I listen to a lot of podcasts and music at the day job. I’ve been using the same wired earbuds for years but my recent purchase of a Moto Z has led me to reevaluate things. Of course, I could just continue using the same earbuds with a 3.5mm>USB-C adapter but what’s the fun in that? I tried a pair of USB-C headphones that held a lot of promise but ultimately were a letdown. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been using the MDR-XB650BT Bluetooth headphones from Sony. We received the striking red version for review but they are also available in blue and black. There are some things I really like about them and some that are small issues for me but, in general, they’re a good product with good sound quality and battery life.
THE GOOD STUFF
Probably the most important factor to consider when considering a new set of headphones is sound quality. The MDR-XB650BT doesn’t disappoint in this area. The XB in the model number stands for EXTRA BASS. I don’t listen to a lot of bass heavy music but the bass emphasis results in a nice full sound. The bass isn’t overwhelming but rather is supplemental. The best way I can describe the sound quality is warm and round. There are a couple of songs I use to test new headphones – John Mellencamp’s Cherry Bomb and Led Zeppelin’s Fool in the Rain. Both sound great but Fool in the Rain really shines through the XB650BTs. Sounds aren’t as crisp as they could be but the overall effect is pleasing. There’s also little to no noise that bleeds out into the air. These headphones are definitely workplace friendly.
Connectivity re: Bluetooth headphones has always been hit or miss for me. Often, getting and staying connected is a problem. Not so with the MDR-XB650BT. Sony includes NFC for easy setup and these phones connected immediately every single time I powered them on. I’ve never seen a Bluetooth device so consistently good at establishing a connection. There’s no fiddling with the phone required. It just works, to borrow a phrase. Sony claims 10 meters of wireless range and they deliver. Several times I’ve walked out of my office to the car and forgotten to turn the headphones off and remained connected. I have no complaints.
Interacting with the headphones is nice. First, you hear a voice letting you know that they’ve powered on, connected, or powered off. This is infinitely more useful than the series of beeps and boops that many other sets produce. These aren’t the first headphones I’ve used that employ such a system but it is still a welcome addition. Second, the buttons on the right earpiece are easy to use. Each is distinct and easy to distinguish via touch. They’re satisfyingly clicky.
Another solid point in the MDR-XB650BT’s favor is battery life. These things last forever. I can easily get through a work week (no, I don’t listen for 8 hours straight per day, but still) without having to recharge them. Sony asserts 30 hours of battery life and, while it is hard to give exact figures for a device like this, I did find the battery to be exceptional.
THE BAD STUFF
This section will be pretty short as this is a quality product. I really only have two complaints. First, I do experience some ear fatigue when wearing the MDR-XB650BTs for an extended period. At first I thought there’d just be some adjustment period since I usually use earbuds but even after using them for a while I still experience it. The only other problem I’ve had with these headphones is that they scratch pretty easily. I keep them in my laptop bag and am careful to keep them on top of everything else but I still ended up with a couple of long scratches. They don’t impact usability at all but do bother me.
I’ve really enjoyed my time with the MDR-XB650BT headphones. They sound great and last a long time. Sony has a strong reputation for creating high quality audio products and they continue that tradition here. If you are in the market for some Bluetooth headphones and don’t mind the on-ear form factor they’d make a great purchase at $99.