Sony MDR-EX600 Review

3


Reviewed Feb 2012

Details: Sony’s mid-range dynamic-driver monitor
MSRP: $199.99 / manfacturer’s page
Current Price: $200 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 32Ω | Sens: 107 dB | Freq: 4-28k Hz | Cable: 4′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 4mm | Preferred tips: Sony Hybrids, generic bi-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear

Accessories (4/5) – Sony Hybrid silicone tips (6 sizes), Hybrid silicone+foam tips (3 sizes), and carrying case
Build Quality (4.5/5) – Though not made out of magnesium like those of the EX1000, the housings of the EX600 share the vertical-driver design and still feel just as sturdy. The detachable cable is held in place by a threaded bit and I still found myself unscrewing the connectors a bit each time I took the earphones off. The cord itself is very flexible but not particularly thick. The “memory wire” section doesn’t hold its shape well. The termination is a slim 3.5mm L-plug
Isolation (2.5/5) – The nozzles of the EX1000 seem rather long but the earphones are not well-designed for deep insertion. Isolation is mediocre with the standard Hybrid eartips and very slightly better with the supplied foam-stuffed tips. Wind noise can be an additional issue when used outside
Microphonics (5/5) – The native wear style is over-the-ear and cord noise nonexistent in the soft cable
Comfort (4/5) – Though housings designed around vertically-positioned drivers often feature angled nozzles or other ergonomic improvements, the EX600 is actually a straight-barrel earphone. It is quite large and tends to protrude farther than most earphones when worn, looking a bit like the ridiculous PFR-V1. On the upside, the long nozzles position the driver far enough away from the ear not to cause discomfort. The fit is not as secure as with most other high-end monitors but the soft memory wire works well enough in conjunction with the cable cinch

Sound (9/10) – The MDR-EX600 closely resembles Sony’s dynamic-driver flagship, the EX1000, not only in design but also sound. As with the EX1000, the low end of the EX600 is accurate and controlled. It sounds clean and detailed, but not at the expense of note thickness. Rather, the bass is smooth and lacks the aggression of something like the JVC HA-FX500, which offers more depth and weight but loses out to the EX600 in control and accuracy. The similarly-priced VSonic GR07 is a little quicker and flatter in response, with better bass depth but similar punch, while the EX600 is more dynamic and at times presents a touch more bass power. Similarly, the EX600 itself loses just a bit of depth, resolution, and control compared to the pricier EX1000 model.

The midrange of the EX600 is neutral-to-bright, with a slight gain in emphasis towards the lower treble. Bass-midrange balance is good – the EX600 doesn’t share the warmth of an FX500 or Sennheiser IE7. There is no bass bleed, just clear and detailed mids. Like the EX1000, the EX600 is very smooth and liquid in presentation – more so than the GR07, T15, or FX500. The slight treble tilt also tends to create an illusion of better clarity compared to sets such as the warmer, darker FX500. However, next to more resolving earphones – the HiFiMan RE272, for example – it is noticeable that the EX600 lacks a bit of microdetail and overall refinement.

The top end of the EX600 is emphasized, but controlled. As with the EX1000, the EX600’s treble tends to be a bit sharper than that of the VSonic GR07 but still manages to remain refined and reasonably forgiving. On some tracks the EX600 does exaggerate sibilance a bit compared to the GR07 (or even JVC FX500), but those are few and far between. There is no grain or harshness and no sacrifices made in crispness or resolution. Best of all, the treble energy that is often lacking with consumer-friendly dynamic-driver sets is conveyed realistically. Top end extension is not quite a match for an RE272’s but keeps up with the GR07 and other similarly-priced sets.

The presentation, too, mimics the EX1000 closely – the EX600 sounds just as spacious and open as the flagship. Dynamics are excellent and both sets tend to sound rather effortless. Soundstage width is impressive and there is not a hint of the confined, closed-in feel prevalent among stage monitors. The similarly-priced VSonic GR07 also feels wide and spacious but gives up a bit of air, as well as some depth and imaging prowess to the EX600. The EX600 also has a wider soundstage and better layering than the JVC FX500. The VSonics and JVCs do provide a slightly more 3-dimensional presentation compared to the heightened left-right separation of the Sonys, making all three sets are very impressive in their price bracket. Those looking for a wider, more headphone-like presentation compared to the more typical in-the-head feel of an IEM should be especially impressed with the EX600.

Value (9/10) – A much more reasonably priced alternative to the flagship MDR-EX1000, the Sony MDR-EX600 is a perfect look into the law of diminishing returns. At about 1/3 the price, the EX600 delivers all of the flagship’s functionality and most of the sound quality, easily competing with the very best earphones in its category. The sound signatures of the two Sony sets are remarkably similar – clean, quick, airy, and dynamic – and the same isolation and wind noise caveats apply to both. Those willing to embrace the design will discover the EX600 to have one of the best price/performance ratios in its class.

Pros: No cable noise; clear, detailed, open, and spacious sound
Cons: Average isolation; fit can be frustrating; wind noise can be an issue


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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.

3 Comments

  1. Matt on

    Does the newer MDR-7550 (EX-800) essentially sound the same as this? Or are these “studio monitors” tuned for a different listening experience?

    The 7550 is sold as part of Sony’s Pro Music line and the product description recommends it for live musicians, while the product page for EX800 implies it’s meant for studio use (recording). The ones for the EX-600 (and 1000?) suggest they’re for music enjoyment (it says, “ideal for workouts and active lifestyles.”) I didn’t know if they actually sound very different or if that’s just how they’re branded and marketed. Thanks.

    • ljokerl on

      The 7550 definitely sounds different. It has a warmer, smoother sound more akin to sets like the HiFiMan RE series, InEar StageDiver SD-2, TDK BA200, and so on. The EX600/EX1000 have much more in common with each other, and both follow brighter, more energetic sound signatures in comparison to the MDR-7550 – more like the flagship monitors from Philips, VSonic, and so on.

      I like both sound signatures, just for different purposes. Currently I only own the 7550 but if Sony sill made the EX1000 I’d want one of those as well. Don’t like the direction they’ve taken with newer releases such as the XBA-Z5.

      • Jimmy on

        Hello, thanks for all the detailed reviews on this site!

        If you had to give the MDR 7550 a sound rating what would it be? I could not find a review entry for this earphone.

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