Sony Noise Cancelling MDR-ZX550BN Headphone – REVIEW

In the neverending search for the best bang for your buck, this Sony “budget” pair of headphones is certainly a pair of headphones.

Hey everyone, this is Jimmy with JimsReviewRoom.

So I just reviewed the brand new Bose QuietComfort 25, for sure the leader in noise cancelling headphones.  So I tried looking for a much more budget-friendly model and ran across the Sony MDR-ZX550BN.  Priced at just $128, I’ll see how good these sound and for sure how well these do block out unwanted noise.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION
So these ZX550’s for short, they come in both black and blue.  Right out the package, you’ll notice these are ridiculously light, weighing in at just 5.9 ounces, or 167 grams.  It’s possibly the lightest pair of cans I’ve reviewed so far.  But with that being said, when working with these headphones, these do feel a bit cheap.  They rattle and shake when moving around, and the materials are really a basic type of plastic.  But overall while testing, despite looking a bit basic, these still have been very durable to use with no signs of issues.  Extending and retracting the headband has been stiff and there weren’t any issues with the headband accidentally adjusting.  Flexing the headband was flawless and all points that rotate went smoothly.  And keep in mind the ZX550’s do not have foldable ear cups, but they rotate and lay flat like so.

COMFORT & SOUND LEAK
Now regarding my comfort test, the earpads that are on the headphones are the only ones that come in the box.  They’re a leather-like material which is cool to the touch and although not as plush as some of the premium headbands I’ve tested, they still were comfortable initially.  Wearing these indoors for about 30 minutes straight, I did notice my ears just slightly warm up a bit, with hour number 2 as just warm in general.  Eventually, it was not an issue, but it was a noticed experience of warm ears from the ear cups.  The headband doesn’t have any padding, but considering how light these are, they didn’t pose an issue when I wore them for up to 4hrs straight.  Usually, with cheaper or poorly designed headphones, they cause the crown of the head to hurt a bit, causing wearing fatigue, but again, this wasn’t an issue more than likely due to how light these are.  The other test I do on all my reviews is its clamping near the jawline.  They did feel a bit firmer, possibly due to less plush padding than I’m used to, but again, this didn’t hurt my jawline after several hours of use.  Overall, not 100% the best feeling pair of headphones, but considering its price, they’re not bad.

And last regarding sound leaking since I have these headphones on, playing these at maximum volume, sound leakage was really kept to a minimal.

CONTROLS
On the left has your Noise Cancelling on/off switch with the left earcup offering NFC connections to pair your headphones easily with your NFC enabled device.  On the right side, towards the front features your phone call answering button with the volume button to follow on the other side.  Power and pairing button is next and last are the pause play, and skip buttons that I found worked on at least YouTube playlists, Pandora, and Netflix.  The USB charging port is found on the very bottom and is charged with the supplied Micro-USB cable and overall, Sony is claiming a very impressive up to 25 hours of battery life with noise cancelling on and from a dead battery, it takes approximately 4.5 hours to fully charge from a dead battery.  And regarding any other items or accessories, there isn’t any.  This package really comes bare bones, no carrying case, no additional ear pads, just the headphones themselves and a micro-USB charging cable.

SOUND QUALITY
Now to the moment you’ve been waiting for, the sound quality.  Considering these are smaller drivers coming in at 30mm, while bigger headphones feature 40mm, the sound isn’t crazy loud.  Playing this at maximum volume was still very comfortable listening without a hint of me tolerating the music.  There’s no distortion and a very balanced note all around.  I spent a good time listening to pop and EDM which I felt like Sony did well in with just clean and clear audio throughout.  Trying this on more bass-heavy genres of rap and hip-hop, these are really just good for casual listening.  The bass is conservative that genres bass focused really don’t stand out.  These pair of cans will not have your head bobbing and nodding to your tunes.  For music, I can say these are just for casual listening but if you’re more attuned to different sound qualities and more aware of what sounds good and not, you may find this a bit lacking.

I also tried this on movies and no question I had to turn this all the way up.  And still, I wasn’t as immersed as I wanted to be.  The depth of sound and spatial sound provided a lacking soundstage.  There’s not much sense of sound in the distance with sound occurring closer to your ears.

NOISE CANCELLATION
And as for the noise cancelling feature, I tried this several times and over the span of two weeks of testing in different environments, I was greatly disappointed.  Most of the time, I thought the Noise Cancelling feature wasn’t even on as I couldn’t hear a difference.  The only time I could hear noise cancelling actually working was when I turned the volume all the way down, then switched Noise Cancelling on, and I can hear the Headphones toggle and block out some noise.  But while actively listening and playing, in real-world testing, ambient noises in the coffee shop of people talking, moving chairs, the workers working, its still audible as if the Noise cancelling was off.

IN CONCLUSION
Overall, these headphones are just for plain casual listening, just to have some sound without bad quality.  But this pair of headphones is very conservative all around, from loudness to bass, to the noise cancelling feature.  If you’re planning on buying noise cancelling headphones, as you’re possibly considering from reading this review, I think there would be better performers out there.

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