It seems like Sony wants to give users a superior audio quality headset at a comparatively lower price point, especially where rivals are unable to match.
With the previously launched WH1000X-M3, Sony offers great build quality, superb ANC and the best balanced audio quality that audiophiles will appreciate, but it does not come in as cheap and can set you down by almost ₹30K. However, with the WH-XB900N, Sony has managed to offer a similar premium design, an almost identical feature set, but cuts corners around the ANC and battery charging speeds.
Sony WH-XB900N: Design and Specs
The Sony WH-XB900N looks a lot similar to its own top-line WH-1000M3. The build takes a slight hit with a marginally different overall design. The cups look similar shaped and sized, but with a sandstone-like finish that gives it a smudge-free exterior to keep sweaty hands at bay. The headband provides similar cushions too, but when you hold the two models together, you can instantly notice the difference. Not that the XB900N looks bad, the difference can be told when you check both out in person. The headband is also firm enough and you can comfortably keep them on for long hours — neither loose nor squeeze tight — just perfect.
The left cup is where all the electronics are cramped in — a Type-C charging port, power and an ANC cycle button named Custom, and a 3.5-mm headphone jack for physical connect or while on an airplane. Built-in is a good 30-hour battery but lacks the quick charge as opposed to the M3. Lastly, there’s NFC for quick connectivity too.
The Sony WH-XB900N resides under the Extra Bass lineup and offers a little higher bass tuning for those seeking a decent set of high-end cans with an affordable price tag. It also offers Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistants. The right cup has the touch controls similar to the M3, which makes it a great alternative at a lower price point. With a simple swipe and tap gestures, one can get around controlling the volume (up and down), tracks (left and right), and play/pause/call control (tapping). However, the touch control gestures are equally frustrating as you could end up pausing music when trying to change the volume or tracks at most times. What we liked best was the quick attention mode (borrowed from the M3) that allows you to temporarily reduce the volume to the minimum and disable the ANC so that you can hear your colleague when he speaks rather than removing the headset altogether.
The ‘custom’ or a dedicated button on the left cup can be changed to act as an ambient sound control button or use it for Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. In Ambient sound control mode, you can use it to cycle between ANC. Ambient sound and off.
Noise cancellation is not the best when we compare it to the older brother (M3). The ANC here handled by the DAC itself and not handled by a dedicated chip like that seen on the M3 (QN1). The missing QN1 chip is probably where Sony has managed to cut down the price on the WH-XB900N. The ANC is not as great as the ones seen on the M3 but does a pretty good job nevertheless. It manages to work pretty well in most scenarios.
Sony WH-XB900N: Audio quality
As far as the performance goes, bass hunters will find this pair of headphones most exciting. With the Sony WH-XB900N slightly tuned for higher bass performance, others may find it a little overwhelming and would have to rush to the EQ settings to lower or tweak the output for different genres. While the bass is slightly higher than usual, you can turn it down in the Clear Bass settings by using the Sony app. It is decent though, enough to give you a good balance of instruments in between. The bass has a good thump and those who are into electronica or Hip Hop will find the Sony WH-XB900N great. For example, the slap of the snare or strings of a guitar is not as highly pronounced and are a tad overpowered by the extra bass delivery, which could get annoying when you are out there to listen to instrumentals when in relax mode. Here is when you would find it necessary to hit the EQ settings to cut down that unwanted bass.
The Sony Headphones Connect app probably becomes a necessity when using WH-XB900N. using the app, you can tweak a few important settings, such as the ANC where you can choose between ambient sounds whether you are at home, on the road (walking or running), or commuting, Clear Bass settings, EQ, voice assistants and a few others.
With 30-hours of battery life claimed by Sony, the WH-XB900N does perform as stated. We could manage around two weeks of playtime with an average of around 2-3 hours each day with ANC enabled. Without ANC, you can expect around 2 – 3 hours more. Sadly, while the M3 sports quick charge, the XB900N does not sport the same and it takes a painful 7 hours to refill the power tanks from nil. Nevertheless, we recommend charging them in between when you don’t use the headphones so that you never run out of juice when they are needed.
Sony WH-XB900N: Verdict
The Sony WH-XB900N for a price of ₹16,990 seems to be a steal if you are looking for a rugged pair of cans that can perform with class. Missing features, such as the dedicated ANC chip, dedicated button for noise cancellation, and quick charge that are found on the 1000XM3 do justify the lower price tag. The WH-XB900N is a decent pair of performing headphones but not suited for everyone out there. We suggest you spend that extra money to opt for the Sony WH-1000XM3 for superior performance where powerful ANC (with NC optimiser and atmospheric pressure optimising) and great audio delivery is highly appreciated.
If you're looking to get premium looks with a brand that offers a music experience like no other, then the Sony WH-XB900N is a good blend. If Superior ANC is what you crave, then the M3 at ₹13k more could be our recommendation, but not on the cheaper side. However, if you are looking for something similar in a cheaper budget, yet premium styled, then you could opt for Sony’s XB700 or the Audio Technica ATH-S200BT could keep you happy by ₹10k more in your pocket. Available in Blue and Black variants, the Sony WH-XB900N will definitely suit your style.