Sony MDR-EX082 / MDR-EX85 Review

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Reviewed Dec 2010

Details: Aging ergonomic canalphone bundled with a few of Sony’s portable players and reportedly identical to the EX85
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $69.99)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 105 dB | Freq: 5-24k Hz | Cable: 3.6’ I-plug J-cord
Nozzle Size: 4mm | Preferred tips: Generic bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down

Accessories (2/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes) silicone tips and soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (2.5/5) – The MDR-EX082 is almost completely plastic and doesn’t feel all that solid. The cable is thin and very prone to tangling, which is made worse by the asymmetric cord lengths
Isolation (2/5) – Low due to shallow-insertion design and front-facing vents
Microphonics (4/5) – Low due to j-cord and shallow ear coupling
Comfort (3.5/5) – The MDR-EX082 is a half in-ear canalphone similar in design to the Phiaton PS210 and Yamaha EPH20/50. Featuring 13.5mm driver units, the Sony earphones are quite a bit larger than the Yamahas and have more steeply raked nozzles, resulting in a drop in comfort. Longer tips are recommended for a more secure fit – generic bi-flanges work well for me

Sound (4.7/10) – Unlike the Sony XB40EX, the older and cheaper EX082 is a reasonably balanced and generally very enjoyable earphone. In stark contrast to the XB40, the bass of the EX082 does not dominate the rest of the frequency range. The low end lacks extension but is generally more controlled and textured that of the XB40. Impact, depth, and fullness trail the Meelec M9 as well but the EX082 sounds cleaner as a result – the Meelecs are definitely capable of pumping out more low-end detail but the sheer quantity of their bass can sometimes hinder the detail level.

The midrange of the EX082 is warm and slightly recessed but generally competent in comparison to most of the similarly-priced sets. Compared to the Meelec M9 the Sonys are actually less recessed in the midrange, though they also lag behind in detail level and clarity. Compared to the XB40EX, the EX082 sounds dry and grainy but doesn’t gloss over detail or get overwhelmed by the bass. The treble of the EX082 is not particularly noteworthy, appearing smooth and well-defined but ultimately a bit rolled-off and lacking sparkle. For an entry-level earphone it’s not very flawed and generally pretty competent but really nothing to brag about in the grand scheme of things. On the whole, the sound signature of the EX082 lacks a bit of refinement but I still like it better than the XB40EX by a fair margin. The presentation, too, is quite enjoyable for a budget set. The slightly warm EX082 is fairly spacious and has decent air, resulting in a pleasant overall feel. It lacks the air of the Meelec M9 and positioning is not very precise but taken as a whole it’s surprisingly convincing and about as competent as anything I’ve heard in the price range.

Value (7/10) – The MDR-EX082 is an old design and as such it is extremely overpriced in its retail incarnation (the MDR-EX85). The bundled version, however, can be purchased for much less and even comes as a stock earphone with several Sony mp3 players. For a stock earphone, the EX082 is unreasonably good. Impressive comfort and low microphonics make up for the low isolation and mediocre build quality and the sound, while not great from a technical standpoint, is generally very enjoyable. In that respect, the EX082 is the complete opposite of something like the Meelec M9, which is a technically proficient but very polarizing earphone. One potential issue for Sony users is that a true upgrade to the EX082 may be difficult to find among budget earphones but I doubt anyone will be serious in complaining about that.

Pros: Good air and sense of space, quite controlled and pleasant overall
Cons: Low isolation, plasticky build, may be uncomfortable for some


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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