type cables terminate at 0.6m or 1.9 feet. The extension provides another 0.6m of cord length, making them overall 1.2m in total. More than enough cord to get from ear to gym short pockets, in most situations. (more on that below)

My preferred choices in music gravitate heavily towards the Electronic. Actually, 99% of what I listen to is Electronic (or EDM* as some people call it). To be precise – as the particular genres I like tend to be – I listen to techno, house, tech-house and minimal. If you know anything about these genres, you know that they tend to fill the sound spectrum with everything between treble and bass. This is where the frequency response of a pair of headphones becomes rather important. While these particular headphones offer 9 to 23,000 hz, it should be noted that adult humans really can’t hear much below 20 and above 20,000. This gives these earbuds a rather impressive dynamic range capable of producing the sound I expect to hear from my music. Of course, a lot of headphones have similar frequency ranges, so it’s probably a matter of debate on whether those are important numbers or not.   …Which brings me to my next (more subjective) section.

SOUND QUALITY
As I mentioned, these headphones fill a wide range in terms of frequency. For me, this means the possibility of clear reproduction of sound. How good is the sound? I would have to say that for $29.99 at Best Buy, the sound is fantastic. I happened to get these headphones on sale, so in reality, I paid $30 for $50 quality. Comparing them to my previous headphones, Sony  MDR10EX’s, they’re a touch clearer in the higher side of sound. Bass on the other hand, is exactly where I expect it from Sony – deep and rich, without any trace (so far) of muddiness.

FIT QUALITY

hangerssilicone

Thanks to the four earcups and three hanger sizes, you are given 12 different combinations to customize your fit. Compared to the “back-up” Apple Earbuds and other past earbuds I’ve owned and used, this is a huge leap forward in terms of comfort and fit. As I mentioned before, the mediums worked best for me.

Made of silicone, the earcups are lightweight and thin and fit quite nicely in my ears.

Being an earbud user for a very long time now, switching to a hanger type earbud has not been terribly easy for me. The transition was not difficult, it’s just something I’m going to have to get used to. Thankfully, the hangers are removable to allow regular earbud wearing.

With the hangers in place, the next step was to hit the gym and see how these perform. I’m happy to report that during an intense 5minute run on the treadmill, I only needed to readjust once. Switching to weights shortly after, I was expecting to adjust a few times more as I lifted, bent and contorted my way through my exercises. I only needed to readjust two other times. After lying down on a bench and shimmying to get comfortable, the cord was jerked. Also after doing a side-bend stretch, I yanked right ear loose. I should mention that this was an anomaly, as previous earbuds have had shorter cords.

THE MOST IMPORTANT TEST – LYING ON A DECLINED BENCH
The hangers kept the earbuds perfectly firm in place as I eked out three sets of situps on a decline bench and followed those with two sets of bench presses on a similarly declined bench.

I can only speculate here, but the moisture guard feature may have a role to play in keeping them in place as well.

CORD LENGTH AND FEATURE NOT MENTIONED ON PACKAGE
The overall length of the cord gives these earbuds a distinct advantage in comparison to the Apple earbuds. My best guess is that they are about 8” longer than the Apple earbuds and about 4” longer than the EX10’s. With Sony’s forethought on the possibility that users would place their music device in an arm-band, the extension cord is a nice touch. Quite possibly the best part of these earbuds is the inclusion of a small clip. The clip works kind of weird, but it keeps the cord in place. In my case, I used to use a small hanger to keep my earbud cord attached to my shirt collar. This clip does a much better job than my little makeshift hanger. I actually kind of wish these headphones came with two of these clips.

CARRYING CASE
A feature that I can do without. The case is rather large and bulky. Who the heck uses cases for their earbuds anyway?

CHANGES THAT WOULD MAKE THESE HEADPHONES BETTER
If Sony was to release a new earbud model similar to these, the changes I would hope for are 2-4” in extension cord length, volume control and maybe a mic on the cord too. Other colours would be nice too, but that maybe a BestBuy issue. The silicone used in the earcups could be better. It feels rather cheap in comparison to the EX10’s earcup. And instead of a case, a cord wrap would be better.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

These earbuds are now my base-standard for future earbuds. Sound-wise, the previous standard was set by my beloved Philips SHE5920’s, which provided crisp clear sound, but did not always stay in place. Fit-wise, the previous standard was set by a cheap pair of SkullCandy’s, which stayed in place fairly well, but were rather too bassy (muddy) for my liking.

With no other sports-based earbuds to compare to, this review is a bit weak in that respect. However, the inclusion of the extension cord and clip make for two really good features that put these headphones in high regard for yours truly.

SONGS LISTENED TO DURING WORKOUT SESSION

_____________________
* – I refuse to call it EDM on the basis that: yes, it’s electronic and; yes, it’s dance music. However, I have yet to come across an artist that produces either Dance music acoustically or Electronic music that isn’t dance music.

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