Sony claims that the MDR-EX71SL are probably the best portable headphones in the market nowadays.
After so many reviews read, tech. specs compared and models tested I finally bought them. Here's my objective review. I hope you find it useful.
They cost me 42 € all included at a SonyGallery "real" shop. Be aware of so called incredible web shop offers"; you cannot find them much cheaper nowhere; btw, the SonyGallery online shop does not work and they suck cos they didn't answered my mails (hey, I was a customer wanting to expend money!).
It comes in 4 pieces: the headphones (which alone has a too short cord), the enlargement cord (which in combination with the former is too long), the fragile ear pads in three sizes (if neither of them fit comfortably in your ears you can go and ask for your money back cos the headphones will not perform properly), and a cheap plastic ear bud holder which can be used to wind the excess cable.
The headphones mount a 9 mm driver unit, smaller than the average 15-16 mm driver units of bass-powerful headphones. It does not content any acoustic chamber and the diaphragm is made of PET; its small size and mass combined with high density neodymium magnet performs excellent at high frequency, and probably you'll have to re-equalize your player to lower them (do not forget that high treble volume is what damage ears the most).
Because of their tiny size, they fit "into" the ear (as opposed to "in") completely, but don't wait a louder volume as a consequence.
To fit properly you have to attach one of the provided ear pads, one that comfortably fills the gap between the phone itself and your ear.
This cannot always be done, and if not, you won't be able to hear the bass properly and thus these headphones are not for you.
It's impossible to provide an universal ear pad size, cos nor two human ears are equally sized.
The phones itself do not provide an acoustic chamber, because the principle of working is based on using the human ear as a natural resonator: by closing properly the ear with the ear pads (here the importance of them) your whole ear becomes a bass-reflex system, with a resonating frequency depending on the ear anatomy, and here's why they will sound different on different ears. At that moment you'll hear a rich and deep bass experience not possible with typical bass pipe phones; not in vain it has a cut-off frequency on an incredible 6Hz. Of course if you use a cheap player these phones are not for you.
But note that this bass is much more perceptible in lower frequencies, i.e., you'll find bass in songs you'll never thought they would be sounding so, while in typical bass-coloured music like techno, you'll find not remarkable gain compared to another typical pipe bass phone; so this will probably disappoint you if your looking for a bass-blasting experience when listening this kind of music.
I've used bass pipe phones all my live, being the Aiwa dual pipe phone technology the best performer of them, but now its possible to get together neodymium magnets, OFC cord, gold plated connectors on a ultra-light phone that do not fall off when you run or push accidentally the cable. That is the value of these headphones.
But, and there are always "but's" (not butts ;) on a good review, there are some "counter's" that should have in mind when buying this item:
1. The bass experience depends completely on the optimal fitting of the ear pads; otherwise phones will fall down, sound plain or be very uncomfortable.
2. Some people may find very disgusting putting things into the ears. I you're one of them, this product is not for you.
3. When the fitting is optimum, your ear will resonate not only your music bass, but everything that hit you: you would be able to hear your heartbeat, your walking, etc.
4. And finally, the price is too high for what it represents. It maximum advisable price should be no more than 30 €.
These phones can sound very acceptable but they take some running in (they are essentially a miniature speaker after all) and working at to get the best out of them. First impressions weren't good. The bass was full, but a little uncontrolled. Treble metallic, and with a nasty sting- i'm guessing- at around 9-10 khz, that i struggled to remove with graphic eq on my Zen Touch. (It didn't help that the frequencies described on the Zen's eq seemed to bear no relation to those that were being altered!) Still, perseverance has paid off, and i'm now getting a rather more pleasant sound out of this combo than I was first greeted with. Bass is actually quite nice when it's reined in. Mids are natural, although the Shure E2C's are clearer in this respect. However, once the upper mid/lower treble honk is sorted, they better the Shures in the upper reaches. However, due to their lowish sensitivity, they could probably do with a little more external sound isolation.
Treble: very harsh/shrill at high volumes. I have had my iPod uncapped using GoPod, but have re-capped it euro 100dB max as above this, treble is too bright. Below this, though, treble is more acceptable (and more midrange manages to elbow its way through - shouldn't be listening to them too loudly anyway).
Midrange: Not really present past the overblown bass and treble.
Bass: Yes it's there, but no where near as good as my other cans (sennheiser HD575 symphony's - but then these are 5x more expensive). The extra bass is less noticeable because it is too uncontrolled I think.
Fitting: beautiful... too good in fact. In fact, so good that whereas before I used to simply turn the volume down/off to listen to people, I now have to take them out completely - no ambient noise at all - the bonus is that you therefore don't need such high volumes to hear the
music (my iPod is usually set around the halfway mark now). Probably the most comfortable in ear phones i've used (btw the inserts do make a difference, I've found medium sounds best).
Update: I have since tried this toimprove the sound...
Get some simple cotton wool ear buds, pull some of the cotton wool off the end. Insert a small amount (enough to fill to the rim of the grey "caps" snugly) into the ends. Voila: Bass remains unnaffected, Midrange pretty much the same, treble markedly reduced......overall loudness reduced (so re-uncapped the iPod back to US vol limits)
OVERALL:....in hindsight, even with my "cotton wool" fix, treble can still be a bit too harsh most of the time. You shouldn't need to do anything to headphones really to get them to work acceptably. I now wish i'd bought Sennheiser mx450/500/550's instead (and they're £10 cheaper too)......why do companies insist on tuning the sound for people who equate accuracy of sound with iercingly high levels of (splashy) treble?
Anyway, they're not worth £35 from sony direct/high street etc. but maybe worth a look if £26 (delivered) from the net (and you're into wildly exagerated treble).
I have been using this headphones for 7 months and I have to tell that i'm not disappointed with them.
STYLE: Earbuds. Very nice. But it with time, the crome part comes dark.
SOUND QUALITY: Overall it's very good. Deep and clean bass. Good highs. But Sony still have to work in the mid-highs. They're to high, what makes the trumpets, electric guitars and instruments with same frecuency sound a little loud, so you can't hear well the highs. But if your CD player or MP3 player has an equalizer you can resolve very easy this problem: Just adjust -3dB in the 2khz and 4khz frequencies.
COMFORT: It's very comfortable, but it tends to go out easily if you run. It also does an excellent job blocking out the noise (when you put it on, it doesn't make much diference, but when you put music, you DON'T hear anything outside).
VALUE: Yes, they are headphones that sound better for the price, but in terms of style and sound isolation, this is better. So it has a very good overall value.