Details: One of Sony’s original vertical in-ear monitors
MSRP: $89.95 (discontinued)
Current Price: $60 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 105 dB | Freq: 4-28k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug j-cord
Nozzle Size: 4mm | Preferred tips: Sony Hybrids (stock)
Wear Style: Straight down
Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange Sony Hybrid silicone tips (3 sizes), cable winder, and hard-shell carrying case
Build Quality (3/5) – The plastic housings of the EX300 seem well-constructed but the cabling is a major letdown – while soft and well-relieved, the thin j-cord is tangle-prone and inspires little confidence
Isolation (2/5) – Mediocre at best due to shallow-insertion form factor
Microphonics (4.5/5) – The soft, flexible j-cord and shallow seal keep cable noise to a minimum
Comfort (3.5/5) – The EX300 is a vertical-driver earphone with a straight nozzle. The housings fit partly into the outer ear and tend to protrude less than those of the pricier EX600 model but are also less secure due to the lack of a memory wire section on the cable. Those with smaller outer ears may find the driver bulge to interfere with the fit
Sound (6.8/10) – The sound of the MDR-EX300 is a compromise between Sony’s popular consumer and audiophile signatures but falls closer to the higher-end EX600 and EX1000 than entry-level sets such as the EX85 and the XB series. The bass of the EX300 is enhanced but not overblown. It is punchy but not quite as powerful as that of the Soundmagic E10. Extension is decent enough but the mid-bass hump causes the entire low end to sound bloated and boomy compared to the pricier EX600. The Sonys sound fuller than some of the more analytical sets such as the HiFiMan RE0 and Etymotic MC5 but it’s not as thick-sounding as a Dunu Trident or Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE.
The midrange of the EX300 is warm but clear. Detail is decent enough and the mids sound open and airy. Naturally, the pricier EX600 is much more neutral, clear, and detailed, making the EX300 sound boomy and unrefined, but for a midrange earphone the clarity of the EX300 is more than reasonable. The Soundmagic E10 is a bit clearer and more crisp, giving guitars a bit more bite and making vocals sound a touch more intelligible, but lacks the balance and liquidity of the EX300 and doesn’t quite have as big a soundstage.
Towards the top of the midrange, the EX300 picks up some emphasis and with it a bit of sibilance on tracks prone to it. The E10 is a little more forgiving but both earphones have moderate treble sparkle, slightly laid-back upper treble, and mediocre extension at the top. The presentation of the EX300 is wide and well-layered. Though the MDR-EX600 is significantly more spacious still, the EX300 is one of the more open-sounding entry-level earphones. Soundstage depth could be better and the imaging and dynamics lag far behind the EX600 but both are more than reasonable for the asking price. Clearly the EX300 was one of the better earphones in its price category upon release back in 2008.
Value (7.5/10) – The Sony MDR-EX300 impresses with its punchy bass, warm and liquid mids, and spacious presentation, especially considering the age of the earphones. What betrays them is the overall usability, mediocre isolation, and hit-or-miss form factor. The biggest gripe, however, is the thin and frustrating j-cord used by the earphones. For pure sound quality, the EX300 is an easy set to recommend but much of the modern competition simply offers a better value proposition on the whole.
Pros: Punchy, clear, and open sound; almost no cable noise
Cons: J-corded; very thin & tangle-prone cable