Sony MDR-EX57LP review


Two years ago, I reviewed two pairs of ear buds. A plain vanilla pair and a higher fidility in-ear pair. I got this Sony pair because I needed something that I could just throw in my bag without worrying about anything, and frankly, because I got a good deal. The Ultimate Ears pair is pretty awesome, but the sound is so immersive and isolated they're not very well suited for popping in and out all the time.

Specifications - Quoting Sony:

Frequency response6 to 23000 Hz
Input sensitivity100 dB/mW
Impedance16 Ω
Isolation-5 dB
ConfigurationSingle 9 mm dynamic neodymium driver
Input connector3.5 mm (1/8") gold plated

About these specifications. The specified frequency range is, once again, horse manure. No ear seal can couple 6 Hz to your ear drum. Moreover, the excursion of the tiny diaphragm couldn't handle it anyway. Like I said before, my ears are no measuring devices, but I am after all, an extended range bass guitar player and an educated speaker cabinet designer, so I like to see myself as one who knows his low frequencies. In my ears, these phones don't do much below 40 Hz. The amount of bass is pretty OK, albeit a bit pronounced. So, on to the high frequency specification: utter rubbish. I estimate the treble limit to be about 12 kHz.

Accessories - Included with the earphones are 3 pairs of different silicone ear tips, a carrying pouch and a cord adjuster. Pretty standard for a pair in this price range.

Comfort - Good. The buds are very small and light, but because of the lobed tips, you will definitely feel their presence, even after an adjustment period of half an hour.

Isolation - Low. Your surroundings are clearly audible and you need to turn up the volume considerably higher than a true in-ear system to wash out your surroundings.

Microphonics - Something to consider using any type of ear phones, is the sound from the dangling wires. The moderate amount of isolation on these buds makes you play your music quite loud, and microphonics are effectively eliminated because of that. The wire is of a very nice and high quality material, I'm guessing it's PVC. It's nice and smooth, and doesn't stick, like silicone wires often do.

Sound - Now, the most important part of this review: how do they sound? Two words: surprisingly good!

Sound quality is a very subjective matter. And music taste also plays a large part. So, first, I'll tell you where I'm coming from. I listen to pretty extreme music. Black metal, death metal, doom metal, that kind of stuff. And, as a musician, I own a home studio with a very neutral sounding, mostly digital, setup of 2 Behringer B2031 monitors and AKG K171 studio headphones on a Yamaha VM-3100 mixer and an M-audio Delta 66 audio interface. I'm used to listening to music at high sound pressure levels. I've seen and heard a few pro studio mixing rooms and listened to a few very good headphones. So I think I know what good sound is. At the same time I know not to trust my ears as measurement devices, as the human ear can be very easily fooled.

Back to the question: how do they sound? I'll say it again: surprisingly good overall! So much so, they almost made me regret getting the UE's! Almost; if only it weren't for the fact that not much goes on below 40 Hz. Equalization (+6 dB at 35 Hz) is needed to enjoy deep bass, but the void isn't nearly as deep as with the UE's. But that's where the largest differences end. There's a slightly raised bass range at around 100-200 Hz that needs to be toned down slightly (-2dB). The not very critical midbass range is all there. Midrange, where the human (singing) voice is, sounds just right. The high-mid range has a bit too much emphasis. Pushing down the 3-5 kHz range by about 3 dB clears this up, and removes some crunchy bits. The high treble range is limited, and EQing it doesn't help much. It's simply not there. At high volume levels, everything stays where it is, there's no change in character whatsoever and no audible distortion.

All in all, The Sony MDR-EX57LP ear buds are a frigging awesome deal!

The good points

  • Remarkably balanced sound over most of the audio spectrum
  • High quality build
  • Very small and light

The bad

  • Limited treble range
  • Nit picking: needs basic equalization so get the most out of
  • Nit picking: slightly emphasized bass range

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