Sony announces 11 new sets of headphones

CES might be in full swing now, but that hasn't stopped Sony from suddenly announcing a bunch of new in-ear headphones.

The range features four sets of high-quality earphones, designed with quality in mind. There are four pairs with iPhone and iPod in-line remote controls, some washable sports headphones, a wireless bluetooth pair and a new, battery-box-free noise cancelling set.

Meet the Balanced Armature

But the key to all these headphones is the new Balanced Armature. These are a quarter of the size of a normal earphone driver but still deliver the same sensitivity, in a minuscule package. Sony points out that, these new drivers can be specially tuned to respond to specific frequencies. And, you could have more than one unit per earphone, giving you Hi-Fi speaker style separation of bass, treble and mid-range audio.

Sony also says that the sealed design means these headphones leak less sound outward, so don't annoy people near you. And, as part of the same design, they also keep external sounds out, reducing the interference and audio tedium of everyday life.

The XBA range has four specific models, designated XBA-1 and up to, surprisingly, 4. These numbers also indicate how many BA drivers the earphones have. The XBA-1 features one, the XBA-2 has two. You get the picture. The configuration varies though, so the two driver, XBA-2 has an armature aimed at delivering punchy bass. The XBA-3 has high, mid and low drivers and the XBA-4 offers drivers that deliver full-range, high-end treble, mid-range and a "subwoofer" for very deep bass.

The XBA-1iP, 2iP etc are all the same, but add that much-loved in-line iPhone remote and microphone. Good if you've got an iDevice, less interesting to everyone else.

Noise cancelling and Bluetooth

Perhaps most exciting though, are the XBA-NC85D noise cancelling headphones. These are the first in the world that don't feature a bulky battery box. Instead, the space savings of the new Balanced Armature mean that you get a single driver, noise cancellation chip and a rechargeable battery, all tucked away in the earphone.

What's more, this tiny battery pack manages to power the headphones for 20 hours before running out of juice. You can't argue that's impressive miniaturisation.

The XBA-BT75 bluetooth headphones have a similar design. Their electronics is built in to the earpieces themselves too. There's room for the Bluetooth antenna as well as a battery that can drive the cans for three and a half hours on one charge. Not a massive time, but enough to see you through a nice long run. The headphones will go on sale in April this year, pricing has yet to be announced. We will, of course, bring you reviews as soon as we're able.

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